The war in Ukraine has entered what could be an even worse phase, primarily because Putin cannot afford to admit what has turned out to be a monumental mistake.
Russian rulers that screw up this bad sometimes end up dead – and not by suicide. Most recently Stalin thought he was about to be shot when the Germans invaded in 1941; Czar Nicholas II and his entire family were slaughtered during World War I.
And that, dear reader, is why Russia is “regrouping and resupplying” in preparation for a much-more-limited battle to take and hold territory in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border.
That is NOT to say this will be less intense or awful than what’s already happened – in fact the opposite appears likely. Putin has appointed a leader for his war on Ukraine – a general who oversaw the genocide in Syria, mass destruction of entire cities, towns and villages, and use of chemical and incendiary weapons against civilians.
No, this is going to be worse than we could imagine.
As far as “regrouping” goes, there’s a lot more to this than just getting a couple nights sleep, a hot shower, and some more gas and bullets. The Russians have two basic problems:
- not enough soldiers and
- a really bad supply situation.
There’s pretty credible data indicating the Russians suffered about 50,000 to 60,000 casualties so far – in six weeks of fighting. We don’t know precisely how many were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner, but that is a really high casualty count, so high that it renders a lot of the Battalion Tactical Groups that invaded “combat ineffective”.
Other evidence indicates Russia is trying to solve this by:
- calling up more recruits;
- using mercenaries (e.g. the Wagner group);
- stripping troops from other areas; and
- asking their allies to send fighters (Syria, Chechnya etc).
That’s not going to make much of a difference; recruits need a lot of training or they’ll just get in the way and do stupid stuff that results in them and others getting lost, hurt, in accidents, or killed.
There aren’t enough mercenaries or “volunteers” to make much of an impact.
Soldiers need a LOT of training to become effective, and mixing together units with diverse abilities requires a LOT of careful planning and oversight, two things in which the Russians have been notably lacking.
Russia relies on Battalion Tactical Groups, which for non-nerds is a name for a unit that includes tanks, infantry, and artillery – along with support elements (medical, logistics/transport etc). Without getting too deep in the weeds, BTGs have a ton of firepower but relatively few infantry. That’s fine when you are moving fast, but is very much NOT fine when you are stuck on roads and need infantry to protect your vehicles from enemy infantry.
Now that most of the BTGs that invaded are in pretty rough shape, Russia will have to mush together units that haven’t worked, trained, or operated together. This will be a big problem.
The other probably bigger problem is BTGs are NOT what you want to use in urban setting – all those vehicles are sitting ducks, and the lack of infantry makes them even more vulnerable. Since Russia appears committed to destroying cities, this leaves them with one option.
Sit back and level cities with rockets, bombs, and artillery.
Devastation in Kharkiv
This is why things are going to get awful fast.
What does this mean?
There will be a global food shortage that will likely lead to famine in Africa.