I’m not even going to try for any humor at the start today. Rather, I’m going to start with expressing yet again my amazement at the complete and total clusterfuck that is Russia and the Russian military. I’ve said it before, but if you had told me in January that a majority of equipment was not fully usable, that almost every unit was at least 25 percent understrength, that they were using such interesting (cough, choke, wheeze) com gear and were heavily dependent on using the Ukrainian cell phone network, and all the other things we’ve seen, I would have laughed at you.
In many respects, Russia is fucked. From demographics, from corruption, from a system that can’t manufacture shit, from continuing to build and operate the ‘one big plant’ because of paranoia, and I could go on. The invasion of the Ukraine was an effort to keep things rolling rather than collapse in the next few years. It was supposed to be the start of Russkiy Mir, and the new, bigger, better, Russian empire. It was to cement Vladimir’s hold on power, and ensure that the oligarchs would have money to siphon off for years to come.
Which brings me back to Wednesday’s post. The Russian’s have indeed seen the attacks inside Russia not as a legitimate response to their unprovoked invasion, but as an escalation. Not unexpected, particularly given the bully mentality of Vladimir and the leadership. They do see NATO and others arming the Ukraine, training troops, etc. as attacking them and stopping them from their liberation of the Ukraine (and inevitably Moldova, Georgia, the Baltics…). They see it not just as a proxy war, but as a direct attack on Russia by each and every one of those countries.
First, they are not bluffs as we understand bluffs. They are warnings, and if we let the Wookie win, that is all they will be. If we don’t let the Wookie win, then they are a legal and full justification for the use of special weapons. These things are aimed not so much at the West, but at the Russian people to demonstrate that they did all they could to prevent use of special weapons. They were the upright, caring leaders who tried to prevent things, and the West were the corrupt thugs.
Second, they also function as a part of Vladimir’s “Escalate to De-escalate” campaign. Remember, he believes that he can use tactical and/or small strategic weapons in a way that will prevent a response because to respond will start a full nuclear exchange. They believe Western leaders are too weak and cowardly to risk it. On that score, I’m not sure he’s wrong, but I also think anyone who believes in this strategy is mental. That said, the abortion that was MAD always had us at the mercy of the least stable leader with a nuke. Vladimir is making the stakes clear, that he will go for a full exchange if pushed. The thing is, I think he’s serious and that if we retaliate to his use of special weapons, in kind or otherwise, he will do it. If reports are true, Vladimir and several of his inner circle are ready for a Gotterdammerung moment because if they fail at the invasion, they are out of power, and out of power means they die.
Third, for all they emphasize strategic, they also indicate that at least initially it would be a limited strike. Note the emphasis on taking out this or that city, of eliminating military bases. If nukes are used in the Ukraine, I suspect that Kyiv or wherever Zelenskyy may be at the time, or large military headquarters, will be the targets. In the field, the troops are dispersed and agile. However, I am increasingly of the opinion that Vladimir will attack targets in NATO and elsewhere with conventional and special weapons. The take will be that he has used tactical weapons on bases that are attacking Russia and killing Russians, and that if we retaliate in any way, he will go strategic.
Again, May 9 is the key date. Originally, Vladimir was set to be the conquering hero who was restoring Russia to greatness and a lot of theatrics were planned. Then, the Ukrainians dared fight back, and most of the rest of the world rallied to support them. Outrageous! How dare they! An affront like this to Vladimir is an affront to Russia!
Things have gone seriously awry. Sweden and Finland are considering joining NATO. The poor performance of the Russian military has countries that were terrified of them rolling their eyes at Russian threats. Even the smallest countries on the Russkiy Mir list are now willing to fight because they realize that they could win. Oh, and let’s not forget that Russia has depleted a number of crucial stockpiles, and is now facing the loss of chemicals and lubricants from the chemical plant fire.
Yes, Vladimir could do a full call-up and have a large number of troops to use — maybe. The ability to get them where needed is limited. Almost every depot has seen critical items looted, which means all the pre-positioned stockpiles will require extensive maintenance to make combat ready. That’s assuming they have the equipment anywhere to replace what was stolen and sold. Add to that troops can’t be pulled from multiple areas because the unrest there would turn to open rebellion as soon as those troops leave. As I and others have noted before, they could use sheer numbers to take the Ukraine (and possibly Moldova at the same time). They don’t have the numbers to hold it.
The only thing that Vladimir can count on right now are the special weapons. Even there, however, questions arise. Given that the SATAN-II is more than two years behind schedule in deployment, one wonders what problems it has been having. There are other issues with both strategic and tactical systems, from weapons to control. My hope and prayer is that we don’t find out what problems do or don’t exist because a small desperate creature did something stupid.
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