The Fall of Slavyansk

Reprinted from Facebook (2018/02/15):

1) The fall of Slavyansk is mainly a political problem, not a military one. In military terms, it is, if anything, a success, with Strelkov managing to successfully exfiltrate the great bulk of his forces from encirclement.

2) Donetsk has almost ten times the population of (pre-war) Slavyansk. Having aquired the great bulk of its population during the 1930-1990 period, it is like most Soviet cities of this profile a veritable warren of massive concrete blocks. A further defensive “bonus” is that its population has dropped by almost 20% from its 1992 peak, so I assume this means it will be relatively easy to locate abandoned apartments to serve as bases, lookout stations, etc. The experience of Grozny shows the damage that even a pretty small band of motivated fighters with Kalashnikovs and RPGs can inflict on a poorly trained conscript force wading into a concrete metropolis, even if they have plentiful access to artillery and heavy armor. Look at the problems even the world’s most advanced COIN force, the US Army, had in Baghdad and Fallujah. Donetsk will not be an easy nut to crack; any attempt to do so will produce more casualties amongst the Ukrainian Army than the NAF (whereas the current ratio is about 2:3), and massive casualties amongst Donetsk civilians caught in the bombardments.

3) Cynical as it is, I strongly suspect that this is precisely the plan: To see thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, of civilians die, before mounting a humanitarian intervention that a) the West will find much more difficult to credibly condemn than would be the case if it were to be carried out now; b) will estrange even more future Novorossiyans from Kiev; and c) eat up a large chunk of Ukrainian armor and whatever still remains of its air force in the interim.

Alternatively, Poroshenko might realize this is a losing proposition, and return to the negotiating table… If the Maidan lets him (which it probably won’t).

4) Unlike certain more hot-blooded pro-Russian analysts, and Maidanists who are rushing to celebrate way too soon, I still see no credible argument that Putin has ditched the Donbass resistance. To the contrary, the lack of *direct* intervention is more likely just the product of a series of cold calculations that show it more likely to be effective in a few months than today, when: a) The Ukrainian Army has become weaker and more demoralized; b) Photos of bisected, bloodied, and burnt corpses have been filling the Russian and international airwaves for a few months; c) The resolve of the West and its unity are weaker; d) The Russian economy is more prepared for any sanctions that are forthcoming; and e) Austerity is biting Ukraine hard, and (gas-less) winter is coming. Too bad that it is the residents of Donetsk who will be playing the blood price for this.

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