About Scythian Tactics

NEW – September 12, 2022

In our case, it is important to answer the question whether the logic of the special military operation has exhausted itself and we should move on to the logic of war

Our army withdrew from most of the Kharkov region, leaving only a part to the east of the Oskol River. We even left Kharkov. We moved away along the state border. It looks strange, because the state border is a formal thing and, in this sense, conditional, but the front line usually relies on certain geographical realities. What was the need to leave the city of Volchansk and the village of Kazachya Lopan? This village is only a couple of kilometres from our border. I was in these settlements in August, I talked with local residents who sincerely hate nazi Ukraine, and I worry about their fate. What will happen to the teachers and officials who have defected to our side? I happened to visit almost all the cities and towns that appear in the reports as abandoned as a result of the “regrouping”. A lot of local residents accepted the Russian government and began to apply for Russian citizenship. There were those who were not afraid to openly express their anti-fascist and pro-Russian position. What awaits those who could not retreat with our army? Most likely, they await a fierce death. Or rather, such awaits thousands of those who simply do not know the Ukrainian language, speak Russian, are Russian. Genocide is inevitable. Such is the logic of that monstrous war to exterminate the Russians waged by nazi Ukraine.

But the military has its own reasons – they should be the last to worry about political issues. It should be said that the Russian army has always been distinguished by high mobility. This mobility primarily has the character of moral and psychological readiness: “The most important thing is manoeuvres!” Manoeuvres, of course, are not the most important thing, but the ability to use our expanses as an advantage is reasonable and understandable. Let’s put it simply – we know how to retreat. This is not ironic, because not all armies are morally ready to retreat and not everyone knows how to do it. The ability to retreat is organic for the troops of the peoples of the Great Steppe, starting with the Scythians.

All the nomads possessed this art and it did not hurt their military dignity at all. The successful Scythian tactics of exhausting Darius’ troops with constant manoeuvres are described in Herodotus. The Persian king Darius and his army wandered around the Black Sea steppes, trying to give a general battle, but did not find reciprocity. To direct calls to submit or give battle, the Scythian leader Idanthyrsus mockingly replied that they did not run away from the Persians at all, but simply roamed their steppes, as they had been accustomed to for a long time. During the Patriotic War of 1812, “Scythian tactics” were remembered. According to the description of Academician Tarle, Napoleon also realised it, but it was too late – Moscow was already blazing from all sides. We have never retreated as far as in the Great Patriotic War – up to the Volga, to the ancient waterway connecting the south and north of the Eurasian continent. It was only on the banks of the Volga that this approach was put to an end in that great war and the maxim triumphed: “Not a step back”.

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The fighting in Ukraine has shown that the modern Russian army has not lost this ability – we have not experienced a single encirclement, not a single significant defeat, despite the breakthroughs of the front and attacks on the rear. Military expediency has always defeated political expediency. This cannot be said about our fanatical opponent, who is ready to bear any losses, but not retreat to a completely hopeless state of affairs.

Are Scythian tactics appropriate today? Yes and no. It is appropriate at the tactical level, in certain areas where the preponderance of forces is clearly not in our favour. Do not forget that we are fighting using a peacetime army and the number of personnel in the ranks of our troops is several times less than that of the enemy, who is one step away from total mobilisation. Apparently, this is exactly what happened on the Kharkov front – the enemy broke through our front and there were no operational reserves to reliably stabilise it without disproportionate losses. Note that this direction was not popular for military officers. It is known that the vast majority preferred to go to Donbass – it has become familiar for many years and guarantees interesting and good content. A rare exception were the employees of RIA Novosti, who have been there almost on a permanent basis in recent months. First and foremost, this is military correspondent Rostislav Zhuravlev. Surely the moment will come soon, and he will tell us a lot of interesting things about the dramatic events of our retreat. Some even had the impression that this direction was perceived from some point on as unpromising and burdensome. Probably in vain our media ignored the Kharkov front. Where there are no military correspondents, there is a different attitude to service. The military correspondent is a mighty force. One way or another, we managed to avoid defeat and even heavy losses. And for us, this is critical in conditions of a terrible shortage of people.

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Where and when are Scythian tactics inappropriate in this war? It is not appropriate in a situation when “Moscow is behind” and when there is simply no room for manoeuvre. It is obvious that it is completely inappropriate in Donbass. First of all, it is not acceptable for moral reasons – it was for the sake of protecting Donbass that the special military operation began, it is there that we have almost universal support. In the moral and psychological dimension of this war, it is Moscow that is behind Donbass. It is impossible to retreat far in the south, in the Black Sea steppes – Crimea is geographically behind. Again, Moscow is behind Crimea politically. In the south, we need the right bank of the Dnieper like air – will we leave it and then how will we forcedly cross the Dnieper under the most accurate blows of “HIMARS” and “Excalibur”? We need the South to unblock Transnistria and finally cut off Ukraine from the sea.

In light of what has been said, let me ask one heretical question: is the Scythian tactic of luring the enemy to its ancestral territory appropriate? Moral intuition suggests the answer – no, it is not acceptable. However, war has its own logic, sometimes counterintuitive, and great wars even more so. Only those generals who were able to first grasp and then assimilate this logic can win. Equally important is the ability to understand when an ordinary war turns into a great war. In our case, it is important to answer the question whether the logic of the special military operation has exhausted itself and should move on to the logic of war or not yet. Or maybe we should make a leap and go straight to the logic of the great war?

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Secretary of the NSDC of Ukraine Aleksey Danilov announced the goal of Ukraine and Western allies as “complete surrender and demilitarisation of the Russian Federation”. Former commander of US forces in Europe Ben Hodges played along, tweeting the following: “I think that US war-aims for this conflict should include “de-imperialisation” of Russia. It seems to me that we are seeing the beginning of the end of the Russian Federation as it looks today. We need to be prepared for this…we were not prepared for the end of the USSR.” These are not yet sufficiently weighty statements that actually mean a declaration of war of annihilation, but they are already a couple of steps away from them. However, this is not so important. There is a recognition that the purpose of their war is the death of Russia.

The logic of the great war implies not only great strategic retreats, but also great strikes to the depth. We refused one such blow, although it is obvious. The possibility of a strike from Belarus to Volyn and further along the Carpathians with access to Transnistria in order to cut off Ukraine from the West has not yet been exhausted. The success of this operation would solve the problem of supplying the enemy with weapons. Perhaps our leadership, extremely tired of the guerrilla war in Afghanistan and the Caucasus, took such a prospect in western Ukraine too seriously? Now it is clear that hypothetical anti-partisan actions in Galicia are trifles compared to what problems we have to solve now. Ultimately, we have huge experience of such actions and numerous Chechen special forces who know a lot about it. And in the era of drones, frankly speaking, as before, it’s not possible to hide in the woods. In addition, there is an opinion that the ability of the inhabitants of western Ukraine to show mass resistance is greatly exaggerated, and central Ukraine, on the contrary, is underestimated. Recent events have convincingly demonstrated to us. Anyway, this possibility remains open for now.

The Supreme Commander-in-Chief once said that we haven’t started yet. Maybe that’s what he meant?


Dmitry Vinnik

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