Operation Lemming: Russian suicide?

(To David Rossi)

The "lemmings" - for the uninitiated - are small arctic rodents that migrate in large groups across the tundra: often the errors of orientation of those in the lead and / or the pressure of other individuals cause the entire group to fall in streams, cliffs, etc. giving the impression of a "collective suicide".

This, as we will see, is the description of what has been happening to Russia since February 24th.

The failure of the blitzkrieg

The Kremlin strategists had a very specific plan for the first 24 hours:

  1. annihilate the air, anti-aircraft and anti-missile forces of Ukraine with a massive attack from the air;

  2. take with a quick special forces blitz - possibly with Kadyrov's best men like back-up option - Antonov airport north of the capital;

  3. initiate the invasion from the East and the South also thanks to the demining of the land communication routes carried out by the fifth column within the armed forces and the Ukrainian administration;

  4. capture President Volodymyr Zelenski and most of the ministers while attempting to escape from Kiev to kill or try them in Russia (the latter did not exclude the former);

  5. announce to the world the end of the Ukrainian "Nazi" regime.

Then, in the following 24-96 hours, the following events should have been triggered, like a cascade of logical consequences:

  1. The Antonov airport would have functioned as a hub for the transit of troops and vehicles to the capital and the interior of Ukraine;

  2. the deposed former leader Yanukovych, guarded by Putin since 2014, would have been transported to Kiev, would have formalized the seizure of power and then settle down at the same Antonov airport pending the effective occupation of the capital by Russian forces, with the simultaneous flight of almost half of the population to the West, overwhelming the most anti-Russian part of Ukraine with an uncontrollable human mass and thereby putting it in chaos;

  3. through the Crimea, the Donbass and the Belogorod oblast, the Russian forces would advance towards the interior of the country, while the Ukrainian armed forces - deprived of air defense and often also of a large part of the leaders and personnel due to desertions or simply because they would have passed with the Russians - they would have retreated to the West of Dnipro, hammered relentlessly and exterminated by the Russians, masters of the skies above the country;

  4. Odessa, Kharkiv, Sumy, Zaporizia and many other cities in central-southern and eastern Ukraine would have surrendered almost without a fight;

  5. blown away by the speed and efficiency of Russian action, Westerners would have had no time to do anything except try to slow down the flow of refugees, no more and no less than Poland did with illegal immigrants from Belarus;

  6. Western Ukraine would quickly fill with tens of millions of refugees and welcome the arrival of the remains of the Ukrainian army, incapable of any war and resistance operation.

As you well know, apart from the de-mining of some roads along the borders, everything went wrong for the Russians: Ineffectiveness of the attacks from the air, slow ground transportation, gross errors in communications, completely wrong planning, etc. Thus, Minister Shoigu disappeared from the spotlight and became missing person Joint Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, while effective control passed into the hands of the Kremlin.

The failure of the barbarian war

Thus began a new phase of the war, which lasted roughly from February 27, when Shoigu and Gerasimov were forced to listen with wide eyes to Putin himself threatening the use of nuclear weapons, until April 9, when Dvornikov (photo) was appointed sole coordinator of the so-called "special military operation". It was a story already seen in Grozni and Aleppo, whenever Russia's battalion tactical groups went into crisis in the face of urban warfare. We can summarize this phase by following its development on the very long front, from Odessa to Kiev, more than 2.000 kilometers against which the Kremlin has hurled about 200.000 men.

On the southern front, extended as far as the whole of Northern Italy - from Odessa to the Zaporizia oblast -, after the rapid march from the Crimea towards Kherson, Melitopol and Enerhodar in the first two weeks, the advance of the Russian forces was abruptly stopped, for a series of reasons, which can be summarized in three main ones: crisis of the supply chain and supply chain, civil and clandestine resistance of the local population and structural limits of the Russian forces deployed. Only the naval blockade was carried out successfully, without ever managing to worry the Ukrainians with the concrete danger of a landing: the attack on Berdiansk raised serious doubts about the naval warfare instrument and the Russian control of the skies. Generals have often handled their little portion in front of them like gods warlords quarrelsome and uncoordinated. The civilian population suffered kidnappings, violence and threats, but never gave up, often - as in Energodar - physically intervening between the Russian attackers and their targets.

On the Don basin front, the Russians managed to penetrate Mariupol, but never really controlled the territory around and within the city, while on the Luhans'k and Donetsk side the militias of the self-proclaimed people's republics continued to confronting the best forces in Kiev as of eight years now, without significant territorial gains. In the Mariupol area, Russia most likely had a third of the losses suffered during the entire war, with a mortality among the leaders of the armed forces unmatched in modern and contemporary history of Europe. Having gutted the city of Mary causing enormous civilian casualties did not bring victory closer, but it did demonstrate to the world the extreme brutality and contempt for human life of Russian political and military leaders.

On the north-eastern front, between Kharkiv and Sumy, the Russians only occasionally managed to penetrate the cities, always being pushed back. After less than a month of war, Moscow's troops had to withdraw from this front after useless and costly attempts to persuade the local populations - we remember: mostly Russian-speaking - to surrender and be "denazified".

On the northern front, between Chernihiv and Kiev, the Russians have gone from disaster to disaster, easily annihilating their best forces and transforming themselves from self-styled "liberators" into raiders, rapists and torturers who for decades will be hunted down by international justice to demand account of the extermination of 10, perhaps 20% of the populations residing in the inhabited centers they occupied and of the thousands of anti-personnel mines left to hit civilians in the years to come. Having abandoned excellent weapon systems on the field in addition to the evidence of the reign of terror established in centers like Bucha and Irpin seems to be caused more by sloppiness and disorder than by a specific political and communicative intent. The flight from this front and the violence exerted will remain among the greatest shame in Russian military history for centuries to come.

The (next) failure of the patched war plan

The so-called "great offensive" on the eastern and central-eastern fronts started off on the wrong foot: the sinking of the Moskva and the attack on the command center on the Kherson front are signs of a crisis in the Russian military instrument that will certainly not be repaired. from the appointment of General Dornikov as sole commander. What many commentators refer to as Aleppo's "executioner" has imposed some changes:

  1. instead of dispersing the missile attacks over a territory as large as France, some of the warheads must hit the railway network and the industrial system located throughout Ukraine and useful for supplies to the armed forces of Kiev;

  2. an imposing force must be concentrated along the Kharkiv-Mariupol front, to crush the Ukrainian forces placed in charge of the former capital and above all of the Don basin;

  3. the pressures on strategic objectives such as the industrial cities located on the middle course of the Dnipro (Zaporizia, Dnipropetrovsk etc.) must not be eased;

  4. a major force must no longer be used to track down the Azov regiment and Ukrainian navy infantry forces barricaded in the Azovstal fortress;

  5. the objective of conquering a strip of Ukrainian territory between Nistro, middle-lower Dnipro and Don, from Odessa to Kharkiv, must not be officially renounced.

Well, like poorly placed pillboxes, these objectives cannot be achieved for the reasons that we explain in a nutshell:

  1. without the control of the air to prevent it, the railway network can be repaired in a few hours: often Kiev, after an attack, limits itself to informing that there will be a delay of one or two hours;

  2. the front between the Russian positions north of Kharkiv and Mariupol, passing through Severodonetsk, according to a realistic estimate, measures slightly less than the western front in the Franco-Germanic wars, i.e. 500-600 kilometers, including recesses and pockets: to have the best over the Ukrainians, who defend themselves from better positions, the Russians should deploy along this line more than three times the forces available to Kiev, which we estimate at 60-80 thousand men, that is to say more than they have in the whole Ukraine;

  3. there are no men and means, nor efficient logistics, to take these cities, within which - it should be remembered - there are fortress-plants comparable to the Azovstal of Mariupol;

  4. it is legitimate to doubt that Moscow has control of the territory around and within Mariupol itself: military and food supplies can and will reach the resisters - through channels that neither Kiev nor Moscow like to talk about - even more so, if a part of the Russian forces placed in hammer on the Azovstal will be diverted elsewhere;

  5. the southwestern front has long been a question mark: Russian losses to hold Kherson airport have turned that place into a black hole for Moscow comparable to Azovstal itself.

We also add that in this phase Moscow also encounters enormous difficulties in managing the flows of local Ukrainian populations:

  1. has an interest in emptying cities, in order to manage them better and possibly exploit them to improve - in the medium-long term, mind you - logistics,

  2. has created a system of laws and agreements within the Russian Federation to move easily, in defiance of the Geneva Convention, the populations of the occupied territories, including an agreement with the Russian Orthodox Church for the "Russification" of the deportees, but for now it has succeeded to move only a few tens of thousands of people since this project certainly does not exude efficiency,

  3. where the population expresses motions of refusal or revolt, as in Kherson or Melitopol, the quantity of troops present and the possibility of Ukrainian counter-offensives make the transfer of masses of Ukrainian citizens to Russia or in any case the maintenance of order problematic.

For this reason, we dare to predict that towards the end of May, once 10-20% of the men and means deployed for this new "great offensive" have been lost, the Kremlin will decide to move to a new phase, also because in that moment will arise the question of the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO.

The leap of the lemming: the challenge to NATO

Let's start with a fact: until 23 February, Finnish public opinion was opposed to joining NATO, which is now viewed with extreme favor by the majority of citizens. So, now as in the past, the errors (and in the case of Mariupol, the horrors) of Moscow have determined what for the Kremlin is the attempt by Westerners to suffocate Russia: also in light of the recent threats made by Putin and from other members of the Russian establishment, it is difficult to see why Russia should not take action. Poland, the Baltics, Finland, Slovakia, Czechia and Sweden: only Turkey is missing to have the complete list of the countries of north-eastern and southern Europe with which Moscow has had unfinished business for centuries and which perceive Russia as a potential danger.

We talked about suspicions, open accounts and old grudges. Here is how long these countries have not had a warring war with Moscow:

  • Sweden from 1809, at the end of the Finnish War: Stockholm proclaimed the policy of neutrality three years later, in 1812;

  • Poland from the Soviet invasion in 1939, with the presence of Moscow troops on Polish territory until 1989;

  • the Baltics from 1939, with the incorporation into the Soviet Union which lasted until 1991;

  • Finland since 1944, with neutrality proclaimed in 1955 and a close relationship with the USSR that lasted until the collapse of the Soviet empire;

  • Czechia and Slovakia since the Soviet invasion in 1968, having been part - like Czechoslovakia - of the Warsaw Pact up to 1989.

Yes, you may have noticed that it is the list of the European countries most active in helping Ukraine. We believe it probable that the Kremlin, in order to justify a general mobilization, to hinder a new NATO enlargement and to block the influx of arms to the Ukrainian resisters will not hesitate to attack one or more of these countries, thinking that the countries most dependent on the Russian gas - Germany, Italy and Finland itself - will block the application of direct military measures by the entire organization of the Atlantic Pact against Moscow. Here, then we will see the culmination of Operation Lemming: dragged by their leaders and pushed by popular grudges, the Russians will throw themselves headlong into the Great War towards which they have projected up to now and which the Kremlin, goodness, plans to limit how extension, while not at all excluding the use of nuclear weapons.

We are frightened by the fact that to date, like any self-respecting dictator, Putin has lied about everything except threats: he has always done what he threatened to do.

Photo: Encyclopædia Britannica / Twitter