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Op-Ed: Kherson and the future of Ukraine — Russia can’t hold any more

The choice is sanity or more dead for no reason.

Ukrainian artillery unit members fire towards Kherson on October 28, 2022, outside of Kherson region
Ukrainian artillery unit members fire towards Kherson on October 28, 2022, outside of Kherson region - Copyright AFP Ferdh CABRERA
Ukrainian artillery unit members fire towards Kherson on October 28, 2022, outside of Kherson region - Copyright AFP Ferdh CABRERA

The Russian withdrawal from Kherson is an unusual bit of realism amid the delusions. The mess now affects the entire Russian military in far too many ways. Held together with verbosity rather than facts, the end is clearly visible for the Russians.

Kherson was to be the springboard for attacking Odesa and landlocking Ukraine. That was never going to happen. It was going to be the southern front for an attack from the south to Kyiv. In fact, after the initial invasion, very little progress was made in the region.

The Russians simply acquired more land on the west bank of the Dnepr. The extra land became a defensive liability which fell apart almost immediately when attacked.

Kherson couldn’t have been held anyway. They had to pull back or simply get cut off. Regardless of even Russia’s endlessly compromised logistics, they couldn’t support the large tangle of troops in the area. Withdraw or be cut to pieces were the options.

However – This isn’t the only useless space the Russians have to worry about. Their constant shuffling of troops from one place to another has fatally compromised their overall tactical and strategic situation.

Blundering from one defeat to another, with combat-effective formations getting smashed up on a routine basis, the Russian army is in no condition for any type of tactical initiative, defensive or offensive.

(Bakhmut is a case in point; the Wagner Group is supposedly trying to take Bakhmut to set up for an attack on Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. …An attack with what, may one enquire? This attack is progressing in millimetres, if at all. To achieve what? They can barely move at all against the local Ukrainian resistance. The privileged Wagner Group is getting practically nothing done on this scale at great expense. What chance do a few effectively pre-killed conscripts have in a major operation?)

The next big issue for Russia is how to retain control of Crimea. The quaint notion that river defenses are some sort of safeguard against the Ukrainians has no basis in fact. The Dnepr isn’t much of an obstacle for them.

Other Russian adjoining and rear areas are also very vulnerable. The ridiculous land corridor is untenable, particularly over time. The Ukrainians can strike at will in the corridor and there’s not much the Russians can do about it. The land corridor can be shut down anytime.

Crimea will be effectively separated from direct contact with Russia. The famously damaged Kerch bridge is hardly adequate for supporting a major city, let alone the number of troops required to hold it. Providing capacity to supply by sea isn’t likely to be easy, and civilian support will consume a lot of freight space.

There’s also a possibility that the Russians will lose control over the water supply to Crimea. There’s a dam to the north which supplies most of Crimea’s water. If that goes, it’s game over.

…Which means there are many ways Crimea can become yet another disaster for the Russians quite easily. The Ukrainians have already been able to strike in Crimea. The intervening region is well within range of just about everything the Ukrainians have.

The Russian military will take at least a decade to get over the disasters in Ukraine. It’s in no condition to fight, let alone win, against a determined and very effective opponent. Western military aid will continue, regardless of Republican threats of cutting aid, tantrums, QAnon-ish drivel, and similar naivete.

There are no options left for Russia. This is what total defeat looks like. The dead aren’t coming back. The choice is sanity or more dead for no reason.

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Disclaimer

The opinions expressed in this Op-Ed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Digital Journal or its members.

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Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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