Yves here. It may seem an exercise in counting chickens before they are hatched for Russian commentators to be drawing maps about what Ukraine will look like after the winter operations and possible further mopping up.
I had a discussion with Lambert a few weeks ago as to where the war was going, since it was clear then that Russia could and would take out Ukraine’s electrical to the degree it saw fit. One issue was how the military operations would be able to met the key SMO goals of demilitarizing and denazifying Ukraine. More grinding at (presumed continued) limited cost to Russia would further deplete remaining Ukraine and NATO weapons stocks. It would also kill more Ukraine men and Polish et al. mercenaries.
But what about denazification? I had said to Lambert, and wished I had said it on the site, that Russia might go full Carthage and salt the earth in Western Ukraine, as in make it uninhabitable so as to drive all the citizens, including the Banderites, into Europe. Keep in mind that Russia can do that. No power in Western Ukraine would mean the only people who could live there would be hardy survivalists. By comparison, Maine’s unorganized territories, which represent half the state’s land area, have an estimated population of less than 10,000.
In his new post, John Helmer indicates that the upcoming phase of the Russia war is set to go in a very different direction than most armchair generals anticipate. Russia will indeed come to control large swathes of Ukraine, but not by occupying them, but by depopulating them: going in and destroying more infrastructure, then booby-trapping them, then leaving. This is a modern salting of the earth, at least in cities and towns.
As of then, the idea of a demilitarized zone was being mooted. One could logically argue for as much as 300 km wide, given that that’s the range of the most powerful HIMARS missiles. But that still leaves a lot of Western Ukraine as potential resurgent strongholds. So it would seem that Russia has not just an incentive but a need to force those neo-Nazis into the rest of Europe and let them deal with them.
Note that Helmer, again relying on Russian sources, envisions an armistice, not a peace treaty. Given the lack of political maturity in the US and heated refusal of Ukraine’s leadership to contemplate anything short of total victory, it’s hard to see how they climb down enough to sign off on even a standstill with Russia. We pointed out recently that a high percentage of modern conflict do not conclude with any sort of pact. They fizzle into a much lower level of conflict.
Admittedly, Helmer points out it took two years to agree to the Korean DMZ…but they had to agree to talk at all! And that’s before getting into the other wee problem with even a spare agreement like an armistice: that the US, NATO, and Ukraine are not agreement capable. So what is the point of formalizing a non-deal? To again show the Global South that Russia really tried?
In other words, it seems probable that Russia will impose a solution. If as expected, it becomes clear that the West can’t or won’t negotiate, it will behoove Russia to implement a maximalist solution. Or alternatively, Russia “bargains” by showing that it can create a dead zone in Western Ukraine as big as it likes. If Ukraine and its US minders don’t come to their senses, that dead zone will be awfully big.
UA power grid collapsing pic.twitter.com/vgOPNtHoJA
— The Borg Cube-Tatanka (@CByder) November 28, 2022
By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears
For the buffer zone to achieve the demilitarization of the Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned in July that military factors, not politics, will decide. “I see no reason to question what President Vladimir Putin announced on February 24, 2022, and reaffirmed a few days ago,” Lavrov said. “Our goals remain the same. And they will be met. There is a solution to this problem. The military know this.”
In case the distinction Lavrov was making between political negotiations and military operations, between soldiers and civilians, wasn’t clear enough, Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, made it the target of her irony last Thursday. In her regular briefing for reporters, Zakharova was asked to comment on US weapons supplies to the Ukraine. “Something is wrong with this world if two women are discussing Stingers, MANPADS, SAMS, and HARM anti-radar missiles,” she answered the journalist. “As a reminder, scaling up its military supplies to Kiev and directly controlling Ukrainian forces, including the provision of real-time recon data, Washington has, in fact, become a party to the conflict in Ukraine…As far as their internal dealings regarding how much money they give to whom, what particular supplies are underway, or what items they are running out of or have more of, this is not our concern. Let them decide what kind of games they want to play among themselves.”
The Kherson manoeuvre, announced by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and General Sergei Surovikin on November 9; the electric war campaign which has followed*; and the cutoff of troops, arms and supplies by train from Kiev to the eastern front, first announced by the Russian Defense Ministry on November 24, foreshadow how the military are preparing to establish the Ukrainian Demilitarized Zone (UDZ), its depth to the west of the Dnieper River, and the cities to be included in Russian-controlled territory.
This is a future to be established by the Russian General Staff, negotiated and signed by military officers of the NATO-controlled commands in Kiev and Lvov. The outcome is an end to hostilities with an armistice that is not a peace treaty.
The model is the armistice of Panmunjom of July 27, 1953, which ended the Korean War. The terms of the armistice took two years to negotiate by US, Korean and Chinese officers. The Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) which was the outcome was four kilometres in depth. The Ukrainian demilitarized zone (UDZ) will be up to one hundred kilometres in depth, depending on the range of the US and NATO missile and artillery weapons deployed on the Kiev side of the Dnieper. On the ground inside the UDZ there may be no electricity, no people, nothing except for the means to monitor and enforce the terms of the armistice.
For avoidance of doubt, red on the map means Russia.
In what follows, Russian and other military sources have reviewed the official Russian policy statements, published operational bulletins, and social media and website commentaries in Russian. The maps with their overlays of the UDZ have been drawn by the sources to illustrate some of the constants, some of the variables in the present situation — the tactical options and the operational scenarios.
They are presented to warn that Russian politico-military thinking should not be interpreted as if it’s similar to US military doctrine.
The sources also caution that the recent evidence of Polish government decision-making, leaked last week by Moscow, rules out the foreseeable prospect that, whoever wins next year’s Polish elections, any regime in Warsaw will be capable of more independence of Washington’s control than the regime in Kiev. Consequently, the Galician region will remain nominally Ukrainian, de facto North American. De-nazification of the Americans and Canadians entrenched between Lvov and Cracow is not a Russian objective.
By contrast, the future for Hungarian Transcarpathia is beyond Washington’s control. Either way, Russian thinking is to “let the disaster zone that is rump Ukraine, west of the Dnieper, remain someone else’s problem.”
There are well-known advocates in Moscow for “the Ukrainian demilitarized zone to be all of the Ukraine”. In their words, “there is no sense in leaving western Ukraine to remain in bed with the US and deploy NATO weapons. Nothing will be offered to the Hungarians and Poles — they will have to earn it for themselves. It follows that demilitarization is not four or one hundred kilometres deep, comparable to the terms imposed on Germany in 1945 or on Korea in 1953. For Russia’s long-term security, look where we are in Germany and on the Korean peninsula right now. So eventually, for the long term the solution is the December terms. But the Americans won’t discuss this. Short of that — the Banderite state and its army must be defeated. That’s what demilitarization and de-nazification mean. There must not be a UDZ but a buffer that will be all of the Ukraine.”
Other sources believe that the official statements from Moscow, the operational evidence, and General Winter are all now indicating six months of formation and testing of the lines of a new UDZ and of the new Russia to the east of these lines.
For the demarcation of the eastern line of the UDZ, according to one source, “look at Kherson – I think she’s the prototype. Look at Krasny Liman as well. The electric war raids have been extended for the first time in November to the rail tracks moving west to east with Ukrainian military reinforcements of men and resupply of arms and ammunition. This signals the start of the campaign to disrupt Ukrainian logistics. This is coordinated with the situation of what is left of the civilian population in the cities along this line. We are seeing the large population centres emptied.”
Social media reports of new Russian ground force movements also indicate that a winter offensive of ground operations is being readied in parallel. How much is calculated feint and battlefield deception will be clear soon enough.
A Russian videoclip of Russian tanks repainted in winter white camouflage was recorded from a civilian car and posted this weekend on the internet; no location was identified. The car is travelling at about 40 kph; the clip lasts for one minute and when it stops, the line of tanks in the opposite lane is continuing to stretch to the horizon.
One Moscow source: “I cannot see Russians risking massive armoured movements or repeating their March manoeuvres. I believe the General Staff will wage the electricity war and put pressure on Kiev and on Europe while continuing a slow, inch-by-inch movement in Donbass. General Patience is more important than General Winter. Those two are on a par with General Iskander taking out electric substations and transport corridors. Putin will only come under pressure if he puts himself under pressure to take territory and takes thousands of casualties in the process. He does not want this. The General Staff does not want this. They have made this explicitly clear. So they have come up with new forms of warfare. Just how new these are hasn’t dawned yet in Kiev or Washington or Brussels.”
This is not positional warfare by Russian forces, all sources agree. But the outcome of highly mobile deployments (known as РЕЙД – “reyd” – in Russian military terminology) will be geographical.
MAP OF THE UKRAINE WITH OVERLAY OF UDZ FORMED BY NEW RUSSIAN LINES
Legend: Black lines=UDZ; red arrows=Russian РЕЙД movements; blue arrows=withdrawal and re-deployment; red stars=attack targets; blue crosses=Russian fortifications.
MAP OF UKRAINIAN RAIL LINES AND TRAIN STATIONS WITH UDZ OVERLAY
Legend: broken line=state border; black points=near-border train stations; red points=western train stations; red circles=western train stations included in international passenger tariff.
Military source: “The maps speak for themselves. The РЕЙД will consist of several heavy armoured spearheads with the objective of occupying and destroying enemy logistical hubs and transportation routes as well as any infrastructure. This will include whatever remains of the Ukrainian electrical grid in the target zone. Once the destruction of these targets has been completed, the remnants of the infrastructure will be mined, and the area planted with sensing devices. The armies will then begin a rapid, staged withdrawal behind Russian lines where the process of fortification and entrenchment has already begun.”
“Civilians and disarmed Ukrainian troops – except for the Ukro-Nazi units — will be allotted one or two corridors through which they will be permitted to leave the zone. They’d better not dawdle.”
MINING THE UDZ WITH THE REMOTE-LAUNCHED ZEMLEDELIYE SYSTEM
First detected in operation in March, Zemledeliye (literally “agriculture”) is a remotely fired rocket system for planting mines across a landscape. The mines “can be used in defence and offence. In defence to block the enemy’s advance and in offence to block retreat and channel the enemy into the desired killing zone. The mines launched by this system are programmable -- they can be deactivated or they can self-destruct in the future with the cessation of hostilities.” Source: https://militaryleak.com/
The sources agree that the city of Odessa is not a target for direct military attack. There are several reasons. One is that up to half the city population is already pro-Russian and willing to wait for the opportunity to open the city gates; for the evidence, read this.
A related reason, according to this source: “The Ukronazis have put their maximum effort into de-Russification using terror, and they are dug in for a fight, while the locals appear content to let anyone or everyone else to do the fighting. It looks like [General] Surovikin has arrived at the conclusion that there is no point in trying to slog across unfavourable ground with dodgy logistics in order to ‘liberate’ a headache — at least not until depopulation due to de-electrification occurs. I take Surovikin at his word.”
For Surovikin’s October 18 statement, read this.
The sources agree there will be a new military demarcation line before the thaw next spring; they differ on how it is being drawn now, and how it will look next April. “For now the line will be on the Dnieper with the zone extending from the west bank into the rump Ukraine – my guess is at a depth of not less than 100km. This will put Russian territory out of the range of most Ukrainian artillery. A 100km-deep zone will also give the Russian forces time to detect and intercept anything in flight. In the central sector, Kherson City will remain without population for an as yet undecided period. For as long as this lasts, the city is likely to be part of the zone rather than part of Russian territory. Time and armistice negotiations may change that.”
“In the northern sector – that’s from Kramatorsk and Slovyansk to Kharkov, then northwestward to Sumy and Chernigov – these are garrisons and staging areas of hate on or near to Russia’s borders; they will not be spared. It’s lights out for them. They made their decision in February-March and during the pull-back last spring. The shelling, sabotage, and other attacks on Bryansk, Belgorod and Kursk have qualified them for de-electrification, de-population, and de-nazification.”
“The point to emphasize, especially in the Russian operations in the north, is that they will be РЕЙД operations – they will not seize and hold territory. The penetrations will be deep, but not as deep as last February-March. This time they will include a massive security element, including drones and infantry support. The idea won’t be to occupy the territory, let alone administer it, for any length of time. The goal will be to destroy enemies who raise their heads and the infrastructure they rely on; lay mines and sensors; and then withdraw.”
“Once the assigned transportation and logistics nodes have been taken, the job of destroying them by engineer units will begin. Bridges, roads, railroads, marshalling yards, rolling stock, airfields, fuel storage and dispensaries, electrical substations, transmission and communications towers, central offices, warehouses, laydown areas, agricultural equipment – anything that could possibly be used to support the Ukrainian-NATO effort east of the zone’s western border will be destroyed. That will be also be the ground forces’ job – more comprehensive and thorough than missile and drone strikes can achieve.”
“Civilians and disarmed fighters, without their motorized equipment, will be permitted to walk out of the zone to specially prepared buses (as Surovikin supervised in Syria) with whatever they can carry on their backs. The United Nations Secretary-General, so enthusiastic about saving Ukronazis at Mariupol, will be told to have them ready at prescribed pick-up points. The elderly will be encouraged to come to prepared aid stations for care and processing. Anyone who chooses to stay inside the zone will be informed explicitly via radio, flyers, and loudspeaker that they are considered enemy combatants and will be targeted accordingly. After a prescribed amount of time, the ‘golden bridges’ for the exiting population will be destroyed. For those remaining they will have had no power, sanitation, or communications before the Russians arrive, and even fewer means to restore these utilities after they leave.”
Inside the UDZ, take Poltava, for example — the source has indicated by the red arrows the western and eastern lines of approach by the Russian forces:
Above: Poltava with the highway approaches marked by red arrows. Below: satellite picture, just south of Poltava, of electrical substation and transmission towers destroyed by Russian military engineers before they withdraw.
“If the Russians are able to skirt the large population centres, reach the outskirts of Poltava, and bring the large railway marshalling yards, junctions and highways under fire, this will be the death knell for the NATO-Ukrainian forces to the east. After a set interval allowing those who wish to escape, the infrastructure can be destroyed. As Russian forces move back along the E40 and north along the routes that got them there. they will be able to destroy everything including fuel stations, radio/microwave towers, sub-stations, and bridges along the way.”
Another source: “I see a continuation of strikes to hit commanders in Ukraine, though it would seem that now all strategy meetings and even tactical command meetings happen overseas. Russians will try to push as many civilians as possible toward Europe. Darkness over the country gives a clear view of small units spread out in the country in defensive positions if they are not using civilian cover. They will be picked out and hit with drones or artillery right across the eastern front.”
There was plagiarism on this topic by Pepe Escobar in a recent piece he entitled “Electric War” in which concepts, terms and references were cribbed from Dances with Bears. Following republication of Escobar by Ron Unz of The Unz Review and Andrei Raevsky of The Saker, they have refused to acknowledge the evidence of the plagiarism.