Censor.NET Chief Editor Yurii Butusov writes about it in his article for Dzerkalo Tyzhnia.
Will there be peace between Ukraine and Russia?
There is no fast solution to the war in the Donbas. Someone has to win and someone has to lose. Putin does not have and never did have forces to seize Ukraine - for him, Crimea and the Donbas were leverages through invasion of which he attempted to provoke Ukraine's demise from the inside. Russia cannot occupy the 45-million country; it needs loyal government in it in order to make Ukraine again a mere supplier of raw materials for the Moscow mother country. Ukraine is protecting its independence, but as of now, we have no strategy or instruments to mop up the Donbas and Crimea from the invaders. Shaky truce has arisen due to the parties' inability to achieve superiority in the war, not due to Russia's or Ukraine's desire to build new kind of relationship. The war will end when one of the parties bows down. It's either Russia leaves the Donbas, and then Crimea and Transnistria; or Ukraine legitimizes the occupation of the part of its territory by the Russian troops and stars building relationship with Russia based on the fact. Russia's withdrawal from the Donbas would be a political failure of the acting Russian government. Withdrawal of Ukraine will have the same catastrophic consequences for the Ukrainian government. It's not possible to draw the line across the Donbas, it's not possible to withdraw the troops, and the demilitarized area is very small, which all means that armed conflicts are inevitable. To turn the situation to its starting point, Russia as aggressor state must withdraw its troops. But Putin will not go there. Russian imperial messianship pushes the acting Russian tsar to further escalation of violence. The thing is that Russia has no other means of influence except for power and raw materials. To abandon power means abandoning influence for the Russian authorities. It's important for Putin that Donbas remains an open sore for Ukraine in order to continue using the war as leverage on the Ukrainian politics and economy. Uncontrolled bandit enclaves of the Russian Federation in Transnistria, Crimea, and in the Donbas allow Russia to create permanent threat to Ukraine, and this problem has no single peaceful solution; inclusion of force is inevitable.
What is currently happening at the front line?
The war continues. It will not stop. But now, tank and artillery units are functioning as deterrence posture and denote a potential readiness to enter a war. However, the enemy's intelligence forces and sabotage groups are acting against us on permanent basis. The war continues, and people are killed. If the army is holding its positions, and there is at least one person killed every week, and one wounded every day, this means the war goes on. This means that the nature of combat activities at the front line has changed. The enemy has changed its tactics and replaced large-scale activities with small sabotage groups. Their task is not to destroy strongholds or break through the front line, but to inflict casualties to the Ukrainian army. Simultaneously, the enemy is getting ready to different scenarios at the front line - knocking together a mercenary army of permanent readiness and training it. The enemy's military equipment, tanks, and artillery continue to be redeployed at frontline positions; the enemy cannot afford withdrawing equipment from the demilitarized area. The frontline cease-fire is quite deceptive. This is not a cease-fire at all. This is a low-intensity conflict scenario.
What will the nature of the war and the Russian command's tactics be?
Low intensity war is a war aimed at Ukraine's exhaustion, which will consist of rare cases of tank and mortar shelling, and separate howitzer attacks. The intelligence, however, will continue operating at full capacity, and sabotage groups will continue to raid and place mines and ground bombs on the roads. Snipers will shoot. Armed hostilities will consist of war between small groups at low troop density areas. These activities will be of maneuver nature. The most important in the sabotage groups' tactics, as well as for anti-sabotage activities, will be the surprise effect. The hits will be aimed at the most vulnerable spots instead of the most defended objects. This is why the enemy has activated communication war in the near rear of the Ukrainian troops and regularly conducts sabotage raids in order to mine frontline roads. This war's radical departure is the enemy's desire to conduct combat operations with no casualties. Russian command is quite limited in personnel and tries to minimize their losses, while maximizing ours without using heavy weapons or with incidental use of that. The enemy is forming combat-ready and full-fledged units of permanent readiness. Putin is counting on having a battle-ready mercenary army in Ukraine in case of any internal instability in the country. Thus, stepping up of military operations in the Donbas can happen at any moment. So far, the enemy is using the situation to test its new detachments in field conditions.
Tasks of the Ukrainian command, soldiers, and commanders at theatre level
Given the change in the tactics and the nature of combat activities, it is important to draw correct conclusions for organization of the Ukrainian troops' activities. The main threat by the enemy at the moment is not massive tank attacks but operation of the sabotage and reconnaissance groups, mine war at the roads along our line of defense and at the near rear of our positions. This means that the major current task on defense organization for the Ukrainian command is not defense and redeployment of troops to strong points, but organization of security reconnaissance system, battle defense system, and secret patrolling in their area of responsibility. The secret nature of the activities is especially important. Many inexperienced units upon revealing a threat or being provocatively and randomly shot at open return blanketing fire. This is a big mistake. As far as the enemy's sabotage and reconnaissance groups are small, blanketing fire is of low efficiency. The fire at random is conducted in order to reveal our fire system and defense system. They should not help the enemy. When fighting sabotage groups, it is important to secure the secrecy of the activities, so that approaching out front positions would be a dangerous maneuver for the enemy. Many think that dense fire at a strong point will scare the enemy, Not at all. For experienced subversives sporadic firing is the best lure and demonstration of low qualification. In this case, the enemy does not need to attack the strong point from which panicking sporadic fire is being conducted in response to any sound or bullet. The subversive group will envelop the strong point and place mines on the road to it. Secret posts and patrol raids for covering of supply roads shall be conducted undercover, invisibly. Only the most disciplined soldiers shall be involved in such patrols and secret posts. It is intolerable to let small groups of soldiers spend much times at secret posts. Secret posts shall function correctly, and for that, rotation is needed. I have seen many times how soldiers who had spent many weeks at a secret post totally forgot of the necessity to act covertly, and this secret post would not differ from a field camp. However, a secret post is called secret because it is a surprise for the enemy.
The Ukrainian command's tasks at strategic level
Unfortunately, total absence of institutional reforms in the army does allow speaking of a smart strategy by the command. There has been no strategy before, there is no now. What we have is a set of unrelated events that do not coordinate with another change in the war's nature. However, we have to suggest what to focus on at the strategic level. It is needed to change the manning system. We have reported many times of the need to conduct pick-out of the personnel and send the most qualified reinforcement to rifle units at the frontline. Unfortunately, about 30% of those drafted have been sent to air forces, another 30% to units of the General Staff and Defense Ministry, and only 30% are being sent to reinforce ground forces. Given that, high-mobile assault troops have a priority to choose the best draftees. This approach to army manning is not normal, for it does not relate to the tactical situation. Despite the importance of strategic reserves creation, the main combat burden is still on frontline rifle units. As shown by world experience of dozens of military conflicts, the most important thing in low-intensity war is not the number of troops and resources, but the quality of command, qualitative inferiority in combat training and combat activities organization. There is no need to keep 'icons' or non-motivated persons at the frontline. This overstrains the strength and uses resources irrationally. The army command model should be changed. Field headquarters have outdated. Bunching-up of brigades at one area of the frontline requires that all responsibility is transferred to the brigade command. Key attention should be paid to rotation of the command personnel and work with officers. Huge lack of officers and sergeants, especially platoon and section commanders, requires immediate appointment of experienced soldiers for officer and sergeant positions. Their professional training should be conducted at the frontline conditions and on expedited basis. Lack of competent commanders at lower levels is the major problem of combat activities organization during the war. Special attention should be paid to organization of combat intelligence. Unfortunately, combat intelligence is absent as a system within the army. The Joint Staff does nothing to get it up and running. Instead of acknowledging the problems, army bureaucrats are flipping the script to intelligence services, although combat intelligence within 10 km is the responsibility of frontline units under all regulations. They don't have to raid, but combat intelligence of each unit at least must know their midground and grey zone inside and out.
Tasks of the government
On the second year of the war, an efficient, not paper strategy of the war should be finally created. It is needed to approve the defense sector reform strategy. As long as you have hired RAND, stop talking and start implementing their concept. There is nothing in there that Ukrainian experts haven't spoken or written about before, and it can be specified operationally. NATO leadership is puzzled by Ukraine's authorities' inability to create an activities and reforms strategy. Imitation of reforms shatters our partners' confidence and reduces the chances to receive the West's military aid. We have to focus our efforts on creation of competent armed forces and professional National Guard. We need to create an efficient and complex intelligence system, a modern intelligence community. We have all the required resources now. How can we do damage to Russia? Russia is in fact in a very vulnerable position. Putin's messianic strategies make him open new foreign fronts one by one, enter the armaments race against sharp economic decline and crisis in Russia. Russia is extremely vulnerable not in direct military confrontation, but to indirect activities, just like the Brezhniev's USSR. If casualties at the frontline are extremely painful for the Russian command, then economic and political leverage over the Kremlin will be of equal importance. Ukraine has powerful leverage on the Russian Federation. We can as well use counter tactics against Russian troops in the Donbas and start a war at the enemy communications. Our goal is not to destroy the Russian army with one blow, but to apply the tactics of "small cuts." It is necessary to drastically increase the economic and financial burden on the Russian Federation. Economic war in the occupied Crimea, the Donbas, and Transnistria would be a heavy blow to Putin. Activities against Transnistria should be a part of Ukraine's strategy of making the war more expensive for Putin. Russia should spend resources on supply and maintenance of the occupied territories, and the more the better. This will increase the pressure on the Russian budget, undermining the reserves of the enemy. Enclave in Transnistria must be subjected to an economic blockade even more rigid than Crimea, because elimination of the threat on the southern flank and the weakness of the enemy in this area can eliminate the strategic threat to the Odesa region and allow our allies - Moldova and Romania - launch a more decisive policy on the return of occupied Moldovan territories.
There will be no peace until there is a change in the political situation. The situation can be changed if Ukraine creates a war strategy and expands its arsenal of fighting methods and efficiency of using available forces and resources, both of military and political and economic nature. This means that Ukraine has to outrun the enemy in modernization pace of the military component, as well as to broaden the arsenal of leverage against it. The war continues and will last until victory. We have stopped Putin. But it is not victory yet. The victory will come only after complete banishment of the invaders from the Ukrainian soil. This will not happen on its own - we have to work for this result. Peace for Ukraine should be won over.
Yurii Butusov, for Dzerkalo Tyzhnia