Putin spurs his generals on…
– The West crossed the red line for the delivery of heavy tanks, when will the one for the fighters requested by Kyiv also cross?
– Ukraine has long insisted on Western fighter jets, but there is one feature here that the authorities in Kyiv probably do not take into account well enough. In order to get F-16 aircraft – the Netherlands expressed a desire to provide a squadron of them, there are special requirements for the runway, special shelters for the aircraft, more modern radars are wanted. And while Ukrainian territory is under the threat of Russian missile strikes, building this infrastructure is problematic. The time will come for the planes too, but probably from July onwards.
– Major General Sabev, to what extent can we believe the claims that Russia is preparing a new offensive in Ukraine? They have human resources, but do they also have technical resources for this?
– There is a lot of information that Russia is preparing an offensive, because it has not had any victories for a long time, and this greatly undermines the image of Vladimir Putin from the significant losses that the Russian army suffered in the last 6 months. After the mobilization of September 21, when Moscow mobilized about 300 thousand reservists, more than half were already deployed on the front lines and in the border regions of Russia.
A part of them are trained in Belarus and transferred to Luhansk region, others are trained at training grounds in Russia. So from the middle of February all these substitutes will be prepared. There is information that operational reserves are being concentrated in the southern part of the Donetsk region and a strike is possibly being prepared from there. There is also information that reserves are being concentrated in the Luhansk region, which will seek to push the Ukrainian troops out of the administrative borders of the Luhansk region.
And accordingly, they will direct the blow in a southern direction towards the northern regions of the Donetsk region. One such possibility is looming for a double strike from Luhansk and then from the south-western part of the Donetsk region, to go to the rear of this large defensive area of the Ukrainian troops and try to make some sort of operational encirclement. Russia has personnel, but not enough weapons.
They are trying to remove from the reserve and deconserve and prepare older types of tanks – T-62, T-72. Until that happens, it will not be clear when this offensive will begin. If the claims that Putin has ordered the Donetsk region to be fully occupied by the end of March are true, it is clear that the Russians are in a hurry. However, there is information that the Russian generals tried to dissuade him that this could not happen so quickly.
– Let’s recall that Hitler, as a non-professional military man, used schedules with dates for his generals for the war.
– If we draw this historical parallel, we must say that since Hitler began to interfere in the plans of the military command, Germany began to lose. Thus, from the very beginning, Putin interfered in the work of the military command, and now this spurring! And yet we can expect the beginning of this offensive, if not in the middle of February, then in the beginning of March.
Then a large amount of ammunition will arrive – bought including from North Korea and Iran. Thus, stocks will be accumulated and success will be counted on. The maximum force that Moscow can rely on is somewhere between 150-180 thousand people. A larger offensive may require a second round of partial mobilization. And it has not stopped so far and there is no presidential decree to stop it.
It is expected to start again from the end of February onwards – the travel of Russian citizens will be limited. The probability of success of this offensive is not great, because Ukraine knows about it and is preparing. There will be no moment of surprise – there was a groping on the front lines. There are strong Ukrainian defenses in the Donetsk region, and therefore months-long efforts to capture Bakhmut have not yielded results. Even if they manage to take the city, there are many other Ukrainian lines.
– By the end of March, Ukraine will probably have a total of about 300 tanks
– How far can the conflict between the creator of the private military company “Wagner” Yevgeny Prigozhin and the professional military led by the commander of the Russian troops in Ukraine Valery Gerasimov lead?
– The Russian military issued an ultimatum to President Putin to tame the ambitions of both Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Prigozhin. According to the General Staff, Russia can wage and win this war only by the actions of the regular armed forces. Any other militias and private military companies may be an aid, but not a substitute for the regular army.
With the appointment of Gerasimov as commander of the troops in Ukraine, a clear signal was given. I think that at the moment both Prigozhin and Kadyrov are in isolation, and if someone raises his head too much, they may liquidate him. Such are the orders at the highest levels of power in Russia. At this stage, the Russian armed forces are strengthening their authority and positions.
– When will the first Western tanks arrive in Ukraine?
– In Poland, training of the Ukrainian crews for the “Leopards” has already begun, and in Great Britain – for the “Challenger 2”. This training will continue until the end of February and the beginning of March. During this time, however, the armored fighting vehicles that had been promised began to arrive. The shipment of 60 “Bradley” armored vehicles is already on its way, which will soon arrive in Ukraine. For this Russian offensive, Ukraine will be assisted by the first shipments of machines.
– If Prigozhin and Kadyrov raise their heads, they may be liquidated
– Experts explained that the 31 American Abrams tanks could arrive in a year and a half at the earliest. Isn’t that too late!
– The first machines from the “tank coalition” that was created will probably arrive from Poland. Moreover, in addition to the 14 “Leopard 2”, it is also preparing 60 modernized T-72s according to the Polish project. It is very likely that tanks will also come from the Czech Republic – modernized T-72s, the result of a joint project between the Czech Republic, the USA, the Netherlands and some other countries. Thus, in general, over 100 tanks should arrive in Ukraine by the end of February.
The second big batch is likely to arrive at the end of March – including Britain’s Challenger 2 and Leopard 2 from other European countries. By the end of March, it is likely that a total of about 300 tanks will be delivered. With them, the Ukrainian side can form 3 new armored brigades or supplement the existing ones. Ukraine started the war with 7 armored brigades.
Most likely, it will be able to repel this Russian offensive, even at the cost of ceding some small territories. After which, at the end of March and perhaps at the beginning of April, Ukraine should go into a decisive counter-offensive in order not to give time to the Russian troops to strengthen the positions reached. And this is shaping up to be the beginning – first a Russian offensive, a defensive operation of the Ukrainian forces, after which a counter-offensive by Ukraine will be launched.
– Why didn’t the western countries send these tanks last summer when the war was in full swing?
– Yes, there is serious criticism from the expert community to the Western countries that they were late in providing the tanks. When the Ukrainian counter-offensive in the Luhansk and Kharkiv regions subsided towards the end of last year, because along the Kremeno-Svatovo line the Russians managed to organize their defense and are now accumulating forces. If these tanks had been given as early as late November and mid-December, Ukraine could have launched a winter counteroffensive as planned. Because of the delayed tanks, it will not be able to carry it out.
– Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said yesterday that Crimea will never return to Ukraine, which shows that there is still a rift in the Western political elite.
– I don’t think there is a division, since there is such a powerful coalition that supports Ukraine and, of course, its territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders. The fact that the Croatian president is trying to accompany his Bulgarian colleague does not mean anything. As we can see, the position of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is also changing.
Voices like those of the Croatian president are isolated and will remain so. It is a pity for our countries – Bulgaria and Croatia, that their presidents maintain pro-Putin positions in the assessment of the real situation and show a deficit of strategic thinking, which is unacceptable for heads of state.
– To get F-16 fighters, Kyiv needs to build new airstrips and shelters
– When can this war become positional and end in some sort of stalemate?
– She has already been in position for several months. This year would prove decisive both for the course and the outcome of the war. We expect serious escalation, great dynamics, great battles with great losses on both sides. We must remind that Russian losses are already approaching 130 thousand people killed. Not to mention over 3,200 destroyed tanks.
– And Ukrainian losses are not few.
– I said that Ukraine started the war with somewhere around 850 tanks and half of them were disabled and that is why the “tank coalition” was created and this deficit will be filled. But there is something important – the Western tanks of Ukraine have superiority in terms of technology and will also have superiority on the battlefield. One “Leopard 2” can fight with 2 to 5 Russian tanks of the older modifications. These tanks are equipped to fight at night, while most Russian tanks cannot. This technological superiority will have a serious impact.
Major General Sabi Sabev is a graduate of the Higher Air Force School in Dolna Mitropolia. Until February 25, 2000, he was the head of the Operational Department of the General Staff of the Air Force. After that, he was appointed as the head of the Main Operational Department of the General Staff of the Bulgarian Army. After entering the reserve at the beginning of 2005, he worked as a chief expert at the “G. S. Rakovski” Military Academy at the Institute for Prospective Defense Research.