«There are all prerequisites for our spring counteroffensive,» – a Ukrainian military expert

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Military expert Petro Chernyk explains why it is important to understand the position of China and Iran, analyzes what Putin meant by his speech, and predicts how the tactics of our military will change on the battlefield.

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«Ramstein», which resulted in a decision to give weapons to Ukraine, the recent Munich Security Conference, which demonstrated fairly clear geopolitical directions, and Biden’s visit, unexpected for everyone – these might probably indicate that the Western world has made a final decision in this situation.

Yes, definitely. But let’s deal with these three phenomena, because they are actually unprecedented and have a historic significance. Let’s start with «Ramstein-9». This is actually nothing more than an anti-Putin, and in fact an anti-Russian coalition. It includes more than 50 countries. This is very serious, because I must remind you that, for example, when the anti-Hitler coalition was formed on January 1, 1942, it initially included only 26 countries. 

«Rammstein-9» had three important events. The first is the final, ultimate crystallization of the so-called tank coalition. Tanks are the weapons that will definitely help us turn the tide of this war. The declaration of receiving at least 300 Leopard-2, Abrams M1A1 and Challenger-2 machines is actually very serious and very responsible. One full-fledged tank regiment is 94 vehicles. Three hundred vehicles are three full-fledged brigades or up to ten battalion-tactical groups.

The next moment is the security conference in Munich. The most important aspect that I personally saw is that we are a large and full-fledged geopolitical player. Now Ukraine is deciding not only the fate of our independence, our statehood but also the fate of the entire civilized world, since our war is a civilizational one. This is nothing but the struggle between eastern despots or tyrannies (I mean not only Russia but also China, Syria, North Korea, and Iran) and global democracy. Big tyrannies are challenged in this great civilizational war. And the last Munich Security Conference is a sign that finally, the great Western world has woken up to a real confrontation.

Biden’s visit is unprecedented in itself after 15 years, because then George Bush Jr. visited us, and now Biden has arrived himself. The $500 million he brought as aid is far from the main package. It’s due to the fact that since the beginning of this year, the total aid package amounted to more than 8 billion dollars, which is unprecedented in itself. The president of the superpower could not bring only this solution. This is the final, ultimate signal to Putin that he is in a zone of absolute solitude, that he is doomed to defeat. And the most important thing, in my opinion, is the decision to speed up the end of this war. 

The spectre of war between China and Taiwan looms over the United States of America. The United States will definitely fight if China dares such an adventure. And China gives more and more signals that it is ready to be a world hegemon. In the United States of America itself, in a political sense, the revenge of the Trumpists continues. Trump, unfortunately, is a kind of sympathizer of the Moscow under-empire and a supporter of the new phase of America’s isolation from world politics. Therefore, this war, or at least this phase of the war, must be ended. And it seems that all the prerequisites for our side to start serious counteroffensive actions in the spring – summer of this year have been met.

This visit was very revealing. At the same time a year ago, foreign embassies were leaving Kyiv, and now the president of the United States himself has arrived. It was a demonstration of what was happening. We mostly mention the United States of America, but the countries of the European Union were also determined. Ramstein’s decisions, their statements at the Munich Security Conference were no longer similar to those that sounded six months ago.

I share the opinion that Europe has finally woken up. No matter how strange it sounds, the inciting element for this was the atrocities of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine, starting from Borodyanka, Irpin, Bucha, Izyum and ending with the last major missile attack on a residential complex in Dnipro. Evidence that Europe is also ready to increase its military efforts is that Italy was the first to announce the possibility of providing Ukraine with at least five aviation complexes. But again, with the classic European remark that it will happen «only after someone else provides it first». In general, if we take into account how many weapons we received from Europe, not only America, then this is an unprecedented phenomenon since the Second World War, the so-called second Lend-Lease. No country has experienced such a colossal «pumping» of weapons as Ukraine in almost a year of hostilities.

But let’s not forget that the financial component is also incredibly important. At least 50 per cent of our current monthly budget comes from American and European financial institutions. The Europeans, primarily the Poles, well realized that if, God forbid, Ukraine capitulates, then they will be next. We somewhat forgot the main argument of Putin, voiced by him in December 2021, when he put forward the so-called specific NATO ultimatum. It sounded like «let’s go back to the borders of 1997». At the time, Europe did not take it seriously, but now it treats such ultimatums absolutely seriously and responsibly. In addition, Europe has almost completely made itself independent of energy carriers and has done so within a year, although many experts claimed that it would take many years, maybe even decades. It introduced a colossal embargo on oil and has already started considering [similar decisions] toward fuel. Hence, little by little this «Moscow bear» will definitely be strangled. However, I am not optimistic that all this will happen quickly.

To better understand this whole situation. Putin tried to respond to what was happening, postponed his speech for a long time. But practically, he said nothing, except for an appeal to the Russians, who must endure, despite the economic downturn, the death of mobilized people who are thrown into Ukraine. Do you think there was anything else worth paying attention to in his speech?

Let’s analyse it. I listened very carefully to Putin, forced myself to watch his speech, because, as the great Chinese military thinker Sun Tzu taught, «know the enemy, know yourself.» And here are the conclusions I made. First of all, this is a speech for the sake of propaganda. Nothing new. Let’s remember that any tyrannical regime depends only on the loyalty of its population. And if this loyalty is not fed by propaganda, sooner or later it will turn into a disaster for the tyrant. Let’s recall how badly Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein ended, how Hosni Mubarak served time in prison, and how Slobodan Milosevic died in prison under mysterious circumstances. And these are only the tyrants of the second half of the 20th century, but you can look into earlier history, remember how Charles I, Louis XVI were beheaded...

It’s propaganda, propaganda and more propaganda. Putin will suffer a catastrophic defeat and, as his favourite propagandist Joseph Goebbels probably said, «I can lose my head, but I can’t lose my face.» Putin cannot lose face, because in that case, he will most likely lose his life. There is really nothing new in his message. Even Moscow tsar Ivan the Terrible once said: «The Germans are to blame for everything bad in our [state].» It continues by feeding of the plebs with «unvelievable success». The classic Stalinist method «life became better, life became more fun.» 

Perhaps the only point that should be considered more carefully is that Russia has suspended its participation in this round of the New START Treaty [about strategic nuclear arms reduction], which was signed in 2010 by Obama and Medvedev. And also the statement of one of the heads of the nuclear institute that «we are ready to restore our nuclear program on a Novaya Zemlya and show great power.» But this is actually a sign of weakness. The Moscow army suffers a catastrophic defeat on our battlefields, and the myth of the second army of the world is finally dispelled by the Defense Forces of Ukraine.

You drew an analogy with Ivan the Terrible, who said that all around are enemies, and these enemies are Germans. At the same time, he burned and destroyed the entire population of Novgorod city. This telling fact must be remembered. I can’t help but ask, did you see any attempts to find allies in this speech by Putin? 

He does have certain situational partners. A large Russian combat group is in Syria. This is a fact that cannot be ignored. The Iranian ayatollahs went to meet him, and recently, the news appeared that the Iranians did manage to enrich uranium to 84% purity, that is, only 6% is lacking to let them construct a nuclear bomb. And this is a very serious signal to the civilized world. It seems that Israel has finally seen this signal, and we hope that they will finally take our side in this civilizational struggle. This will be a very serious sign of our strategic international victory. 

China, in my opinion, is now in a neutral position. The Chinese profess their age-old strategy of waiting for the corpses of your enemies to float past you. North Korea has become more active regarding the launch of missiles. A kind of «axis of evil» has been formed. But the main evil that exists in the civilizational aspect is the Russian Federation, which is moving towards ultimate disaster, trying to restore its empire. Although it is unclear when and under what circumstances this will happen. Because the Western political elites have a doctrinal problem: how to make sure that the Russian Federation suffers a military defeat in Ukraine, but that this does not lead to the disintegration of Russia, because this will turn out to be a huge problem? I mean uninhabited Siberia, where there are only 33 million people on 10 million square kilometers. There are colossal physical resources, which China, which is already ripe for becoming a world hegemon, looks very fondly at. These are gigantic resources, not just physical values. The water of Lake Baikal is 25% of the world’s fresh water. The problem of providing fresh water to the rapidly growing population will be the most serious in the coming decades. Therefore, it is a geopolitical conundrum: how to make it so that it leaves this huge territory under the political control of some government or new leader without destroying it? This is a question that has no answer.

But the Chinese want to present their vision of the peace plan, they promise to do it on February 24. It is clear from insiders that we can talk about a return to Russia’s Istanbul proposals, that is, to leave everything in its current state. Are you expecting some other position?

I don’t see any other positions. In general, everything is solved and will be solved exclusively on our battlefield. As the great Winston Churchill said, «Our goal is peace, but the way to it lies only through force.» Now there are no other arguments except military ones. A stalemate is unacceptable. It will not be like in 1649, when the Cossacks under the leadership of Khmelnytskyi allegedly won the battle with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth near Zboriv and allegedly received colossal concessions. But in reality, neither us nor the Poles were satisfied with the results. If we give the Russians a pause, and they really need such a strategic respite much more than we do, they will spend it on regrouping, building up their forces, and will look for ways and means of partial or major easing of sanctions. And in a year, two, five, or ten, they will resume the old things. 

Civilized, flourishing, democratic Ukraine and tyrannical Russia cannot fit on planet Earth. How should our eternal dilemma be resolved? As there are five fingers on a hand, so I have five positions. The Russian Federation should break up into 15-20 states. All nuclear weapons should be taken away from them. What will remain – nearly a million square kilometers, which belong to Russian or Moscow – must be cut off from free oil and gas resources. We will join NATO, and they will undergo the so-called rehabilitation and purification for at least two more generations, 40 years. And until this happens, we are doomed to live in a zone of strategic military threat. Any scenarios of the existence of two Ukraines, such as, for example, two Koreas, are unacceptable to us.

At the beginning of the conversation, you said that this shock fist would be formed for a counterattack. It is logical that everything should be decided on the battlefield, that further actions will depend on it. What is the situation at the front now? Is it possible to say that there is a change of initiative? What is a better way to describe it?

There is no initiative change at this moment. The front became a peculiar line of fire balance. So far, we do not have the means to organize high-quality offensive operations. But the enemy was also unable to achieve the operational strategic tasks he set before himself. A large group from the Kherson region did not go anywhere, but concentrated on the eastern bridgehead. Yes, there are some successes there, but in general, the progress of the «second army of the world» is more than modest. There are two more purely military things, indicators of a certain shift in emphasis. From May to September, there really was a colossal war of artillery barrages, the Russians fired up to 80 thousand artillery volleys per day. This is unprecedented since World War II. For example, the closest historical example is the battle in the Ya Drang Valley in Vietnam in 1965, where the Americans fired 16,000 shells in 53 hours. And since then there has been no such thing. Now Russian volleys can be counted from 14 to a maximum of 20 thousand per day, which is three times less than their indicators. And the most important sign is a change in emphasis in the use of manpower: they throw more and more so-called infantry shafts. A classic plane in execution, that is, on the historical march to the assault. In March, the Russians lost up to 4,000 personnel and 900 units of equipment, and in December – 300 units of equipment and more than 20,000 personnel. I am more than sure that the absolute figures for the loss of manpower will be broken by the results of the hostilities in February. What does the change of such accents indicate? They start projectile hunger. But in order to preserve his regime, Putin is ready to throw thousands more Russians to the slaughter. If millions must die, they will die. Therefore, we will have to overcome this colossal human mass.

Sergiy Smirnov spoke

Text: Marichka Ilyina, translated by Vitalii Holich

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