As confirmed by governmental and non-governmental sources Russia is positioning its armed forces in a pincer/encirclement for an imminent invasion thrust by land and/or sea into Ukraine.
Furthermore, 21st warfare will feature weaponry such as cyberwarfare that directs and enhances the military hardware. Finally let’s not forget the required historical internal destabilizer – the Fifth Column.
There are two sectors through which Russian armed forces will traverse:
Northern Approach | The Hot Zone
The first is through Russia’s ally Belarus located on Ukraine’s northern border. This sector is geographically closer to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital than the other entry sectors. Suspiciously convenient the Russian government announced a large military exercise called Allied Resolve 2022 scheduled from February 10-20 that places thousands of troops along the Ukrainian-Belarus border.
Despite the tantalizingly short distance to Kiev, this zone possesses some difficult geographical and manmade obstacles. With respect to the former, this area is swampy and densely populated which would make progress towards Kiev arduous.
With respect to the latter, Russian troops in Belarus would have to pass through the 1,000 square mile area hot zone of Chernobyl called the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. This is where the former nuclear plant is located that imploded in 1986 and whose on-site and surrounding area still retains lethal levels of radioactivity.
Dare if they must, this manmade Forbidden Zone neatly fits the quote by Dante Alighieri, Italian poet & philosopher, “The road to paradise (Kiev) begins in hell.” In short Russian forces must march through a toxic wasteland just like in an apocalyptic, sci-fi B-movie bringing to life cyberpunk on the battlefield.
This area could be considered Russia’s version of the Ardennes offensive in 1940 utilized by Nazi Germany through a thick forest to surprise and trap the French armies at the beginning of WW II. The mystery remains whether the Russian armed forces in Belarus will be used as nothing more than a prop or feint to pull Ukrainian’s manpower away from Kiev.
For these reasons there’s a question whether and to what extent Ukraine’s natural defense will defend this northern sector given the difficulty and radioactive dangers of passage.
Eastern Ukraine | Weaponizing Food Production
The second land area for invasion is in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine populated by the pro-Russian separatists. On one hand this is the furthest area from Kiev, about 370 miles, so a western advance will take weeks even with minimal Ukrainian opposition because of extended supply lines.
Nonetheless, Russian military advances will weaponize Ukraine’s food production by occupying the breadbasket southern and eastern regions thus effectively cutting off future food supplies by interrupting spring planting and summer/fall harvesting.
The Russian navy has superior forces in the Black Sea enhanced by their utilization of a naval base in recently annexed Crimea which gives them total maritime domination of the southern region.
To underscore Russia’s overwhelming naval domination, the following chart provided by News Reports entitled The Military Imbalance in The Black Sea compares Russian and Ukrainian military naval power.
Furthermore, according to numerous media and government reports, Russia is in the process of augmenting the above stated inventory with 140 warships, 60 aircraft, 10,000 military servicemen and 1,000 pieces of military equipment. The most likely target is Odesa, Ukraine’s largest port city.
· At minimum this naval force can blockade the port splitting Ukrainian forces to defend against a possible amphibious assault.
· At maximum Russia could attempt an amphibious assault to take the port.
The latter is unlikely because such operations are extraordinarily complex and Russia has never attempted an amphibious assault in its history. The initial strategy is a naval blockade of Odesa. The other option, if the opportunity presents, itself if Ukrainian forces offer little resistance and make a Russian landing feasible.
Regardless of the logistical difficulties, Russian encirclement on multiple fronts represent possible feints that are designed to stretch Ukrainian forces and make them unable to properly defend the main offensive thrust(s) wherever that make occur.
Some of the final components prior to an actual invasion include the following:
· Medical equipment and mobile field hospitals
· Ammunition stockpiles
· Supporting security services
Finally, it may not be too far-fetched if the Russian military makes unusually good progress to Kiev and copies the US’ “Thunder Run” conducted on 5 April 2003 during the Baghdad invasion. US heavy armor entered and roared through Baghdad in a psychologically demoralizing show of force. Symbolically Russian tanks might roar through Kiev in a symbolic show of domination.
Russia’s Fifth Column | Elite Sleeper Cells
An extremely uncomfortable truth is Russia, post-invasion, can confidently insert a pro-Russian puppet leadership across wide a spectrum of the military, politics and diverse industries. For decades high levels of corruption have plagued the Ukrainian public domain.
According to Transparency International, an independent, non-governmental organization, their Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is based on 13 data sets. Ukraine ranks 117 of 180 relative to other countries.
The more accurate indicator is Ukraine’s score of 33 which hasn’t improved much since their 26 score in 2012. A score of 0 is totally corrupt; a score of 100 is “very clean.” Furthermore, according to their CPI, Transparency International has determined that Eastern Europe and Central Asia are the world’s second most corrupt regions.
For this reason Russia probably has had a superior insider view of the Ukrainian military for many years. For this reason the Ukrainian military game plan has already been compromised giving Russia a huge tactical and strategic advantage. Quoting Sun Tzu in the book the Art of War, “Every battle is won before it is ever fought.”
Occupation is an extremely expensive and hazardous duty, especially Ukraine which is the second largest country in Europe in landmass after Russia. This is why Russia needs the fervent collaboration, cooperation of key elements of Ukraine’s political, business and military leadership (not necessarily in power present-day) to support pro-Russian policies and domestic security.
Whether by design or default (bribes or threats) such leadership has already been identified and who have agreed to assume their positions in the new government. This could only have been achieved after many years so in fact they are de facto high-level sleepers.
Russia’s Ultimate Objective
Post-invasion Russia will politically “neuter” the Ukrainian government by installing a pro-Russian Ukrainian leadership to slavishly kowtow to Moscow. Putin’s historical revisionist rhetoric will become reality in “restoring” Russian dominance in eastern Europe with his newly acquired “jewel in the crown” (Ukraine) while casting a dark shadow over the remaining former Soviet-era bloc countries currently aligned with the west.
Global Market Mayhem
With respect to global markets expect an Icarus Moment featuring extreme market volatility with spike in energy and food prices as articulated in detail in my previously published articles Energy and Gold Prices to Soar After Russian Invasion, January 17, 2022 and Global Food Supply and Price Risk with Russian Aggression, January 21, 2022.
Public Relations Cyber Offensive
Once the invasion begins there will be an overwhelming avalanche of misinformation, disinformation and outright propaganda. And that’s just from western mainstream media without deliberate Russian or other governmental interference for the purposes of achieving the most readership clicks.
How it Plays Out
The great unknown is to what extent the Ukrainian military will fight back. Although Russia has overwhelming technical, military, manpower and firepower advantages, like the US in Vietnam and Afghanistan, the indigenous guerilla forces neutralized America’s firepower and ultimately avoided long-term total subjugation.
On the other hand Ukraine might be rapidly overwhelmed and collapse within weeks. The US has a poor track record of furnishing their allies with last-minute shipments of weaponry to ward off invading forces except to Israel in the 1973 war.
Interestingly this urgent military support was sent to western supported albeit highly corrupt governments, that had little public credibility and were vulnerable to a highly motivated enemy. The only difference between the Viet Cong/North Vietnamese and Taliban is that the Russian army has nukes.
Putin’s Post-Invasion Ambitions
The invasion and subsequent placement of a pro-Russian Ukrainian government must be reasonably quick & decisive. A Pyrrhic victory featuring heavy casualties would result in a loss-of-face for Putin, domestic blowback and possibly trigger his arrest or coup attempt.
Contingent on Putin’s success in Ukraine, he will certainly be emboldened to aggressively undermine and weaken the former Soviet satellite countries some of which are present-day NATO members, through cyber-thuggery and divisive rhetoric.
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The Cerulean Council is a NYC-based think-tank that provides prescient, beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments on geopolitical dynamics and global urban security.