A complete invasion of Ukraine would provoke a war on an unprecedented scale since 2003 in Iraq, and this leads Western experts to wonder if a lasting victory for Russia could be possible.
According to estimates, about 100,000 Russian soldiers are located near the borders of Ukraine. However, experts following this crisis closely say that for an invasion of the whole country this number should double and it would be necessary for some of the forces involved to pass almost certainly through Belarus, according to The Guardian.
Fred Kagan, a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, explained: “This would require an invasion on a scale similar to 2003, somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 soldiers.”
He predicted that a force of this magnitude could be in place by the end of January. The war in Iraq involved about 175,000 U.S. and Allied troops.
Is an occupation possible?
Kagan, who co-authored a series of analyzes that led to an increase in U.S. troops in Iraq in 2007, said the real challenge for Putin would be how a hostile Ukraine could be kept under the Russians if there was a insurgency after the capture of Kiev.
Such an operation would require one counter-insurgent for every 20 inhabitants, Kagan said in a paper he co-authored with other experts at the Institute for the Study of War.
This “would suggest that a counter-insurgency force of 350,000 troops would be needed” to maintain control over Kiev and major Ukrainian cities in the south and east.
Ukraine has an army of 145,000 troops, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), but there is also an estimated force of 300,000 veterans of the conflict in the country’s Donbas region, which began in 2014. According to polls, a third of citizens Ukrainians would be willing to be part of an “armed resistance”.
Cautious after the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, Russia generally viewed US attempts to support countries against insurgents as a mistake. “Putin studied what happened to the United States in Iraq after 2003. Difficulties in dealing with partisan activity make me open to the possibility that the Russian president does not intend to invade and conquer Ukraine,” Kagan said.
However, Moscow has overwhelming advantages in terms of an initial invasion, especially in terms of missiles and air power. Ukraine would face terrifying consequences, in a total assault, which could shatter the morale of a country and cause millions of people to flee to the west, rather than fight.
Rob Lee, a former Marine and researcher at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said: “Russia has the ability to devastate Ukraine’s military units with weapons such as Iskander ballistic missiles. We almost never see modern weapons like this unleashed; gives Russia the ability to cause thousands of casualties a day. “
A military assault will also have the effect of transforming international opinion. Significant civilian casualties are almost certain, turning into an operation unlike any other Putin has ever conducted, including the 2014 war with Ukraine.
Dr. Samir Puri, a senior IISS member who spent a year as a conflict monitor in Ukraine, said: “It is difficult to imagine a complete invasion without the use of air force, but this is a very high threshold for Russia.”
Ukraine’s Javelin anti-tank missiles have a range of about 2.5 kilometers and can only delay a mechanized advance. The country has a relatively modest number of Turkish TB2 drones at the moment, 10-12, a tiny force compared to thousands of Russian tanks, the core of any ground force.
Capture of Kiev
Russia must also decide how to deal with the cities of Ukraine, mainly Kiev, with a population of 3 million, but also Kharkov in the northeast, with a population of almost 1.5 million. “Urban warfare is severe, causing terrible damage, and Russia has fought it in Aleppo,” Kagan said, citing Putin’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Speculation about Russia’s plans – based in part on apparent leaks published in the German newspaper Bild – suggests that the Kremlin will surround Kharkov and eventually Kiev, disrupting supplies, hoping they will surrender. This may be less violent, but it would undermine the idea of Russia acting as a unifying force.
The siege of Kiev is not easy either, say Western analysts. The key points of the city, including the presidential palace, are west of the Dnieper River, easy to defend. The first bridges south of the city are 96 kilometers away; a dam six kilometers north turned the part of the river that leads to the border with Belarus into a lake.
Putin’s military alternatives
The risks inherent in the invasion and occupation lead experts such as Taras Kuzio, an expert on the Henry Jackson Society, to argue that a total attack is “least likely” among the military scenarios available to Putin. Instead, the Ukrainian expert sees three other options.
In the first, Russia simply occupies and annexes the separatist-controlled part of the Donbas, a partial invasion reflecting the 2008 Georgia crisis. and Putin’s excuse to answer.
A second scenario is the expansion of the occupied territory with a land corridor to the previously annexed Crimea, conquering the coastal city of Mariupol. Russia could also occupy other strategic industrial sites and try to weaken the nearby Ukrainian army. “It could eliminate TB2 Turkish drones and artillery in the Donbas” in an open, limited campaign to weaken Ukraine, Lee said.
One last option, Kuzio said, is “reviving the New Russia 2014 project” that would try to “separate Ukraine from the Black Sea.” This would be tantamount to capturing the south, conquering the port of Odessa and perhaps the industrial city of Dnipro.
The conquest of Odessa, with a population of 1 million, would probably require a dramatic air and naval operation, using Crimean paratroopers, followed by Marines landing on nearby beaches.
Of these options, the annexation of the occupied Donbas would almost certainly be popular in Russia. However, it would be an extremely limited response, given the Kremlin’s insistence that its main goal, as Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryakkov most recently reiterated, is to “prevent NATO enlargement, Ukraine’s non-accession.” “Georgia and other countries in the alliance” – raising concerns that a military campaign is likely.
Source: Breaking News – Cele mai importante stiri – Ziare.com by ziare.com.
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