In Background, Ukraine

By Alexander Mercouris (writer at Russia Insider), on the author’s Facebook page, Feb. 2, 1015

One of the things I learned during the fighting last summer is that in assessing the state of the battle, one must never lose the forest for the trees. As I recall, a great deal of energy was spent last summer debating whether this or that village had been captured by the junta’s military or by the NAF. It seems to me that in the end what decided the course of the battle was not these minor movements but the sheer scale of the casualties the junta’s military were suffering. Quite simply, the Ukrainian military became enfeebled by the bloodletting to the point that when the NAF launched its offensive it had no strength left to resist.

Photo by Oleksandr Klymenko, Reuters

Photo by Oleksandr Klymenko, Reuters

The sheer scale of last summer’s losses is surely what also lies behind the mass resistance to the calls for mobilisation this winter. In the nature of things, stories about losses get out and are talked about in the small towns and villages from where most of the conscripts come, even if the authorities try to suppress such talk. Not surprisingly, the men in these places do not want to be slaughtered in the Donbass meat grinder, which is why there are reports of whole villages fleeing en masse.

I suggest that what happened in the summer is happening again now. This report suggests that the junta’s army has lost 1,100 men in the last 2 weeks. Assuming that 700 or so of these men died in Donetsk airport, it means that the losses elsewhere are exceptionally heavy with a “normal” tempo of deaths running at a rate of hundreds a week. Of course, if the Debaltsevo cauldron collapses that number will dramatically spike as was the case in the fighting for the airport, in which case we could see the level of casualties starting to approach the level of the summer.

Of course the NAF also suffers losses but apparently not on anything like the scale the junta’s troops are experiencing.

If this is correct, then I suggest that events could take a similar course to the one they did last summer. I am not sure how many troops the junta has deployed, but assuming the numbers are roughly at the same level of 60-70,000 that they were last summer, then no military of this size can absorb losses at this level for very long.

What that probably means is that just as in the summer, unless there is direct military intervention by the West, we will see a sudden military collapse.

I am not going to try to guess how long that will take. As I recall both the Saker and I made a similar prediction in the summer and it happened as we said but much sooner than either of us had expected.

Everything I have heard about the Ukrainian military suggests that it is significantly weaker than it was in the summer, in which case the collapse could come more quickly this time. Nowhere have the junta’s troops so far managed to sustain an offensive, and in contrast to the summer, the mood in Kiev amongst the junta’s supporters seems to be one of deepening pessimism and gloom. If losses are mounting and a collapse is pending, that would explain it.

As for the NAF, it is significant that its armoured forces have not been visible in the fighting to any great extent suggesting that they are being held in reserve as in the summer for when the collapse comes.

I would add that the single most controversial article I have ever written was one I wrote in October 2014 discussing the consequences of the losses the Ukrainian army appeared to have suffered in the summer fighting. This article followed reports in the Ukrainian media suggesting that the Ukrainian army lost in the summer between 8,000 to 12,000 men killed.

Somewhat to my surprise (since I am no military authority or expert) this article was widely published and circulated and provoked something of a storm with a Ukrainian journalist even visiting me unannounced at my house where he complained to me about it.

If the Ukrainian army has indeed suffered losses of 1,100 men killed in just 2 weeks this winter, then given the scale of the collapse, I don’t think a loss of 8,000 to 12,000 is excessive. Of course others like Petri Kohn put the loss much higher.

I would add that far from taking any pleasure in this, I am totally horrified by it. This situation urgently calls for this war to be brought to an end. The failure of the Minsk process (something predicted by every objective observer) shows that the only way that can happen is by the Ukrainian military withdrawing entirely from the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and the junta doing what it committed itself to do on 21st February 2014, 17th April 2014 and 5th September 2014, which is enter into serious constitutional negotiations with its opponents. Unfortunately I don’t think there is the faintest chance of the junta agreeing to this, and the gathering calls by some in the West for military supplies to be sent to the junta in the hope that these would help to reverse the position (they wouldn’t) puts no political pressure on the junta to do that.

See also:
Blitzkrieg turned mayhem: Hacktivists claim they reveal Ukrainian troops’ annihilation,, Jan 28, 2015


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