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Russian Games: 120,000-140,000 Russian Troops on the Ukrainian border…


Ser Scot A Ellison
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I’m a little surprised we don’t have any discussion of this fact yet.  The US Sec of State warned Russians against invasion and Ukraine against responding to Russian attempts to bait them into having an excuse for invasion.  

Is Putin really willing to pull the trigger on a full scale invasion of Ukraine?

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/rcna7203

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison
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27 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

I’m a little surprised we don’t have any discussion of this fact yet.  The US Sec of State warned Russians against invasion and Ukraine against responding to Russian attempts to bait them into having an excuse for invasion.  

Is Putin really willing to pull the trigger on a full scale invasion of Ukraine?

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/rcna7203

Russia undertaking a full-scale invasion of Ukraine would run counter to Putin's doctrine of strategically deploying the absolute minimum of Russia's military in any given theatre to gain the maximum political return. Any situation that could dramatically increase the risk of a full-scale conventional war with NATO - which Russia would inevitably lose if it chose not to use nuclear weapons, which it would find hard to justify in an aggressive move - is something that Putin would want to avoid.

Those calculations would only change if Russia believed that NATO could be convinced to stay out of a Russia-Ukraine conflict, and if Russia could achieve total military victory within a very fast timeframe, say a couple of days, and if Putin realistically believed that any following guerrilla war or war of resistance would not create a Chechnya-level of blood and loss of Russian lives lasting years. It's also possible that Russia might undertake such an operation if it was launched in concert with another major operation - say China invading Taiwan - which would absorb so much American bandwidth it could not effectively deal with two crises simultaneously. However, that seems implausible at the moment.

It's much more likely that Russia's provocative moves have been undertaken to achieve political goals. Last time Russia undertook such a build-up, it was pretty much just to get a meeting with Biden. The same thing could be true here. In particular, it looks like Moscow feels that Kiev has received more positive signs that NATO could accept a Ukrainian proposal to join the alliance (despite that still feeling unlikely in London), which they would want to forestall at all costs. It's also possible that Russia wants to dissuade NATO and the EU from fully militarising the Poland-Latvian-Lithuanian border with Belarus - a route Russia wants open in the event of any future move to retake the Baltic States - as a result of the ongoing migrant crisis. Finally, Ukraine seems to have achieved some military successes recently in the disputed border regions by using Turkish-build drones as a force equaliser with the separatist forces (backed up by Russian special and conventional forces).

My guess would be that the build-up has been undertaken with the goal of dissuading Turkey from selling Kiev more drones, undercutting any NATO-Kiev discussions on membership and refocusing attention away from the border crisis (I would not be entirely surprised if, behind the scenes, Moscow is also telling Minsk to stop fucking around on the border, as it might be starting to run counter to Russia's long-term interests, as amusing as they might find the crisis is for the headaches it's causing in Warsaw and elsewhere).

Edited by Werthead
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Scythians, not Russians.  After leaving Siberia and other wanderings, what we call Eastern Ukraine was a Scythian homeland. Among many other locations of the Eurasian steppes.  Horse riding nomadic herders and fierce warriors. Loved their wine, which the Greeks loved to sell them. Loved gold, of which many gold object Greeks and others sold them, and their own people created. People just like everybody else; we all love wine and gold, pretty much, right?  :D

Ya, I know a whole lot more about Scythians and the age of Taras Bulba than I do about contemporary Ukraine -- beyond any Hunter Biden stuff.  So no expert and totally useless.

 

Edited by Zorral
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2 hours ago, HoodedCrow said:

Crimea, just saying.

Crimea I think was a different case. Russia has an absolutely massive military base and presence in Crimea, and a very large population of Russian nationals. It does appear that, genuinely, the majority of people in Crimea would probably want to be in or part of Russia. Russia's presence in Crimea was effectively a fait accompli, and it was practical and easy to cut off Crimea from Ukraine at the drop of a hat.

Russia could probably hold a UN-observed election on Crimea's status and win it. The only reason they won't is if they ever need to annex somewhere else where that would not be true and they don't want to establish a complex precedent.

Russia invading down the frontier line in eastern Ukraine and carving off the separatist areas in a similar fait accompli to Crimea is I think the likely maximum that Russia would want to risk at the moment. And CN is right, you'd need way more than 100,000 troops to hold down Ukraine. The territory is vast, making it the second-largest country in Europe (behind only Russia itself), and I'm sure the Russian military and government does not want to consider the cost of urban warfare in a city as large as Kiev.

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16 hours ago, Zorral said:

Scythians, not Russians.  After leaving Siberia and other wanderings, what we call Eastern Ukraine was a Scythian homeland. Among many other locations of the Eurasian steppes.  Horse riding nomadic herders and fierce warriors. Loved their wine, which the Greeks loved to sell them. Loved gold, of which many gold object Greeks and others sold them, and their own people created. People just like everybody else; we all love wine and gold, pretty much, right?  :D

Ya, I know a whole lot more about Scythians and the age of Taras Bulba than I do about contemporary Ukraine -- beyond any Hunter Biden stuff.  So no expert and totally useless.

 

Also inventors of the gnome hat. :P

Edited by Corvinus85
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19 hours ago, Zorral said:

Scythians, not Russians.  After leaving Siberia and other wanderings, what we call Eastern Ukraine was a Scythian homeland. Among many other locations of the Eurasian steppes.  Horse riding nomadic herders and fierce warriors. Loved their wine, which the Greeks loved to sell them. Loved gold, of which many gold object Greeks and others sold them, and their own people created. People just like everybody else; we all love wine and gold, pretty much, right?  :D

Scythians are merely one of many, many peoples who lived in present-day Ukraine, who have no linguistic connection with the present-day Ukrainians, and who looked different from them (Scythians were predominantly red-haired according to Herodotus).

Actual Ukrainians are usually very proud of their Slavic identity, to the point where nationalists among them consider themselves to be the only "pure" Slavs (unlike Russians, whom they consider to be half-Tatars).

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Quote

 

Russia’s military buildup along the border with Ukraine has clearly gotten the attention of policymakers from Kiev to Washington, D.C. CIA Director Bill Burns flew to Moscow to try to avert a crisis, while U.S. intelligence officials are reportedly warning NATO allies that a Russian invasion of large parts of Ukraine can’t be ruled out.

The possibility of Russian aggression against Ukraine would have huge consequences for European security. Perhaps even more concerning would be a Russian attack against a NATO member itself. Moscow might want to undermine security in the Baltic states or Poland, for instance, but could the Russian government successfully carry out a large-scale invasion of those countries? If recent wargames are any indication, then the answer is a resounding yes — and it could do so pretty easily. In a 2016 War on the Rocks article, David A. Shlapak and Michael W. Johnson projected that the Russian army would overrun the Baltic states in three days. ....

 

https://warontherocks.com/2021/11/feeding-the-bear-a-closer-look-at-russian-army-logistics/

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22 hours ago, Zorral said:

The bit you quote isn't the final conclusion of the article, which is that Russia has impressive and indeed overwhelming military formations on the border, much larger than their NATO counterparts and capable of outgunning and outmanning them, but that Russia also cannot sustain the required combat operations in the field that any lengthy campaign will entail. Although the Russian military has superb logistics, these logistics are massively hamstrung by the need to resupply forces operating beyond the comfortable range of the Russian railheads (because Russia never changed its rail gauge to match the rest of Europe's, something that aided them immensely in defensive operations in WWII but is a handicap in offensive operations). Russian local superiority in artillery, tanks and manpower is also hugely offset by American (and thus allied) air and naval superiority.

Russia has ironically placed itself in the same position as Germany in 1941: creating a large and technologically-advanced military that is very impressive, but also requires extensive logistical support that, in a protracted conflict, would be extremely difficult to sustain. When your economy is barely the same size as Italy's, this puts you at a serious detriment when fighting an enemy with the economic strength of the United States, the entirety of Europe and probably Japan, Canada and Australia behind it.

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40 minutes ago, Werthead said:

but also requires extensive logistical support that, in a protracted conflict, would be extremely difficult to sustain.

That's not what US intelligence is currently saying, and subsequently what is causing alarm within the Biden administration:

Quote

Russian forces have capabilities in place along the Ukraine border to carry out a swift and immediate invasion, including erecting supply lines such as medical units and fuel that could sustain a drawn-out conflict, should Moscow choose to invade, two sources familiar with the latest intelligence assessments recently told CNN.

The new details about the Russian buildup underscore US officials' heightened alarm over the movements. The current levels of equipment stationed in the area could supply front-line forces for seven to 10 days and other support units for as long as a month, according to one source familiar with the matter.

Of course, conflicting with US intelligence assessments certainly isn't necessarily a bad thing.

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52 minutes ago, Werthead said:

The bit you quote isn't the final conclusion of the article

Well, you know I couldn't quote the whole thing, and if I chose to quote the conclusion, that leaves out how we get down there. The point of this particular choice was to give a sense of the matter with which it dealt.

For me what was interesting is the contrast between what war gaming came up with and then what others, more hands on, more on the ground, so to speak, rather than game spec, came up with.

Sheesh.

OTOH, our Sec of Defense is clearly still living back in the 20th C.  He refers to Russia as the Soviet Union.

 

Edited by Zorral
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19 minutes ago, Zorral said:

OTOH, our Sec of Defense is clearly still living back in the 20th C.  He refers to Russia as the Soviet Union.

Geez it was just a slip of the tongue.  Austin's always been known for such gaffes.  Perhaps that's what endeared him to Biden.

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1 hour ago, DMC said:

That's not what US intelligence is currently saying, and subsequently what is causing alarm within the Biden administration:

Of course, conflicting with US intelligence assessments certainly isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Yeah, Russia can sustain an invasion for 7-10 days, but that's not a protracted conflict, which is what you'd need to take, hold and secure the entirety of Ukraine which, as noted before, is massive.

A more limited invasion designed to officially slice off and annex the area that the separatists effectively already hold is more likely and possible, and difficult to restore afterwards.

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6 minutes ago, Werthead said:

Yeah, Russia can sustain an invasion for 7-10 days, but that's not a protracted conflict, which is what you'd need to take, hold and secure the entirety of Ukraine which, as noted before, is massive.

Well, per the quote I provided, US intelligence does indeed think Russia's capabilities "could sustain a drawn-out conflict."  It should also be noted that WaPo reported yesterday US intelligence estimated Russia will eventually amass 175k troops.  Regardless, I tend to agree that Putin is just posturing and sabre-rattling.  But even if that's the case Washington does need to respond to such provocation.  And, as detailed in the link above, Biden's proposed response - while vague - sounds perfectly fine to me.

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I don't even think Putin actually plans to downright annex bits of Eastern Ukraine. He didn't do it with Ossetia or Transnistria, only with Crimea because of the strategic bases and because it actually had been a Russian province until the late 1950s. If that's ever considered, it'll be a longer term plan, not something planned for next year. On the other hand, it seems not many people are interested anymore in enacting the Minsk agreement, so conflict might flare up once again and in this case I wouldn't be surprised if he created some kind of breakaway/separatist wannabe autonomous or independent "country" in the Donbass, since it's how it went in other places.

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  • Ser Scot A Ellison changed the title to Russian Games: 120,000-140,000 Russian Troops on the Ukrainian border…

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