Special military operation has lasted more than six months. In Kiev, there is an air raid, and people are fleeing to bomb shelters. In Donetsk, after shelling by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, a large shopping mall is on fire, and smoke can be seen even from the outskirts of the city.
The corpses of Ukrainian soldiers are removed from under the rubble after the Russian Air Force hit a train at the Chaplino station. On August 24, there was the six-month ‘anniversary’ of the start of the air defense in Ukraine. It is time to summarize the results, with the successes and failures of the operation.
Heights and Boundaries
Speaking of achievements, first of all, such threats as a Ukrainian attack on the self-proclaimed republics of the DPR and LPR or on Crimea are no longer on the agenda.
Also, Russian troops, together with the DPR people's militia, broke through a land corridor to Crimea. In the first days, they unblocked the North Crimean Canal, ensuring the long-awaited water supply to the peninsula. They occupied Kherson with minimal losses in the first few days, creating a bridgehead that is now being used to prepare for an offensive against Mykolaiv and Odessa. As of early July, the LPR Armed Forces, together with the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, had completely “cleared” the administrative territory of the Luhansk Region. Was it slowly? Yes, it was. But the part of Donbass controlled by Ukraine is one solid fortified area: dozens of kilometers of trenches, pillboxes, strongholds, artillery nests, etc. The Ukrainian troops in Mariupol alone, which was turned into an impregnable fortress, could have defended themselves for at least a year but they did not last even three months.
At the moment, the two main “fortresses,” remaining in the Donbass, are the Seversk - Soledar - Bakhmut (as the Ukrainian government renamed Artemovsk several years ago) and Slavyansk - Kramatorsk lines.
In his video address in the early morning hours of February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin named denazification and demilitarization as the main goals of the USO in Ukraine.
As for demilitarization, here's a Ministry of Defense summary as of the morning of August 25, which states that since the start of the USO, 273 aircraft have been destroyed:
- 273 Ukrainian Air Force aircraft and 148 helicopters;
- 1,808 UAVS;
- 369 anti-aircraft missile systems;
- 4,384 tanks and other armored vehicles;
- 819 combat vehicles with MLRS systems;
- 3,340 field artillery pieces and mortars;
- 5,048 military vehicles.
These are not just numbers but an indicator of what the level of militarization of Ukraine was on the eve of February 24 where the key word is “was.” This is what “demilitarization” looks like in reality. With such losses, even taking into account the supply of arms and military equipment from the US, France, Bulgaria, etc., no one even hesitates in speaking about an attack on Donbass or Crimea. Is this an achievement or not?
What is there to talk about if the Ukrainian army has never managed the much-publicized “counterattack” on Kherson. Therefore, Volodymyr Zelensky and the “talking heads” of the President's Office, who had been promising a “counteroffensive” for months out of every tune, have “changed the subject” and are now giving other performances. Although, recall that in late May and early June, Ukrainian Armed Forces attempted two counteroffensive attempts near the village of Davydov Brod in the north of the Kherson Region, but they ended in a brutal defeat.
In general, all tales of a counterattack are no longer relevant.
Every Barber Knows That
In addition to the military, there are also the diplomatic and financial-economic fronts of the special military operation.
There has been no change on the diplomatic front so far. The U.S., Britain and their satellites will negotiate on the results of the results “on the ground.” So, we have to wait for the military confrontation to end.
Over the past 7 years, all the Kremlin's attempts to get sanctions lifted by implementing the Minsk agreements ended in a complete fiasco. Surprisingly, it was the special military operation that helped get the sanctions lifted. Thanks to the so-called “grain deal,” the collective West (represented by the UN), Turkey, Russia, and Ukraine agreed to deliver grain through Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea. Most importantly, the U.S. sanctions against Russian grain, fertilizers, and ammonia were lifted (with the ammonia clause included as a separate line in the grain agreement).
Importantly, the grain deal was concluded at a time when Russia's grain exports have been falling steadily in recent months. For example, from July 1 to August 21, Russia exported 6 million 962 thousand tons of grain, 12% less than during the same period last year.
However, the puzzle in the form of a blockade of grain and fertilizer exports was solved. The next measurement will show whether we managed to reverse the downward trend and reach the growth of export indicators.
It should be said that the special military operation also has a financial and economic dimension. For example, with the demand for food around the world, such an issue as control of Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea is very important. The territory is also rich with black soil and minerals. The Washington Post is telling the world that the Russians have taken control of two-thirds of Russia's mineral deposits, valuing them at $12.4 trillion.
Obvious and Unlikely Adversary
As during the Soviet period, NATO is once again the most likely adversary. The truth is that the West is unhappy because Russia has not squandered all its resources in Ukraine. If a conflict with NATO were to occur tomorrow, Moscow would enter it fully armed. U.S. experts are saying about it plainly.
Publications and stories in the Western media suggest that the United States and its partners in the North Atlantic Alliance view the special military operation as a possible prelude to a conflict between NATO and Russia.
Therefore, Western intelligence and analytical structures are closely monitoring the military campaign in Ukraine. The potential clash between NATO and Russia is the key interest there. For example, Samuel Charap, senior political affairs officer at the Rand Corporation, said directly in an interview with a Kiev media outlet that Russia had not engaged the types of weapons that NATO fears. It turns out that the Kremlin uses a limited arsenal of weapons in Ukraine and far from the entire Armed Forces, and keeps weapons and military units that could be used in the event of a clash with NATO in reserve.
According to Charap, it is obvious for the US that Russia is not using all of its military capabilities “especially those that can be used in a conflict with NATO.”
In particular, the Aerospace Forces are mostly not used, tactical nuclear weapons are not used at all, and aviation is involved to a limited extent. According to Charap, it is these types of troops and weapons that are NATO's main concern.
“Aviation takes a limited part in the war in Ukraine, the Russian Air and Space Forces remain largely uninvolved. If you add to this some 2,000 warheads of non-strategic nuclear weapons, naval capabilities outside the Black Sea, this is not a joke for NATO, but a serious threat,” said a Rand Corporation official.
According to Charap, Russia uses “not the types of weapons that are supposed to be the most threatening to NATO, with the exception of cruise missiles (because Russia has fewer of them, of course).”
In short, our American partners are extremely concerned that if a conflict with NATO were to happen tomorrow, Russia would come to it in full alert.
Mistakes and Failures
Speaking honestly about the failures of the Air Defense Forces, it must be admitted that the intelligence and intelligence work was almost a complete failure. Hence the losses of the first days, which with normal planning and quality intelligence work simply could not be. As practice has shown, such statements as “Ukraine will collapse in 3 days/2 weeks/1 month” proved to be a dangerous delusion.
That is why Russia failed to take Kiev, Kharkov, and other cities, with the exception of Kherson. Hopes that mythical “underground fighters” would organize an uprising to help the advancing Russian troops were dashed. For example, the Federal National Guard Troops Service (Rosgvardiya) columns were sent to storm Kharkov, which the nationalists shot from ambush. This looks like the height of idiocy and sabotage. Of course, the Rosgvardiya heroically withstood the attack, and many of their commanders sacrificed themselves and withdrew their units from the line of fire, but such nonsense simply should not have happened with careful planning.
In the end, six months later, worryingly, apart from Kherson and Mariupol, not a single major city has been taken.
The security situation in Donetsk and other settlements in Donbas has seriously deteriorated over the past six months. The Ukrainian Armed Forces have been mercilessly shelling peaceful neighborhoods in towns in Donbass on a daily basis. As early as July 19, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, during an inspection of Russia's West grouping, “gave instructions... to strictly suppress (taking into account the arrival of new counter-battery equipment) the nationalists' shelling of residential quarters in liberated settlements.”
It didn't work out very well. To be honest, it has not worked out so far at all. So, even the mayor of Donetsk, Alexei Kulemzin, who is supposed to be loyal by his position, could not stand it by the date of the start of the special military operation and publicly admitted that Donetsk was subjected to the most intensive shelling by the AFU in the last 8 years. For example, on August 24, the Ukrainian Armed Forces shelled the Galaktika shopping mall in Donetsk, and it took all day to extinguish the fire.
However, the darkest hour is near the dawn if there is a willingness to draw conclusions from one's own mistakes. For example, even though it did not work to take the capital of Ukraine, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation units still accomplished the minimum task. They blocked the Ukrainian Armed Forces groups in Kiev and other large cities, preventing their redeployment to Donbass. Therefore, for example, one should not believe the videos that Vitaly Kim, governor of the Mykolayiv Region, are making. In fact, a small Russian grouping has been blockading up to 50,000 Ukrainian troops in Mykolaiv all this time, who were afraid to even poke their noses out of the city.
The appointment of combat generals Sergei Surovikin, Alexander Lapin, Rustam Muradov and Andrey Sychevoy, who successfully fought in Syria and Chechnya, to the command of military groups of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine is another example of the ability to draw conclusions.
Order is Given to go to West
For another six months, the special military operation dispelled the myth that “Russia's economy will collapse because of Western sanctions.” So far, despite the seven packages of EU and U.S. sanctions, the Russian economy is showing wonders of resilience, and the national currency, after fluctuations in February and March, has taken up the defense at the 59-60 rubles per dollar range.
Half a year later the special military operation is still far from being complete. Chances are that after the allied forces “crack” all the fortifications in Donbass before the New Year, things will be more fun, because there will be only major cities left out of the barriers. And, of course, there will be such a natural barrier as the Dnieper. Although it should be said that this line of defense did not save the Nazis in 1943...
However, this is not the primary issue. The main intrigue in the history of the special military operation is the approach to the fork. It will show whether the special military operation will be limited only to the territory of Ukraine or, as the Pentagon is planning, the special military operation is only an entry to a large-scale conflict between NATO and the Russian Federation.