24 May 2023
Cogito Ergo Non Serviam
For two days, pro-Kyiv forces crossed the border from Ukraine into Russia. The Russian Defense Ministry claims it killed 70 and forced the rest to retreat back into Ukraine under heavy fire. While it is a very minor event in a war that has killed tens of thousands, the raid is significant. If the Russians have to defend the Belgorod Oblast, due north of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, it means they will have to pull forces from the front lines. That would make an offensive in Ukraine more effective. This was a shaping attack. The offensive to push the Russians back has begun.
While it would be good for the world if Mr. Putin were toppled by Russians, one does not really expect much to come of the effort to do so. The Russian President has a lock on the media in Russia, which means it will be very difficult to generate the kind of pressure necessary to end his rule. Instead, the attack will enable Kyiv to get farther in its attacks to the east.
In combat, West Point and Sandhurst teach that the attacker needs a 3:1 advantage in troops for success. One can do the job with fewer soldiers, but that ratio is standard to achieve the objectives with minimal loss of life and materiel. Ukraine does not have that kind of advantage anywhere except in small, localized areas. If the Russians can be forced to move troops into Belgorod to defend Holy Mother Russia, there will be fewer Russian fighters in those localized areas in Donestk and Luhansk. That means there will be more places where Kyiv can succeed, and those defenders will be less able to resist.
The US and others have pressed Kyiv to avoid attacking Russia proper. Their argument is that Russia could escalate if its territory is attacked, and that might include nuclear weapons. This is nonsensical. Russia does not appear to be able to escalate any more than it has. It has thrown convict mercenaries into the fight for Bakhmut, and Kyiv is able to shoot down the Russian hypersonic missiles. The risk of Russian escalation is overblown. Using a nuke would make Mr. Putin a real pariah with India and China likely to abandon him, and he knows this.
The arguments for attacking inside Russia are vastly better. First off, there are few defenders so any attack will be more effective than an attack in occupied Ukraine. Second, attacks in Russia will reduce the number of troops occupying Ukraine. Third, pressure to end the war will rise in Russia if the war is brought to Russia. Fourth, Ukrainian morale gets a boost from the war reaching Russia. Finally, it will be easier at the negotiating table for Kyiv if it holds some Russian territory.
© Copyright 2023 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.