Russia’s “Special Military Operation”, which began on Feb. 24, is entering its fourth month.
Despite stiffer than expected Ukrainian resistance (bolstered by billions of dollars of western military assistance and accurate, real-time battlefield intelligence by the U.S. and other NATO members) Russia is winning the war on the ground, and in a big way.
After more than ninety days of incessant Ukrainian propaganda, echoed mindlessly by a complicit western mainstream media that extolls the battlefield successes of the Ukrainian armed forces and the alleged incompetence of the Russian military,
the Russians are on the cusp of achieving the stated goal of its operation, namely the liberation of the newly independent Donbass Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk, which Russia recognized two days before its invasion.=
The Russian advantage in artillery was a key factor in the victorious outcome of its Phase Two operations, pulverizing the Ukrainian defenses and opening the way for the infantry and armor to finish off the survivors.
According to the daily briefings provided by the Russian Ministry of Defense, the Ukrainians are losing the equivalent of a battalion’s worth of manpower every two days, not to mention scores of tanks, armored fighting vehicles, artillery pieces, and trucks.
Indeed, several observers of this conflict, myself included, projected that based upon predictive analysis drawn from the basic military math regarding actual and projected casualty levels, there was a real expectation that Russia, upon completion of Phase Two, would have been able to claim, with justification, that it had accomplished most, if not all the political and military objectives set out at the start of the operation.
Logic dictated that the Ukrainian government, stripped of a viable military, would have no choice but a modern-day version of the surrender of France in June 1940, following decisive battlefield victories by the German army.
While Russia continues to position itself for a decisive military victory in eastern Ukraine, it may likely confine itself to the liberation of the Donbass, seizures of the land bridge connecting Crimea with the Russian Federation mainland (via Donbass), and the expansion of the Kherson bridgehead to secure fresh water resources to Crimea which had been cut off by the Ukrainian government since 2014.
In his classic treatise, On War, Prussian military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz penned what has become one of the ultimate truisms of conflicts involving nations, namely that “war is a continuation of politics by other means.” This holds as true today as when it was published in 1832.
If anything, the “Nazification” of Ukrainian political life has expanded exponentially since Russia’s invasion, with Ukraine more under the influence of the ideology of Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian nationalist whose followers killed hundreds of thousands of Jews, Gypsies, Poles, and Russians while fighting alongside Nazi Germany in World War Two.
If Russia were to call a halt to its military operation at this juncture, it would be ceding political victory to Ukraine, which “wins” by not losing.
But the combination of an expired legal mandate, unfulfilled political objectives, and the possibility of a massive expansion of the scope and the scale of combat operations, which could possibly include one or more NATO members, points to an absolute need for Russia to articulate the mission of Phase Three and why it needs one.
Failure to do so opens the door to the possibility that Russia puts itself in a position where it is unable to successfully conclude a conflict that it opted to initiate at the end of February.