Malik Nasir Mahmood Aslam draws attention towards a fast changing scenario
The short police action planned by Heavy Burden For Russia president Putin to conquer and subjugate Ukraine has proved to be a quagmire with apparently no end in sight. In an apparent failure of strategic planning, the Russian airborne forces have suffered heavy casualties after being thrown into battles better suited to heavier armoured infantry units. This is not the first time that Russian tactical incompetence has put the elite VDV, Russia’s airborne forces to difficulties that bore huge casualties demoralising the troops. It has reported that the elite forces had been forced to retreat after seizing a key airport near Kyiv as the Russian president sought to seize the Ukrainian capital within days of launching his invasion three months before. The impression conveyed by the performance of Russian forces is that of an unbalanced overall force. It is pointed out that the Russian doctrine anticipates assigning the 45,000 strong VDV to some of the most demanding operations where heavier armoured infantry was required.
Military observers have gone to the extent of pointing out that wrongly placed deployment of VDV in Ukraine highlights how Putin’s significant investment in the armed forces over the last 15 years has resulted in an unbalanced overall force. The setback suffered by Russian forces area also the outcome of failure to anticipate Ukrainian resistance and the subsequent complacency of Russian commanders that led to significant losses across many of Russia’s more elite units. The Russian forces changed the focus of their campaign after failing to seize Kyiv and Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, and are now trying to take control of the eastern region comprising Donetsk and Luhansk provinces which include areas held by Moscow-backed separatists. It is now reported that Russia has poured thousands of troops into the region, attacking from three sides in an attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces holding out in two major cities ad expect that their fall would leave the whole of Luhansk province under Russian control.
Military observers also pointed out that more than 20,000 Russian military personnel have already been killed with tens of thousands of civilians feared to have also died in often indiscriminate Russian bombardments of towns, cities and villages. The seriousness of the situation has compelled Moscow to solidify its grip on the territory it has seized and this respect Putin signed a decree simplifying the process for residents of newly captured districts to acquire Russian citizenship and passports. In order to facilitate this process the Russian parliament scrapped the upper age limit for contractual service in the military so that people over 40 can be called up in a clear attempt to compensate for the losses incurred in the war. The loss of lives in respect of Ukraine is also massive as it is reported that thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are also believed to have been killed.
Quite besieged Putin has made it clear that he will not tolerate criticism of his assault on Ukraine ad has made it widely known that any Russian describing his special military operation as an invasion may be imprisoned for up to 15 years and it is reported that many dissenters have been punished for speaking out. Despite punitive measures taken by Putin disapproval is increasingly bubbling to the surface particularly from war hawks who argue the Kremlin has been insufficiently aggressive to officials who do not want to be part of the bloodshed. This war has already cost Russia more lives than the defunct Soviet Union’s nine-year war in Afghanistan with dissent against it rising by the day as it was reported that a Russian military court ruled behind closed doors that 115 National Guard service members were rightfully terminated for refusing to participate in the invasion.
More significantly, a local Communist Party lawmaker in the Far Eastern port city of Vladivostok demanded that the Kremlin cease fighting in Ukraine and withdraw its forces. It is now well known that Boris Bondarev, a Geneva-based Russian diplomat, has resigned from his posting saying that he is ashamed of his country. The divide between the pacifists and war mongers is also increasing greatly as was evident by the Russian nationalists pushing for greater confrontation with Kyiv and the West. In this context, a group of Russian veterans released a statement laden with far-right sentiment, in which they appealed to Putin and his military leaders to dispatch more troops to Ukraine and called for more advanced weaponry to be used. They also criticised the Kremlin for withdrawing troops from key battlefields such as Kyiv and Chernihiv and derided the pullback that Putin tried to paint as a good-faith gesture ahead of peace talks with Ukraine. They were particularly embarrassed by the stunning defeat of Russian troops near the Siversky Donets River in which as many as 485 Russian soldiers died, and 80 armored vehicles were lost when Ukrainian artillery blasted a pontoon bridge.
Russia is also facing serious consequences of the sanctions imposed on it by the European countries that are trying earnestly to wean themselves off of Russian gas and in this respect Lithuania has become the first to do so. European countries have taken halting steps toward their pledge to curb reliance on Russia’s oil and gas, by far its largest exports, even as Moscow boosts sales to Asia. Stung by Western sanctions, Russia is starting to devolve into a secondhand economy dependent on poor substitutes with shortages are reminding people of the hard times they faced under Soviet regime. Though Russia may be able to procure some Western-made goods and components in friendly countries such as China and India but Russian decision makers are compelled to manufacture such goods on its own. This effort will bring back the harrowing days of the Soviet policy of import substitution that brought about a vast yet globally uncompetitive industrial complex that hastened the fall of the Soviet Union.
It is getting clear to the Russian policy makers that they are dependent upon foreign-manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing airplanes to run their civil aviation system and the sanctions have made it impossible to procure spare parts from them as they have stopped doing business with Moscow. Meanwhile, the decision by Ericsson and Nokia to freeze business with Russia has left cellular providers there suddenly scouring the world for used towers and parts to maintain and expand a network that was once able to keep more or less pace with America and Europe had more or less kept pace with the United States and Europe but now even China’s Huawei appears reluctant to fill the gap, indefinitely delaying a Russian rollout of next-generation 5G technology, a service that providers had been testing before the Ukraine invasion. It is predicted in this respect that within five years there will be a huge gap between Russia and in the rest of the world on cellular service. It is also reported that supply disruptions, however, have hit not only assembly lines that rely on advanced technology but also those using imported materials. Even Russian officials concede that sanctions have practically broken the entire logistics apparatus in the country and that there is no easy way out to counter the crisis the country is faced with. TW