Col. Ken Allard, US Army (Ret), had a distinguished career that included serving as Dean of the National War College at West Point and as a military analyst for NBC.
In assessing potential battle outcomes or even deciding to go to war, Russian military science always seeks a “correlation of forces.” Put more simply, Bolshevik revolutionaries were taught, “If your bayonet strikes steel, pull back: But if it strikes only mush, then thrust forward.”
Despite the looming indicators, only Vladimir Putin knows for certain if Russia will really invade Ukraine; but so far, he has struck only mush. Haplessly presiding over the third Obama administration, President Biden appears shell-shocked by the sobering evidence amassed by those few Russian experts not yet re-assigned to studying climate change. Consulting dog-eared order-of-battle files airily dismissed by Democratic apologists, these analysts have watched with growing alarm as 120,000 Russian troops converged on Ukraine’s borders. They can’t be serious - or could they?
Like a slow-motion Cuban Missile Crisis, this ring of steel now surrounds Ukraine from three sides. Should Putin give the order, those forces will instantly roll forward to let the blitzkrieg begin. Russian armies are a well-honed network of “operational maneuver groups” - integrated, armor-heavy, fast-moving mechanized formations built to overwhelm border defenses before spreading out to seize key terrain and exploit any breakthrough. Organic Russian artillery and missiles invoke the proverbial “Red God of war,” indirect fires obliterating any targets or obstacles impeding the armored blitzkrieg.
At the strategic level, Russia’s potent air forces are designed for aerial supremacy, first neutralizing enemy air defenses before eliminating critical infrastructure targets - much as the US did in Baghdad thirty years ago. Lending their own distinctive character are the Russian airborne and Spetsnaz forces, wonderfully mobile, elite formations transported by helicopters or cargo aircraft to seize and hold strategic targets, often deep behind enemy lines. Those well-armed squads of “little green men” deployed to Crimea in 2014 controlled restive populations through direct intimidation. Also from their Crimean bases, Russian amphibious and naval forces can support either limited seizures of key territory or the nightmare scenario of Western analysts: An all-out, multi-phased campaign to end Ukraine’s existence as an independent country.
In their comprehensive study, “Russia’s Possible Invasion of Ukraine,” CSIS analysts Philip Wasielewski and Seth Jones recently identified no fewer than six major options available to the Russian military, ranging from more limited incursions to seize breakaway hot-spots (such as Donetsk) or belts of land connecting Crimea with Odessa, effectively severing Ukraine from any Black Sea ports. But their most comprehensive option is that nightmare scenario: “Seize all of Ukraine and, with Belarus, announce the formation of a new tripartite Slavic union…(Russians, Ukrainians and Belarussians).” The more military power Putin deploys, the greater his range of options, the only downsides being a re-energized US or NATO response. Even then, the fate of Ukraine would be grim: “Ukrainians in any occupied territory can expect forced Russification that the nation experienced under…Catherine the Great, Alexander II, Stalin and Brezhnev.” https://www.csis.org/analysis/russias-possible-invasion-ukraine? P.3
Should Ukraine manage to mobilize its population and deploy the limited “lethal aid” sent by the US since 2014, Philip Karber of the Potomac Foundation points out that “Ukrainian forces would be hard-pressed to cover a much broader front that stretches from Belarus in the north to the Black Sea in the south…(including) classic tank country where the Ukrainians do not have extensive prepared defenses” (Quoted by Warren P. Strobel, Michael R. Gordon and Nancy A. Youssef, “Moscow Bolsters Weaponry Near Ukraine,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 15, 2022.
And as Russian diplomats have become more truculent, their information megaphones blare louder: Russian military units moving west, video footage of combat drills and even cyber-attacks against Ukrainian government websites with the warning, “be afraid and expect the worst.” Worst of all: Displaying sheer gullibility to Soviet-style dezinformatsiya, White House spokes-person Jen Psaki charged that, "Russia is laying the groundwork to (create) …a pretext for invasion, including through sabotage activities and information operations, by accusing Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack against Russian forces in eastern Ukraine." https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/expect-worst-ukraine-hit-by-cyberattack-russia-moves-more-troops-2022-01-14
With his innate Russian contempt for weakness, Vladimir Putin must take savage glee from having flummoxed the US and its NATO allies - all at comparatively little cost. By shrewdly guessing how far he can play his hand, Putin can either seize territories through pin-prick attacks or even reach for the whole enchilada, de-escalating for “peace” whenever tactically necessary. As always, the greatest danger is war through miscalculation, why former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld always maintained that weakness is provocative. Those provocations naturally befall a country like ours which no longer drafts its young men or even studies war. Instead, we cheerfully elect a clueless military cipher like Joe Biden to serve as commander-in-chief.
Hey man, what could possibly go wrong?