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Gerasimov Applies His Doctrine At Robotyne
By building a wall of corpses to stop Ukraine
Gambler to the last, Valery Gerasimov is all-in. He is defending the Robotyne axis with every last chip, meaning every last body he commands. Russian activity in Luhansk has decreased as forces there get shifted to the Zaporizhzhia front. Without reserves in the oblast, it was necessary to draw them from somewhere if he was to prevent a breakthrough. If he still fails to prevent breakthrough, he will only have reinforced his failure.
Gerasimov surely cannot afford a breakthrough, but he probably cannot afford to stop one, either. Counterattacking Ukrainian advances is the single highest-casualty pursuit of the Russian Army outside Bakhmut. If the map here is anything close to real, eking out a victory will cost Gerasimov’s last strength, while defeat will be decisive. If true, the wedge has widened; the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) hold the high ground; attrition being the whole point of Ukraine’s strategy, Gerasimov is giving them an opportunity to destroy his armies in detail.
According to WhereIsRussiaToday, an open source intelligence (OSINT) website that tracks the location of Russian forces and posted the above graphic on Twitter, “chronically undermanned and undersupplied” units “have been 'stacked' to the south of Robotyne and to the west of Verbove.” This deployment of forces represents “an attempt to provide defense in depth and buy exhausted Russian units a few days to recuperate.”
Prominent Russian milbloggers have also stated that several Russian units have refused to take up positions on the frontline. This likely factored in the decision to reinforce the sector with elements of the 76th Guards Air Assault Division, the same unit that committed atrocities in Bucha.
Being an airborne force, the 76th is doctrinally designed for rapid, lightly armored maneuver warfare. It is poorly suited to the intense, static and defensive fighting that is now expected of them. This presents an ideal chance for Ukrainian forces to severely deplete the 76th.
Although I cannot vouch for the graphic, it is totally consistent with Gerasimov's actual doctrine. Forget your hybrid warfare buzz, that is the sound of yet another Ukrainian drone. Gerasimov was never a military genius. He was only ever a corrupt warlord whose sole qualification was loyalty to Vladimir Putin. As I keep saying, this thing happening in Zaporizhzhia is a force-directed offensive. Speed, in this case, does not kill the most Russians. A storm of steel does. Pressure and time break armies.
"We have noted over the last 72 hours or so some notable progress by Ukrainian armed forces ...in that southern line of advance coming out of the Zaporizhzhia area, and they have achieved some success against that second line of Russian defenses," White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters today. What if he is right?
During the last 48 hours I noted a few accounts of Russian electronic warfare (EW) stations going up in smoke and fire. As a former Raven, to my eyes this appears to be electronic preparation of the battlefield. Systematically triangulating, targeting, and destroying EW removes jamming interference, improving the performance of loitering munitions and other drones as well as the performance of precision guided munitions (PGMs). Put simply, the UAF have shaped the most efficient battlefield for killing Russians.
It is still a battle. Russians are scoring hits too. Ukrainians are getting killed and wounded and concussed as well. Meanwhile, Russians come to them and die, or else huddle in holes and die. UAF hope to inflict a lopsided ratio of losses on depleted, disorganized, and dismayed Russian formations by leveraging all these available advantages. No doubt they intend to destroy the 76th Guards Air Assault Division altogether if they can. No doubt the 76th will not go quietly.
“For Ukrainian troops it is a literal shooting gallery of these units stacked up one after the other, ideally, probably, each one of them digging fighting positions, preparing to provide defense in depth,” says Paul of CombatVetNews. Known to his unit in Afghanistan as the ‘Shadow Commander’, Paul reacted to the WhereIsRussiaToday map on YouTube.
“If Ukraine can penetrate these lines and start to roll Russian forces by owning these defensive fortifications, these troops here are going to have a tough time,” Paul says of the Russian units massing in front of Tokmak, logistical keystone to Zaporizhzhia. Tokmak is visible from Robotyne, which is seventeen stories higher in elevation. “If they can’t create a fortification of trenches and concertina wire and dragon teeth, they may be creating it out of soldiers.” Every Russian in that stack is under artillery and drone observation.
In a number of recent videos, Paul has analyzed the Ukrainian advance as a strategy of flanking the so-called ‘Surovikin lines’, turning them into avenues of advance rather than obstacles. As tacticians have understood forever, once the enemy is inside of your trench it becomes much harder to stop him. First World War armies developed storming tactics and specialized teams for this sort of thing.
Expectation of such an approach accounts for the deployment out of Tokmak. “Now, if Ukraine pushes from the east” along those lines, “they will meet this wall of soldiers that can flank and come in around,” Paul says. This is doctrinally-sound defense, but it puts Russian reinforcements right where Ukrainians want them. Gerasimov’s doctrine here has the benefit of simplicity and the drawback of simplifying Ukrainian execution of doctrine and strategy.
If, again, this is all true. Who knows. Authoritative sources could possibly equivocate instead, and anonymous Pentagon agendas might concievably declare that Ukraine’s counteroffensive is dismayingly slow and dreadfully disappointing tomorrow morning on the front page of the Washington Post. (American military culture has its share of russiaboos.) Gerasimov’s gamble could even succeed. Not being gifted with foresight, I can only tell the reader what I, and other observers, are seeing from the other side of the world.
Still. Gerasimov is not a great military mind. He was never a genius of warfare hybridity, nor was he at all original in his 2013 speech that social media sensationalism titled ‘the Gerasimov doctrine.’ He was merely restating the Primakov doctrine, named for Yevgeny Primakov, Russia’s foreign minister during the years of humiliation after the Cold War. It is, as the United States European Command says, “a whole-of-government concept that fuses hard and soft power across many domains and transcends boundaries between peace- and wartime.” Permanent war, in other words.
According to historiography, that is warmed-over Russian imperialism. Everyone wants to cry and moan about imperialism, except for the Russian kind, because the Russian kind of empire rebels at the American hegemony of world order, and America is responsible for all the wars, everywhere, all the time.
A significant fraction of Americans also feels frustrated by the demands of global security. Why should the taxpayer provide ammunition for Ukraine indefinitely? How is this our business? After all, Ukraine is on Russia’s doorstep, just like 13 other countries sharing a border with the Russian empire, including the United States of America. What does this have to do with us?
Putin only has Gerasimov, Gerasimov only has Putin. Both of them are banking on the west getting exhausted before Russia. I do not think this will happen. They may as yet spread global war to Africa, in which case I look forward to the apologetics from Russophiles yammering about global peace. This outcome will hardly change the battlefield in Zaporizhzhia, however.
Yes, Russians have improved their decision and targeting cycles, improved at learning, refocused at counterbattery and other important tactical dimensions after going on 600 days of war. Yes, they are fighting with the advantage of sensor networks and defenses built up for many months. Ukraine is attacking those very things to impact Russian combat power all along the line of contact. Ukraine started out better at learning and improvising and has also gotten much better at those things ahead of Russia. That is telling on the battlefield right now — again, assuming this is all true.
Because look at that widening gap being cleared in the minefield. You know, the thick layer of protective mines, large and small, anti-personnel or anti-tank, sometimes as many as a dozen per square meter, that prevented rapid advance by mechanized forces still lacking air support. If this map is correct the Ukrainians are opening a great, big, yawning gap in that minefield. (Did I mention that M-1 Abrams tanks were recently spotted being rail-shipped into Ukraine? Who knows if that will even become relevant.) September 14th will be the 100th day, officially, of the Ukrainian push in Zaporizhzhia. Perhaps it will be a good day for Ukraine.
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