The border crosser Boris Reitschuster writes about the fall of Cherson
„Moscow’s defeat in Cherson – why it is dangerous for Putin
There are moving scenes in the city of Cherson: people screaming and crying with happiness, trying to hug the arriving Ukrainian soldiers and throw their arms around their necks, or at least squeeze their hands through the window of their car. Loud cheers, honking, cakes, kisses and flowers for the liberators. It is images like these that dissect the narrative of Putin’s propaganda in both East and West: Similar scenes of sincere, genuine joy could not be seen from towns occupied by Russian troops – and „liberated“ according to Moscow’s interpretation. On the contrary: In the same Cherson, for example, after the occupation, there were initially demonstrations against the Russian invasion – which were then broken up with violence and warning shots. Kremlin propaganda tried to stage images of alleged joy at the Russian invasion, but they seemed absurd. „We’ve been waiting so much for you,“ weeping, touched women in a suburb say to the arriving Ukrainian soldiers: „God protect you!“(-…)
The scenes in the Ukrainian city are the maximum humiliation for Putin – whose spokesman had declared a few weeks ago at the official annexation of Cherson that it was a primordial Russian city. During the short period of occupation, Moscow tried to Russify the region. Those who did not participate or even resisted risked their lives. Numerous men were arrested and taken to so-called „filtration camps“. Many have disappeared there.
The forced withdrawal from Kherson is a disaster for Putin and his generals. It shows once again how desolate the conditions in the Russian army are. On paper it was and is strong – but because of the massive corruption, many things only exist on paper and large parts of the armaments billions have flowed into accounts abroad. At the same time, many of the young men who were mobilized lacked the simplest pieces of equipment and modern weapons. The reports from reservists are adventurous. Warm clothing is missing, as are ammunition and food. So far, the reality at the front has not given us any reason not to believe these descriptions. It is becoming increasingly clear that Putin’s troops are a paper tiger by their own standards – and that Putin himself succumbed to the Potemkin deception of his own generals and grossly overestimated his own army.(…)
The fate of the Antonivka Bridge over the Dnieper is particularly interesting. The Russians themselves blew up the bridge, which had already been badly damaged by Ukrainian fire. This shows that they apparently have no plans to attack Cherson again in the foreseeable future. For a large-scale river crossing without bridges, they are logistically incapable. Overall, Moscow is said to have withdrawn up to 40,000 soldiers from Cherson. Cherson’s task also dispels two legends: First, that Ukraine has no chance militarily against Russia, as represented by ex-Merkel adviser and ex-General Erich Vad. Supporters of this thesis underestimate the fact that, unlike the Russian army, the Ukrainian army is highly motivated and the morale of the troops is good – which is regularly the case with armies defending their homeland. On the other hand, the Ukrainian army has modern western weapons and western reconnaissance at its disposal. The second legend that refutes Cherson’s abandonment is that Russia was on the verge of using nuclear weapons. If that were really intended and not just a threatening backdrop, it would probably have been an occasion for Cherson. From the Kremlin’s point of view, the task of the city is a „GAU“, i.e. a „worst possible accident“. The ever-so-full-bodied Kremlin propagandists now stand rather meek. A few days before the withdrawal without a fight, they had declared that Moscow would fight for every inch of ground. And the already miserable morale in the troops has fallen even further.
The disgrace of Cherson is likely to exacerbate the already fierce power struggles in the Kremlin. The hardliners have long accused the army led by Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu and Chief of Staff Gerasimov of not being tough enough and being too considerate. The generals, on the other hand, are quietly complaining that Putin’s interference in the course of the war is having a very negative effect. Unlike Volodymyr Zelensky, who gives his generals free rein, Putin repeatedly gives instructions to his military leadership and ignores their instructions and warnings. The Kremlin boss has long since become a hostage of the war. In the „vertical of power“ he created, laws and the constitution count for nothing. As in a wolf pack, an unofficial power system built on dominance has emerged. The „leader of the pack“ must never show weakness in this – but that’s exactly what Putin is now increasingly showing with his military defeats. Ever since he gave the order to invade Ukraine, misinformed by his compliant intelligence services, believing that victory would be easy and quick, he has tied his own fate to the fate of the war.
Alexander Dugin, who has long acted as Putin’s loudspeaker and has been dubbed by some „Putin’s brains,“ made statements that many interpreted as a call to overthrow his former idol. He sharply criticized the failures in Ukraine. He later retracted, however, saying that he had not called for Putin’s overthrow and that there was no disagreement. In any case, there is a great danger that the Kremlin boss could become even more unpredictable with further defeats, with his back to the wall – in the worst case according to the motto: And after me the flood of meaning. Unfortunately, there are various warning signs in this direction. But the opposite scenario is not very rosy either: Should the fortunes of the war turn around and Putin be successful, his entire political career as well as an analysis of the system forces Putin to the conclusion that he will start the next war in the near future. The only positive scenario would be a „deus ex machina“ – in the form of a change of power or a palace revolt in Moscow. That cannot be ruled out, but it is far from probable. And even when it does, it can backfire. Because it is anything but agreed that the moderate forces come to the control stick. Should men like Chechen leader Razan Kadyrov or the head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, come to power in the future, it could be that we still long for Putin.” https://reitschuster.de/post/moskaus-niederlage-in-cherson-warum-sie-fuer-putin-gefaehrlich-ist/
One detail remains somewhat contradictory: First he writes that General Vad is wrong in assessing the danger of nuclear weapons. Later he writes that the Russian elite and Putin could get into a situation where they think: „After me the deluge. „And what exactly does that mean?
Irrespective of this, Merkel’s former military adviser, General Vas, again assesses Putin’s troop withdrawal from Kherson as follows:
“The abandonment of Kherson is an act of military-political prudence. It’s a win-win situation for both sides, avoids a lot of senseless bloodshed in a week-long street and house-to-house fight, avoids flooding the upstream dam, creates a sustainable demarcation line between the warring parties, shows that the Russians are not marching any further towards Odessa want…etc. and instead of letting the murmurs of victory sound again – as in the case of the allegedly decisive Ukrainian „major offensives“ in the summer, one should rather see how the Russian withdrawal can be used for political negotiations …… But such considerations are currently only in D.C. and there only in the Pentagon…., maybe also in the Kremlin…”
Curious to see whether this will be used as a demarcation line. Especially since the Djnepro also served as a geographical hurdle after a number of bridges were blown up. Will there be a lull in the fighting in winter?
General Vad said: „Yes. think so The Russians are thinking about it – I hear and the people around Mark Milley too…..if only it weren’t for the many militant civilians…:))“
The question is whether the Ukrainians are starting an offensive now. But: Do the Ukrainians actually have enough boats, amphibious vehicles, armored bridge-laying vehicles and pontoon bridges to cross the river in case of another offensive? Or would they have to be delivered first? Perhaps also an indicator of western war aims.
General Vad said: „Yes, if there is a Western political consensus to reconquer the Donbass, then in the first phase that would only be possible with a large, amphibious operation across the Dnieper. The prerequisite would certainly be at least a temporary, regional air superiority of the Ukrainians and they would have to hold down the Russians for a few days with artillery and air forces or rocket attacks like the Allies held down the Germans in Normandy in 1944….The Ukrainians would have to use assault boats under this protective umbrella cross over, form a bridgehead and then resupply personnel, material, large equipment, etc. via pontoon bridges. That would be a highly complex military operation, which I do not trust the Ukrainians to do alone and without entering the war and the participation of NATO …….However: militarily it would make more sense and be easier to attack from the north and save yourself the highly complex Dnieper crossing…..”
Conversely, I cannot imagine NATO intervening, which could mean, conversely, accepting the demarcation line and then perhaps starting negotiations. Unless the northern operation could be managed without major logistics and without NATO. But the question is whether Putin will use a possible winter break to strengthen his armed forces and then advance south towards Odessa. Dr Rahr said he intends to do that. But then it could be the next fiasco and there is also the question of whether the Russian army will recover so quickly. can recover from their current condition. Maybe Putin is considering being satisfied with the areas that can still be held and then selling that as a victory. General Vad replied;
„I actually always expected Putin to advance to Odessa. Then Ukraine would hardly be viable as a rump state and would also be severely affected by international trade. In order to take Odessa, however, Putin would need the bridgehead around Cherson, which he is currently giving up. That can be a political signal that he is content with the Donbass and Crimea, which he is certainly not negotiating. That would also be a good basis for ceasefire negotiations….”
Important detail that the abandoned bridgehead around Cherson should be a prerequisite for an Odessa offensive. There are no other options? Or does he want to recapture it after the winter?
General Vad said: „Recapturing via the Dnieper would be very costly and costly for the reasons given below….“ Is a new offensive via Belarus conceivable? General Vad said: „Yes. In principle yes. In this way, Ukraine could also be cut off from western arms supplies. The bottom line, however, would be the occupation of the entire Ukraine. But for that he needs umpteen times more staff and that would not be possible without general mobilization……“
The question is whether Putin would be satisfied with the peace negotiations or not want to incorporate the whole of Ukraine by means of a general mobilization by means of a northern campaign in Belarus. The reintroduction of military instruction in Russia’s schools could be the preparation for such a general mobilization. Therefore, the voices that are against negotiations and want to keep him busy have their logical justification and a strong argument on their side
„Ideology of Patriotism“ London: Russian schoolchildren are to be given military training 11/13/2022, 11:38 am
Russia abolished military education in schools in 1993. Now the subject is to be reintroduced. As the British Ministry of Defense reports, the initiative is „part of a larger project“. According to British secret services, Moscow is planning to introduce compulsory military education in Russian schools. According to British estimates, this should increase the readiness for mobilization and military service among young people. The Ministry of Defense in London said the training aims to equip students approaching conscription age with military skills, citing intelligence findings. „This initiative is also likely part of a broader project to instill in the Russian people an ideology of patriotism and trust in public institutions,“ it said.
The Russian Ministry of Defense supports the program and has stipulated that at least 140 hours in the academic year are earmarked for the so-called military preparation course, the British authority said. The training should start in September 2023. Similar programs involving preparations for a chemical or nuclear attack, first aid, and gunnery training had also existed in the Soviet Union but had been discontinued in 1993. The Russian authorities wanted to resume training after the annexation of the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, it said in London. „There was hope that this initiative would improve the quality of the conscripts.“ But that didn’t happen. In fact, morale was low and training limited. A new training program is currently being put together and should be available by the end of the year (…)