April 12, 2024

Five Scenarios for Failure

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Putin’s five scenarios for failure
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy and his people are winning. Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin is losing. His war against Ukraine is all in the service of a demented dream to restore Mother Russia to the illusion of what it was before the fall of the Soviet Empire. Now, his dream has become a nightmare, and he faces five scenarios for failure.
          The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates that Russia has a 280,000-man Army, including the 190,000 soldiers in Ukraine (of which approximately 95,000 are rear echelon support troops and 95,000 are frontline troops). Also, a large segment of the invasion force is allocated to tanks, artillery, air components, and various other armored vehicles, leaving only about 50,000 frontline infantrymen. This is not near enough to protect the flanks of tanks road bound by weather and simultaneously conduct offensive urban operations in what is becoming an infantryman’s war – tanks being increasingly neutralized by U.S.-supplied shoulder fired anti-tank Javelin missiles as witnessed by recent video footage showing an entire Russian tank column being destroyed.
          Scenario One: Putin can continue as he is doing. A U.S. official is telling reporters that approximately 6,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the war began on February 24. And if this is correct, when including the wounded which typically comprise two to three times the number killed, the total adds up to almost 24,000 total casualties or nearly 25 percent of the total Russian frontline invading force in just two weeks. This is not a sustainable rate of loss.
          Second, Putin has been hiring Syrian and Chechen fighters, but not in sufficient numbers to make a difference, so he could be compelled to call up a portion of Russia’s 2 million undertrained Army reservists. But it would take time to integrate them into existing units and acclimate them to the tactics and nuances of the current war. Like the young conscripts and regulars in the first wave, most of them are not battle-tested because Russia has not fought a major war since World War II. Worse, the Russian officer corps lacks experience, and this has proven to be most telling in both their inexplicably inept strategy and tactics. However, if Putin calls up the reserves, the game will be up. There will be no more fooling the Russian people.
          Third, he can go all-out to win. He is flattening the port city of Mariupol and shelling other cities inflicting more Ukrainian civilian than military deaths. While such actions can destroy cities, they will not destroy the Ukrainian will to fight, whether through conventional or nonconventional means. The Russians do not have near enough troops to occupy Ukraine, let alone quell an ongoing fight that will create mounting Russian casualties, not unlike what happened in the 1979-1989 Soviet-Afghan War.
          Fourth, he can declare victory and go home. This is by far the best option for Putin. In this scenario a negotiated end to the war would have Ukraine give up all claims to Crimea and a portion of the Donbas and renounce joining NATO.
          Of course, there is a fifth alternative in which Putin accepts defeat and withdraws his troops. As unlikely as this scenario appears, it could be what actually transpires if the Russian Army continues to lose anywhere near 25 percent of its frontline soldiers every two weeks.
          See Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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