Kiev’s attacks – that’s the purpose of the Ukrainian advances in the border region

war in Ukraine
Kiev’s attacks – that’s the purpose of the Ukrainian advances in the border region

Members of a Russian Volunteer Corps fighting on the side of Ukraine.

© Sergey Bobok / AFP

Kiev attacks Russian border towns with commandos. The attacks are quickly repelled, but in addition to the psychological effect, they also have a military objective.

Ukraine is taking the war to Russia – with drone strikes and small advances on land. These measures have a psychological aim, but also a military significance. Russia has invaded Ukraine but is acting as if extending hostilities into Russian territory is some kind of war crime. But Putin’s “red line” no longer impresses anyone. Despite warnings from the Kremlin, the West is supporting Kiev with new and more powerful weapons. And Ukraine is carrying the war across the border. Putin’s threats no longer deter anyone. Apart from the nuclear option, Russia has no further escalation options. The Putin regime is already mobilizing all its forces to avert at least one defeat. At least in conventional terms, Moscow cannot “top up”.

Kyiv can dare

This background alone makes it clear that the mere fact that Ukraine “dares” to carry out such attacks is another sign of the unfavorable course of the war from Moscow’s point of view. Or if you want, a Ukrainian victory.

In addition, the attacks have a psychological effect. Ukraine urgently needs successes. The Russian withdrawal from Cherson was more than half a year ago. Since then, Kiev has been going backwards rather than forwards. The drone attacks on Moscow and the commando actions in the Belgorod region are intended to push the loss of the Bakhmut fortress out of the headlines. This is urgently needed, because the grandly announced flank operation, with which Bakhmut was to be surrounded and recaptured, did not go beyond initial successes.

Unclear effect in Russia

Whether psychological warfare will work in Russia is an open question. Ukraine hopes that the war in its own country, carried out by a kind of “liberation movement”, will lead to a departure from the Putin regime. The Kremlin, on the other hand, will tie the attacks into the “motherland is in danger” propaganda and try to strengthen the narrative of “Great Patriotic War 2.0” and thus prepare the population for greater war efforts.

Dispersal of anti-aircraft defenses

These attacks also have clear military utility. Some drone strikes find their target, damaging Russian logistics. More importantly, the Russians now fear attacks deep in the rear. You cannot proceed as in peacetime, but must disguise yourself. Equipment cannot be stored centrally, but must be spread across many small locations. Important point is that air defense has to protect more and more targets in Russia. Logistic and military targets and the big cities. This is a simple calculus: any air defense system protecting the capital is absent on the front lines and in the defense of military targets. For the same reason, the Russians are constantly attacking Kiev, even if most of their drones are shot down.

Putin must protect the Gnez area

A similar calculation is behind the raids near the border. Defending a border doesn’t work with troops standing right next to the border fence. There are a few guards there, the actual forces are in the backcountry. This is how you fend off an invasion, but compared to the tactics of a “raid” or a “hit and runs” the limits become apparent. A short raid will always be able to penetrate Russia in the early stages, even if it is later repelled. If the attackers retreat in time, the losses remain manageable. In this way, Kiev always gets a victory for PR exploitation and the Putin regime is increasingly coming under pressure because it cannot effectively protect the villages and towns near the border. Moscow can hardly predict whether it will remain with company-sized groups or whether Ukraine will use larger units in the future. And in the background, Russia has to assess whether Kiev’s long-awaited counter-offensive might not try to liberate Ukrainian territory at all. In theory, at least, it would be a tempting option not to have the newly created assault brigades run up against a defense layered system defended by the Russian army. Rather, that Kiev could try to occupy a barely sworn region in Russia and give the war a completely different character.

Weakening of the operational reserve

Whether that is realistic is another question. But the pressure on the Russian military to stop these raids in the bud will increase. And here is hope that Moscow will shift part of its operational reserve. Troops currently behind the lines to counter a Ukrainian breakthrough. If some of these units were withdrawn in the direction of Belgorod, they would no longer be available in the Ukraine. Russian bloggers estimate the Russian reserve at around 150,000 men. A powerful counterweight to the Ukrainian attacking forces.

source site-5