Bullshit and fake news reign supreme in the reporting on the war in Ukraine.
No doubt, by now you must be convinced that the Ukrainian Armed Forces are on a roll and will soon be at the gates of Moscow. After all, ‘western’ media are euphoric about the ‘successful’ Ukrainian offensive’ in the Kharkiv district.
Ukrainian forces retake key villages as counteroffensive advances writes the Washington Post. How Ukraine Gained Momentum Against Russia and Took a Critical Hub says the New York Times. WaPo again: Intelligence points to potential turning point in Ukraine war. Ukraine News: In Reclaimed Towns, Ukrainians Recount a Frantic Russian Retreat, headlines the NYT. Is Russia on the run? asks the Economist. And so on and so forth it goes.
Almost everyone, it seems has fallen for the belief that the Ukrainian rapid advance has caused a Russian defeat.
Yet, it is very clear that the main Russian forces had already left the area. What was left were sentry guards of the Luhansk People’s Republic and a few companies of the Russian National Guard which is more or less a police force. That is why a ‘western’ official talking with Reuters was quite cautious with his assessment:
“There’s an ongoing debate about the nature of the Russian drawdown, however, it’s likely that in strict military terms, this was a withdrawal, ordered and sanctioned by the general staff, rather than an outright collapse.”
“Obviously, it looks really dramatic. It’s a vast area of land. But we have to factor in the Russians have made some good decisions in terms of shortening their lines and making them more defensible, and sacrificing territory in order to do so,” the official said, adding he did not expect Russia to immediately seek to regain lost territory.
There are strategic reasons why occupying this area does not suit the strategic Russian objectives. The Russians had taken the area early in the fighting, it was to act as a springboard for penetrating further South and west if it was necessary.
This is a very thinly populated area, mainly with small settlements. The population of Izyum is only 45,000 (and this was prior to the war). In the early Kharkiv “offensive” both sides had pushed each other back and forth with few men and few casualties. With the Change of Russian objectives, Izyum became something of an albatross: not useful for prosecuting the war, and subject to attacks from Ukraine.
The media’s narrative is that Ukraine has forced Russia out when this operation looks more like a pullback. There were very few Russian casualties, no evidence of a rout or even an over-hasty retreat.
Military planning for a withdrawal from a large area takes time. The Russian decision to let go of the Kharkiv region must have been made well before the Ukrainian counterattack was launched. That it was coming was known even on social media channels. Since mid-August, the deployment map by Military Land showed strong tank formations south and west of the Izium area. The Russians had reported attacks on those and other units on a daily base. The Military Summary channel on YouTube had mentioned them several times. If Social media channels knew about the buildup – rest assured the Russian military knew about them too – and here it is pertinent to get some military things straight:
- A lot of attention is now being given to drones as reconnaissance platforms (with secondary strike capabilities) – and Russia has more than enough of those – but in reality, it doesn’t actually need them. Russia along with the US is the only country that has an extensive space constellation of military satellites that can detect whatever they want, wherever they want in whatever conditions exist in real-time.
- The front in Ukraine is huge – neither the Ukrainians much less the Russians who have deployed but a fraction of their forces (less than 200 thousand men including the militias of the self-declared republics) can hope to man it all. The battlefield in fact is very similar to a football field – where the players of a football team cannot possibly be physically present on every inch of grass. So much like in a football match, most of the battlefield field is actually empty (a grey zone in military terms) but could quickly become a “combat area” if a pass is made there and two or more players will fight each other for control of the ball. This is the concept of mobile defense – mechanized warfare has moved on from the trenches of WWI quite some time ago – and that is what we are seeing. The Ukrainians passed the ball into a poorly contested area and have turned it into a propaganda victory but one must wait for the game to be over before settling on the score. Again like a football match war is ultimately about numbers and in this instance, initial real reports from the area show that the Russians are killing much more Ukrainians than they are suffering losses themselves. Had it been otherwise our news would be overflowing with images of dead Russians – the very lack of them should tell you something, while in Russian media a litany of videos of Ukrainian personnel and equipment being destroyed is a rather routine affair.
- The illiterate journalists that now pollute Western media have no idea what they are talking about – at all and this is especially the case when reporting about military affairs. They have described this tactical operation as a ‘strategic offensive’ when it is anything but. According to Colonel Markus Reisner from the Austrian military, the Ukrainians used six full brigades (video) in this attack. – the Typical NATO brigade consists of approximately 4,000 troops at full combat strength so here we are speaking about 24,000 Ukrainian soldiers – this is not remotely close to what can be described as a strategic offensive – that would involve the use of over 100,000 troops as part of a general strategy of the conflict in a given theatre. The Ukrainian attack in Kharkiv is essentially a PR exercise much like that in Kherson for which they are paying a terrible price in human casualties.
- Today’s public is all about instant gratification – war is not like that – the battles of Stalingrad or Kursk alone in WWII took several months of bitter fighting – fortunes ebbed and flowed numerous times – countless mistakes were committed by both sides – but as I said ultimately war is very mathematical and the final results were decisive – by the end of it all – the previously invincible NAZI war machine was irrevocably broken.
The Kharkiv‘ offensive’ is primarily like much of western politics today an ‘optical’ exercise – it was meant to achieve three things none of which are of military significance – to bring Ukraine back to the forefront at a time where there is diminishing preoccupation with it – to show something for the billions we are pumping into Ukraine and most importantly since it involves Ukraine’s American overlords to give the lame duck Biden some good news to prop him up in the polls before the mid-term elections.
None of this will change the reality on the ground, which for Ukraine will become so much worse once winter sets it. Not only will the Ukrainian army be deprived of cover by dense foliage, not only will Ukrainian soldiers find it increasingly difficult to hunker down in frozen bunkers, and not only will the Ukrainian government have to decide, where to employ its dwindling stocks of energy – whether to keep feeding what’s left of its military machine or to heat its population and prevent it from freezing – but the Ukrainian military machine has come out into the open. after months of hiding in cities using civilians as human shields – indeed one can say that in their desperation they have the Russians a great favour, to destroy them at will on open ground. On such things are real wars won or lost – not on PR and virtual reality
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