What the Kremlin is preparing for: three scenarios for Russia's military campaign
What kind of military campaign can the Kremlin plan for the winter-spring period?
The general situation at the front indicates that the war has acquired pronounced positional character. It is unprofitable for both sides, but it is still less beneficial for Ukraine and its Western allies. Fighting at attrition requires a completely different level of resources involved, as well as restructuring the entire economy, and especially the military-industrial complex, both in Russia and in the United States with its allies, in a mobilization way. But even the current re-equipment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with NATO-type weapons shows how expensive it is for the West, moreover, does not guarantee 100% results on the battlefield.
In the Kremlin, judging by both the mobilization gestures and the restructuring of the military-industrial complex for almost round-the-clock operation, apparently, already resigned to a protracted war. However, for Moscow, victory on the battlefield remains the most desirable outcome of the entire military campaign. This will allow not only to impose peace on our own terms, but also to get out of the war, avoiding unacceptable resource costs.
And yet, what kind of military campaign can the Kremlin plan for the winter-spring period?
Scenario 1. Strategic victory
This is the most desired result for Moscow, which the Russians tried to get in a daring impudence in February 2022, albeit without success. However, fundamentally for almost the past calendar year nothing has changed in this regard. In order to achieve an unconditional victory, the Russian Federation still needs to take Kyiv by storm, install its puppet government in it and dictate the terms of the future peace to it.
Note that a recent article Viktor Medvedchukwhich we already analyzed in detail, very frankly indicates that the ex-leader of the Opposition Platform for Life quite aspires to the place of such "new leader" of Ukraine. The matter remains for the "small" - to take Kyiv.
How realistic it is to make the army of the Russian Federation in the state in which it is now is an open question. A year ago, the attempt failed. On the other hand, a year ago, the RF Armed Forces tried to take a huge metropolis with an expeditionary force of 60 thousand people, and now in the Russian army schedules are different. Yes, and the personnel have already been tempered in battles for a year.
We do not know how real the new campaign of the Russian army against Kyiv is, but nevertheless we note a number of factors that indirectly confirm the reasonableness of these intentions:
- regular forces of the RF Armed Forces have been minimally involved in battles on the entire front since November, and offensive operations in the same Donbass are actually carried out by the forces of Wagner PMC alone - the Russian army saves his reserves for something;
- on the territory of Belarus last year created a single army group;
- in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation reshuffles in the top army leadership and at the head of the entire grouping is again General Gerasimov, who had previously planned the "first campaign" against Kyiv;
- Ukraine continues vigorously carry out mining and construction of fortifications on the Belarusian border;
- Western allies from the new year hastily deliver armored vehicles to the Armed Forces of Ukraine NATO model, which has almost never happened before.
Advantages of this scenario for Russia - winner takes all. Cons - another fiasco of the army can lead to catastrophic consequences already within the Russian Federation itself.
Scenario 2. Operational-strategic victory in the current theater
According to this scenario, Russia is trying to inflict a strategic defeat on the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the current theater of war with a significant entry deep into Ukrainian territory. This may be access to the administrative borders of Donbass or the capture of some iconic city - Zaporozhye or Kharkov.
However, the main idea of such a scenario is to apply irreparable blow to the APU, the collapse of the front and the demoralization of the army and rear, as well as the introduction of confusion into the circle of the Office's external allies. As a result, the Russian Federation again proposes a peace treaty by analogy with Minsk-1 (the defeat of the Armed Forces of Ukraine near Ilovaisk) and Minsk-2 (the defeat near Debaltseve), only on an incomparably large scale.
There is also enough evidence that the Russian Federation is preparing for a major offensive. For example, the death on New Year's Eve of a large number of conscripts in Makeevka. We have already mentioned above that only PMCs and army corps of the “republics” are currently conducting active hostilities in the Donbass. The regular army of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the mobilized minimally take part in the battles. But the same Makiivka is already a front-line zone, and there are hundreds of mobilized from Samara, whom for some reason pulled to the front.
The advantages of this scenario are that in case the offensive stalls or fails, the RF Armed Forces can immediately go on the defensive without risking either the collapse of the front or catastrophic losses. Minus - even in the case of a peace treaty unfavorable for Kyiv, complete control over Ukraine, Moscow still do not get.
Scenario 3. Positional attrition of the Ukrainian army
Actually, this is what is happening at the front now. The Russians are advancing in relatively small assault groups on clearly selected sectors of the front - Soledar, Bakhmut, Maryinka, Avdeevka, Kremennaya. At the same time, regular rear strikes against the critical infrastructure of Ukraine are taking place, which increases the cost and complexity of waging war already for American and European allies.
At the same time, the RF Armed Forces have reserves concentrated in all sectors of the front, ready to stop a large offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, if it can be organized at all under such conditions. If this scenario remains the main one, then the squeezing out of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with a probability of 90% will continue further in the Donetsk region with a shift to Zaporozhye.
The main idea of these actions is to achieve psychological exhaustion of the enemy and the West, rooting the idea that prolonged resistance only leads to greater costs and an eventual peace on much worse terms.
The advantages of this scenario for Russia are classic war of attrition, in which the Russian Federation with its resources initially has a more advantageous position for the long game. The downside is that everything is going very slowly, and Ukraine, with its numerous allies, manages to reorganize itself for a war of strangulation, and in response, it itself inflicts very painful blows.
The reputational losses for Russia and its Armed Forces and the risk for them to face a confrontation with already more trained and better equipped Armed Forces are also obvious. There are also risks for the Russian Federation, both in economic terms (very protracted and expanding sanctions), and in relations with allies, which for sure regard such a position as a sign of weakness.
In addition, it is not in vain that history refers to protracted hostilities of this nature as a "positional dead end", which does not promise victory to anyone.
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