Now We’re Playing the Long Game

NEW – August 30, 2022

The special operation in Ukraine entered the phase of a war of attrition

August 24, 2022 is a landmark day. August 24 not only marked Ukraine’s Day of Independence (“from common sense and humanity,” as many add), but also marked six months since the beginning of Russia’s special military operation in the Ukrainian theatre of operations. What has Russia been able to achieve in the 6 months since February 24? What will the future course of the special military operation look like? Answers to questions from military expert Andrey Soyustov.


Vladislav Vladislavovich, how do you assess the course of the special military operation?

“In order to say exactly what was carried out during the special operation from what was planned and what was not, one needs to know the plans of the military-political leadership of the Russian Federation as of February 24, 2022 in more detail than the officially declared ‘demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine’. Accordingly, now, without being fully privy to these plans, I can only voice my own assumptions.”

Let’s make assumptions.

“According to my observations, on the eve of the start of the special military operation, Russia ‘at the top’ had at least three points of view on the possible course of the special operation in Ukraine. The first was formed in the military department, which believed that it would take a long and difficult time to fight the Kiev regime, so it was necessary to prepare for the campaign ahead of time and carefully. This judgment, by the way, around 2018 gave an impetus to the launch of an extensive series of multi-format military exercises in our country, as well as the beginning of unwinding the flywheel of the work of domestic defence industry enterprises. The second point of view was born, as far as I understand, among intelligence analysts who believed that in Ukraine it would be possible to do everything in 3 months in order, figuratively speaking, to pass the Victory Parade in Kiev on May 9. Finally, there was also a third point of view, which was carried by various Ukrainian functionaries who lost power as a result of ‘Euromaidan’, moved to Russia and actively convinced the Kremlin that the Kiev regime would collapse in ten days after the Russian Armed Forces crossed the border of Ukraine. Judging by the way events unfolded in February, the Kremlin at first also believed that the special military operation could be implemented in 3 months.”

But something went wrong?

“The Ukrainian Armed Forces turned out to be more motivated and efficient, and the Kiev regime proved to be more stable than expected before February 24. Nevertheless, we definitely had a chance in 3 months to break the resistance of the Ukrainian army and demolish the post-Maidan government in Ukraine, if not for the enormous amount of assistance that Ukraine began to receive from the West. We are talking not only about finances, ammunition and weapons, but also about fuel and lubricants, providing intelligence, deploying training camps for Ukrainian servicemen, and so on. It was the large-scale Western assistance to Ukraine that did not allow the Russian Federation to implement its ‘three-month’ version and forced our command to switch to the systematic grinding of Ukrainian troops and reserves, that is, to waging a large-scale war in the Ukrainian theatre of operations. Yes, we still call what is happening on the territory of Ukraine a special military operation, but in fact it is already a real war that cannot be won in a matter of months. Now we’re playing the long game. Instead of operations carried out at a high tempo, political will, the endurance of society and industry, the sustainability of the economy, the amount of resources and the ability to manage them come to the fore.”

What was Russia able to achieve in 6 months of the special operation?

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“Our army has gained invaluable experience in large-scale combat operations in a vast theatre of operations with the use of almost all modern weapons systems, with the exception, perhaps, of weapons of mass destruction. It was very expensive to pay for this experience, but, again, this experience is priceless for us. Until now, the Russian Armed Forces were preparing either to fight against the NATO bloc, which meant a rapid transition to the exchange of nuclear strikes, or to act in conditions of local conflicts like the campaign in Syria, which implies operations against an enemy that is obviously inferior to our army in terms of technical equipment. Thus, the Ukrainian Armed Forces, numerous, motivated, well-armed, ‘grown up’ like the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation from the Soviet Army, but trained with the involvement of Western military instructors and having 8 years of positional war in Donbass, turned out to be a fundamentally new enemy for the Russian army. An opponent who had yet to learn how to win.”

Have we learned?

“We’ve learned. In addition, during the 6 months of the special military operation, we learned how to rotate our units, as well as adequately build their logistics. We have brought Russian defence industry enterprises to the production volumes of military products that cover the needs of the belligerent army (the Ukrainian Armed Forces now live exclusively at the expense of foreign supplies, the volumes of which do not cover all the needs of the Ukrainian army). We have launched a non-stop mechanism for recruiting, training and equipping volunteer contract units. This made it possible to double the number of our contingent operating in the Ukrainian theatre of operations compared to the beginning of the special military operation. For the better, the command staff in the warring units and formations has been updated. We also worked out the interaction within the framework of reconnaissance and fire contours between drone operators and barrel/rocket artillery calculations. Finally, for 6 months, the special military operation managed to grind in battles a significant part of the personnel and most experienced and combat-ready units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, to significantly thin out the officer corps of the Ukrainian army, and also destroy a large number of Ukrainian military equipment. As a result, the command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces now has to plug holes at the front with hastily recruited, poorly armed and poorly trained units of the territorial defence forces, deprived of sane command. In fact, this is just ‘cannon fodder’.”

What territories did we manage to liberate?

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“In 6 months of the special military operation, the allied forces were able to liberate the entire territory of the LPR in the north. In the south, it was possible to liberate the Kherson region, as well as part of the Nikolaev and Zaporozhye regions, simultaneously occupying a strategically important bridgehead on the right bank of the Dnieper. We have made the Sea of Azov our internal sea. We forced our way into the Ukrainian fortified area west of Donetsk.”

Did the special military operation bring something new to military affairs or, as Ecclesiastes said, “There is nothing new under the sun”?

“Of course it did. Here it’s possible to mention a lot of new products. For example – the trend that has persisted since the first hours of the special military operation, in which the allied forces conduct offensive operations against an enemy that significantly outnumbers our troops in terms of personnel. In fact, the opposite situation is considered canonical, when the attacking side is 3 or more times larger in terms of personnel than the defending side. To compensate for the lack of infantry trained for assault operations, we in Ukraine have an advantage in firepower. Another novelty of the special operation is the refusal to act on the battlefield by large masses of troops. However, I would like to highlight another of all the innovations of the special military operation – the most important role of unmanned aircraft, which was so clearly manifested for the first time in the Ukrainian theatre of operations. We are talking about the entire range of types of drones – from reconnaissance and attack vehicles of the type used by the UAF ‘Bayraktar’ or our ‘Inokhodets’ and to barraging ammunition, as well as commercial copters. I can hardly be mistaken if I assume that the special military operation will go down in the annals of history, first of all, as a ‘drone war’.”

The continuous shelling of Donetsk and the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, the murder of Daria Dugina, as well as hundreds, if not thousands more examples of actions of the Ukrainian side that can only be called terrorist. How do you think Moscow should respond to such actions in Kiev? Maybe it’s time for the Russian Federation to declare Ukraine a terrorist state?

“If we declare Ukraine a terrorist state, then the question immediately arises, on what grounds does Russia continue to transit energy carriers through Ukrainian territory? There can be no relations with a terrorist state. No negotiations. Are we ready for this turn? Obviously not.”

Then what do we do?

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“Respond to Kiev, but not with a formal game of words and statuses, but with a real threat of physical destruction of responsible Ukrainian persons involved in making decisions of a terrorist nature. I consider the fact that we have not yet begun to put pressure on the Ukrainian leadership to be our big political mistake. Zelensky & Co do not appreciate our ‘good manners’ at all, consider themselves untouchable and from that they become more and more impudent. The government apparatus of Ukraine is now living a calm and measured life in Kiev, sanctioning the shelling of Donetsk, the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant and our border region, sabotage in Crimea and attempts to assassinate our journalists. From time to time, members of the Ukrainian government just as calmly host ‘friendship trains’ with Western leaders in Kiev, without any fear for their lives.”

“How should it be?”

“It should be so that after a couple of demonstrative removals of Ukrainian functionaries involved in the commission of war crimes and terrorist attacks, Zelensky and his company do not walk around Khreshchatyk impressively, but, trembling with fear, hide in a bunker. Only in the dead of night does he climb out to get some fresh air. It should be the case that meetings with foreign visitors are held secretly by members of the Ukrainian government with a candle stub in some old Banderist cache near the western border of Ukraine. Well, the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukraine Armed Forces Zaluzhny and his staff should all the more become legitimate targets for our hunt. More precisely – for retribution. I’m sorry, but this isn’t the time to kick around and play spillikins.”

Please state your forecast of the future course of the special military operation.

“Now it is a large-scale war in the Ukrainian theatre of operations, which is conducted according to the patterns of the 20th century, but has military-technical content of the 21st century. This is a war of attrition. The side that lacks the political will, social stability, and resources to continue fighting will lose. Based on the well-known saying ‘While a fat one would be fading, a lean one would have died’, I believe that the losing side will not be Russia, but Ukraine.”

When will this happen?

“If everything goes as it is now, if there are no force majeure events in the form of, for example, the entry of Polish troops into Western Ukraine, then I would assume that the Kiev regime will begin to crumble within 18 months.”

Why not earlier?

“Because the West will continue to support the Ukrainian state for as long as possible. Moscow, trying its best to preserve the very social stability in Russia, will continue to fight with Kiev not in full force, but, as Aleksandr Dugin put it, ‘through a dream’, thereby protecting our population and economy from military encumbrances.”

But victory, in the end, will be ours?

“Absolutely.”


Vladislav Shurygin

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