Russian Warfare Redux

We continue to watch the perfidy and the unspeakable criminality involved in dealing in any way with Vladimir Putin. Of course he will agree to allow the grain to leave the port of Odessa – but first he will have to strike the port with missiles. His attack on Ukraine is not a war; it is a ‘special military operation’ …

I have refrained from making predictions, since I was utterly wrong in believing that Russia would not attack Ukraine. Only a fool would do so, I said; I had not appreciated how mentally unstable the man in the Kremlin was. But we who are paying attention to the ground battle have begun to see early signs of what Clausewitz described as a culmination. In Book VII Chapter V, he describes the ‘Culminating Point of the Attack.’

… the power of the attack gradually exhausts itself; possibly at the same time the superiority may increase, but in most cases it diminishes. The assailant buys up prospective advantages which are to be turned to account hereafter in negotiations for peace; but, in the meantime, he has to pay down on the spot for them a certain amount of his military force. If a preponderance on the side of the attack, although thus daily diminishing, is still maintained until peace is concluded, the object is attained.—There are strategic attacks which have led to an immediate peace—but such instances are rare; the majority, on the contrary, lead only to a point at which the forces remaining are just sufficient to maintain a defensive, and to wait for peace.—Beyond that point the scale turns, there is a reaction; the violence of such a reaction is commonly much greater than the force of the blow. This we call the culminating point of the attack.

Napoleon was famously skilled at observing a battle and determining not just where to strike but more importantly when. Sensing that an enemy was weakening, that their attacks were culminating, Napoleon would launch a brutal assault and bring the enemy to his knees. Obviously, there was no immediate peace following Russia’s strategic surprise and although the invader remains in Ukraine, there are growing indications that the Russian Army is being bled white. The Ukrainians have taken advantage of another of Clausewitz’s dicta, that the defence is the stronger form of war and that it is best composed of a shield, but not just a shield. The defensive form in war is therefore no mere shield but a shield formed of blows delivered with skill. That skill (aided by high tech weaponry provided by many NATO countries) has taken an enormous toll and if that toll continues, we may well see Ukraine shift from defence to offence.

When? Who can say? Predictions are notoriously difficult; especially when they are about the future!

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