Mass Fire Strike on Ukraine

Mikhail Khodarenok’s article about the course of a possible Russian war on Ukraine appeared in NVO last week. He’s a knowledgeable and realistic analyst.

And he’s a Russian patriot given his military career and service in the General Staff. But he’s one who says what the Kremlin doesn’t want to hear, but needs to.

Khodarenok points to the danger of Russia’s overconfidence about military action even with its significantly revamped and upgraded forces. His piece resembles what many Western observers write when the U.S. contemplates war. But, in Russia, Khodarenok is a lonely voice.

War on Ukraine, he argues, won’t be easy like Moscow’s hubris would indicate.

We can hope Putin won’t opt for war. But, if he does, it will change everything, including for Putin himself. He probably can’t even imagine how right now.

In either event, here’s a translation of Khodarenok’s timely article:

Predications of bloodthirsty pundits

Of rapturous hawks and hasty cuckoos

In Russia’s expert community recently a sufficiently powerful opinion has taken root that it won’t even be necessary to put troops on Ukraine’s territory since the armed forces of that country are in a pathetic state.

Some pundits note that Russia’s powerful fire strike will destroy practically all surveillance and communications systems, artillery and tank formations. Moreover, a number of experts have concluded that even one crushing Russian strike will to be sufficient to finish such a war.

Like a cherry on top different analysts point to the fact that no one in Ukraine will defend the “Kiev regime.”

IT WON’T BE A CAKE WALK

Let’s start with the last. To assert that no one in Ukraine will defend the regime signifies practically a complete lack of knowledge about the military-political situation and moods of the broad masses in the neighboring state. And the degree of hatred (which, as is well-known, is the most effective fuel for armed conflict) in the neighboring republic toward Moscow is plainly underestimated. No one in Ukraine will meet the Russian army with bread, salt and flowers.

It seems events in south-east Ukraine in 2014 didn’t teach anyone anything. Then they also figured that the entire left-bank Ukraine in one fell swoop and ticked-off seconds would turn into Novorossiya. They already drew the maps, thought out the personnel contingent for the future city and regional administrations, worked out state flags.

But even the Russian-speaking population of this part of Ukraine (including also cities like Kharkov, Zaporozhe, Dnepropetrovsk, Mariupol) didn’t support similar thoughts by a huge majority. The “Novorossiya” project somehow imperceptibly deflated and quietly died.

In a word, a liberation crusade in 2022 in the form and likeness of 1939 won’t work in any way.1 In this instance the words of Soviet literature classic Arkadiy Gaydar are true as never before: “It’s obvious that now we won’t have an easy battle, but a hard campaign.”

“WITH LITTLE BLOOD, A POWERFUL STRIKE”

Now about “Russia’s powerful fire strike,” by which “practically all surveillance and communications systems, artillery and tank formations of the VSU2” will supposedly be destroyed.

Only in this single expression it’s apparent that only political workers could say such a thing. For reference: in the course of hypothetical military actions on the scale of a theater of military operations [TVD] strikes on priority targets and mass fire strikes are delivered. We note in the course of operational-strategic planning the adjectives “powerful” (and also “medium,” “weak,” etc.) aren’t used.

In military science it’s emphasized that strikes can be strategic (this for the most part relates to strategic nuclear forces), operational and tactical. According to the forces which will participate and the targets which will be destroyed strikes can be mass, group and individual. And it’s altogether better not to introduce or use other definitions even in works of a political nature.

Strikes on priority targets and mass fire strikes can be delivered in the bounds of a front (fronts on Russia’s western borders still haven’t been formed) or a main command of armed forces in a theater of military operations (such a thing also hasn’t yet been established in the South-Western strategic direction). Anything less than this isn’t a mass strike.

And what is, for example, a front mass fire strike (MOU)? For starters we note that the maximum number of combat ready forces and means of aviation, missile troops and artillery, EW systems at the disposal of the commander of a front (an operational-strategic large unit) are engaged in the MOU. The MOU is one mass sortie of aircraft, two-three launches of OTR3 and TR4 systems, several artillery fire bombardments. It’s good if the degree of fire destruction to the enemy in this is 60-70%.

What is the main thing in this question as it applies to a conflict with Ukraine? It goes without saying that the MOU will visit heavy losses on a probable enemy. But to count on only one such strike to crush the armed forces of an entire state means that simply unbridled optimism has appeared in the course of planning and conducting combat operations. Such MOUs have to be delivered not once and not twice, but much more often in the course of hypothetical strategic operations in a TVD.

To this it’s certainly necessary to add that supplies of prospective and highly-accurate weapons in the VS RF5 don’t bear any kind of unlimited character. “Tsirkon” hypersonic missiles still aren’t in the armory. And the quantity of “Kalibrs” (sea-based cruise missiles), “Kinzhals,” Kh-101 (air-launched cruise missiles) and missiles for “Iskanders” in the very best case number in the hundreds (dozens in the case of “Kinzhals”). This arsenal is completely insufficient to wipe a state on the scale of France with a population of more than 40 million from the face of the earth. And Ukraine is characterized by exactly these parameters.

ON AIR SUPERIORITY

Sometimes in the Russian expert community it’s asserted (by the followers of Douhet’s doctrine6) that since hypothetical combat operations in Ukraine will be conducted in conditions of full Russian air superiority the war will be extremely brief and will end in the shortest time.

But it’s somehow forgotten that the armed formations of the Afghan opposition in the conflict of 1979-1989 didn’t have a single aircraft or combat helicopter. And the war in that country stretched out for a full 10 years. Chechen fighters didn’t have a single airplane. And the fight with them continued several years and cost federal forces a great deal of blood and victims.

And the Armed Forces of Ukraine have some combat aviation. As well as air defense means.

In fact, Ukrainian crews of surface-to-air missile troops (scarcely Georgian) substantially stung the Russian VVS7 in the course of the 2008 conflict.8 After the first day of combat operations the Russian VVS leadership was obviously shocked by the losses sustained. And it wouldn’t do to forget about this.

MOURNED IN ADVANCE

Now on the thesis “The Armed Forces of Ukraine are in a pathetic state.” Naturally, the VSU have problems with aviation and modern PVO9 means. However, we have to recognize the following. If the VSU represented fragments of the Soviet Army until 2014, then over the last seven years a qualitatively different army has been created in Ukraine, on a completely different ideological foundation and largely on NATO standards. And very modern arms and equipment are coming and continue to come to Ukraine from many countries of the North Atlantic alliance.

As concerns the VSU’s weakest spot — Air Forces. It’s not possible to exclude that the collective West could supply Kiev with fighters in a sufficiently short time, as they say, from what their armed forces have — speaking simply, used ones. However those second-hand ones will be fully comparable with the majority of aircraft in the Russian inventory.

Of course, today the VSU significantly lag the VS RF in combat and operational potentials. No one doubts this — not in the East or in the West.

But you can’t treat this army lightly. In this regard it’s necessary always to remember Aleksandr Suvorov’s precept: “Never scorn your enemy, don’t consider him dumber and weaker than yourself.”

Now as concerns assertions that western countries won’t send a single soldier to die for Ukraine.

We have to note that most likely this will be the case. However this hardly excludes in the event of a Russian invasion massive assistance to the VSU from the collective West with the most varied types of arms and military equipment and large volume supplies of all kinds of materiel. In this regard the West has already exhibited an unprecedented consolidated position, which, it seems, was not expected in Moscow.

One shouldn’t doubt that some reincarnated lend-lease in the form and likeness of the Second World War from the USA and countries of the North Atlantic alliance will begin. Even the flow of volunteers from the West of which there could be very many can’t be excluded.

PARTISANS AND UNDERGROUND FIGHTERS

And finally, about the protracted hypothetical campaign. In the Russian expert community they say several hours, sometimes even several dozen minutes. Meanwhile somehow they forget we have already been through all this. The phrase “seize the city with one parachute regiment in two hours” is already a classic of the genre.10

It also pays to remember that Stalin’s powerful NKVD and the multimillion-man Soviet Army struggled with the nationalist underground in Western Ukraine for more than 10 years. And now there is a possibility that all of Ukraine could simply turn into partisans. Additionally these formations could easily begin to operate on Russia’s territory.

Armed struggle in large Ukrainian cities is generally poorly suited to forecasting. It’s commonly known that a big city is the best battlefield for the weak and less well-equipped side of an armed conflict.

Serious experts note that in a megapolis it’s possible not only to concentrate a grouping in the thousands and even tens of thousands of fighters, but also to protect it from the enemy’s superior fire power. And also supply it with material resources for a long time and replenish losses in people and equipment. Mountains, forests, jungles don’t present such a possibility today.

Specialists are convinced that an urban environment helps the defender, slows the movement of attackers, allows the deployment of the highest number of fighters per square meter, compensates for the gap in forces and technology. But in Ukraine there are more than enough big cities, including ones with a million in population. So the Russian Army could meet far from a single Stalingrad or Groznyy in the course of a hypothetical war with Ukraine.

CONCLUSIONS

Generally, there won’t be any kind of Ukrainian blitzkrieg. Utterances by some experts of the type “The Russian Army will destroy the greater part of VSU sub-units11 in 30-40 minutes,” “Russia is capable of destroying Ukraine in 10 minutes in a full-scale war,” “Russia will destroy Ukraine in eight minutes” don’t have a serious basis.

And finally, most important. Armed conflict with Ukraine now fundamentally doesn’t meet Russia’s national interests. Therefore it’s best for some overexcited Russian experts to forget their hat-tossing fantasies. And, with the aim of preventing further reputational damage, never again to recall them. 

_______________________________________________________

1“Liberation crusade” of 1939 refers to Moscow’s conquest of western Ukraine under the secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

2Abbreviation for Armed Forces of Ukraine.

3An operational-tactical missile generally capable of striking targets to the depth of a front’s responsibility up to 500 km.

4A tactical missile with shorter range.

5Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

6Italian strategic bombing theorist Giulio Douhet, 1869-1930.

7Abbreviation for Air Forces.

8Khodarenok is saying Ukrainian troops participated in the air defense of Georgia during its Five-Day War with Russia.

9Abbreviation for air defense.

10Reference to former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev’s claim that Russian forces would easily take the Chechen capital Groznyy in 1994. They were decimated during an ill-advised attack on the city over New Year’s.

11Tactical forces below regiment-level.

43 responses to “Mass Fire Strike on Ukraine

  1. I read the original Russian language article; while it makes a good point about urban warfare and guerilla operations, it’s weak in many other areas.

    First, he’s just splitting hairs when it comes to the definition of “mass” strikes.
    Second, many Russian A/C losses in 2008 were due to friendly fire.
    Third, the RuAF has improved significantly since 2008.

    The speculation about “volunteers” coming to fight in Ukraine is questionable, at best. Nothing of the sort occurred in Georgia in 2008, and there’s no religious motive as with the Afghan and Chechen wars.

    A weak article, as to be expected when he’s responding to the cringe fest of “ura-patriot” style articles on the other side.

    • Does your opinion still stand?

    • An Eastern European Guy

      This comment aged like milk

    • trololo you got burned.

    • James Versluys

      Well, it’s the middle of May now (the 13th), and it seems like literally everything predicted here came true, both in the original article and RDP commenter.

      “Life must be understood backwards but lived forwards”, except occasionally a prediction isn’t just correct, it’s prophesy. That seems to be precisely what’s happening here.

      Especially the last line of the article: “And finally, most important [prediction]. Armed conflict with Ukraine now fundamentally doesn’t meet Russia’s national interests.”

      Russia will be forever weaker because of this. I don’t think that’s a good thing at all (especially with a resurgent China waiting to dismember the Far East).

      But one thing is sure: your sneering post is as wrong as anyone can possibly be.

  2. He’s not “splitting the hairs,” Russian doctrine and definitions are. He’s merely laying them out. He wrote exactly one line about volunteers saying the possibility can’t be “excluded.” Meanwhile, the DNR claims Poles are serving at the front right now. Ukrainians definitely fought on the Chechen side against Russian forces. You can call the article “weak” but it’s like Johnson’s dog walking on hind legs — it may be done badly but more amazing it’s done at all.

    • James Versluys

      Khodarenok is obviously pointing out that the careless terms being thrown about mean that the commentators using the language are political hacks and not careful military men, who would never use such bombastic language to describe the deadly serious business of war.

      He’s clearly correct. This strawman is clearly “whistling past the graveyard”, as we say.

  3. Just because he’s saying something that you want to hear, doesn’t make this “amazing article”, in fact Khodarenok has a long (and rather hilarious) record of being wrong. He admonished the Kremlin for supporting Syria, confidently predicting victory for the jihadists, saying that Russia would need at least 200.000 troops to make a difference, and comparing Syria to (you guessed it!) Afghanistan.

    Apparently, Soviet setback in Afghanistan is the reason why Russia cannot be successful in any military conflict ever again.

  4. Your twitter indicates you’re a troll, but a response regardless. The word “amazing” doesn’t appear anywhere in the post supra. The only thing remarkable about Khodarenok is his continuing to write relevantly on Russian defense issues when most military journalists critical of the Kremlin and RF MOD don’t. If you cite what he wrote on Syria, you need to provide a citation. Moscow needed to be admonished for its bombing of civilian areas outside Asad’s control. Your understanding of Syria is woeful; “victory” (if that’s what a country ruined and not rebuilt is called) came for a combination of reasons — the Russian intervention is just one. Afghanistan should always be cause for the Kremlin to look hard at any decision for war now and in the future.

  5. Putin’s war on Ukraine is long from over. But thus far Khodarenok is more right than wrong.

  6. Eskander van Goudboom

    Absolutely chilling; Mr.Khodanerok might have been wrong in Syria but so far his prophecy for Russia is still holding true.

  7. This article was incredibly prescient. And it is shocking that none of Putin’s generals were prepared to speak this plainly to him. Thank you for translating it.

  8. Again, it’s long from over. But It’s not shocking. A large number probably delude themselves. And from service, branch, MD commander, and up, Putin promoted all of them. They only see him two or three times a year in receive-only mode (or in totally scripted events). If they wanted to give an honest view, they don’t have the chance. NGSh Gerasimov barely sees him — maybe 6-8 times a year. He might want to tell Putin the truth, but he’s under Shoygu a politician, not a professional military man. Gerasimov knows he’d just be fired without changing anything. Still you’d think one or two would separate themselves from all this just to salvage their reputations. Even if Russia “wins,” one or two Russian generals might want to be remembered for opposing Putin’s barbarism. In Chechnya, there was open opposition — Vorobev and Gromov resigned. Lebed went into opposition. Before Afghanistan, Ogarkov opposed the invasion but was told to shut up by Andropov and Ustinov. It’s an existential moment for everyone. Most are failing the test.

  9. Just listening to news…UK and U.S. volunteers now fighting to save Ukraine.

  10. Americans and Canadians answer Zelenskiy’s call. https://reut.rs/3ppi7C7

  11. This guy’s prescience was amazing.

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  16. Sweet 8 lb baby Jesus, this article is incredibly prescient, it’s like the motherfucker had a crystal ball or some such. Then again, if you’re in the know about corruption in addition to all the other stuff, makes sense the Russians are repeatedly eating shit due to equipment failures. Gotta love it when procurement officers embezzling money hamstrings your ENTIRE war effort. Then there’s the quality of soldier they sent, which is generally lacking at best. And as soon as artillery comes into range from the front, which will happen before the coming week is out, Russia is not going to like the outcome at all. Russia’s entire problem is that their entire operation is founded on what is likely shoddy information, staffed by a bunch of noobs, and will shortly run the Russian economy into the ground if they don’t retreat.

    It’s a damn shame the world didn’t come together in ’14, and in 100 years, 1992 – 2022 will be seen as a lost opportunity to get everybody on stable footing. The one positive I’ve only seen is that trolls have suddenly gone quiet. Seems Il Douche was bankrolling political destabilization worldwide, but it was really funny watching the “freedom” convoy dwindle to nothing as soon as daddy russia pulled their funding

    • Too many “experts” completely bought the Putin / Kremlin / RF MOD PR line about Russia’s military buildup. There was lots of bullshit and exaggeration about its capabilities. Fairly impressive for defense, but not nearly enough for offensive operations.

      The human factor was largely ignored. Ultimately, a campaign has to be conducted by boots on the ground; they have to believe in what they are doing and be willing to sacrifice for the cause and for their unit. Stubborn and stout probably on defense of RF territory but not even close for invading another country.

      As to how Russia’s war was decided and planned, please see the @igorsushko thread, reportedly from an FSB source, incredible.

      Question is, will a desperate Putin reach for nuclear weapons to avoid more humiliation? Will Russian military officers participate in that war crime? Will the Russian people wake up and find out what Putin and their army is really doing in Ukraine?

      Yes, the trolls have gone pretty quiet.

      • Just read that thread you mentioned, somebody else that managed to filter the bullshit. Question is, when does this sort of info actually reach Putler?

      • James Versluys

        Please forgive me for multi-posting, I just discovered this place and RDP. You’re an eye-opener: I’ve been waiting for patient, logical analysis and am finally happy I’ve found it. Basically the only other quality place I’ve found with decent information is the Institute For War online daily briefs: https://www.understandingwar.org/

        Outside non-credible defense and the Ukraine live maps, there are no actual experts anywhere, or none that I’ve found: so I adore having someone decent to read. You’re now on my top roll.

        The only thing you’ve said that was wrong was about the trolls: they have either gone quiet (Strawman) or gone totally insane (southern front: https://southfront.org/ and a guy called Armchair Warlord).

        Interestingly, on the pro-Russia forums I kept meeting what was clearly several different people saying “The Russians won the war in the first three days, you’re just too stupid to know it. THIS week you’ll see!”. They’ve been saying a version of that same insane analysis for almost three months: they’ve stopped saying that recently, though.

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  20. Reading this more than a week after the invasion began really shows how knowledgeable this analyst was regarding this whole situation. The predictions he made was very accurate, so much that it feels uncanny.

  21. Article was prescient.

  22. Out of curiosity, has Khodarenok posted anything new since the invasion began, or is he basically being encouraged to not say “I told you so”? I’ve noticed RT doesn’t seem to have published any articles from him since Feb. 1.

  23. Many of the Russian sites that address military issues have been under DDoS attacks, so it’s hard to access them. Also now Putin’s made it a crime to “discredit the army,” i.e. give your opinion or relay the truth. So he’s probably laying low. Khodarenok doesn’t seem like an attention-seeker. You should read his piece from 2015 translated here https://bit.ly/3DArHb6.

  24. Looks like nothing new since February. March was probably a depressing month for him.

  25. So much for the opinion that volunteers wouldn’t fight for Ukraine. There are now about 20,000 of them. Including these two Japanese men. https://bit.ly/3KzbvIQ

  26. A fascinating article, and largely an accurate prediction of the way the ‘special operation’ has proceeded. The vanity of one man is holding the world to ransom by the fear that he would use nuclear weapons if he were challenged. The English speaking people have saved the world from the jackboot in the past; it is time for us to do it again. There needs to be a serious diplomatic effort to tell Putin that his behaviour is utterly unacceptable, and that he must stop. He must know that we will not use nuclear weapons first, and that we mean what we say. By supporting Ukraine with the materiel of war, and our psychological belief, we are feeding the war, with it’s death, destruction, displacement, and, possibly worst of all, worldwide food shortage. It must be explained that NATO is a defensive construct which he is strengthening against himself. Where is the United Nations in this? The early 21st century is seeing the mistakes and misdeeds of the early 20th century repeated. We can do better, and we must.

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