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Early Reports From Zaporizhzhia Front; Unhappy Poles
Before we get to reports from the war front, I’ll quickly reference the point that Alex Mercouris made this morning that sets out what this futile Ukrainian offensive is really all about. Mercouris cites a WaPo article by David Ignatius that begins with a bit of happy talk about the wonderful offensive, but the subtext is that the US is scrambling to use this to put a “frozen conflict” in place. A “frozen conflict”, of course, would mark an eastward advance of NATO. By contrast, in the last few days Russian spokesmen close to Putin have begun to openly speak of regime change in Kiev and even full annexation of all of Ukraine. Does that suggest to you that Russia will never, ever, accept a “frozen conflict”? Me, too. The big question for the long run is, When will Americans wake up to what’s going on in their names?
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With that in mind …
The early reports are coming in from the Zaporizhzhia front. That’s the area north of the sea of Azov that provides the “land bridge” to Crimea. The putative goal is to cut that land bridge and follow up with an offensive on Crimea—that’s if you believe Ukrainian propaganda. Here’s a simple map that highlights the Zaporizhzhia oblast in total (the northern portion of the oblast is not yet under Russian control) and illustrates its strategic position:
Last night it appears that the Ukrainians made a determined attempt at a breakthrough on the Russian defensive lines. For my money, in a big picture sense, Larry Johnson gets this right—what we can expect:
… the Ukrainians are short of men, tanks, artillery and close air support. They do not have the ability to sustain an offensive and Russian reserves, once deployed to fill the gaps, not only will stop the Ukrainian attack but will inflict massive casualties that will extinguish the Ukrainian attempt to force the Russians to abandon the war in Ukraine.
Big Serge makes an essential point (below) that, building off these Ukrainian military deficiencies, lays out the real problem. The early reports, as we’ll see, are that the Ukrainians have made little to no progress and have sustained massive casualties. But this point—that the Ukrainians haven’t even reached the Russians’ first echeloned defensive line—needs to be read and reread:
Overnight, the AFU assaulted Russian defenses south of Orikhiv with a large mechanized package including about 150 armored vehicles. There are no breaches, the Russian defense is fully intact, and AFU losses are substantial. Ukraine continues to pull forces in to attack.
7:46 AM · Jun 8, 2023
The thing to remember about the ongoing assaults is that Ukraine is currently fighting to *reach* the Russian fortified belts. All the current combat is taking place several kilometers north of the mapped out echeloned defense. They're currently stuck on the screening line.
10:17 AM · Jun 8, 2023
They have so far only committed a small portion of their total mech package, and I do expect them to make progress into the Russian defense, but it is an inauspicious start and it's not clear how they can sustain the combat power needed to reach operational depth objectives.
In other words, if things are going badly for the Ukrainians right now, just wait.
Mikael Valtersson makes the same point toward the end of a lengthy tweet from last night—one of several (I’ve corrected some of the English):
NEWS UPDATE & ANALYSIS UKRAINIAN COUNTEROFFENSIVE ZAPORIZHIA LATE NIGHT JUNE 8
It seems that the much awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive has started. Since yesterday a number of waves with ukrainian units has attacked the Russian positions south and southwest of Orikhiv. The fighting has been very hard but the Ukrainian forces have made only minor gains and according to my Russian sources there seems to have been heavy casualities on both sides, but especially on the Ukrainian side. The Russian MoD will probably claim several thousand killed Ukrainians and 50-100 destroyed ukrainian combat vehicles later today.
After several unsuccessfull assaults yesterday with limited artillery support the UkrAF [Armed Forces, not Air Force] spent a couple of hours long massive artillery barrage on the Russian forward positions before resuming attacks during the night but to no avail. For the time being no attacks are ongoing, but large Ukrainian formations are in position for resumed attacks. The attacks will probably resume in a couple of hours.
I believe the Ukrainian side is disappointed with the lack of progress. They must break through not only the first Russian defence line but a large number of defence lines behind the first one. To achieve success the Ukrainian side cannot spend many days with huge losses to break through each defence line.
The coming three or four days might be some of the most important days in 2023 when it comes to the war. If UkrAF doesn't succeed in breaking through the Russian defences and suffer massive casualities during the attempts the summer offensive will be shortlived and a failure. If on the other side Ukrainian forces do break through they have to take on the next defence line and it's starting over again. The only way Ukraine can achieve a significant success is if the Russian forces collapse under pressure from the attacks and panic spreads. But that doesn't seem likely at the moment.
Ukraine must get a significant success during the offensive to make it worth the costs. A failure will change the perception of the RuAF both in the West but also in the rest of the world. The likelihood of a Ukrainian military victory will disappear. Pressure both within the western countries, but also from the west towards Ukraine, will increase on negotiations to solve the conflict. On the other hand a victorious Russia might want to go for a military victory instead of negotiations and use a Ukrainian defeat for an major offensive.
Now watch Valtersson say the same thing Larry Johnson said. The only difference is that Johnson said it up front and Valtersson waits till the end of his long tweet:
For the time going I'm inclined to believe that the most likely outcome is a Ukrainian defeat. They have no surprise or numerical superiority and faces an enemy with superiority in artillery and air power who awaits them in well prepared fortifications. It looks a lot like the battle of Kursk in 1943. When the Third Reich throw all their reserves in an offensive against well prepared Soviet defences and used up all of their carefully gathered reserves during a couple of weeks, without any major success.
Here’s the official Russian version:
Today at 1.30 am in the Zaporozhye direction, the enemy attempted to break through the defense with the forces of the 47th mechanized brigade, numbering up to 1,500 people and 150 armored vehicles.
The enemy was detected in a timely manner, and a preventive strike was delivered by artillery, aviation and anti-tank weapons. During the two-hour battle, Ukrainian losses amounted to 30 tanks, 11 infantry fighting vehicles, up to 350 people.
The enemy was stopped in all four directions and retreated with heavy losses. The reserve forces specially trained by Kiev to carry out a breakthrough in the Zaporozhye direction did not fulfill their task.
7:49 AM · Jun 8, 2023
Turning to Poland, because it’s a key country for the American Empire’s war on Russia. I listened to the first part of a Youtube by Ania K (Polish) with the two Duran guys. Some readers may be aware that over the weekend there were massive demonstrations throughout Poland. I haven’t actually seen any account of what was behind these demonstrations, beyond general unhappiness with high inflation, government scandals, and the flood of Ukrainians into Poland.
That last point is exactly the bee in Ania K’s bonnet. She sees this flood of Ukrainians essentially changing Poland, including the government’s plan to give the vote to Ukrainians in the November elections. In that is the irony of Polish participation in the war on Russia. Poles—something like 80%—were initially enthusiastic about the war, and Poland has been a key part of the American war plan—Polish training, Polish weapons transfers, Poland as conduit for arms and munitions to Ukraine, Polish personnel in Ukrainian uniforms. The Poles initially welcomed the flood of Ukrainians, but Poles are now increasingly and vocally withdrawing the welcome mat for those newcomers. The number of Ukrainians in Poland, concentrated in urban areas, is reaching the level at which “assimilation” will be a pipe dream.
Meanwhile, Poland has been rhetorically attacking not only Russia but has also been busily burning bridges with most of its NATO allies, whom it considers to be slackers—or worse: Germany, Hungary, Norway, France. The irony I spoke of is this: The Polish plan for revenge against Russia turns out to be to commit a form of national suicide. The government plan to distract attention from this has been to openly announce its plan to become the greatest European military power—as if the Polish economy could ever support such a crazy ambition. Among other problems. The Russians must be having a good laugh over all this—perhaps, especially, at Poles destroying the country that they inherited from the USSR via a Ukrainian potop, deluge. No doubt Russia will be watching the Polish elections—still months away—very closely.
Today, still speaking of Poland, there’s an article in the NYT that, in essence, calls on the US to push for regime change in Warsaw—certainly a “fundamental transformation” of Poland. These are the authors of Poland Isn’t the Friend the West Thinks It Is:
Jaroslaw Kuisz is the editor in chief of the Polish weekly Kultura Liberalna and the author of “The New Politics of Poland.” Karolina Wigura (@KarolinaWigura) is a board member of the Kultura Liberalna Foundation in Warsaw and the co-author of “A Polish Atheist Versus a Polish Catholic.” Both are senior fellows at the Center for Liberal Modernity in Berlin.
For now the US has to live with Poland as it is—which is definitely not as Kuisz and Wigura would like it to be. But, the unrest we’re starting to see in Poland—including second thoughts about the Polish adventure in Ukraine that is transforming and dividing their country—could be just the beginning in Europe.