While browsing pro-Russian sources for interesting information in the morning of 15 July, we stumbled across a post that was shared by the pro-Russian Telegram blogger Dimitriyev. Dimitriyev appears to be looking at the situation fairly objectively so it was interesting to see that the post he shared contained a fairly solid analysis of results of the special operation so far. The user “Aleksandr Khramov”, despite having few followers provided quite a detailed explanation of Kremlin’s failed strategy to conquer Ukraine in 3 days:
I believe we are now approaching the third, tipping point of this war.
The first came on the second or third day after 24 February when it became clear that the quick defeat of Ukraine in the “special operation” framework has failed.
I wrote back then, on 26 February, that it would no longer be possible to win the war in the “sparing” mode (if such word is applicable here at all). The fights slowly moved to urban development. Do you remember what Grozny and Aleppo looked like? And that war was not with the regular army but with groups of militants. Can you imagine if even one tenth of what happened there would repeat in Kharkiv and Mariupol?
Alas, my prediction came true, although some were still dreaming of a quick capture of Kyiv back in those days.
The author then points at the March negotiations where it occurred as if Russia was ready to make concessions, but the negotiations broke down. Whether Kremlin was truly looking to get out of the war, or was just trying to buy time, it’s a matter of a separate discussion. Yet the fact remains that the breakdown of the negotiations led to the next stage of the war and the start of the Battle for Donbas:
The second tipping point occurred after the failure of negotiations in Istanbul at the end of March. Then, Kremlin was ready to jump off by returning Kherson Oblast and Zaporizhye (the only territories where the “special operation” went according to a plan, meaning quickly and relatively bloodless) in exchange for recognition of the L/DPR and Crimea. Not even recognition, but agreement by Ukraine to temporarily abandon attempts to return them, and also reduce their army size and stop rushing into NATO. Quite symbolic concessions in general.
Since the Russian leadership was seriously counting on this bargaining, it took so long to create the military-civilian administrations in the South of Ukraine, suspending the situation in the air in every possible way. Sometimes it went as far as imposing restrictions on removing Ukrainian flags. Initially, Kremlin as it appears didn’t have plans to bite off anything from Ukraine except for the Donbas. Putin, through scare tactics wanted to simply replace the government in Kyiv to a “friendly” one and sign some papers with it. But when the “nazis and drug addicts” could not be removed, Kremlin decided to sign papers with them. But they suddenly refused to do so.
“Oh, you” – said Kremlin and decided to gnaw into Ukraine properly by concentrating their modest forces in the Donbas direction. Likely, sometime by September Putin wanted to reach borders of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts without hurrying or overexerting himself, to call it a victory and at the same time grab everything he managed to saw off from Ukraine. Next, along the frontline the iron curtain descends, Ukraine and the West, tired of war, stop the active hostilities, and de-facto without reaching any formal agreements the situation freezes for many years like it was in the case of South Korea and North Korea.
It has been nearly four months of the Battle for the Donbas, and Russian forces have only managed to capture the territory of the Luhansk People’s Republic. They still have a lot of work to do to capture the strongholds of the DPR that are currently under Ukrainian control. This will inevitably lead to further weakening of the Russian forces in Ukraine.
And back in March this plan appeared quite realistic. But now it is clear that the pace of the offensive in the Donbas turned out slower than expected, meanwhile Ukraine, after receiving new weapons and relying on Western intelligence began methodically destroying the Russian military infrastructure in the deep rears of the Donbas, and even in the border areas of Russia. So, they are “demilitarising” us, and not the other way around. And it became clear, that even if at the cost of incredible efforts the frontline is pushed another few dozen kilometers, this will not change anything – the high-precision missiles from the other side will continue flying where necessary. In addition, Ukraine is now openly saying about preparation for a large-scale counter-offensive in the South. To repel it, the already limited forces will have to be transferred away from the Donbas.
And now the third tipping point is looming. To change the situation in Russia’s favour, it is necessary to move away from the “special operation” which is carried out by the peacetime army (“we haven’t even started anything seriously”) to a total war. This means mobilisation and war time economy mode. Otherwise, you see, many Russians still don’t notice what is happening, and as Putin said they roam around exhibitions while others are sitting in the trenches. I think that if on 15 July the martial law is not imposed, this will happen sooner or later anyway. That’s the logic of things. We are all being slowly sucked into this huge meatgrinder – first the edge of our clothes got stuck, and then boom and echelons of mobilised men are already going to the frontline from across the country.
The author points at the inevitability of a total war given how the offensive in the Donbas is. Whether Russia would be able to pull off mobilisation is unclear – there is a good reason they haven’t done it yet. The equipment supply for Russia is dwindling and any of the mobilised are likely to have to fight with outdated and poor equipment and weapons. Yet, as the author points out, Kremlin simply does not have a choice. We will soon see if this prediction comes to life.