War in Ukraine: Western media changing tone

Clara Figueiredo, Mercato Domenicale Porta Portese, Balilla_ one for 15,00, three for 30,00 euros, Rome, 2019
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By BERNHARD HORSTMANN*

After months of touting Ukrainian victories that never happened, 'Western' headlines finally recognize the true state of the war

Evolution of the titles of articles in the defense section of The Telegraph (London) on Ukraine: February 24 - "Vladimir Putin may have made the mistake that will end his bloody rule"; April 3 – “The West is beating Russia at its own game”; April 21 - "Putin's war is a fiasco, and it's about to get worse"; May 5 – “Humiliated Russia faces epoch-making defeat”; May 12 – “Total victory over Putin will not come cheap”; May 26 - "Putin may be on the verge of achieving a surprising triumph."

 

1.

The amount of material available to fans in Ukraine seems to be decreasing noticeably in the press. More and more media outlets are now reporting the enormous damage that Russian artillery is doing to Ukrainian frontline troops. Until the New York Times joined the chorus: “Under fire from Russia's long-range arsenal and facing a desperate need for ammunition and weapons, Ukrainian forces remain unarmed on the long and bumpy eastern front, according to military analysts, Ukrainian officials and soldiers in the ground. So just one combat, on Thursday and Friday, in a small strip of the front line, in a forest north of the city of Slaviansk, was responsible for sending about a dozen Ukrainian soldiers to a military hospital, with terrible injuries from shrapnel”.

“You ask how the fighting is going,” said Oleksandr Kolesnikov, the commander of a company fighting in the forest, interviewed on an ambulance stretcher outside a military hospital in Kramatorsk. “There was a company commander. He was killed. There was another commander. He was killed. A third commander was wounded. I am the fourth”.

Another example comes from The Washington Post: "Seventy people from my battalion were injured last week," said a soldier and ambulance driver outside the hospital gates, who identified himself only as Vlad, 29. “I lost many friends; this is hard for me. I don't know how many. (…) It is getting worse every day”. The night before, he said, the shelling had been so heavy that he could hardly sleep. “It's always artillery bombardment,” he said. “All the injuries are from shrapnel. Most of the guys in the trenches didn't even see the enemy face to face."

From the beginning of the war, I drew attention to the enormous amount of artillery that Russian forces traditionally use. “Western” doctrine, which is essentially American doctrine, relies on air supremacy. The enemy's air defenses are destroyed in the first days of the war. After that, enemy formations are eliminated by applying a huge amount of aerial bombardment against them.

Russian doctrine never believed in air supremacy. Russia itself has excellent air defenses, so it knows what it is talking about. To destroy enemy formations, Russia applies artillery, a lot of artillery. A standard US brigade combat team (BCT) has two or three battalions with tanks or infantry as front formations and an artillery battalion to support them. The rest of the brigade's troops are miscellaneous support units.

Instead of a 3 to 1 ratio of front formations to artillery formation, Russian units have a ratio of 1 to 1. Russian motorized infantry brigades also have two or three battalions as front formations, but they also have three artillery battalions with various weapons and missiles to support them. This 1 to 1 ratio is repeated at almost every level ― battalion, brigade, division, army ― of Russian ground forces. The result is something like this: https://twitter.com/RALee85/status/1530615631757942787.

Unless the defending forces are fully armored or extremely well entrenched, as they were for eight years on the Donietsk front line, they have no hope of resisting Russian artillery. Since the Russian army broke through the immediate front line, Ukrainians have lost the protection of fortified shelters and are on the run.

None of the above scenarios are new, and it was the reason why I and others could easily predict that the Ukrainian army would lose the war.

 

2.

After months of extolling Ukrainian victories that never happened before, “Western” headlines now finally acknowledge the true state of the war: “Ukraine is in worse shape than you think” (Time); “Ukraine suffers on the battlefield as it begs for arms from the US” (The Washington Post); “Russian victories in eastern Ukraine spark debate over course of war” (Bloomberg); “Russian 'melting pot' tactic may be tipping the Donbass battle to its advantage” (The Guardian); “Shards in the Woods and Vaults in the Sky: 'I Never Seen Such a Hell'” (New York Times); “Boris Johnson warns Russia is 'chewing up' eastern Ukraine as he calls for more support for Kiev forces” (Daily Mail).

 

3.

Ukrainian media still cannot report on the real state of the war.

Matter of Ukrinform: “Ukrainian army launches offensive in Kherson region

Ukrainian forces launched an offensive in the Kherson region, with the Russian invaders suffering losses and defending from unfavorable positions.”

The press service of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine recorded this way on Facebook, reports Ukrinform: “As a result of the offensive actions of the Defense Forces units, the enemy suffered losses and began to defend itself in unfavorable positions near Andriivka, Lozove and Bilohirka, Kherson region. The fighting continues.”

A heavy group of several hundred Ukrainian troops, with armored vehicles, crossed a bridge at Davydiv Brid over a river that delimits Russian territory in southwestern Ukraine. The group was tasked with advancing some 60 kilometers south to reach and sabotage the Dnepr dam west of Kherson.

After advancing about 10 kilometers south, a column of around 20 vehicles came under fire from Russian artillery. The rest have dispersed inland and are being hunted. The entire operation failed within hours. For the planned mission, the troop contingent proved to be too small and attacked on a very narrow front. The Russian command decided that the planners of the brazen but futile Ukrainian operation deserved additional punishment: “Missile and artillery groups hit 62 command posts, including those of the Southern Operational Command, near Novy Bug, Nikolaev region, as well as 593 areas of concentration of manpower and military equipment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and 55 batteries of artillery and mortars in firing positions”.

Ukraine confirmed that it was attacked. In total, the Russian side claimed that 200 Ukrainian soldiers died in the failed attempt, while another 35 were killed in the attack on the Ukrainian army's Southern Command.

 

4.

The articles on Russian artillery supremacy cited above obviously come in support of the US intention to send multiple rocket launchers (HIMARS) to Ukraine. These can, in theory, fire at targets up to 300 kilometers away. However, Ukraine would only obtain ammunition for significantly shorter ranges of around 30 km: “Some White House officials have expressed concerns about providing MLRS weaponry with a range of more than 180 miles, which would allow Ukrainian forces to hit deep targets. into Russian territory, potentially triggering an escalating response from Moscow, but the White House is now comfortable managing that risk by withholding longer-range ammunition for the system, a senior US official told the The Washington Post".

At 300 kg, each missile has a significant weight. A truck with HIMARS can carry 6 of these, while a tracked vehicle version can carry 12. Resupplying them in significant quantities is going to be a logistical nightmare. The White House has yet to say how many HIMARS it will send to Ukraine. The Russian equivalents of HIMARS are the BM-27 Uragan and BM-30 Smerch systems. At the beginning of the war, Ukraine had about 70 Uragan and about 80 Smerch systems. Most of those are gone.

It is highly unlikely that the United States will send more than the 100 missile launchers the Russians have already destroyed. There is also the simple fact that Russian air defenses can intercept these missiles in flight: “Furthermore, 9 Ukrainian Smerch multi-launch rockets were intercepted near Malaya Kamyshevakha, Kamenka, Brazhkovka and Glinskoe in the Kharkov region, as well as Chernobaevka in the Kherson region.”

In recent weeks, Ukraine has also received several Su-25 fighter jets from a former Warsaw Pact state. Of the eight reportedly received most recently, at least five were allegedly destroyed by Russia within days of arriving in Ukraine.

All this additional weaponry for Ukrainian troops will not have a significant effect on the battlefield. He is just prolonging the war unnecessarily.

 

5.

Former US Army Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis has written some realistic pieces about Ukraine. His latest, though, is a bit of a fantasy. He describes, em three shares, “How Ukraine Can Drive Russia Out”.

First Ukraine would have to hold Donbass and then, with the help of attacks and counterattacks, seek to throw Russian forces off balance. To do so, it would have to carry out a fire-delayed retreat towards several new defense lines created in its rear. This delaying action should allow time to build a new force of 100.000 new troops in western Ukraine, which would be equipped with a slew of new Western systems. It would take twelve to eighteen months to build and train this counterattack force.

Davis knows, of course, that each of these steps is completely unrealistic. His real advice is to negotiate an end to the war as soon as possible. But the description of what it would really take for Ukraine to have at least a chance of beating Russia is useful, as it demonstrates the futility of such an effort.

There is no way for Ukraine to reverse the situation or win the war. The Ukrainian government has no choice but to give up. To stop the death and extensive damage that war causes, it would need to end now. Prolonging it by providing more money and weapons would be a crime, and should be punished.

*Bernhard Horstmann is editor of the independent North American media Moon of Alabama.

Translation: Ricardo Cavalcanti-Schiel.

Originally published on the website Moon of Alabama.

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