Updated: Aug 3
Observing some of the panicked reactions to Russia's decision to move its troops from the west bank of the Dnieper – leaving the city of Kherson – to the east bank, I finally realized how many people around the world view the war in Ukraine as an episode from the popular program GOT TALENT. GOT TALENT is a global phenomenon, produced in more than 100 countries, including Ukraine, writes Larry Johnson.
Every year, contestants of any age can audition for the television contest with the talent they want to showcase. During the auditions, the contestants try to impress a panel of judges to secure a place in the live rounds of the competition. Once in the live rounds, the contestants try to impress the audience and judges to win votes to reach the final and have a chance to win a cash prize.
The key to victory in GOT TALENT is to impress or seduce the viewer at home.
Performance on stage is relevant, but often not the deciding factor. But that is not the case in war. Looking good or playing to get the approval of the public is not the goal. The goal is simple: to destroy the enemy's ability to fight.
Why, then, is the withdrawal from Kherson touted as a disaster for Russia and a glorious victory for Ukraine? Because it looks bad. Understood? It looks like Russia is losing or running away from a fight. People with this kind of criticism are like the idiots you knew in high school who would stand in a circle and yell at two of their schoolmates to fight. Still, none of these provocateurs had the guts to step into the ring and pack a few punches.
I'm not trying to read any deep, hidden meaning into the Russian action. I take General Surovikin and Shoigu at their word. By keeping the Russian troops on the western bank with their backs to the river, there was a risk that, in the event that Ukraine carried out a major attack involving the blowing up of the dam on the river, the soldiers would be trapped and forced to fight without a reliable line of communication.
While I have some interest in how Russian public opinion will react, I value the opinion of the mercenaries fighting on the side of the Russians more. I am referring to Messrs. Ramzan Kadyrov and Yevgeny Prigozhin. Both men have openly criticized certain command decisions by the Russian General Staff in the past. If this troop move was unjustified, I'm sure at least one or both would speak out. Well, they did. This is what Kadyrov said:
I fully agree with Mr Prigozhin'
s view on Surovikin's decision. Yevgeny Viktorovich noted very carefully that Surovikin saved a thousand soldiers who were in an actual encirclement.
After weighing all the pros and cons, General Surovikin made a difficult but right choice between meaningless sacrifices for the sake of loud statements and saving the priceless lives of soldiers.
Kherson is a very difficult area without the possibility of a stable regular supply of ammunition and the formation of a strong, reliable rear guard. Why was this not done from the early days of the special operation? That's another question. But in this difficult situation, the general acted wisely and foresight - he evacuated the civilian population and ordered regrouping.
So there is no need to talk about Kherson's "surrender". “Surrender” along with the fighters. And Surovikin protects the soldiers and takes a more advantageous strategic position - convenient, safe.
Everyone knew from
the first days of the special operation that Kherson was a difficult battleground. The soldiers of my units also reported that it was very difficult to fight in this area. Yes, it can be preserved, it is possible to organize at least some supply of ammunition, but the cost will be numerous human lives. And this forecast doesn't suit us.
Therefore, I believe that Surovikin acted like a true military general, not afraid of criticism. He is responsible for the people. He sees it better.
Thank you, Sergei Vladimirovich, for looking after the boys! And we won't stop hitting the enemy and we won't get tired. – https://t.me/Slavyangrad/19390
Kadyrov is no feather-trigger. He doesn't carry a tube of lip balm to butter his lips before kissing the ass of politicians and generals. It seems he genuinely respects Survikin and understands the tactical and strategic thinking behind the move.
I realize this greatly frustrates the global public eager to see a major clash. Some are for Kiev and others for Moscow. General Surovikin understands that the opinion of the “spectators” is irrelevant. He will fight at a place and time of his choosing, if he can.
What is remarkable about the Russian withdrawal from Kherson is that it did not take place under fire or attack. It was quiet and orderly and apparently pre-planned. Perhaps this explains the rumors circulating a few weeks ago that Russia would leave the city of Kherson.
Bloggers, Telegrammers and commentators are not allowed to vote on who is the winner in Ukraine. That's decided by who can field the most combat-effective troops, who can feed and equip those troops with the weapons and ammunition they need to fight, and who can control the opponent's military, economy, and political system. destroy.
Given that Russia has barely deployed any of its main army and advanced weapons to the front, while Ukraine stands like a beggar in the global market begging for more money and more vehicles and more tanks, I think Russia has an advantage.
I am not aware of the military plans of the Russian army command, but the Russian generals do not strike me as fear-driven men who react emotionally to tactical shifts in the field. They are planners and they keep those plans to themselves. I don't think Russia's long history of surprising adversaries on the battlefield has come to an end. Anyone want to bet that Russia turned off the lights in Kherson before it left?
I would like to remind you that on the first day of his command of the SMO, Surovikin announced that some "difficult decisions are afoot." This was announced on October 8, and since then Russia has been non-stop evacuating civilians from Kherson. The hope was that Surovikin didn't have to do it, but he had to.
The optics are bad and in terms of military language it is a tactical-operational setback if one considers the main objective of the war to be conquering and holding territory, which it is NOT - I emphasize it.
However, I have to thank Joe Blanco for bringing it up as it's a good topic to discuss. Joe, when speaking of the Great Patriotic War, wrote:
Russia doesn't have to look that far back to learn that it's a bad idea to run a light force since the beginning of the SMO. Russia only had to study the Iraq war (2003-2008), when the US thought it could conquer the country with only 160,000 soldiers.
Rumsfeld thought that a new, slimmed-down army could easily take Iraq. It seemed to work at first, but then the Iraqis came back and the so-called resilience kicked in, showing that it was a bad idea from the start to enter a country of 25 million people with only 160,000 men. The US then had to continually increase its troop strength to eventually push back the Iraqis.
In 2022, Russia with only 180,000-190,000 men will enter a country the size of Texas with the second largest army in Europe, knowing that the West will fully support Ukraine. You would think Russia should have known better. Russia seems to be constantly lagging behind because of the mistake of entering Ukraine with so few troops.
On the surface, Joe's “argument” seems valid to non-professionals, but in reality it has serious flaws. So I asked him to present at least three strategic differences between the US campaign in Iraq in 2003 and the SMO. The differences are profound. Here are some:
1. The Iraqi military around 2003 was a patchwork, totally demoralized, corrupt and totally under-equipped, especially in the C4ISR field and with virtually no viable air defenses. Iraq was simply crushed by sanctions and did not even have access to basic resources. This is definitely not the case with Ukraine, which is a de facto NATO power and continues the "NATOization" of the Ukraine Armed Forces (VSU), with the second generation of the VSU – the first having been destroyed at the end of the summer – with, however waning, support from the combined West. Feel the difference. VSU is the best proxy the US and the West have ever had.
2. The US pursued a strategy of full occupation of the country with parallel regime change in Iraq in 2003. Russia has only recently decided, in view of the NATOization of the conflict, that it wants to destroy the Kiev regime. But Russia is NOT interested in occupying the whole of Ukraine – the hopes that NATO planners had from the beginning of the SMO.
3. Iraq, with a GDP PPP less than New York State, was not even a competitor, the size of the resources involved and the political, economic and military weight of the warring parties is immense. Russia's vast economy and industry are directly involved in the operation, with China's indirect aid, while on the other side Russia is fighting the West with its gigantic, albeit exhausting, resources.
4. Ultimately, the main objectives of the warring factions are: for the US – the maintenance, however impossible, of its hegemony, for Russia – the destruction of globalism and the unification of the Eurasian Empire into a huge economic power. The US adventure in Iraq was an example of the Ledeen Doctrine: “Every ten years or so the United States has to pick up some small country and throw it against the wall, to show the world that we mean business .” Today's events are orders of magnitude larger than any campaign in Iraq and Afghanistan, utterly embarrassing for the US, and are about the effective survival of human civilization as a concert of nations that respect their own histories and national traditions. For that, the combined West must be defeated. The scale of the struggle is titanic and truly global.
I could go on for hours listing those differences, so I always emphasize that historical lessons should be applied very carefully, not to say professionally. That is why Alexander Svechin's strategic clincher is a cow-like truth: “Every war is an isolated case, requiring insight into its own specific logic, its own unique character.”
Therefore, applying “lessons” from US adventurism in Iraq is a very wrong way to do SMO. You cannot apply the “lessons” of Iraq to the SMO, mainly because – and here comes the main difference – even today Ukraine has millions of people who identify as Russians and preserving those people is one of the main tasks of the Russian army.
Therefore, the Russian armed forces evacuated 115,000 civilians out of the 280,000 inhabitants of Kherson – that is more than 40% of the civilian population.