The writing has been on the wall for some time, noted by US and UK intelligence sources months ago. Perhaps the only surprise is that none of the authorities seemed to take seriously their considered intelligence reports and forecasts.
Breaking through the information fog, disinformation and disinformation, it may seem that after a flurry of airborne ammunition, cruise missiles and conventional artillery, Ukrainian defense, whatever it was, was crushed.
Russian and Belarusian armored columns are now invading Ukrainian territory in a classic blitzkrieg operation seeking to disrupt, deploy and cause alarm. The rest of the world watches, temporarily stunned.
What are Ukraine’s chances of resisting a Russian attack? Seemingly limited at best, although Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goal is not yet clear. Does he want to “demilitarize and denazify” only eastern Ukraine, or does he plan to occupy the entire country? Time will show.
Meanwhile, what protection options does Ukraine have? A quick look at the balance of power, at least on paper, shows that it is vastly outnumbered and outgunned.
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Overall, the Russian military boasts approximately 850,000 troops, the fourth largest in the world. Ukraine, with a population of 250,000, pales in comparison. In the air, Russia outnumbers Ukraine by almost 13 times, and in tanks it has about 12,500 against 2,600 in Ukraine. The imbalance persists across all industries and services.
However, these are general figures and do not necessarily reflect the situation in the immediate vicinity of operations. But it is probably fair to assume that the Ukrainians are at a significant disadvantage in terms of numbers, training, and equipment, although, of course, not necessarily in courage.
Against this backdrop, I would argue that Ukraine is unlikely to succeed if it chooses to go toe-to-toe with the Russian giant in open conventional warfare, and indeed it is in dire danger of being defeated.
If a territorial position is to be taken, then the great natural barrier of the Dnieper River would seem to be the biggest and best obstacle to Russia’s further advance if Putin decides to go for all of Ukraine, but strengthening the defenses there will require concessions. large area.
Perhaps more effective, but no less terrifying, could be a tactical move to focus Ukrainian defenses on cities rather than open country. Modern armies are trying to avoid fighting in urban areas at all costs, and the reasons for this are obvious.
Conflict in built-up areas, where fighting can be literally house-to-house, if not room-to-room, consumes several battalions and requires huge logistical resources. Many advantages of a superior enemy, such as artillery and aviation, can be negated by the close nature of the battle.
The downside for Ukraine, of course, will be the total destruction of its cities and the likelihood of huge civilian casualties. On the other hand, the Russians will be only too well aware of their experiences in Stalingrad and Berlin. So this could be another use case for asymmetric warfare where the defender prefers to play on the weaknesses rather than the strengths of the opponent, although this still poses a great risk.
What seems clear is that Ukraine cannot, at least in the short term, count on much practical military assistance in the form of troops or air assets coming to its aid from its former allies.
As a non-NATO member, Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which essentially states that an attack on one NATO member should be treated as an attack on all, does not apply. Whether NATO membership will matter anyway is debatable; Would the US consider a possible nuclear war with Russia to protect a distant ally? I have my doubts, but maybe I’m just too cynical.
So all Ukraine can expect from the outside is more military aid in the form of anti-tank missiles, helmets, bulletproof vests and the like, as well as a lot of hand-wringing and statements of “solidarity” from various political figures standing on the sidelines.
In addition, I am afraid that Ukrainians are now largely on their own. I have no doubt that this is a brave and courageous nation and they will do everything in their power, but the forecasts are not encouraging.
If, in the worst case scenario, all of Ukraine is invaded and occupied by Russia, what then? Much depends on Putin’s agenda, which only he seems to know.
If there really is a list of people who are at risk of arrest and/or deportation, then there will probably be some sort of resistance. It is possible that a guerrilla underground army could emerge to strike back, as happened in occupied parts of Europe during World War II.
However, such work is fraught with danger and in itself may not give much. Wars and campaigns are usually won and lost by large battalions.
In the end, as always, hostilities will be completed through negotiations. This is where Putin currently has the upper hand, as he has taken the lead and his successes will be useful bargaining chips in what follows the conflict.
Ultimately, I suspect that Russia’s gains will be limited to areas of eastern Ukraine occupied by ethnic Russians, in addition to previous de facto annexations of Donbass and Crimea. For Putin, I suspect it will be done. For Ukrainians, however, the future is uncertain.
Stuart Crawford, former Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Tank Regiment, military commentator.