The Russian army in the Ukrainian conflict: what first lessons?

The Russian army was thought out and designed for a war of destruction of the armed forces of NATO, not for a war of occupation on a territory as vast as that of Ukraine. This is one of the many paradoxes of this army: it can atomize Europe or the United States a thousand times, but, for lack of conventional forces in sufficient numbers, it stalls for three months in front of the defense lines of the Ukrainian army.
While the revival of the Russian war against Ukraine is part of the long term, C. Gloaguen presents a remarkably documented picture of the Russian army.

”  The military factor has played and will continue to play an important role in securing Russian interests in the international arena  “
Igor Ivanov, former Russian Foreign Minister (Krasnaya Zvezda of November 19, 1996)

“The peculiarity of modern Nazified Ukraine is its amorphous and ambivalent nature, which allows Nazism to hide behind a yearning for ‘independence’ and a ‘European’ path of ‘development’ (in reality, degradation). (Western, pro-American).
Dmitry Medvedev, former President of the Russian Federation (quoted by F. Thom)

L‘UKRAINE will not have been taken in a few days, the Zelensky government after some shelling and a helicopter assault on Hostomel airport on the morning of February 24, 2022 will not have fled abroad after ordering the Ukrainian armed forces (FAU) to lay down their arms. On the contrary, three months after the start of the conflict, the FAU are still resisting the attacks of a Russian army that is nevertheless superiorly equipped, after having succeeded in forcing the latter to considerably modify its initial position. For specialists of the Russian forces, the surprise is significant. While most were not unaware of the progress made by the FAU since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, all, foreigners as well as French, soldiers as well as civilians, on the other hand, overestimated their capacity to reduce Ukrainian resistance in the short, very political time required by the Kremlin. How could they not have been wrong? This Russian army, as the major strategic exercises of the last ten years have shown, especially the last two,Zapad and Vostok , is indeed supposed to have an impressive offensive and defensive power across the tactical to strategic spectrum, unique in geographical Europe, or even in the world. Hasn’t this army achieved the feat of deploying in a few months along the border with Ukraine from units sometimes based more than 9,000 km from their area of ​​operation some 150,000 men and thousands armour? All of this, it will be retorted, is only a matter of peacetime logistics and in no way shows the real capacities of this army to fight a determined adversary, equipped and trained in Western style, any more than it does showed these multiple ”  endogamous ” exercises » against a fictitious enemy fighting within the framework of a pre-established tactical plan and national force employment doctrines. Certainly. But would it not be committing the opposite excess by seeing in this Russian army, under the effect of the emotion and the failures, real or supposed, that it encountered in these first months of the conflict, only a ”  Potemkin village  ” or a ”  fantasized military power »? If many sources rightly evoke an army and officers living in a vacuum, hiding behind a nationalist discourse deeply rooted in the Soviet past tactics, command procedures and very formatted training, some even say ossified, let us recognize that this army is not that of a Third World country, but an army structured around a strong military culture, whose roots go deep into centuries-old traditions, which in the past, including recent ones, knew how to produce employment doctrines and innovative armaments, demonstrate resilience, tactical and strategic surprise, and thought to accomplish combined arms and joint combat missions in a gigantic geographical space. Operations in Syria since the 2010s,It remains to be seen whether this Russian army is large enough to face an adversary the size of Ukraine (603,548 square km). Its weak points – or judged such by Western observers – are known, and the Ukrainian conflict only confirms certain biases and shortcomings often highlighted in the past.

During the process of planning its commitment, it can be estimated from the yardstick of recent events that the General Staff (EMG) in Moscow misjudged the following key factors  :

1 the determination of Ukrainian politicians and soldiers not to give in to the politico-military pressures initiated at the start of 2021,
2 the level of reception expected from the Russian-speaking populations (passive/active resistance),
3 the excellence of the preparation for combat of the FAU,
4 the extent of Western aid, particularly in terms of intelligence, training and the delivery of modern weapons,
5 the cohesion of Westerners once the entry of Russian forces into Ukrainian territory has been consummated,
6 the asymmetry between its vital interests and those of Westerners,
7the determination of its soldiers, in particular the conscripts, to fight a pseudo “Ukrainian enemy” fabricated from scratch by propaganda, but in no way internalized by the simple soldier.

To explain the passage to the act (invasion of Ukrainian territory), four scenarios (there are surely others) can be put forward in the same way, most of which can overlap or complement each other:

1 the General Staff (EMG) identified all the risk factors, in whole or in part, but considered that they could be overcome, thus prejudging a weak resistance of the FAU and the capacities of the Russian forces to encircle the FAU in the Donbass pocket from the south and the north (auto-intoxication and/or faulty intelligence) = credibility level 3/3

1a the EMG perfectly identified the difficulties of destroying the Ukrainian army, but launched the offensive all the same, the anticipated gains being judged by the Kremlin greater than the foreseeable human and material losses = 2/3

2 the EMG had to yield to the pressures of a political power which saw in the politico-economic, social and health situation in Europe and in the United States at the end of 2021 a window of opportunity to be seized (scenario ”  in the Crimean style  ”) and in the latest political measures taken by Kyiv a threat to be urgently addressed. Surprised by the order of the Kremlin to enter Ukraine, some units would not have been ready for combat (in particular those coming from the Central and Eastern military regions (RM) and those which had been in maneuver for several weeks) = 1/3

3 the Russian military leaders thought, like the political power, that the use of force would be useless insofar as the pressures on the borders would be enough to bend Kyiv. Therefore, they did not really prepare the units for combat = 1/3

Once given the political green light, the window of intervention ( in fact, a reactivation of the conflict that began in 2014 ) is narrow. This green light is given on December 1, 2021 when V. Putin makes his “security guarantees” public , or even as early as September 2020, the date of the publication of the new Ukrainian security strategy. The Zapad strategic exercise ended on September 16, 2021 and, after a short period of reconditioning, the Russian army is starting to carry out a series of maneuvers (see table G below ) until the exercise “  Determination of the Union -2022  which is held from February 10 to 20, 2022 in Belarus and which will serve as cover for the start of operations on February 24, 2022. Why this end of February? First of all, for the Kremlin, it is advisable to wait for the answers to the demands (quasi-ultimatum) sent to Western diplomats ( the text sent by S. Lavrov to the European and American chancelleries dates from December 17, 2021 ). However , these military-diplomatic pressures supposed to avoid war, which in fact began at the end of the first quarter of 2021, are, as we have said, at the heart of the scenario of annexation / demilitarization of Ukraine. The Western responses, like that of Kyiv, are not only negative, but some European governments are accelerating from mid-January 2022 their deliveries of ammunition, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to the FAU. The military offensive is decided (see scenario 1 above).


Box 1

Two variants of the intervention were planned by the EMG: the first envisaged the concentration of the entire group of Russian forces in Donbass and a second which would have seen the Russian forces attack on four axes (Kherson, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Chernihiv ) in order to cut off the 60,000 FAU present in Donbass from their reinforcements (260,000h). It is this variant that is retained which also has the advantage of quickly seizing the seat of government: Kyiv. It should be noted that the relevance of the latter was further justified on March 25 by the Chief of Operations of the EMG, General Roudskoy, when the army was preparing to return to the first scenario, that of the frontal attack in Donbass.


For its part, the “Operations” staff of the EMG ( Glavnoe Operativnoe Upravlenie G. Sh ), which commands the device from Moscow, is asking for time to move from the “training/gesticulations” posture which has prevailed until now. to an “intervention” posture: it must accelerate the deployment of units to their prepositioning zones with their logistics, support and ad hoc ammunition/fuel, prepare the first strikes/first military actions before synchronizing the maneuver of the units assigned to the five axes of penetration (including that of the Donbass), the units of the navy, the army aviation and the army of the ‘Air. The offensive must also begin as long as the ground is still sufficiently frozen to allow, if necessary, the deployment of armored vehicles off the roads (see below), but before the thaw – the raspoutitsa– spring which usually occurs in northern Ukraine around mid-March before the heavy rains. Finally, the contingent recruited in October 2021 must be sufficiently seasoned (essentially support) to participate in operations alongside the April contingent, and the campaign completed before the latter is released from its obligations, i.e. towards the end of March 2022. Other time constraint factors: the evacuation of the populations of Donbass, which must be carried out all the more quickly as it signs the Russian decision to intervene, and the need to respect the request of the Chinese government to not to trigger the operation before the end of the Beijing Games.

The narrative that suggests poor preparation of the Russian army (lack of troops, materials/equipment, spare parts, fuel, etc.) does not stand up to analysis  : the volume of training carried out at the Ukrainian borders , in particular those of the professional units, has indeed been considerable since the beginning of 2021 (see below table G) while, over this same period, the reinforcements in equipment and ammunition of the units of the MR West and South have never ceased . Scenario 1) above therefore seems, a posteriori, most likely. Possibly associated with a destabilization operation by the Ukrainian government, this scenario alone explains the logistical under-dimensioning of the operation, this dilution of the system into five axes from north to south, the low number of personnel involved (150,000h) in a more extended than France, the presence behind melee units of National Guard troops ( generally used for maintaining order in cities), these columns of light units (4×4 Tigr, BTR-82) preceding the heavy units and the artillery, the importance of the Russian deployment north of Kyiv (4 AIA and 1 CA), the quasi-suicidal helicopter assault on the morning of February 24, 2022 against Hostomel and the fact that the Russian army was obviously instructed in the first days of the conflict to take strategic economic infrastructures intact, such as airports, roads and ports or, least, to strike them gradually in order to increase the pressure on the Ukrainian government and avoid alienating the populations. Finally, it is not prohibited to think that the Belarusian army, which for a year has not stopped training alongside its Russian counterpart, in particular during Zapad and Determination of the Union-2022, was also to intervene in the conflict and strengthen the system north of Kyiv. Some statements made by President Lukashenko at the end of 2021 suggest that this Belarusian involvement may have been planned for a time.


Box 2

A word on the politico-military pressures just mentioned. These are intended to achieve a political result by keeping the military commitment to a strict minimum. They must be perceived as a phase of the conflict and not as an act external to this conflict. Russia has been at war with Ukraine since at least December 1, 2021, the date of V. Putin’s speech mentioned above. Associated with various tools of indirect coercion ( informational sphere, cyber, nuclear threats, diplomacy, destabilization of political regimes , etc.), the main one being the “migration crisis” artificially organized at the end of 2021 by Moscow and Minsk, these pressures are d elsewhere theorized as such (phase of a conflict ) by the Russian force employment doctrine for several years, at least since the speech delivered by General Gerasimov in 2013 (strategy of coercion or “  new generation warfare  ”). The Crimea and Donbass affair, in 2014-2015, was only a pale repetition of this and Syria a training ground for unit commanders who have been found since February 24, 2022 from the suburbs from kyiv to Kherson, from Mariupol to Severodonetsk.


The Russian intervention in Ukraine represents, after Transnistria, Georgia ( South Ossetia and Abkhazia ), Crimea/Donbass, Karabakh, Central Asia and Belarus, the last link in a policy of “recomposition of the ‘Russian empire’ theorized as early as 1993 ( near abroad doctrine ), but in fact already visible as early as 1992 in the creation of the CIS ( and its military counterpart which later became the CSTO in the early 2000s) and in the interventions in Abkhazia (1992-93) and Transnistria. This policy accelerated with the two wars in Chechnya, then the refusal to withdraw from Transnistria despite the signing by Moscow in November 1999 of the OSCE agreements in Istanbul, before being in some way “formalized” by the speeches of V Putin in 2006 in Tashkent then in 2007 in Munich. This is a stubborn process, but deliberately slow for economic reasons ( not to frighten foreign investors, to strengthen the industrial base, Europeans’ dependence on gas/oil, etc.) and domestic policies ( need to maintain a balance between military budgets and “civilian” and external budgets (drown aggression/annexation in trade and diplomacy ). Its engine is just as much ideological ( the countries from the former USSR continue to be perceived by Moscow through the prism of the unity of the Soviet territory ) as economic, geopolitics being dependent on this last aspect: the territory Russia being geographically separated from the major world economic poles, it is a question of “bringing it closer” to open up to industries, mainly linked to the sectors of the extraction of raw materials and armaments, and to diplomacy a maneuvering space. Russian interventionism in the post-Soviet space also aimsto prevent any appearance on Russia’s borders of independent political regimes, especially democratic ones, which would lead to a break with the Russian political-business networks ( flagrant cases of Georgia and Ukraine ); to control the gas and oil export routes to the European Union; to push its neighbors to join the military-economic spaces controlled by Moscow ( Eurasian Economic Union, CIS, CSTO, ADIZ communes, etc.). The annexation of Crimea in 2014 thus made possible the Syria operation, which, in turn, enabled Russian implantation in Africa. This policy is naturally reinforced by generalized practices of corruption of foreign political and economic elites, military posturing using nuclear vectors in particular, destabilization of the EU and NATO, preferably for bilateral dialogue, etc. The Ukrainian conflict marks a turning point in this policy which, until then, had never really been curbed.

Any end to the conflict is, for Moscow, unthinkable, in particular for the following reasons:

1 Ukraine because of the large number of Russian speakers, the inclinations of a large part of the general population to emancipate themselves from the Soviet ( and therefore Russian ) heritage ( political, industrial, linguistic and cultural ) , the democratic nature of its political regime oriented towards the experience of the CEECs, its economy, its outlets on the Black Sea between Abkhazia and Transnistria/Balkans, its ports, its natural resources, etc. cannot be allowed to leave the Russian zone of influence,

2 the collective hysteria unleashed by the Kremlin’s propaganda against Ukraine has reached an unprecedented level of violence which will seek as far as possible the dismemberment of the country, the destruction of its culture, even the annihilation of part of its population ( see recent statements by Patriarch Cyril, former President D. Medvedev and this pamphlet published by T. Sergeyitsev in RIA Novosti on April 3, 2022 ),

3 the Kremlin seeks to absorb the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine to compensate for the weakness of Russian demography,

4 V. Putin cannot, without threatening his power and, therefore, the balance of  the “empire  “, bring his army back to its barracks without significant geopolitical gains to present to the families of the thousands of soldiers killed or wounded.

5 This conflict united the population around the Kremlin against a backdrop of a sluggish economy and Western sanctions which were beginning to produce their effects.

Therefore, barring a military setback of course (see below), this conflict should go to the end chosen by Moscow, whatever it is, and no one can say how many men and equipment Russia will accept to sacrifice to achieve its goal or goals. policies, how far she is ready to go to defeat on her borders a country which , in her eyes , represents a mortal danger for her vital interests and the nature of her political regime. How many months or even years she will devote to it. This question is the only valid one, even if, of course, it hides multiple pitfalls, not just military ones, which can at any time – let’s be lucid after being surprised – tip the conflict in a direction contrary to the interests of the Kremlin. Uncertainty is more important than ever, despite the recent successes of the Russian army in Donbass. Finally, let us agree that this conflict, which pits two former member countries of the USSR against each other, of which Russian is a common language, which share multiple civilizational, military, religious, family and ethnic ties, some of whose armaments are (with the exception of Z or V!), has unique characteristicswhich do not make it a repeat of a conflict between Russia and NATO, even less of the wars in Syria and Georgia.

What is the Russian army?

These last questions and remarks are, however, more political than military. On the ground, the Russian army is experiencing undeniable setbacks . Therefore, a question arises: does this army have the means not only to continue the fight, but also to achieve the war goals set by the Kremlin, in particular and at a minimum , the annexation of the oblasts of Lugansk and Donetsk, the preservation of the conquered areas in the Kherson region and the crushing of the Ukrainian army in Donbass?

The primary mission of the Russian armed forces is the defense of the national territory, even if NATO, on the western borders, and the United States on the eastern borders (Bering/North Pacific and Arctic), continue to be perceived as existential threats. to the point of shaping the very structure of melee units (strong predominance of artillery/missile and armored units), of the navy (nuclear submarines) and of strategic air defence. This perception of NATO as a threat is also a ”  psychological bias  ” which the current generals have inherited from the Soviet army: Russia, heir to the powerful USSR, cannot talk otherwise with NATO and, above all, with the United States than on an equal footing . This is a first point and an important point. Its conventional means are deployed, as we know, within five major joint strategic commands ( Military Regions (RM) west, south, center and east and a major strategic command / OSK around the Northern Fleet) which cover the entire territory and whose role is to repel any external incursion, each RM, if necessary, coming to help its neighbor according to a domino logic. This is what we are witnessing in Ukraine. In the event of a conflict, these structures are transformed into a regional command level having control over all the means of the State up to the level of the administrations (border guards, National Guard, Ministry of Civil Security, etc.), banks , companies … The available forces not allowing to cover the whole of this enormous territory of 17 million km2, units of the 1st echelon ( see Mobil’nost’-2004 , for example, the 1st great projection exercise), of which the VDV units (Parachute Troops/Air Assault) and the Marine Troops constitute the core, were created, capable of projecting themselves over several thousand kilometers in less than 24 hours. The capacity gaps that appear due to the insufficient number of transport aircraft (VTA) are filled by the means of the Railway Troops.

Officially, the 2011-2020 National Armaments Plan/Military Programming Law (PNA) ended in success, the serious dysfunctions of the past having been corrected before being submitted to the verdict of 11 major strategic exercises and two times more unannounced exercises, sometimes on a larger scale. The responsiveness of the forces, their training, the command structures, the level of professionalization, etc. have been the subject of all care, while the traditional areas of excellence ( ground-air defense, artillery, infantry weapons, GE, attack and maneuver helicopters, strategic nuclear, rail transport, satellites, tanks of fight) have been further strengthened. Emphasis was placed on the replacement of the oldest equipment (there were many of them), the creation of a modern C4ISR and the digitization of the battle space, an aspect particularly highlighted during the Syrian campaign and by all the latest arms fairs. A certain capacity for power projection has been regained thanks, for example, to the entry into service of new air-to-surface missiles Kh-101 and Kh-47M2 Kinzhal , surface-to-surface SS-26 Iskander and sea-to-surface of the family of the Kalibrsof the navy. The segment of combat drones which, at the beginning of the 2010s depended almost exclusively on Israeli machines, has been equipped with several national models ranging from the small tactical drone to the MALE type drone. The protection of approaches and borders, in particular the coasts (Coastal Navy Troops), has not been forgotten and these have been protected thanks to the deployment of modern anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles ( S-400/S-350, Bastion-P system, etc. ). The whole is reinforced by very well-established and effective practices of ”  new generation warfare  ” (hybrid), according to the expression used in 2013, as we have seen, by the CEMG, General Gerasimov (media, propaganda, disinformation, inversion of the aggressor/aggressor discourse, legitimization of military action by international law, nuclear threats, etc. ). Finally, these armed forces can be deployed in all environments: amphibious, airborne, mountain and arctic.

Table A. Structures of the Russian Armed Forces in 2022
Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the table. Realization C. Gloaguen for Diploweb.com
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In terms of its general organization, this army is approaching the turn of the 2010s and “the Shoigu years” after several failed reform attempts, underfunding, doctrinaire comings and goings, and a five-day war in Georgia (2008) which showed its poor tactical and operational level. In 2009, as part of the reforms of A. Serdioukov, the old Soviet organization (military region, army, division and regiment) gives way to a tripartite organization: operational-strategic command (RM/OSK) – operational command (AIA) – brigade. The divisional level is abolished and the Army reorganized into light, medium (BFM) and heavy (armoured) combined arms brigades to which are added, in greater or lesser number depending on the geographical areas, specialized support brigades (engineering ,The reform was obtained at the cost of a drastic, unprecedented reduction in units and officer ranks  : the Army fell from 1980 to 172 units, the Air Force from 340 to 180 and the Navy from 240 at 123 . The officer corps is divided by 2.5 (355,000 to 150,000), the rejuvenation of executives being sought, as well as the professionalization of the corps of non-commissioned officers. At the same time, the number of civilian personnel, a revealing fact, is preserved. 85 so-called ”  integral  ” brigades, that is to say in operational readiness ( postoyannaya gotovnost’ ), were created in the Army, compared to only 6 operational divisions in 2008, while the ”  executive units ” disappeared. » which are dissolved or transformed into material warehouses . The military regions and the combined arms armies respectively become operational-strategic and operational commands (see above). With the arrival in 2012 at the head of the ministry of S. Choïgou, the divisional level is recreated leading, in fact, to the existence today of a mixed system. Finally, in the logistics component, reforms have been ongoing since 2016 with the aim of replacing the army’s 330 warehouses and storage bases with 24 ”  production and logistics sets  ” (PLK) whose construction and management are the subject of partnerships between the Ministry of Defense and the private sector.

This official showcase, imposing by the magnitude of the effort made, has, however, suffered from a few hiccups.

In fact, and despite an undeniable increase in “defence” budgets, the PNA-2011-2020 cannot escape the deterioration of economic indices during its implementation period . After a severe recession in 2009 (-7.5%) followed by some recovery, the economy sank again in 2014 (-8% with inflation at 10%) due to low commodity prices and Western sanctions (Crimean diplomatic crisis). Companies indebted in dollars are experiencing investment problems and are asking for help from the State, which is thus losing significant budgetary income. The real income of the population falls by 10% between 2014 and 2018and the budget is only rarely balanced with a barrel whose price keeps fluctuating. GDP rose a little in 2018 ($1653 billion compared to 2258 at the peak in 2013) before collapsing again during the COVID-19 crisis. These economic factors, coupled with the undeniable difficulties of the BITD in developing new armaments, forced the General Staff to establish priorities in its budgets and in its choice of equipment. While the nuclear triad remains a priority (10% of budgets) and the professionalization of units imposes a substantial increase in salaries and balances, new weapons are certainly put into service, but which mainly benefit elite units. Very early in this NAP, we thus witness policies for the modernization of old equipment, in particular aircraft and armored vehicles. For its part, the navy is increasingly taking on the aspect of a fleet of small corvettes/OPVs armed with sea-to-ground missiles capable of supporting land operations, while, paradoxically, for reasons of prestige and preservation of the global tonnage in the international rankings, large useless and ruinous ships like the Kirovs , the Slavas or the PA Kouznetsov are modernized even though this navy is sorely lacking in frigates. At the same time, the political power made the choice, just as much for political as for social reasons, to keep many defense industries artificially alive (a major supplier of Putin voters such as the armies) which, in a competitive ecosystem, would have been closed. At the same time, certain technical skills, production and R&D capacities, particularly naval ones, are captured by the more profitable hydrocarbon extraction sector. From 2014, the BITD also suffered the full brunt of Western sanctions ( difficulties in financing the modernization of their capital) and the severing of very close industrial ties with Ukraine. Corruption, endemic, persists, causing the evaporation of billions of rubles each year, while the MINDEF multiplies the lawsuits against companies, a sign that they are not respecting production schedules. These multiple factors, as under the USSR, go against the rationalization of equipment purchasing policies. We thus witness from the beginning in the 2010s the appearance in each niche of equipmentphenomena of telescoping/overlapping of the new programs between themselves and with the modernization programs of old armaments. Some are launched for the specific needs of this or that army/army, or even other competing ministries and services (Ministry of Emergency Situations, National Guard, FSB Coast Guard, etc.) without much apparent concern for rationalization. On February 24, 2022, the “land forces” (Army, National Guard, VDV, Border Guard, Marine Troops and Special Forces, PVO troops) thus entered Ukrainian territory equipped with several hundred models of vehicles, of LRM, guns and various armaments using different ammunition, tires, oils and fuels, transmission systems, spare parts. The battle tank component alone includes, for example, three different models themselves available in several versions. For their part, the air forces, in the absence of truly versatile aircraft, began operations with at least eight types of aircraft: Mig-29, Su-27, Su-30SM and Su-35 for hunting, Su- 24 and Su-34 for bombing and the Su-25 and Mig-31K for assault/fire support. Combat and utility helicopters are just as numerous. The examples could be multiplied. A real nightmare for logistics and a chain of MCOs forced to follow melee units at the start of the conflict over several hundred kilometers in enemy territory and on several axes of progression (Kiev, Kharkov / Sumy, Donbass and South), each spaced several hundred kilometers. Even if each front/axis was backed by one or more combined arms armies, themselves supported by their military region of origin, the logistical challenge could only be enormous when the FAU put up resistance.

The 2011-2020 NAP is, despite the difficulties encountered, an undeniable success which makes the Russian army the leading army in Europe and gives a glimpse of its physiognomy by 2030-35.

Table B. Models of battle tanks present in the Ukrainian conflict
Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the table. Realization C. Gloaguen for Diploweb.com

To these internal dysfunctions are added geographical and political constraints encountered, for some, since at least the second part of the 19th century and which are all traditional elements of dilution of Russian military power:

enormity of a territory to be protected/covered extending over 11 time zones with strong climatic disparities  need to design specific armaments (x costs), adapted to these different theaters ( Arctic, Baltic, central Europe, sea of Barents, Black/Caspian Sea, Central Asia, Caucasus, Pacific ),

instability/threats/hostility from certain neighboring countries requiring the creation of border bases and regular interventions, particularly in the Caucasus and Central Asia,

the need in the face of NATO, the “target” enemy, to “mass” that is to say to keep in units/parks thousands of armored vehicles and weapon systems, numerous personnel,

need to equip certain ministries and force services with specific weapons (dilution of budgets, R&D),

preservation, finally, for patronage reasons, of a large number of military industries by niche (see above).

In February 2022, it is therefore a partially modernized and rejuvenated army, but of which a third of the workforce is made up of conscripts and which retains the rather fixed structure, very characteristic of Soviet units, where mechanized, armored and military units predominate. artillery designed for a fight against NATO, outside and inside Russian territory, which is embarking on the conflict. Important fact (see below): about two thirds of these armed forces ( coastal missile troops, PVO/PRO troops, navy, military bases abroad, RVSN , etc.) are not made up of forces that can be projected on the ground Ukrainian because assigned to the defense of a geographical area, borders or strategic infrastructure.

To conclude this brief presentation, it is appropriate, at this level of the analysis, to ask whether this imposing army, sized to fight and deter NATO, is able to respond effectively to the Kremlin’s expansion policy in the post-Soviet space . At first glance , the answer is yes. Undoubtedly. It has a number, as we have just seen, of more modern offensive and defensive weapons and equipment than those of all its potential adversaries put together and well-trained professional forces. Yet the facts are stubborn : it took her six years (1999 to 2006) to destroy the Chechen guerrillas, she won in Georgia (2008) only laboriously, with more success in Crimea (2014), but more difficultly in Donbass (2014- 15). As for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, one can rightly wonder if the step was simply not too high.

The Ukrainian conflict, too high a step?

The relaunch of this war in Ukraine (2022) is the first high-intensity war in which the Russian army has been engaged since its official creation in 1992. This is a first point. The Syrian conflict involved only limited forces (5000 h.), the bulk of the troops on the ground being made up of foreign troops (Syrians, Iranians, etc.). ( For obvious reasons, this Russian army does not coincide with the entire Soviet army, I do not go back beyond 1992 and do not take into account either the Second World War or the Afghan conflict, even if the traditions Russian military, like those of all the armies of the former USSR, naturally plunge into these two conflicts ). If this Russian army, second point, dominates its adversary by the mass of its equipment, it is, paradoxically inferior in terms of committed human numbers (see table C), the Ukrainian army having a (very) clear advantage here.

Table C. Russian and Ukrainian troops involved in the conflict (February-May 2022)
Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the table. Realization C. Gloaguen for Diploweb.com

The FAU are, moreover, perfectly organized between regular troops, territorial forces and volunteers/reservists, have on the morning of February 24, 2022 powerful and well-equipped mechanized forces, fight on their soil, and have been preparing since 2015 for a conflict with a enemy she knows well. The axes of penetration have been identified, fortified, trapped on certain sections ( anti-tank mines, IED chains ), in particular facing the Donbass. The immense Ukrainian territory (see map below), interspersed with rivers, plains, marshes, covered with forests, where roads are rare and where Russian power is diluted, further adds to the difficulties. Still, the number of personnel has never made the value of an army, especially in modern conflicts.

Map of Ukraine. North-south and east-west distances from the battlefield
MAE base map. Calculations by C. Gloagen. The non-integration of Crimea in the calculation does not constitute validation of the Russian occupation.

On the ground, the losses in the Russian camp are considerable. It’s undeniable. At the beginning of June 2022, the Russian army and its Donbass allies would have already lost in a hundred days, according to the Oryx website, some 4,207 various equipment and vehicles, including 747 combat tanks, and 1,238 VCI/AVTT (i.e. around twenty per day for the latter). Nearly a third of this equipment (1363) was captured and 316 abandoned without it being always possible to explain the reasons (mechanical or fuel breakdowns, desertions, bogged down vehicles?). Again, these are only the losses identified from OSINT sources. The counts published by the Ukrainian government are twice as high as Oryx’s figures, but unverifiable. The same goes for the loss of human life which is, however, surely they are also high. Remember that a BTR-80 or a T-72 destroyed are, respectively, 10 and 3 men killed. The figures published each day by the FAU are certainly exaggerated: 30,000 Russians killed at the end of May 2022 would indeed imply some 90,000 wounded, that is to say 120,000 killed and wounded, that is to say more or less the equivalent of the whole of the BMS personnel deployed in the field! Western sources are more measured, evoking the death of 12 to 15,000 men in the Russian camp, an average of 55,000 men put out of action (killed and wounded), not counting the prisoners. Already considerable figures, but just as unverifiable as the Ukrainian figures. The narrative of the conflict being largely monopolized by a preponderant Ukrainian propaganda,

We will not dwell here on the numerous difficulties and dysfunctions, some exaggerated, unexplained at this stage, encountered by the Russian army in this conflict. Most of them probably find their source in a planning of the intervention unsuited to the real power of the FAU, the extent of the territory to be controlled, the large number of towns, in faults of command also, as the fact, for example, of not having initially placed the entire system under the command of a single general officer present in the field, or insufficient and overly formatted training; some are simply inflated by Ukrainian and Western propaganda. Others could also be the result of NATO’s invisible action ( electronic warfare, cyber, special forces on the ground, etc.). Let us dwell, however, on the most publicized in recent days. The battalion battle group (GTB/GTIA) was particularly criticized at the start of the conflict. Some have pointed to the insufficiency of its numbers of infantrymen (2 to 300), its difficulty in launching an offensive while protecting its flanks and rear, the insufficient concentration of its artillery during attacks from several directions, its difficulties in coordinating the multiple arms of which it is composed and in replenishing its combat power without having to suck up the means of its attachment brigade, sometimes located several tens of kilometers from its position. Some of these GTB would also come from “mixed” brigades, that is to say composed of both conscripts and enlisted (the GTBs are, however, supposed to be made up entirely of staff under contract ), an organization which complicates, even prohibits, relief, even if the conscripts may be forced, as yesterday in Syria, to sign contracts of engagement.

The Russian battalion battle group
Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the table. Realization C. Gloaguen for Diploweb.com

It is this lack of dismounted fighters within the GTB which would explain the propensity of the Russian army to carry out siege combat around a stronghold or a city rather than to take it by storm. but also to engage at the slightest blockage armored vehicles, IFVs and artillery, with the destruction involved in the implementation of these weapons, especially in urban areas ( old Soviet practice, moreover). Finally, these tactics would be largely ineffective against FAU practicing a largely decentralized fight. The proliferation of weapons in the GTB, to which is added in certain combat zones the presence of auxiliary troops (in the Donbass, for example) would also transform the coordination of combined arms combat, or even joint combat if the air force intervenes, into a formidable task that would not master all the colonels commanding the battle group. These officers, finally, would not have the freedom of initiative that their Western counterparts can have. These criticisms, if they could find a certain justification at the beginning of the operations, given the physiognomy of the initial system, seem today to have to be watered down, with some exceptions.The Russian army has “rediscovered its fundamentals”, if I may say so, by refocusing on the Donbass  : the artillery of the GTBs has been reinforced, act in concert, no longer advance without the massive fire support of the aviation and artillery, while the tanks no longer move alone but are well protected by their mechanized units ( VCI and infantry ). Armored tank protection (in Russian BMPT) Terminatormake their appearance, just like… the antediluvian T-62s! Faced with the human losses, the progression was slow, but constant, covered by reconnaissance drones which illuminated the fire support, while on the positions conquered in the north (Kharkiv) and south (Kherson, Zaporizhiya oblast), the he Russian army is burying itself in its turn, placing the FAU in the dangerous position of an attacker. In this second phase of the conflict, the artillery takes a dominating place and places the Russian army in a situation of undeniable superiority.

The weakness, if not the absence, of aerial fire support also surprised many observers, even if this weakness was partly compensated by the high number of IFVs within the brigades. It could be explained not only by bad winter weather, a Ukrainian air defense still partly operational ( failing SEAD ), by the large number of MANPADS in staffing in very diluted FAU on the ground, but also by coordination difficulties between land and air forces ( C2I failing  ?), management of complex air operations and, in general, of the entire battlefield ( poor training, bad equipment, lack of satellite capabilities/terminals ?). Add to this picture the lack of truly multirole aircraft, a factor which, if it limits the number of aircraft available for fire support, is, in truth, today hardly of importance in the measurement where after three months of conflict the anti-aircraft defense ( except by MANPADS ) and the Ukrainian air force have practically disappeared. As for precision air-to-ground or ground-to-ground weapons, and even drones, a certain shortage seems to be setting in, even though this type of very expensive weapon is difficult to replace in the short term. If in one month of conflict, the Russian army fired more than 2000 surface-to-surface, air-to-surface and sea-to-surface missiles ( SS-26 Iskander by the Army, Kh-55, Kh-31A and kh- 101 by ALRA or hunters, some Kalibr, possibly by Black Sea ships), this is probably an unsustainable pace. Recourse to artillery shells, LRM rockets and smooth air bombs became the rule.

Mobile Russian air defense, that which is in contact with melee units ( Pantsir, Tor, Strela-10 of the PVO/SV and VKS , etc.), such as that equipped with heavier systems of the S-300 type and S-400, also proved to be inefficient as shown by the firing, at the end of February 2022, of old Tochka-U against the air bases of Millerovo and Taganrog (Rostov oblast), the destruction of an Alligator -type LSTin the port of Berdiansk in mid-March 2022 and the raid of two Mi-24 helicopters against fuel depots near Belgorod. The Pentagon nevertheless affirmed on March 10 that 90% of the air defense systems deployed around Ukraine or on its territory were operational. In April and May 2022, several bombardments of fuel and ammunition warehouses, in particular, in the Kursk and Belgorod oblasts, were also listed, while suspicious fires destroyed military and civilian sites in Moscow ( Tsagi, aerospace institute ), in Perm ( powder factory ), in Tver ( RKK Energiya ), Kineshma ( chemical plant) and that a railway bridge was sabotaged near Kursk. Equally astonishing is the freedom given to Turkish AB-2 drones to operate above Russian columns that are supposedly protected by multiple electronic warfare and air defense systems.

The poor quality of the transmissions has also been the subject of many rumours. While some are justified, many are based on misinformation or poor knowledge of the role of communications in a combat zone. Each Russian unit from brigade level is attached to a signals battalion, while at the lower level each battalion/ divizion also has its own signals section which allows it to communicate by encrypted means with the general staff. of brigade. At brigade level and above, the redundancy of transmission systems is the rule ( by satellite, in HF, V/UHF bands). Morse code also continues to be used, the Russians, like the Americans and unlike the French, having never abandoned it. At the level of companies and combat sections, it is indeed not impossible that non-encrypted radio means and still operating in analog mode are used, in particular to allow the regular forces to communicate with the auxiliary units of Donbass, by example. This would be a practical measure ( inexpensive equipment ) and a reasoned tactical choice, the information exchanged having only fleeting value ( provided that the operators are disciplined !), but perhaps also a security measure. Since the small units are in contact with the enemy, there should be no risk that cryptographic material may be seized. This type of equipment, using digital links, would thus be preferentially reserved for rear headquarters networks from the brigade/regiment level. On the other hand, given the large number of units engaged in the field, it is impossible to listen to and goniometre all the networks in real time. That certain Russian communications were recorded by the FAU and NATO is a truism, especially since Russian transmission systems may have been seized on the ground, or even already in the possession of the FAU since the fighting in 2014-2015. In general, Russian armies also use a lot of unencrypted V/UHF networks (like other armies ). Encrypted or not, a V/UHF or HF transmission detected by the opposing EW can in any case be the subject of a neutralization/destruction of the transmitter, or of jamming. It is also likely that Russian units use on the ground ( especially in Donbass and near the Belarusian and Russian borders) mobile phones insofar as the base stations of mobile phone antennas are likely to still be intact, in particular those located in areas controlled and secured by Russian forces. Moreover, the Russians could have military 3G/4G bubbles, identical for example to those used by our military. Technologically, Russian 4G and Ukrainian 4G are identical to European 4G, in terms of network operation. On the other hand, the frequency bands can be particular and adapted. Listening to these 3G/4G networks is difficult, even if you can target a particular network. If the Russians have a priorithe technical capacities to digitize the battlefield, at least if we are to believe the equipment presented in arms fairs, and to encrypt their transmissions in a combat zone, including below the brigade/regiment level (cf. Warfighter’s Ratnik Systems , Azart-P1 6th Generation Tactical Encrypted Radio, Auriga 1.2V Tactical Satellite System (VSAT), for example), one can wonder if this digitization of the battlefield makes sense in a combat zone, especially an urban one, and if it is sought after. What the leader of a combat group in the center of Mariupol wants above all is a fast and precise means of giving orders. As to whether the satellite transmission capacities made available to the brigades are sufficient on a battlefield that would have been vast and dense like that of Ukraine, an in-depth study would be needed which would compare the operational needs, speeds, bandwidths and frequency ( Ku and C mainly). Note, however, that on paper, Russia has about forty communication satellites, but two-thirds of which have exceeded their operational life and may be in orbit far from combat. Finally, the fact of having heard Russian strategic bombers on the 5620 KHz (analog) frequency, as the press was surprised by some radio amateurs, does not reveal deficiencies, the 5480- 5680 KHz being allocated to the Aeronautical Mobile En-Route Service by the ITU-R. Russian bombers can therefore perfectly use this frequency in the same way as it can be used by the French armies when their planes pass through areas under international air control.

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A regular scapegoat for any criticism of the Russian army in good and due form, the supposed lack of non-commissioned officers in the Russian army has, once again, been singled out to explain certain shortcomings in the supervision of soldiers. This review is not entirely fair . Since 2010, the emphasis has been on replacing non-commissioned officers called up by non-commissioned officers under contract. These ( Praportchiki, starchini, mitchmani, serjenti declined in several ranks ) are today numerous in the Russian army (see table above) where they occupy a hundred functions. It is true, however, that they would be mainly employed in the implementation of complex equipment ( artillery, LRM, GE, TRANS , etc.), and in technical trades (electrician, mechanic , etc.). By tradition, rightly or wrongly, the Russians favor the supervision of small units ( from the platoon level ) by young lieutenants and not by senior non-commissioned officers, even if, in theory, a praportchik ( non-commissioned officer superior ) can occupy the functions of head of section. It should be noted that this practice also exists or existed in certain Scandinavian countries, in Sweden for example, until recently. As under the USSR, the most deserving conscripts can still obtain the rank of serjent . The human factor ( morale, training, cohesion, esprit de corps, command) plays, of course, an essential role in any war, in particular this one which sees the confrontation of two ethnically very close peoples implementing the whole spectrum of modern armaments. There are many rumors of soldiers, even entire units, who would have refused to fight or would have resigned before the intervention, or, as in the RPL/RPD, trying to escape mobilization. Although some cases are duly listed, it is however too early to assess the extent of these phenomena, which are particularly highlighted on Western and Ukrainian social networks, and to judge whether they are likely to endanger operations. One thinks, here in the first place, of the young conscripts of the spring class forced to incorporate the army in the midst of the conflict.

Another shortcoming: logistics. It is notoriously undersized to meet the needs of an army that places its mechanized units and artillery at the heart of its forces employment doctrines. This is a fact often underlined in the past by observers, including during exercises. At the start of operations, in February and March 2022, at least in the north of the country ( Kiev, Kharkov, Sumy regions , etc.), the logistics convoys, but also the liaisons and the MEDEVACs, had to face the early arrival of the rasputitsaspring, a period which was followed, in mid-March, by severe frosts. It also appears that the FAU intentionally flooded some areas north of Kyiv to impede the advance of Russian units. They therefore had to stay on the roads where they became vulnerable to ambushes, mines and drones, especially in the rear of the most advanced units. Driving on the roads would also save fuel, to go further. Let us recall how much logistics ( particularly the renewal of ammunition stocks) of a Russian army equipped with several hundred weapons and vehicles of different non-standard models is a feat. To alleviate the difficulties along the roads, certain railway sections have reportedly been repaired, particularly in Donbass. In Belarus, finally, on the rear of the 41st, 35th, 36th AIA and 2nd CA, sabotage of railways and major fuel thefts were reported before being repressed by Minsk.

Be that as it may, the main difficulties encountered by the Russian forces stem, Mr. de La Palice would not put it better, from the tactics used by the FAU. These have, of course, been remarkably prepared for the conflict, know the tactics and weak points of their adversary, have multiple civilian sensors on the ground, but also ( this factor will probably not be fully identified for several months , even years ) benefit from not only significant Western aid in terms of the supply of sophisticated armaments , but also fundamental in the field of intelligence and electronic warfare ( satellite mapping, COMINT/ELINT, cyber, settlements/movements of enemy units, direction finding on certain communication networks, deciphering of certain transmissions, etc.). Providing the FAU with this near real-time intelligence , as recognized by Washington, allows them to loosen up their units in a missile strike or air attack, for example, but still precisely target important Russian objectives such as highly vulnerable truck convoys, logistics nodes, EW systems or headquarters. The excellent preparation of the Ukrainian units is reflected in the types of Russian equipment destroyed: there are thus T-80U and T-90, BMD-4M and BTR-82A, light vehicles Tigr/Rysand Tayfun-K armored trucks , for example, which are equipment implemented by elite units ( VDV, Troupes de marine, spetsnaz , etc.) or certain professional Army units such as mechanized brigades or so-called “ guard ” armored vehicles   . On the other hand , some of the destroyed Russian equipment, such as the old T-64s, the first models of T-72, the MT-LBs and other BMP-1s, etc., would rather be a sign of fighting against the Donbass auxiliaries ( sometimes supported by volunteers from Crimea, CIS, Cossacks , etc.).

Can the Russian army continue the fight?

The answer to this question is, of course, more cartomancy than fine mathematical analysis insofar as the operational status of the two armies after one hundred days of combat is not known in open sources. Certain elements can, however, be put forward. Let us first note this media bias , fueled by Ukrainian propaganda, which consists in attributing all the losses to the regular Russian armed forces alone. This is to forget that in Donbass at least, like yesterday in Syria, the Russian army is advancing when it can behind its auxiliary forces. The main Russian losses, strictly speaking, have a prioritook place between the end of February and the end of March 2022 in the fighting around kyiv and Kharkiv and in the south (between Kherson and Mariupol). In Donbass, it is the two army corps DPR (“People’s Republic of Donetsk”) and LPR (“People’s Republic of Lugansk”) which have suffered and will continue to suffer the bulk of losses. In summary, and taking all the usual precautions from the available sources (see table below), it can be estimated that the losses of the Russian regular forces ( “ground forces” in the broad sense, National Guard, Ministry of the Interior) only represented, at the end of May 2022, a little more than 50% of the 55,000 men possibly put out of action in the Russian camp (see above), the rest of the losses falling under the auxiliary forces, in particular those of the RPD, very disproportionate by compared to those of the LPR, which is hardly surprising insofar as the Russian offensive is concentrated in early June 2022 in Donetsk Oblast. On June 2, the Russian site iStories put forward the figure of 3,160 Russians killed based solely on death notices from the authorities and families, while affirming that the Ukrainian conflict was the cause of a 19.5% increase in the death rate. mortality of young men in the 18-35 age bracket, an age bracket that would also account for 80% of those killed. The average age of the soldier killed being 28, we can deduce thatit is especially the professional soldiers as well as the auxiliaries of the Donbass who lose their lives in this conflict , and not the much younger recruited personnel. 20% of the losses would therefore concern personnel over 35, that is to say probably officers. This figure comes to corroborate certain declarations, in particular British, reporting an excess mortality among young officers ( company and battalion commanders ). It should be remembered that the figure for combat losses is covered, in Russia, by the law on state secrets of March 8, 2015.

Table D. Latest estimates of casualties in the Russian side, excluding Ukrainian figures, early June 2022
Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the table. Realization C. Gloaguen for Diploweb.com

The losses of the Russian army in men and materials could, consequently, not be as high as it is said and the operational brigades in number still sufficient to allow the rotations of the GTB and their replenishment in men and materials ( see below), at least to maintain the pace of current or future operations in Donbass. Let’s check.

The land task force(FOT) was officially composed in August 2021 of 168 GTB (see table C), of which 75% would have been deployed in Ukraine, i.e. 125. In theory, therefore, 43 GTB would still be available in the military regions. It is however possible, in a context of recruitment difficulties, that this figure of 168 has never been reached, despite the statements of the Minister of Defence. If we add the number of divisions and brigades/regiments of motorized rifle, paratrooper, special and marine infantry units (see table E) we find, unless I am mistaken, less than 160 tactical battalions, and again considering that each brigade or regiment should be able to form two of them from its organic units and its three battalions, which, again, is doubtful. Nor is it forbidden to think that, as in the past, many units were not, on the morning of February 24, 2022, at full strength. On the ground, these Russian GTBs are reinforced by about fifteen GTBs from the two RPL/RPD army corps and the handful trained by the National Guard. To these are probably added a few others (5, 10?) set up from volunteer units (Wagner and others ), all of which was reinforced by the “support units” of the military regions and the specialized brigades, in particular armored, artillery, transmission, electronic warfare, etc. It should be noted that the term “militia” sometimes used in the press to describe these auxiliary forces of the Donbass hides, in reality, truly professional units, structured in the image of the Russian army, equipped with modern weapons taken from the stocks Russians and commanded by experienced officers, some wearing the Russian uniform, notably the generals. In summary, all the GTBs ( Russian and auxiliaries ) available for the conflict must therefore be within a range of 180 to 185 units, hardly more. Of this total, some 110 ( 95 Russians and 15 auxiliary) would fight in early June 2022 in Donbass or be assigned to defend the areas of Kharkiv, Kherson-Zaporizhiya.

It is necessary, or should, of course, be subtracted from the figure of these GTB available those which have been lost or partly destroyed, determine whether they belong to the Russian army or to the supplementary forces, before reinjecting into the total thus obtained the GTBs reformed from the intact disparate elements of the brigades. This is an operation impossible to carry out in open source, while the fighting rages and the propaganda largely distorts the realities on the ground.

We will content ourselves with an order of magnitude: at the end of March 2022, the Ukrainian general staff and the Pentagon estimated that between 16 and 20 had been destroyed and 34 removed from the combat zones for resupply of men and equipment. Since then, in April and May 2022, around twenty others have in turn been withdrawn from the battlefield ( including 10 for the month of May alone ). We can therefore estimate that around fifty GTBs were put out of action., entirely or partially, entirely personal estimate, since February 24. The rest of the conflict could therefore rely on the approximately 130 GTBs (180/185-50) still operational, but 110 of which, as we have seen, are already involved in the fighting. This is, on paper at least, a force that is still considerable, consisting only, in theory, of 100 to 110,000 professional soldiers ( but of which only a third are soldiers on foot ), and which can benefit for its re-equipment from thousands tanks and artillery pieces stored in the materiel bases. Still need to be nuanced. The images of the fighting, as we have seen, suggest that the professional units ( 1st ABg, VDV, spetsnaz, naval troops), at the peak in the system at the end of February 2022, would be those which, in proportion, would have suffered the most losses. Reorganizing these elite units, essential to the maneuver, will take time, even in some cases will prove impossible for several months or even years ( training of officers in particular). Another factor to take into account, and impossible to quantify, is that of the psychological state of the men exhausted by the fighting and the exercises of December 2021 and February 2022 (see table G below). The number of officers killed also raises questions: a brigade, a GTB, a company or a combat section may very well have retained part of its manpower and its equipment, but how to continue the fight if he or she has lost its staff, a quarter, a third of its officers? The same is true, of course, in the Ukrainian camp.

Table E. Estimated count of Russian “ground forces”
Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the table. Realization C. Gloaguen for Diploweb.com

With only about twenty GTBs still available for relief and replenishment, the Russian army and its allies should hardly be able to go beyond the Donbass in the coming months, unless the FAU units collapse on the lines of contact, in the South and in the Kharkiv region, which would be a surprise. If the current battles in Donbass were of a strategic nature, if the fate of Ukraine as a whole or even of the eastern part of the country depended on their outcome, the question would not arise. However, at the beginning of 2022, a hundred GTBs have been struggling for several weeks to take the few hundred square kilometers formed by the Izium-Lisichansk-Gorlivka triangle and even seem to be retreating towards Kherson. After the capture of the two oblasts of Lugansk and Donetsk, an operational break of several months should therefore be sought, if only to replenish ammunition stocks, rest the men, draw up a report on operations and replenish the units. Time, however, is on the Ukrainian sidewhich still have hundreds of thousands of men and continue (for now) to be supplied with arms and ammunition by Western countries. If the Russians managed to maintain their positions, the turn of the conflict would, of course, take on a new physiognomy: from being attacked, the FAU would become attackers, a posture costly in terms of men and equipment, but which would not stop the conflict. . In a balanced position vis-à-vis Moscow, well supported by its allies, Kyiv has no interest today in negotiating, at the risk of falling back into the diplomatic and territorial trappings of the disastrous “Minsk agreements”. President Zelensky has just recalled this.

In fact, in light of the past and ongoing fighting in June 2022 in the Severodonetsk region, the question that seems likely to loom for the Russian army in the coming weeks is not so much how it could gain ground than to know how it will be able to keep the conquered ground. What new human resources could Russia mobilize to resolve this issue?

How to go beyond the Donbass?

Of the 380,000 personnel who make up the “Russian land forces”, in the broad sense, the personnel assigned to operational units have probably all already been engaged in combat or are taking part in relief on the ground. These are the 210,000 men who report directly to the 11 combined arms armies (AIA), the 3 army corps and the 1st Guards armored army which make up the very heart of the military regions, those attached to the 54 brigades/regiments and 5 battalions under the command of the military regions ( engineering, artillery, armour, logistics/train, GE, NRBC, etc.). To these numbers, we will add the VDV, special and marine infantry units which also have their own support. Among these 380,000 personnel, some 150 to 160,000 cannot, however, for various reasons, be assigned to combat zones and therefore serve within the GTB. Among these, we find the personnel of the bases, of the schools, of the various staffs and commands, of the services ( health, human resources, MCO, orchestras…), the sick and injured, etc. Approximately 90 to 100,000 are conscripts from the contingent, 27 to 30,000 are women, 15 to 20,000 depend on the staffs of the Army and military regions, the EMG and MINDEF (mostly officers), while that 25,000 are students in training in academies and schools. Add to this list the thousands of officers and serjenti / praportchiki seconded to training centers and arms schools ( VDV, armored arms, marine troops, motorized riflemen, GE, artillery, various training centers,etc.). If the GTB should be able to be replenished with equipment, even old, this will not be the case in terms of soldiers fit to fight in the melee units, except to mobilize the reserves, to authorize the conscripts of the contingent to serve in the battle groups ( we would have to change the law or declare war) or to empty the schools and the great staffs of their executives and pupils, which, moreover, has undoubtedly already been done in part. A few thousand men can therefore no doubt be found here at the cost of closing bases, schools and some minor headquarters. However, even in time of war, and perhaps especially in time of war, the training of recruits must be able to continue. Another possible artifice: authorize the civilian personnel of the armies, some 800,000 people, to serve in support units where they would replace the military.

The Russian EMG faces a dilemma here: how to assign to the Ukrainian theater all the forces available on the immense territory of the Russian Federation without risking destabilizing  the “empire  “, dangerously stripping the borders? ”  The empire  “, the post-Soviet space under Russian influence, is not the European Union which keeps itself standing by the sheer force of its institutions: it is a vast unstable unit crossed, from the North Caucasus ( Chechnya , Ingushetia, etc.) and south ( South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Karabakh) to Central Asia via Belarus, the Pacific zone, the Arctic, and the Russian territory itself, by political, religious, ethnic, linguistic lines of force, foreign interests ( Chinese, Turkish, Iranian , Taliban, Japanese, Georgian, European , etc.) contrary to the interests of Moscow. This whole is only held together by coercion, corruption and Russian interventionism, like the USSR in the past. The same is true in Syria, where too substantial a withdrawal of Russian forces there could relaunch the conflict and threaten the bases of Tartous and Hmeimim. The Russian military bases abroad (see table F), if they constitute a breeding ground of choice in operational personnel, will thus not be able to be entirely drained of their weapons and personnel. These bases, subordinated to the military regions, can on the other hand be used for the recruitment and supervision of any local volunteers. The Ukrainian authorities thus reported, in March 2022, the death of soldiers assigned to the bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The first would have formed three GTBs with the support of South Ossetian volunteers and the second one or two GTBs.

The enlistment of foreign volunteers, however, seems to have fizzled. If V. Putin, himself, was able to mention in March 2022 the recruitment of “  thousands  ” of Syrian fighters, most of the volunteers, few in reality, come mainly from Russia and a few other CIS countries. In Donbass, the ”  popular militias  ” have on the other hand succeeded in setting up, as we have seen above, the equivalent of two army corps (1st and 2nd Corps), that is to say about fifteen GTB, of which the combat effectiveness seems most mediocre, but would have made it possible to wear down the Ukrainian defenses in certain sectors. Volunteers from Transnistria ( same order of magnitude, on paper, as in LPR/RPD) have so far not been engaged in the fighting but, according to the Odessa authorities, an attempt to mobilize has recently failed in this small separatist region. A few hundred could however, according to the Ukrainian press, fight in Donbass. The presence of the now famous Wagner group has also been reported, first near kyiv, at the start of operations, then in Donbass. Most of its men are former military personnel, supported and supervised by the GRU. Finally, attempts to enlist men in the Ukrainian regions that have come under control have also been the subject of rumors in recent days ( Mariupol and Kherson, in particular). Other rumors, which are difficult to verify, also refer to the recruitment, against remission, of common law prisoners. Be that as it may, forming units capable of fighting in Ukraine from these multiple volunteers from prisons, the CIS, the slums of large Russian cities or the thousands of private security companies in Russia, takes time. They must be supervised, trained and equipped before inserting them into the existing operational system. This process is underway, but is necessarily slow.

Another solution to expand the workforce: mobilize the last classes. For the moment, this solution seems excluded for both political reasons ( the Russian intervention is officially a “special operation” and not a “war” ) and practical ones. A general mobilization , which would bring the war into every home and affect the “golden youth” of the big cities, could also lead to unrest . Power knows it. Several recruitment centers have already been set on fire. The reservists of the operational reserve, on the other hand, represent a human pool of choice. Some media have also reported from the end of March 2022 on the incorporation of reservists from the programCountry military reserve(BARS) created in 2015 as a complement to the reserve system proper. These would represent some 100 to 150,000 men, but this count in no way prejudges the number of reservists who will present themselves in their units of assignment while the extent of the losses suffered by the Russian army begins to be known in the families. However, to increase the number of potential recruits, the age limit for recruitment was raised on May 25, 2022 by decree of Parliament from 40 to … 61 years old. These men from the operational reserve, all volunteers, are assigned to an existing unit or to an “executive unit” which they come to reactivate. Most of them are former professional soldiers. The last exercise in mobilizing operational reserves as part of this BARS program was also played in September 2021 in Kaliningrad, this is no coincidence. It should be noted that the BARS website mentions a recruitment carried out by ” a team of polite men  ,” a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Special Troops (SSO) soldiers who seized Crimea in 2014.

Another avenue that the army could follow to expand its ranks, draw on the staff of departments and ministries which also have military or para-military units. These are numerous in Russia whose missions can sometimes overlap, at the very least complement those of the Ministry of Defence. These are the famous “  structures of forces  ” ( silovye strouktoury in Russian). According to the military doctrine of April 2000, this category includes the ”  armed forces  ” ( including the forces of the Ministry of Defence ) and ”  other military troops, formations and bodies intended to fulfill military security missions by military methods “. Article 2 of the law on military service and conscription of March 28, 1998 gives the list of these ministries and services: alongside the Ministry of Defense, we find the special services (FSB and SVR, schematically our DGSI and DGSE ), the Interior Troops, dependent on the Ministry of the Interior, the FAPSI (government communications), Federal Service for Special Constructions, the FSO (Federal Protection Service, responsible, in particular, for the protection of the Kremlin, embassies and ministries) and the Federal Border Guard and Special Construction Services. All these structures, which fall under the national defense law ( natsionnal’naya oborona ) can accommodate conscripts from the contingent. These strukturyhave, since 1998, for some evolved. The border guards have thus, as under the USSR, been attached to the FSB, while the FSKN (Federal Service for the Fight against Drugs) and the FMS (Federal Service for Migration), which do not appear in the list of 1998 but also have armed personnel, joined the Ministry of the Interior (MVD) in 2016, the latter losing at the same time its mechanized troops, its riot police (OMON) and intervention forces ( SOBR) for the benefit of the newcomer: the National Guard ( VNG Rossii or RosGvardiya). This is directly subordinate to President Putin. Its official missions range from the fight against terrorism and organized crime to the defense of sensitive sites (Kertch bridge, for example) and the maintenance of order throughout Russia. Since 2016, the RosGvardiya has been authorized by presidential decree to use force abroad, notably in the context of peacekeeping operations. Its organization is modeled on that of the army. It has a transport ( Mi-8 and Mi-26 ) and combat ( Mi-24P, Mi-8MTV-2 ) helicopter regiment and an air transport squadron ( An-72, Tu-134 and 154 ), one autonomous special division, twelve special brigades (each with 3 battalions like motorized rifle battalions, without their armored battalion but with their artillery and support ) and 16 GIGN-type intervention groups. It would have kept small reconnaissance units from the MVD, built with the support of the FSB, the SVR and the GRU in the image of army reconnaissance units. The whole represents perhaps some 170,000 men, soldiers ( professionals and conscripts ) and civilians, including 50,000 attached to mechanized units. On this mass, however, few units are likely, as they stand, to support the ground forces on the Ukrainian ground ( presence of contingent conscripts in their ranks in particular and personnel not trained in high intensity combat) with the exception of the SOBR and the OMON already present, unsurprisingly, in the conflict where they occupy functions of maintaining order in the conquered zones. Some of these small groups would have suffered heavy losses. These units had trained in February 2022, in the Crimea, during the Zaslon exercise (see table G below). Note also the presence within the National Guard of the 141st motorized regiment Akhmat Kadyrov ( ex – special battalions Sever and Yug) a regiment made up of Chechens from the entourage of Ramzan Kadyrov, the current governor of the small republic of the Caucasus, who needs no introduction. These men, between 1000 to 1500, even if Kadryov could evoke the figure of 5000, were very largely involved in the combats of Mariupol. Chechens from a self-proclaimed ”  death battalion  ” had already fought in Donbass in 2014.

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Ground forces units of the FSB border guards (FPS) represent another potential breeding ground, either directly ( constitution into combat units ) or indirectly ( replacement of military personnel in bases abroad ). They too are equipped with mechanized means ( BTR-80, BPM-97 ), artillery ( 2S1, 2S9, 2S12 ), aircraft, for a workforce of some 170,000 men. These border guards could notably be used in Ukraine to secure areas cleared of enemy units.

Finally, a few thousand additional men could certainly be found by drawing on the plethora of manpower from other arms and armies ( navy, RVSN, VKS, logistics services,etc.). The 126th coastal brigade, in fact a classic motorized rifle brigade, has been deployed in southern Ukraine since the start of the conflict. One can easily imagine sailors or airmen patrolling, Kalashnikov in hand, in the streets of Mariupol or Kherson. Why not ? However, these soldiers are not trained for land combat and their role would be limited, like that of the National Guard or the FPS, to area surveillance, maintaining order in cities or, at best, to fighting against small, weakly armed enemy groups. The EMG, however, as I have already pointed out, cannot for obvious reasons puncture part of the personnel of the navy, the RVSN, the VKS, even less the FPS,missile silos, nuclear triad, Moscow PVO, ports and military bases, etc.) and even as tensions with NATO and the United States are at their height. Many units have already been withdrawn from the borders with China, the Caucasus and Central Asia, this is probably the most that can be done without destabilizing these regions. As I wrote in a previous article: the empire is unstable and the Kremlin knows it full well.

Conclusion

The Russian army was thought out and designed for a war of destruction of the armed forces of NATO, not for a war of occupation on a territory as vast as that of Ukraine. This is one of the many paradoxes of this army: it can atomize Europe or the United States a thousand times, but, for lack of conventional forces in sufficient numbers, it stalls for three months in front of the defense lines of the Ukrainian army. At the beginning of June 2022, its territorial gains, however, are not insignificant, with, since 2014, no less, according to President Zelensky’s own figures, of 20% of Ukrainian territory .(125,000 km2) which is in the hands of Moscow, while in the Black Sea, the Russian Black Sea Fleet leads the blockade of the Black Sea ports. Ukraine is becoming a landlocked country, cut off from its external markets.

This conflict is strange, anachronistic. Begun, like the Prague Spring (1968) in the past, by Moscow’s desire to prevent the emergence on its borders of a democratic regime whose model could undermine its own institutions and undermine its politico-farist networks, it took on the appearance of a punitive expedition. An irrational headlong rush, almost furious in the face of the repeated failures of the Russian army. It is no longer a question of controlling the country, its cities, of putting its economic infrastructures at the service of the Russian economy, but on the contrary of destroying them, including in the east, which is supposedly populated, according to Kremlin propaganda. , of pro-Russian populations. Since the beginning of March 2022, this war has taken, as yesterday in Syria, the aspect of a total war of the Second World War type., in which the assailant destroys by all available means, wherever located, the enemy’s forces, logistics, command centers, fuel reserves, roads and railways, any objective considered strategic, etc., without taking into account the civilian losses that the fighting causes. We are here a thousand miles away from the practices of Western armies in Afghanistan or Syria. In truth, this conflict is the perfect reflection of the vision that the Russian elites, military and civilian, have forged for themselves of the world and of themselves under the influence of the Soviet heritage, which has never been called into question, the reflection of psychology and ideologies that drive these leaders and generals,their atavistic, almost Pavlovian will to make Russia play a role of world power when its GDP, its demography, its technological and industrial base, its internal conflicts, the dependence of its economy on raw materials, should have seen it favor its national space, already gigantic . A country whose aggressive, imperial policy on its borders naturally generates exhausting, sterile conflicts, which, the process is again at work before our eyes, lead as always in Russian history, to the appearance in the Kremlin of an increasingly repressive political regime. From a country that strives to send nuclear submarines to the American coasts even though some of its regions lack roads, drinking water and electricity. A country, the largest in the world, whose nominal GDP per capita is only in 65th position worldwide, ahead of Mauritius and behind Argentina (IMF, 2021) , but intends to compete in power and influence with China, the United States or the European Union. Russia has never had the means to match the geopolitical ambitions of its leaders!

The future for Ukraine after this conflict is dramatic. Its economic and urban infrastructures below a Kyiv-Crimea line are very degraded even though the fighting is still ongoing. But the most worrying part of this future is probably its demographic aspect.. There is no future except for men. Since 1993, even before the start of the conflict, Ukraine had already lost ten million inhabitants due to emigration and a dramatically low natural balance. The military conflict only worsened the demographic crisis. Since February 24, 2022, the country has thus had, according to UN figures, some 8 million internally displaced persons and 6.6 million refugees abroad, 90% of them women and children. Paradoxically, it is the eastern part of Ukraine, the very part that Moscow intended to liberate as a priority from the supposed ”  Nazis of Kyiv “. which is the most affected by the fighting. The cost of reviving the economy and repairing the infrastructures of the Donbass alone would be enormous for Moscow. The work can only be done – if the budgets are found – over the long term and once the conflict is over. It should be remembered that the reconstruction of Chechnya alone officially cost the Russian budget between 2001 and 2014 464 billion rubles, or between $5 and $7 billion. But the destruction in the oblastsand regions which are or would come to be occupied by Moscow in a few weeks or months are immeasurably superior to those of the small republic of the Caucasus. Added to this destruction are the hundreds of thousands of unexploded munitions, bombs, mines and IEDs, the thousands of fuel reserves and chemical plants destroyed, etc. which will constitute for years a mortal danger for all human life, without counting the pollution of the grounds and the water tables which they will generate. These regions were also largely emptied of their inhabitants, only a small part of whom were “welcomed” to Russia. Everything seems to indicate that the east of the country, if the conflict does not spread, could take on the appearance of a great Abkhazia: devastated regions, emptied of their young population, possibly attached to the Russian Federation after pseudo-referendums, while retaining an unofficial status as a buffer zone with the rest of Ukraine. The western regions of the country, for their part, would certainly retain large sections of their infrastructure intact, but would remain under the threat of a resurgence of the conflict if Russia were to decide to do so.This Ukraine will struggle to attract foreign capital and investment . It will remain a mutilated, landlocked, fragile state, highly dependent on international aid. Its entry into the EU could change nothing.

It remains to be seen what decisions the Kremlin will take in the months and years to come. If we take at face value the terms of the speech delivered by V. Putin on the morning of February 24, 2022 (see Table H below), the Russian offensive would only aim to ”  demilitarize and denazify  ” Ukraine, that is that is, to destroy his army and his BITD, and would not provide for an occupation. A few days later, faced with the first setbacks of its army, the Kremlin added that it no longer wanted a change of regime in Kyiv. The fighting continued nonetheless. Conversely, taken at face value, the commissioned article of this T. Sergeyitsev, already mentioned above, and the statements of many Russian political scientists are neither more nor less than calls for the total destruction of Ukraine in as a state and nation, but also to the massacre of part of its population. Therefore, they clearly suggest a long conflict. I have always considered that there was a barrier between the writings of Russian ideologues – whose role would be above all to give the new generation, those born after 2000, an ideology which would guarantee the durability of Putin’s power – and the ideas which animate the Kremlin teams. These ideas would be pragmatic, rational, shaped by facts and the reality of international relations. The violence perpetrated by the Russian army in the occupied areas and the scale of the bombardments seem to prove me wrong and could be proof that V. Putin and his entourage ended up becoming victims of these ”  national-imperial ” ideologies themselves.  that they helped create .

If the Putin regime continues, in its current form or, tomorrow, in an even more authoritarian form, this war can only last. On the Russian side, it is, of course, turning into nonsense: the Ukrainian government, like the army, is still holding out, Kyiv is not changing in its desire to join the EU and NATO, the Ukrainian people, including Russian speakers, are united as ever, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Patriarchate of Moscow has broken with the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Atlantic Alliance which was still a few months ago ”  in a state of brain death (E. Macron, 2019) raised his head as Sweden and Finland prepare to join, the United States reallocates troops to Europe, Germany rearms, Russian armies and weapons are discredited, the economy and industry exposed to sanctions that are undoubtedly unique in the history of modern Europe. One could almost laugh about it, if tens of thousands of poor people had not died under the bombs. The geopolitical factors that prompted Moscow to intervene are therefore not only still present, but have also been multiplied by events. Can V. Putin then only be satisfied with the occupation of the two unique oblastsDonbass when, obviously, the Russian device of February 24, 2022 was aimed at seizing the coasts of the Black Sea, Kyiv and most of eastern Ukraine? It will be objected that the Russian president cannot go against military realities. The Ukrainian army, although it has lost some of its best units, is not as weakened as it was in 2015, forcing Kyiv to sign the Minsk agreements. Even if, as we have seen, the Russian army (excluding auxiliaries) is not as weakened by the fighting as is said, it should not have the forces necessary to launch large-scale attacks and weaken the FAU to the point of forcing them to pause or even obtain a truce in the fighting.

Let’s risk a scenario. Unless militarily constrained, the Russian army should try to maintain itself in the areas it controls on the right bank of the Dnieper (Kherson-Vassylivka) while seeking to create defensive lines, perhaps along the Samara, Seversky rivers Donets or Oskil. This would not freeze the conflict, but would place the FAU in a delicate attacking position. In view of the high Ukrainian losses in the region ( see footnote 37), this is a plausible scenario, which would avoid getting bogged down, even if it still underlies weeks of combat and the capture of several cities. The respite of a few months, or even years, why not, thus obtained would allow Moscow to set up several dozen new GTBs and infantry units from its tens of thousands of reassigned reservists, volunteers and soldiers and thousands of equipment present in the materiel bases, to replenish the ammunition stocks, to analyze the causes of the failures suffered and, if necessary, to modify its operational model. Like the precedents of 2008 in Georgia then 2014 in Crimea/Donbass, the conflict would then be reactivated. Moscow would naturally not seek to seize all of Ukraine, it never wanted to, but to return to the primary objectives of the operation just mentioned, the achievement of which would considerably weaken the Ukrainian state and would allow, along the Black Sea, the creation of a land bridge from Russia to the regions of Transnistria and the Carpathians/Balkans .

However, this scenario suffers from weaknesses, the first being that any pause would also allow the Ukrainian forces, which continue to be equipped and trained by Western countries, to strengthen themselves as well. To hold on to the positions acquired, and to curb the conflict, Moscow will use the weapon of diplomacy, blackmail and humanitarian action. This can already be seen in the proposals made by V. Putin to lift the blockade of Ukrainian ports in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, while in the background the propaganda is spreading rumors of world famine. Ukrainian refugees in Russia or prisoners could also be used as bargaining chips in an attempt to obtain a suspension of fighting. The countries most careful  not to “humiliate Russia ” “, the France-Germany-Italy triplet, but also Turkey, will then be worked to break the united front of the Allies, especially with the approach of winter when the effects of the severance of energy relations with Moscow will begin to be felt. Perhaps then we will see proposals for the exchange of gas and oil, despite the good intentions of Europe, against a suspension of arms deliveries to Kyiv. The public opinions of African and Arab countries, very dependent on Ukrainian and Russian wheat deliveries, will not be forgotten. It’s all a piece of cake, of course, Moscow’s word is so discredited. But what will happen over the long term if the crisis lasts? On a more military level, the Russian army has the necessary weapons to hold on entrenched positions: its Air Force and its army aviation, its thousands of guns including these enormous howitzers of the typeClimb/Pivot (203mm) and Table(240mm) which is reported to have appeared in Donbass. And then, if necessary, as a warning, these aerial high power thermobaric bombs (AVBPM). Dropped under parachute from a carrier plane, a prototype of this bomb was tested in 2007. The use of tactical nuclear weapons, often mentioned at the start of the conflict, to open a breach in the Ukrainian defenses or break the defense of a city would involve risks insofar as the radioactive isotopes resulting from the explosion could fall on the territory of the Belarusian ally and on the areas occupied by the Russian army or its allies. But everything would depend, of course, on the power of the weapon used and the place struck. Most Russian surface-to-surface and air-to-surface missiles can be equipped with a low-power tactical nuclear warhead,Malka/Pion and Tulpan , just mentioned, are physically capable of firing nuclear shells, even if, officially, Russia no longer has this type of ammunition. If the tactical nuclear weapon on the Ukrainian battlefield does not make sense and could even represent a red line for NATO, it could however be brandished to defend the annexed regions, in particular the Donbass, which by referendum would become subjects apart whole of the Russian Federation. The FAU, by wanting to reconquer them, would thus no longer attack Ukrainian regions, but parts of Russian national territory, making the use of nuclear weapons legitimate in the eyes of Moscow. This is why, in the absence of diplomatic agreements to this effect, I fear that any Ukrainian region conquered by the Russian army will not be able to return to Ukrainian jurisdiction, nor will the naval blockade of the Black Sea ports be lifted. . Crimea is the perfect example.

Salvation for Ukraine, if there can be a salvation, could only come from a NATO intervention which we conceive, for the reasons that we know, very risky for the peace of the whole continent. This intervention, where Ukraine would serve as a general battlefield, would undoubtedly be a remedy worse than the disease. Another hope, of course, could come from Russia should the Russian military be forced to cease fighting at the ceasefire line, or withdraw under the combined weight of economic sanctions and casualties and materials in its ranks. This is a tenuous hope, real nonetheless, but which would underlie, as we have just said, more a freeze than a real settlement of the conflict. As for possible social unrest in Russia that would lead to the overthrow of V. Putin, the latest “polls” show that this conflict, instead of mobilizing the Russian population against the war, would have, on the contrary, united it around its president. However, one can imagine that a humiliating defeat would crack this consensus.

This war also marks the return of the United States to the European scene and the heartbreaking bankruptcy of the concept of Europe as a power. Without the Washington ripple effect, Ukraine would have, as in 2014, and like Georgia before it, been left to its fate and would have received from European countries only diplomatic encouragement, non-lethal equipment and none of the modern armaments that have allowed it since three months to break the Russian offensives. This return of the United States undoubtedly buries for many years any prospect of autonomous European defense, having its own strategic armaments, and restores to NATO its central importance in the defense of the continent, in particular with the accession of Sweden. and Finland and the strong involvement of Great Britain in the aid brought to Kyiv. It also marks the moral sinking of the great countries of Western Europe – France, Germany and Italy in the lead.– who have not ceased since 1991 to disarm and see in Moscow, for both commercial and ideological reasons, particularly in Paris, a partner like the others, easily manipulated by trade and diplomacy, also useful for diluting the American influence on the continent. Despite Western sanctions, Russia is not isolated on the international scene as shown by the vote of March 2, 2022 within the framework of the UN resolution on the ”  special military operation in Ukraine and that of April 7, 2022 relating to the exclusion of Moscow from the Human Rights Council. Very many countries, including the BRICS, Mexico, Pakistan, Turkey, the CIS countries, several African countries, Latin America, the Near and Middle East, not only do not apply the sanctions, but have in no way altered their relations with Moscow. These sanctions are therefore also indicative of a rift between Western countries and a large part of the world. Russia will play on this, as we have seen, just as it will play on the weakening of our economies under the effect of our own sanctions and the dissensions between allies which will not fail to appear in the event of an extension or extension of the war. The disappearance at our borders of  the Russian question  ” remains a tragically distant prospect.

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SAKHRI Mohamed

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