PHASE 3 — THE SEPTEMBER OFFENSIVE
I have predicted that a major Russian/Republican offensive will begin on September 1st. There are multiple reasons I think this, some tactical, some strategic, some pragmatic, some symbolic. Taken together, I find them quite convincing.
1) Russia needs to regain the military initiative. While progress has been made through hard fighting, the fact is that the Donbass Front in the DPR remains virtually unchanged, and neither of the major objectives – Mari’inka or Avdiivka have been taken. Peski was hard won, but a minor victory, and advances beyond the western edge of the village have not materialized.
2) Donetsk, the strategic main city of Donbass, remains under heavy shelling, which has a seriously negative effect on local morale, as well as Russian and international perception of how the Operation is proceeding. The water supply, filtration and pumping stations also remain under shelling, and they are currently operating at about 25% of capacity. This seriously affects millions of DPR citizens, not just in Donetsk, but all the way from Makeevka to Mariupol.
3) The continued shelling of the Russian held Zaporozhia Nuclear Power Plant by US/Ukraine forces is not only a grave danger to Donbass, Southern Russia and beyond, it is a political, and therefore strategic military, threat and liability. The attacks on the ZNPP continue to be the overarching wild card of the Operation, with unpredictable possible consequences. It must be protected, and doing so must be Russia’s number one priority. While the IAEA has made some promising gestures, it has become clear that the Administration of the General Secretary of the UN has been corrupted and co-opted, and diplomacy and reason will not be enough to prevent further attacks and provocations on the ZNPP.
4) Winter is coming. Autumn is now here. Russia has a short window of opportunity to achieve and cement its military goals in Ukraine before the weather becomes a major detriment to the Russian Army’s ability to maneuver. The falling of the leaves is a substantial advantage for advancing troops searching for dug in defenders in rural areas. But it must also be remembered that while winter ice and snow are very substantial factors influencing the ability of heavy armored columns to move, rain and the ensuing mud are even more of an obstacle, and before winter snow comes autumn rain. And mud.
5) Russia is ready now. There is no time like the present, there is no good reason for further delay. Along the Ukrainian border, from Belgorod to Crimea, Russia has amassed a fighting force capable of decisive blows against the military forces of the Kiev regime. This, thus far, includes over 400 fixed wing combat aircraft and over 300 attack and transport helicopters, the 15,000 man 3rd Corps, and over 60,000 Russian troops poised and prepared to advance into Ukraine at any time. The 3rd corp is freshly trained, rested and equipped with modern weapons that have not previously been used in the conflict, including T-80BV, T-90M, BMP3 and upgraded EW and air defenses. The 3rd Corps was in Taganrok two day ago, but has already begun to arrive near the Donetsk Front. A reinforcement of 75,000 men would represent a 50% increase in Russian combat forces in Ukraine, which considering Russia’s previous successes, could well prove to be decisive.
6) Eighty three years ago, on September 1st, 1939, German nazis invaded Poland in what was to become the beginning of the Second World War. Dmitry Medvedev has recently and explicitly explained that Russia is in Ukraine «to prevent the Third World War». It would be wholly appropriate for Russia to begin the third and final phase of its de-nazification of Ukraine on that symbolic date.
All of the above leads to the conclusion that a new major Russian offensive is as imminent as it is inevitable. The first goals will be the elimination of threats to the Severodonetsk water supply, Donbass cities and civilians, and the ZNPP. These are primary goals. Subsequent liberation of Kharkov and Odessa in a prompt and timely manner will allow Russia to spend the winter consolidation and reinforcing its gains in the majority Russian areas of Ukraine, aka «Novorussia», and allow preparation for the liberation of Kiev and however much more of Ukraine Russia deems necessary to achieve its security requirements. Good luck and Godspeed.