Putin’s military options





It began with a lightning attack that few expected. Russia invaded Ukraine by land, sea and air on three different fronts and in a coordinated manner. It seemed that the entire country under the Russian forces was going to fall in a matter of hours or days. But a week later, experts say, Vladimir Putin does not seem to have achieved what he wanted.

The operation was designed to use the surprise effect and generate impact. “I had a main objective that was to overthrow the Kiev governmentto the current Government, legitimate, by the way, and impose there a puppet Government that would follow its instructions”, the retired General of the Air Force and professor of International Relations, Juan Antonio Moliner, tells TVE.

Russian troops take the city of Kherson on the eighth day of the conflict

“And that has not happened,” says Javier Gil, professor of International Relations at the Comillas Pontifical University. “Right now, the war is somewhat bogged down but obviously turning colors towards a pitched battle. We are in an escalation phase.” Add.

Putin, locked in his own trap

Having failed the first objective, Putin seems trapped in his own mousetrap. With 200,000 soldiers inside Ukraine, you can no longer turn back easily, and even less so without having achieved any goal. Especially after Russia is already paying an economic price for sanctions.

But 200,000 soldiers are not enough troops to occupy a country like Ukraine either. To do that, many more troops would probably have to be mobilized and the operations would be more costly and lengthy. Especially after strong Ukrainian resistance.

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So Moscow seems to have changed its strategy in recent days, and offensives like Kherson or Kharkov, with their massive bombings, lead the way. “The city of Kharkov is being the thermometer of what is going to be the second phase of the Russian offensive. Throw down Kharkov, then enter with the ground team. That is the message that we want to get across about what could happen to Kiev”, says Professor Gil.

Another of the keys, fundamental until now, will be the Ukrainian resistance capacity. “The resistance capacity of this Ukrainian defense conglomerate remains to be seen,” says Javier Gil. “The Ukrainian soldiers and the Ukrainian defense right now are like zombies. They have assumed that they will die, that is their end, but they also have the determination to fight to the end to save the national sovereignty of their country.”

At the moment, their epic is working for them. Even some Ukrainians who were in third countries travel to Ukraine to fight. With a Zelensky converted to heroism, the army and civilian militias have managed to stop the Russians and force Moscow to change its strategy.

The ‘Grozny Doctrine’

This being the case, many are already looking at the examples of the past and military history to find indications of where Russia could go to get out of the mousetrap. Especially, to the second Chechen war -Putin’s first in power- and that constant bombardment of Grozny that devastated the Chechen capital before Russian troops took it.

Then, an incessant rain of missiles and bombs fell on a besieged Grozny and where the Chechen militias were regrouping. The goal was create terror among the population, that the militias surrendered and could not find a place to take refuge. The city was completely destroyed.

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to that it was called the ‘Grozny doctrine’ and Russia repeated it in Syria, during the sieges of Aleppo and Ghouta. But Kiev is not Grozny, or Aleppo, or Ghouta. So in Ukraine, experts say, two options now arise. “Either there will be tremendously cruel urban battles or fights or, on the contrary, a siege, an occupation of those cities further outside, surrounding and besieging the big cities,” General Moliner points out.

“It’s going to be a battle, obviously on land,” adds Professor Gil. “Very urban, where the Russians are going to take terrible casualties because they don’t know the terrain so well because they are attacking a country and because they are going to face soldiers with extremely high morale.”

And that is probably one of Putin’s biggest fears: that the war on the ground drags on and forces him to redouble his efforts.

Avoid long-term war

In any case, what Moscow wants to avoid at all costs is a long war. “The longer the conflict lasts, the harder it will be for Russia to maintain the effort from economic reasons to purely military reasons such as tactics and logistics,” General Moliner points out.

Because if corpses begin to arrive and the sanctions take effect, it may be difficult for Putin to maintain his traditional social support. It doesn’t seem unthinkable. History has examples. The invasion of Afghanistan and its human and economic cost was key in the fall of the Soviet Union.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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