The Russian armed forces obviously didn’t expect much resistance. I get the distinct impression that they had believed their own ridiculous propaganda (always a characteristic of dumb-arse dictatorships) and expected the Ukrainians to fall weeping in gratitude at their liberation. That clearly didn’t happen.
So now they have been pulling more forces out of the reserves to push into surrounding the Ukrainian cities. Presumably they are also pulling in more forces up the border.
The level of resistance does make the Russian claims of a lack of support for their actions look just silly, even in Russian language dominated Kharkiv with its 1.4 million inhabitants.
So, having started this war and despite how silly Putin looks now, I’m expecting that he will escalate the atrocities. So far the bombardment tools hitting residential and civilian targets appear to have largely been due to poor accuracy and outright military incompetence. Pretty much what you’d expect from a largely conscript armed forces poorly trained.
Those large numbers of conscript troops are now his liability. Kill too many of them with military decisions, that resemble those really dumb decisions made by Stalin or Hitler during WW2, and the body bags get hard to conceal. Especially from worried parents and siblings.
It doesn’t look like this invasion has too much support inside the Russian Federation anyway. Probably less after the Russian rouble has plummeted through the floor as a result of financial sanctions, raised interest rates already to 3rd world rates, and will soon have immediate impacts on living costs. That is also going to make it hard to keep supplying an invasion army – because those go through resources and stockpiles at a truly ridiculous rate and require expensive resupplies.
The particularly interesting part of the sanctions has been to to chop about half of the Russian state foreign currency reserves out of their control by freezing them. Of course they can still sell their gold stockpiles – but that will start to depress the value of that asset as well.
Putin and the Russian Federation government have now worked themselves into a cleft stick. Invading a country that wasn’t ready to fall into the hands of Mother Russia, getting an unprecedented unity of response from most other major nations with the exception of China, and with a economy now under a lot more strain. Rather than withdrawing, I’d expect that they will just go for more stupidity.
I’d expect that the next stage will be urban bombardment using artillery, missiles, and air attacks of the cities to try to break resistance before committing the main body of the surrounding forces. So far it sounds like, in most cities, that only ground scouting and reconnaissance troops have been probing and getting thrown back.
Given the known inaccuracies and lack of precision of usage of the Russian weaponry that has been displayed in this conflict as well as in the past. I’d expect that deliberately or not, the Russians will wind up hitting civilian areas massively. That is before they start trying to send armour and troops in.
Urban warfare favours defence even with offence by trained professional troops. Conscript troops really aren’t very good at it. So I’d expect that the usual response to any resistance will be to waste whole areas of civilian buildings with artillery, tank fire, rockets, cluster bombs, fuel-air weapons and only as a last resort – troops.
The problem is that doing this invariably kills civilians in mass lots, often by accident, also often as deliberate state terror policy. It always produces a free-fire zone mentality amongst poorly trained troops – and the consequent atrocities as poorly trained troops murder or rape civilians trying to shelter.
It also produces rubble to assist snipers and anti-tank missiles, IADs, and invading troops running into a meat-grinder. The rate of attrition on military stockpiles is also also intense.
This isn’t exactly a mystery. It has happened in just about every urban conflict for the last two centuries.
The fault always lies with the invaders. In this case the Russians don’t have the moral high ground of responding to an invasion of their country as they had in WW2. This time they are clearly the aggressor and no amount of propaganda can conceal that. But I am sure we will have some of their local idiotic apologists try.
But I suspect that atrocities and state terrorism will be the deliberate choice that Putin and his Russian regime will take. So far it seems like that have had no interest in leaving a nation to make its own decisions about its future.
The rest of the world needs to start escalating sanctions up, supporting Ukraine with more weapons, and moving troops towards the borders of Ukraine, Belarus, and the pocket of Kaliningrad. Because when the atrocities start and start showing up, there will be immense internal pressure from citizens to make damn sure that Putin’s style of military adventurism doesn’t get rewarded – or come to their countries.
Better to deal with aggression now rather than suffer the effects of yet another damn general European war.