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Russia's pro-war pundits have no illusions about Ukraine
A popular Russian-language news portal says the conflict will "drag on for a long time"
Two distinct camps have emerged among supporters of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Broadly speaking, “pro-Russia” English-language punditry continues to be as chirpy as it was in the early hours of February 24: everything is going according to plan, Putin is purging the fifth columnists, victory is imminent, et cetera.
A very similar narrative was prevalent (probably near-unanimous) among pro-military, “patriotic” commentators in Russia during the first month of the conflict.
However, by early April, Russian-language perspectives on the “special operation” began to come to terms with the reality that there would be no swift, decisive resolution. In Russia, fervent supporters of the conflict recognize their country is ill-prepared to fight a protracted war against the collective West. Some are now calling for Russia to transition into a wartime footing. “Everything for the front.”
Russian commentators are now warning mobilization is necessary in order to avoid a scenario in which a heavily militarized and forever-hostile “Anti-Russia” remains at Russia’s border—what Putin purportedly set out to prevent.
The clearest example of this assessment-shift can be found at Voyennoye Obozreniye (Military Review). It’s a hugely popular website. Ranked as Russia’s #1 “national security” portal, and among the country’s top 100 visited websites, Military Review pulls in an impressive 37 million views per month (it has enjoyed a spike in traffic due to the events in Ukraine, but before the conflict began the site was still receiving a very respectable 20 million views/month).
Many, if not all, of the website’s contributors openly advocate for the destruction of Ukraine (or to use their words: “the Ukrainian Reich”) as a political entity. These guys are not exactly Navalny fans.
For purely educational purposes, I have decided to gather excerpts from op-eds published by Military Review over the past month or so.
Please note: I am not endorsing anything written below. I am relaying this information to you, my dear reader, because I think it’s important for you to understand what hardliners think about the operation’s execution, and what they believe is needed in order for Russia to persevere.
Things did not go according to plan
What is meant by the successful completion of the tasks of the first stage of the operation, given that, except for Mariupol, the enemy was not surrounded and defeated in any of the directions? What goals were pursued by the attack on Kiev and the capture of the Gostomel (Antonov) airfield, if now, according to the official statement of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, troops are being withdrawn from there? These are rhetorical questions, the answers to which, I believe, are obvious. The Kiev direction at this stage was recognized as unpromising, because it was not possible to achieve significant success there.
There is an opinion that the withdrawal of troops is part of some original plan, but I don’t understand what exactly? After all, it is no longer a secret to anyone that the original plan provided for a blitzkrieg, it was planned to take Kiev with a swoop in a few days, and complete the operation itself in a week. Opponents of this point of view usually give an argument — you do not have plans for the Russian General Staff, how can you know, maybe no one planned anything like that? Indeed, there are no plans of the General Staff, but there are facts, for example, the airspace in the south of Russia was closed to civilian planes until March 2. The obvious conclusion suggests itself — it was planned to complete the active phase of the special operation before March 2. […]
Why did the operation fail to achieve its objectives quickly? It seems to me that this happened due to the fact that an incorrect assessment was given of the situation in today's Ukraine, which for almost eight years was preparing for a war with Russia, and which was pumped up with weapons by Western “partners.” […]
Those experts and bloggers who, from the very beginning of the military operation, claimed that “we have already won because we won,” I want to say that flippant self-assuredness has never led to anything good. […]
The war will drag on for a long time, it becomes obvious.
One gets the impression (and we will talk about this in great detail one of these days) that what is happening in Ukraine has become some kind of surprise for the Russian authorities. It is difficult to say who is to blame for the fact that this happened, but obviously the picture that was in the heads of representatives of power structures has nothing to do with reality.
Indeed, it is as if Russia’s military planners were waiting for a sea of flowers, surrendering troops of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, joyful crowds of residents of Ukrainian cities welcoming the liberators… It didn't work out. And in general it looks very stupid. […]
I would like to see from the representatives of the Russian authorities at least a minimal understanding of what is happening. After all, not even we need understanding, understanding is needed for the people of Ukraine in the first place.
As soon as the effect of surprise disappeared and the shock of the initial blow passed, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, with the help of Western patrons and advisors, began to organize a thoughtful and violent resistance. It turns out that we did not expect that this would happen?
It is quite obvious that when deciding to launch the special military operation, the Kremlin greatly underestimated the military and ideological capabilities of the Ukrainian Reich. Most likely, the reason for this was reports that were completely out of touch with reality, in which the situation in Ukraine was presented in the style of spring 2014: Ukrainians hate the authorities, they are just waiting for the arrival of the liberating army, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will raise their hands or run home at the first appearance of Russian tanks, and in the end, you will have to fight only with a bunch of Nazis. None of these predictions came true.
After the start of the military operation in Ukraine, the opinion about the inadmissibility of criticism began to sound loudly on many Russian information resources. They argued that now is not the time for criticism, it is necessary to support the actions of the leadership in everything, to engage in criticism means to undermine the morale of our soldiers, etc.
However, the war has been going on for two months, and many decisions, such as the creation of military-civilian administrations , opening the border for the free flow of humanitarian aid to the liberated territories — which should have been taken quickly and efficiently, actually hung in the air. And without bringing these problems to the public plane, they are often not resolved or are resolved with a great delay.
It should be noted that many of those who oppose all criticism had been talking for years in the media and on television about how weak the Ukrainian army is, and about the fact that if the war with Ukraine starts, Russia will win in within a few hours. […]
In the LPR and DPR, they have also been saying for many years that it is impossible to criticize officials and structures, and de facto banned such criticism. What did it lead to? And to the fact that the corps of the People's Militia were not ready for a large-scale war, to the fact that all the problems associated with supplying and providing the corps with everything necessary were hidden, and now people are forced to fight with Mosin rifles and without normal uniforms. If these problems had been raised earlier at a higher level and taken to the public plane, perhaps everything would have been different.
It was not possible to take Ukraine in one fell swoop with small forces from several directions, so the plans had to be adjusted, retreat from Kiev and transfer troops to the east of Ukraine, focusing on the liberation of Donbass and the encirclement of the Donbass grouping of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. However, one should not forget that the enemy is well aware of the plans of the RF Armed Forces (they are obvious to everyone) and is also strengthening this direction. Therefore, a quick victory may not work.
Ukraine is constantly replenishing its losses at the expense of the mobilized, and the RF Armed Forces, in turn, have no military reserves. The reason for this is the underestimation of the enemy and the expectation of a quick end to the military campaign in Ukraine.
Problems on the homefront
There is only one question: how long can we hold out like this? Yes, as much as you like! We have everything, the entire periodic table, forest, water, the desire and ability to fight, even with the devil. But why are we, being in a stalemate, still selling gas, oil, uranium, and other rare earth metals to the US and Europe? Is this just charity? Why do we support countries that dream of our destruction? … Our oligarchs, close to the emperor, cannot be left without income!
In the economic sphere, thanks to the “wise” policy of the Kremlin's economists, the globalists have already robbed Russia of about $300 billion by stealing the country's gold and foreign exchange reserves located in the West. At the same time, Russia, as a competitor to the West, is successfully being squeezed out of the global market and exposed to a new sanctions blow, which has already affected us all by increasing prices for everything and everything, as well as by a sharp fluctuation in the dollar exchange rate. The life of the common people has once again deteriorated, and no improvement is expected in the coming years, since the pro-Western liberal “fifth column” has almost completely retained its positions in the economy, financial and political life of the country.
On the other hand, pressure from the West is forcing the Russian elite to take some steps aimed at improving the situation: Russia's withdrawal from the Russophobic Council of Europe, the decision to trade energy and other export goods for rubles, wider support for domestic manufacturers, from aircraft manufacturing to agriculture.
However, all the measures taken are forced, catching up or frankly decorative. Many decisions that are urgently needed both for the country and for the foundation of the future Victory are simply not taken, and rising prices and the lack of cheap credit have the most detrimental effect on the state's economy. So far, there has been no strategic pivot for Russia from its former role as a raw-material appendage of the West to a policy of self-reliance. […]
The most important thing is that the social nature of the ruling regime in Russia does not change yet. He remains a pale and clumsy reflection of the ruling regime in the collective West — clan-based and oligarchic, which means he will never be able to defeat them.
[It’s time to] put things in order with prices. It’s no secret that during the first weeks of the special military operation, when the exchange rates soared, many sellers immediately inflated prices. Then the dollar and the euro returned to their values, but the prices did not. Sugar at 90, buckwheat and rice over 100, cabbage ... Yes, yes! Cabbage! 100 rubles per kilogram. Chicken is approaching the price of meat, and meat is storming the price tags of jewelry stores. Pollock, which was bought for cats in Soviet times, is now becoming a delicacy. Somewhere someone loudly declared that speculators would be punished, but things, as they say, are still there. Prices are going up on everything. And no one was punished.
The rapid rise in prices, shortages, losses at the front, the advent of war in the border areas will quickly extinguish the first patriotic impulses of the public. Possible sabotage by big business, the pro-Western part of the “elite.” By the autumn-winter of 2022, the scenario of February 1917 may take shape. Bring down the economy, the rear, and then the statehood of the Russian Federation. […]
We need to resolutely purge the top of Westerners, liberals, opportunists who do not want to change anything and who only know how to fit the Russian Federation into existing production and trade chains. That is, to reproduce the semi-colonial type of economy. […]
Big, titanic work. The only way. Otherwise, everything will fall on the scenario of 1917 or 1991.
Time to mobilize?
[Former DPR defense minister] Igor Strelkov believes that mobilization (at least partial) is necessary for the Russian Armed Forces to win, and this assessment of him is fully consistent with the realities of this war. After all, victory in war is gained on the battlefield, and not in the blogs of experts and analysts who move arrows on the map and paint over some areas.
Only complete military mobilization and the transfer of the economy to a military footing can ensure our victory over this real, vicious enemy.
Without a clear ultimate goal of the launched special operation and sufficient military forces, Russia still does not carry out the strategically important measures necessary in wartime: transferring the country’s economy to a military footing, mobilizing to replenish the army, cleaning power from representatives of the “fifth column”, fighting corruption. Everything is done reluctantly, insufficiently or not done at all.
With the current available forces, it is impossible to liberate the entire Donbass, the entire Left Bank, and the Nikolaev and Odessa regions from the Nazis, creating a corridor with Transnistria. And the fight will not end there, if the Ukro-reich is not finished off, he will receive new military assistance, re-equip units and formations, mobilize new “cannon fodder” and go on the attack again. That is, the enemy must be finished off, and then also to restrain the pressure of the entire West collectively…
That is, at least partial mobilization is necessary, the creation of divisions, brigades and regiments of the second or third line. Mass recruitment of volunteers, the formation of volunteer units, is also needed.