By David Glenn Cox
Everyone is anticipating the long-awaited Ukrainian spring counter-offensive. But I remember Desert Storm and the month-long air offensive which occurred first. Taking out command and control centers and supply depots before the foot soldier ever enters the battlefield.
Currently, Himars rockets are doing just that. Russian rail lines are being sabotaged. Railroad switching boxes are being set on fire. Storm Shadow cruise missiles have struck an underground command center and warehouse complex deep inside of Crimea.
Inside of Russia, oil depots and military factories have been sabotaged and set on fire. A drone attacked the Kremlin itself though Ukraine denies responsibility for this. It seems to be a terror attack, not intended to cause any real damage. If only to show that it could be done and to show that nowhere is really safe. The Russian Victory-Day parade had one, count em, one tank.
A partisan force called the Russian Freedom Legion is attacking inside Belgorod Russia. This is a new war front and Russian citizens are fleeing and screaming for help. The Russian military must defend a 900-mile-long front in Ukraine. The Russians can anticipate where the Ukrainians will likely attack. But it is doubtful, they ever anticipated a partisan attack on their own soil. Partisan drones are now attacking Russian military targets inside of Belgorod.
Reports say the Russian Freedom Legion has overrun a border post and taken over a police station. More concerning the Freedom Legion has taken control of a Russian supply depot. The Legion has helped itself to vehicles and weapons. The depot is also said to contain tactical nukes, but Kremlin sources deny this. They wouldn’t lie, would they?
The Freedom Legion calls Vladimir Putin “Grandpa Putin.” The Legion calls the government in Moscow “Mafioso.” Who is to be believed in Russia? Long lines of cars leaving Belgorod have traffic snarled. Russian sources are warning that any Belgorod police or police vehicles should be considered Freedom Legion fighters and should be shot on sight.
Freedom Legion fighters are calling for the liberation of individual territories from Moscow’s control. They claim Moscow takes their taxes to build a rail line to Putin’s summer home, while their roads deteriorate.
It is entirely possible the Russian Freedom Legion is wholly a creation of Ukrainian Intelligence service. But at the same time, a genuine liberation movement is not too farfetched. If the war was to be judged purely on military intelligence alone, the Ukrainians are winning hands down. The Ukrainian allies especially the US are concerned about the war spreading into Russian territory for obvious reasons.
So, an astroturf group would fit the bill nicely and skirt around the edges of agreements. From the Ukrainian point of view Russian supply depot’s twenty-five miles across the border make a tempting target. Why should they endure attacks, while not being allowed to strike back?
There have been reports that Russian fighter jets are now making attacks in and around Belgorod. The Freedom Legion has attacked the area before, but always quickly retreated back inside Ukraine. Maybe those were just probing attacks that have shown the Russian weakness. This time, the Freedom Legion fighters are said to have advanced forty miles inside of Russia and are staying put. But by the Russians sending fighter planes and not troops is very telling.
Captured Russian prisoners taken near Bakhmut, say they hadn’t eaten in four days. Wagner Group private military contractors complain they are critically short of ammunition. At first, I thought the Wagner Group head Pergosian was simply blowing smoke. In an attempt to lure the Ukrainians into a premature attack. But when combined with attacks on supply depots and sabotaged rail lines, hungry prisoners tell us much.
Pergosian has been publicly excoriating Russian Army commanders and even Putin himself, with words that could earn him a life sentence in prison. What does that tell us? It tells me that there in a breakdown in the Russian command structure. Pergosian isn’t afraid to speak his mind anymore. He’s running out of ammunition, and Russian soldiers are going hungry. Russian workers are said to be on strike at factories due to nonpayment of wages.
The Russian Freedom Legion is a small group of between 80 and 200 members. But if conditions are as they appear, recruitment of new members should be relatively easy. The war is unpopular, and the Russian economy is suffering under the weight of international sanctions. Under normal conditions a few borders bandits should be an easy enough task for the government to handle. But this day three.
The battle for Bakhmut, like Stalingrad has bled off Russian offensive capabilities. The Ukrainians have ceded territory in exchange for Russian lives. Until the Russian forces find themselves degraded and bereft of equipment. They no longer have the forces to now cover Belgorod as well. Just as the Russians took Bakhmut, Ukrainian attacks on the flanks are gaining ground.
The Russians may have spent eight months taking Bakhmut, only to find themselves potentially trapped and surrounded. Losses of Russian tanks have been on the decline for several weeks. Either because the Russians are running out of tanks, or they are squirreling them away anticipating the Ukrainian offensive.
Patriot Missile batteries in Ukraine have shot down five Russian aircraft in five days. The Patriot batteries also have shot down an entire barrage of the Russia’s vaunted hypersonic missiles. In true Russian fashion, the Russian missile engineers have been arrested. The last fighter jet was downed over the Black Sea as Russians pilots no longer feel safe flying in Ukrainian air space.
All in all, it paints a dark picture for Moscow. Conservative estimates put Russian losses at over 100,000. Or approximately one half of the Russian Armies initial strength and as much two-thirds of their combat strength. Ukraine claims the Russians have lost double that number. Russian prisoners are largely made up of conscripts. These conscripts say they are pushed forward by regular army troops who threaten to shoot them if they attempt to retreat.
It has all the earmarks of an Army nearing collapse. Shortages of equipment with lots of blame and finger pointing. While the man in charge and responsible is largely silent.
“Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.” ― Sun Tzu