Sunday, January 18, 2015

Not Exactly Operation Uranus

Ukraine has finally counter-attacked at Donetsk airport after months of enduring secessionist, Russian hand puppet attacks:

Ukraine rushed tanks to the front lines and claimed Sunday to have cleared pro-Russian rebels from most of Donetsk airport after days of intense fighting, with heavy shelling shaking the key eastern city.

The story speaks of ten tanks used, so it was pretty small.

Nor was it trying to be decisive since it spoke only of "pushing back" the attackers and opening a corridor to evacuate wounded.

Still, the Ukrainians ended the pattern of "Russia gets to attack and Ukraine gets to defend," which is a development that "concerns" Russia, of course.

Ask and you shall receive a little bit of what you ask for, anyway.

UPDATE: This story indicates the Ukrainian operation was bigger than I thought, with Ukraine claiming to control the airport and surrounding area.

Even if the claim is wrong, it indicates a larger scope than the first stories.

UPDATE: More on the "massive" offensive, which seems to be on pause today. Or it's over.

UPDATE: Has Russia sent in two battalion task forces?

Even if Ukraine loses this escalation, Russia will pay a higher price that may deter them in the future.

Remember, Ukraine was losing the war that Russia was waging at a pace they believed they could afford. Now? Perhaps a Russian victory will be Pyrrhic.

UPDATE: Russia's counter-attack begins on a different front--a no-notice gas export halt:

Russia claims that due to "transit risks for European consumers in the territory of the Ukraine" the supply cuts had to be made. As a result of the move Gazprom gas supplies to Europe plunged by 60 percent. Ukraine confirmed that Russia had shut off the gas supply. A total of six countries reported a complete shut off of Russian supplied gas.

I'm sure this is a coincidence.

UPDATE: More. Ukraine needs to seriously prepare to fight Russia. 

And coming up on the first anniversary of Russia's initial invasion, it is frustrating that rebuilding the Ukrainian military still seems as far off as back then when I conceded that my view on how Ukraine could react to a (then) hypothetical Russian invasion was a paper exercise that didn't reflect capabilities on the ground.

I still think that regular-supported irregulars is the way to go in the east (just how much does Putin want to bleed for his glorious conquest?) while preparing the regular forces to threaten the Sevastopol base complex in Crimea is the best way to use Ukraine's military.

The author in that "more" article says that Putin does not want to occupy much of Ukraine because if Ukrainians resist it would be a "political and humanitarian nightmare."

I agree. But it would also be a military nightmare since Russia doesn't have the decent-quality troops needed to pacify much of Ukraine. He'd have to use ill-trained and ill-equipped forces who would die in higher numbers and commit atrocities more than better-trained troops would, enraging Ukrainians and possibly angering enough of Europe to really matter.

UPDATE: Ukraine has achieved a short-term success by their commitment of heavy forces to the Donetsk airport battle:

Diplomats from Russia and Ukraine agreed Wednesday on a dividing line from where both sides should pull back their heavy weapons, just hours after separatist forces deployed more arms and manpower to an emerging flashpoint in eastern Ukraine.

Sure, on the surface this seems like a victory for the idea that Ukraine ended the rule that only Russia's proxies could attack while Ukraine could only defend.

But unless this mutual pull back leads to a diplomatic solution, the only thing this achieves on the battlefield is to reward whoever goes on offense first and brings in heavy weapons to use against the other side whose heavy weapons are in the rear.

Gosh, I wonder who would be the likely side to do that?

UPDATE: Yeah, one side is kind of likely:

Fighting in eastern Ukraine is fiercer than ever in some locations, NATO's top commander in Europe said Thursday — adding that the weapons systems seen now in the region have in the past heralded a fresh incursion by Russian troops.

Hopefully, we're helping Ukraine so they can inflict some pain on Russian troops when they do move.

UPDATE: That was fast:

Ukrainian forces on Thursday ceded a long-disputed airport to Russian-backed rebels as an upsurge in clashes killed nearly 50 people and punctured Europe's latest push for peace in the nine-month war.

I guess we're back to the old rules where only Russia gets to attack while Ukraine only gets to contest their rate of retreat.

This is no way for Ukraine to win a war. Or even fight one.