December 7, 2022

Op-Ed: Russian logic –Scorched earth while destroying Russia’s future as well

Russian forces have taken partial control of the eastern city of Severodonetsk, the easternmost city that was still held by Ukraine


Russian forces have taken partial control of the eastern city of Severodonetsk, the easternmost city that was still held by Ukraine – Copyright AFP/File Ye Aung THU

There’s such a thing as “scorched earth” in military tactics. It’s been used since the Mongols, who destroyed areas so the people in those areas wouldn’t be a future problem. It’s also been used by the Russians to deprive invaders of resources.

Now, they’ve improved on that. This new type of scorched earth prevents use of the space. This is achieved through chemical toxicity and large amounts of unexploded ammo everywhere. Apparently also destroying Russia as a nation is just an added benefit.

The Donetsk fighting is a good example. Donetsk is an area Russia claims to control, one of the original 2014 separatist regions.

Satellite pictures are emerging of the scale of destruction. In Seivierodonetsk the images show literally hundreds of craters from artillery. There’s no indication of those shells hitting anyone or anything but the fields. The town itself is a bombed-out wreck.  This is a town which is supposed to be on Russia’s side.

Note – It’s also not a very large town. All this effort has gone into taking a town which is about 4km by 5km? The situation is beyond any previously known level of military ineptitude, and that’s not easy to do.

Meanwhile, under this hail of incompetent high-explosive bluster, the Ukrainians now say they’ve recaptured some the areas Russia recently took. In purely military terms, this means Russia is achieving nothing with hundreds of thousands of rounds over a period of months.

Russia claims it sent its forces into Ukraine to defend residents of two self-proclaimed Russian-backed statelets, the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics – Copyright AFP ARIS MESSINIS

It’s also not a good sign for Russia that their big gun theory hasn’t stopped the Ukrainians from recapturing territory.

So what is this hyper-destruction supposed to achieve, you ask?

Kyiv defended itself bravely and nobly, despite surprise attacks and against huge odds right from the start. Kharkiv was never taken despite being literally on the Russian border. Both cities were under constant bombardment and there were many actual Russian ground attacks. Russia didn’t get the message. Everyone else did.

So the war goes on. There’s no indication that the Russians are doing much more than blazing away and assuming they can overwhelm the Ukrainians by sheer weight of fire. A Western military would try to hit actual military targets, but apparently that’s too demanding for Russia’s Rube Goldberg military.

Terror tactics, if that’s what they’re supposed to be, are as usual not working. They’re simply annoying people and making them more determined to fight back. These tactics have never worked. During WW2, terror bombing of cities did nothing much. In 1944, when Germany was under massive bombardment by fleets of bombers dropping thousands of tons of bombs, military production actually went up.

Nor is anyone on Earth at all impressed by Russian brutality. Ukraine has never flinched throughout this war. Russia has done almost nothing but flinch. The Russians pretend to fight and fail. The Ukrainians actually fight and win.

Workers exhume bodies at a site in Bucha, Ukraine where civilians killed during Russian occupation were buried, amid allegations of many war crimes by Russian fighters in the Kyiv suburb.
Workers exhume bodies at a site in Bucha, Ukraine where civilians killed during Russian occupation were buried, amid allegations of many war crimes by Russian fighters in the Kyiv suburb. – Copyright AFP/File Yuri CORTEZ

Amidst all this destruction, the military situation hasn’t changed at all. Russia may have “20%” of the country, but that includes Donetsk and Luhansk, which are areas they already held. They now have to put this much effort into even trying to recapture lost areas.

They also won’t be able to hold any of that territory with what’s left of the alleged “Russian military”. The Ukrainians will soon be able to systematically destroy Russian forces at will. The ancient Soviet arsenal obviously can’t do the work, and it spectacularly hasn’t. The newer Russian stuff isn’t particularly impressive, either. Russian maneuver tactics are truly absurd, and siege warfare WW1-style is simply a recipe for more casualties.

Russian back end stories are also making a much-ignored point. Tank production has shut down at least two factories. That may save a few Russian lives, but Russia is having so much trouble even trying to sustain its own forces that a dismal end is inevitable.

Scorched earth vs world opinion and Russia’s credibility

The other interesting issue here is the absolute collapse of Russia’s image. If Russia has been deliberately trying to make itself as popular as Nazi Germany was to the Allies and pre-insane Russia, they’ve done it.

The Russian national image is now essentially a global stench. It’s anyone’s guess how all this destruction equates to projecting a positive image of Russia. War crimes, indiscriminate destruction, you name it; Russia simply looks like a criminal on the rampage.

Many more images, like the two latest dead Russian generals, (killed by Ukrainian operators behind Russian lines) sinking ships, hundreds of square kilometres of burned-out Russian “assets” etc. also add up to another image – Abject failure.  They’re the bad guys, the bad guys are getting de-crapped every second, and it’s obvious.

The food crisis started by Russia is a gigantic own goal in progress. Food supplies to many countries were compromised by Russia. How much gratitude does Russia expect?

Add to this the well-publicized Russian incompetence. This is what you get if you search Russia incompetence on Google News. It seems endless. Rations with expiry dates of 2015? No fuel? Any number of deserters? Does this look like it’s a real military force to you? How does this help Russia as a nation look even slightly credible?

Also relevant – The world is very angry. Most of the world is supporting Ukraine. Foreign volunteers are more numerous now than ever. Sanctions may be in place for decades. This message obviously isn’t getting through either.

What happens next when the war is over?

The likely outcomes for Russia of this war make an odd shopping list of disasters:

Total failure and return to 2014 borders – Very likely. Ukraine said and obviously meant territory is not negotiable.

Payment to Ukraine for damages.

War crimes prosecutions – Probably the biggest since Nuremberg.

Russian economy goes back to the 1990s – This is the exact opposite of current Russian claims, but how do they avoid it? Many countries may never do business with Russia again. A total global trade boycott is possible, and China may not want any part of the resulting train wreck.

Putin still around; maybe not – Historically, Russia replaces failed governments any way it can. Speculation on Putin’s future is looking pretty grim.

Nuclear war – If it comes to that, it’d be on the basis of a single person deciding the fate of humanity in a tantrum. The Russians might think that’s not a good idea. That person may discover that giving orders and carrying them out aren’t the same thing.

 Maybe humanity deserves better. Maybe not. The global disaster area isn’t looking any nicer now than it did 30 years ago. Russia isn’t the only country that mismanages things to pointless, catastrophic levels. The difference is that this catastrophe can be stopped right now.

The bottom line is that this obscenity has to end, ASAP.