Ukraine – What comes after the counter-offensive?
By Philip Ingram MBE
As we are waiting for the Ukrainian counter-offensive against the illegal Russian occupying forces to get under way, it is important that we begin to think of what could happen next and ask if it will see the end of this unnecessary and brutal war that is impacting so many in Ukraine. We also have to ask what the continuing global impact could be, and could the end state be worse?
So, where are we at the moment with Putins 10-day Special Military operation, AKA all-out war against Ukraine? It’s quite simple, he is losing. His initial objective was clear, topple the Zelensky Government through a rapid operation into Kyiv and oversee the transition of Ukraine to a pro Russia puppet state like Belarus. He expected it to be all over and done with in 10-14 days at most, as he believed the might of the Russian military.
He failed in his strategic objective because his operational planning and tactical execution were flawed. He failed because of an overestimation of his military abilities and an underestimate of Ukraine’s resolve and ability to generate international support. The Ukrainians stopped him achieving his initial goals forcing him to change his main effort to the East and withdraw from all other places. However, the Ukrainians then ‘fixed’ his forces, counter attacking in Kharkiv and then Kherson taking huge tracts of land back from under Russian occupation.
Then the weather changed, making manoeuvre warfare almost impossible. The Ukrainians continued to ‘fix’ the Russians militarily and psychologically in Bakhmut, buying time to send their best troops overseas to be trained on western tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and artillery, with associated changes in tactics. This has enabled them to get into the position they are now, ready to restart the initiative through a new counter-offensive and take more occupied territory back.
Ukraine has four potential areas it could attack and may attack one or more simultaneously, ensuring the Russian ability to concentrate force over what is a 1200+ km frontline, remains dislocated. That is why we are seeing attacks into mainland Russia as part of the Ukrainian counter-offensive battlespace preparation phase. It keeps the Russians guessing and weakens their reserve capability by ensuring it remains geographically spread. This adds further command and control (C2) and logistic headaches, especially with Ukraine targeting logistics and C2 nodes as part of this preparation phase.
base map thanks to UK MoD Defence Intelligence
The Ukrainian counter offensive has started, we are in phase 1, prepare the battlespace and this can continue until the conditions are judged right to move to the next phase. That could be days or weeks away. However, the time and place will be decided by the Ukrainians but what could happen after that?
The Ukrainian ground counter-offensive will likely come to a natural pause in the Autumn when the ground becomes too soft for armoured warfare and will probably transition back to the deep battle and fixing operations in preparation for another counter-offensive phase in Spring/Summer 2024. By then the political landscape will be becoming more complex. Residential elections in Russia and the USA, parliamentary elections in the UK all giving Putin influence opportunities. How much territory the Ukrainians will have liberated by then remains to be seen.
It also gives those circling Putin an opportunity potentially to oust him and he will be aware of that. Western influence operations will be trying to help set the conditions for that, and we will likely see an increase in efforts around this over the coming year. However, that may not bring in anyone more sympathetic to the West or wanting to solve the current crisis.
Many of the architects of the “Special Military Operation,” or those who think they could handle it better (including Shoigu the defence minister and Prigozhin the head of the Wagner Private Military Company) are in a potential succession line. Of note, even though Private Military Companies in Russia are technically illegal, Shoigu is setting his own up. Could we see a face-off between him and Prigozhin?
However, there are bigger issues. The Russian Federation is a complex and multifaceted nation, marked by its vast expanse, rich history, diverse cultural landscape, and intricate political system. As the largest country in the world, Russia boasts a unique geopolitical position that has been shaped by its relations with neighbouring states, internal political frictions, and the ongoing process of regionalisation.
In the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, the Russian Federation embarked on a journey towards democracy and a market economy. However, this transformation was fraught with difficulties, as the country lacked a clear conception of how to achieve these goals.
During this period of political and economic upheaval, various factions and interest groups vied for power, often leading to intense internal struggles and policy inconsistencies. These internal struggles and factions behind them haven’t gone away. The disparity between the casualties coming out of the Special Military Operation from the Moscow, European elite and other regions of Russia will likely increase tensions as they become known. Any weakening of the centralised power base could see moves in some areas for greater autonomy.
According to the New WorldEncyclopedia.org, “The Russian Federation comprises 85 federal subjects, namely:
- 47 oblasts (provinces)
- 21 republics (states) which enjoy a high degree of autonomy on most issues and which correspond to some of Russia’s numerous ethnic minorities
- eight krais (territories)
- six okrugs (autonomous districts)
- two federal cities (Moscow and St. Petersburg)
- the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.
Federal subjects are grouped into seven federal districts, each administered by an envoy appointed by the President of Russia. For economic and statistical purposes, the federal subjects are grouped into 12 economic regions. Economic regions and their parts sharing common economic trends are in turn grouped into economic zones and macrozones.”
That is a complex set of groupings over a vast area, 17,075,400 km², with a population in excess of 145 million and multiple ethnic and religious groupings is a challenge when there is clear control from Moscow and strong leadership. With potential leadership infighting, a vastly weakened military and an economy in free fall, the ability for Moscow to retain control could be questioned. Any fight for leadership in Moscow post Putin would be fraught with difficulty and potentially a real ability to continue to hold the federation together.
Should the potential for a former Yugoslavia type breakup of the Russian Federation become more likely, then the possibility of pre-emptive action from the likes of China and Japan would increase. China has a 4000Km border with Russia and the potential for unrest along that area would not be welcome. Japan disputes Russia’s continued occupation of Kunashir Island, part of the Kuril Island group and the southernmost island, nearest the Japanese mainland. Japan has recently changed its constitution to allow the Japanese Home Defense Forces to project power to protect Japanese interests.
We have to be cognisant that the end of the Special Military Operation (War) in Ukraine will likely lead to the downfall of Putin, if he isn’t deposed beforehand, but the outcome could easily become a much wider global problem which would make the breakup of Yugoslavia seem like a minor issue. If ever there was a time for looking forward and strong international cooperative diplomacy, now is that time.
Failure in Afghanistan – why and what are the implications?
by Philip Ingram MBE
As a former senior military planner and intelligence officer, I would just like to bring to your attention a few thoughts around how and why the situation in Afghanistan failed in such a spectacular way and what the implications for the UK are going forward. I have significant global operational experience after 26 years’ service.
This immediate situation was caused by President Trumps order to leave set for 01 May 2021. President Biden could have reversed the order but instead just chose to delay it. Once the Taliban and people of Afghanistan knew they Coalition were leaving they knew what the future would hold. The Taliban will have been influencing the tribal leaders and families of all those in the Afghan Army and Police not to fight. The had been running an alternative social structure for years, whilst in waiting for an eventual withdrawal as they have the ultimate planning tool, they operate in multiple generation time frames whilst we operate in Parliamentary, Presidential, or more accurately tomorrow’s headline, timeframes.
The US only had 2500 troops on the ground. If there had been will amongst the rest of the international community and especially the EU who are happy to hang on the coat tails of US and UK underpinned defence but when crunch comes not step up to the mark it is a sad reflection of the EUs sense of responsibility on the World stage. Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland and others could easily have filled the US boots and equipment on the ground and airpower vacuum. I am sure if that had happened the US could have been persuaded to maintain enablers such as intelligence and some logistics.
However, the rot started in 2003 when the very real progress that had been made with the original deployment to remove the safe space for Al Qaeda was halted to put Iraq as a priority. The fault for that lies squarely with the then Prime Minister Tony Blair and his spin team misleading the country to an unnecessary conflict that opened a second unnecessary front. The deaths today and tomorrow in Afghanistan can clearly be put at the feet of the Blair/Bush pact!
The final failure is of real concern for the standing of defence in this country. Whilst service man and women at the tactical level on the ground were making huge strides, improving the lives of the Afghan people and paying the price in lives, limbs and sanity for it their commanders at that critical Operational/Strategic juncture were misleading themselves and political decision makers.
They would only spin positive news and report it up, ignoring the reality. Chatting with Simon Akam the author of The Changing of the Guard, he told me only yesterday “I keep recalling being driven around Bastion by an amiable media minder saying, “We have these key lines we’re meant to be pushing, and they just don’t correspond to reality,” and that was 7 years ago.” To do otherwise would risk promotion, glory and medals!
We have to face the facts that senior British Military Commanders, many now with Peerages, Knighthood’s or DSOs misled their political masters in country and back at home that all was going well when the reality that no matter how many Afghan security forces and police we trained they were poorly paid if at all, corruption was rife, leadership in many cases poor and we were training them to rely on Coalition Airpower, Artillery, Communications, Casualty Evacuation and embedded mentoring. All of which disappeared the moment we asked them to fight alone.
It is time those commanders, who are the same ones that have been responsible for what was discovered in the Wigston review, Atherton Review, AJAX, NIMROD, Defence Estates and so much more, are properly held to account and not left with huge taxpayers’ funded pensions and national awards. Simply, they have failed in their roles.
The legacy? Islamist chat groups are already laughing, saying we just need to wait and will always win. We will never be trusted when we say, work for us we will look after you. Terror organisations are emboldened, more attacks on the streets of the UK will happen. China and Russia are laughing, the threat to Ukraine and Taiwan I would argue has just stepped up a notch or two. It will cost us more to prepare for these eventualities than it would to have stayed!
It is time to commend the service personnel and diplomats carrying out the NEO operation, all Afghan people who worked for us and helped us, our service personnel at the lower levels who worked so hard and sacrificed so much. It is time to pray for those we can’t help, we can’t begin to know the horrors they will (not might), suffer. It is time to take a broom to Defence and sweep out the dead wood before the next disaster and time to hold the dead wood serving or retired to account.
Philip Ingram MBE is available for comment – please check Contact us
Drone Detection and Defences Switched Off
By Philip Ingram MBE – Chief Grey Hare Spy
The Grey Hare Media team can confirm that high level talks have left Gatwick and Heathrow vulnerable to drone incursions as detection and disruption technologies, boosted after last year’s 3 days of disruption at Gatwick airport in the middle of the Christmas getaway, have been switched off. Investigations can also reveal that similar activities have been ordered at all airports across the globe.
A spokesman for Dubai airport, one of the worlds busiest hubs said, “We have our fingers crossed that there won’t be any disruption to normal airport operations as any closure we estimate costs us $100,000 per minute.” The full cost of the Gatwick closure has not been released yet, but EasyJet estimate it cost the airline approximately £15 million.
However, the US/Canada joint air defence establishment NORAD has indicated that it has deployed a global monitoring system, able to ensure that any threat through the lack of local capabilities can be mitigated. It has taken very careful negotiations to convince the Russian, Chinese and other governments that this is for positive not sinister purposes. Every country less North Korea has agreed to the new protocol that is for a short period of 31 hours only.
The reason for this global cooperation is that North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) have a special SANTA tracking facility that is made ready once a year to ensure that SANTA is kept safe and should there be any mishaps, then the right help can be provided quickly. Not many people realise that according to observations from the International Space Station SANTA has only 31 hours to visit every home across the globe. This seemingly extended Christmas day is thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth. SANTA travels from East to West.
This joint US/ Canadian facility will not be affected by any of President Trump’s tweets nor relations between himself and the Canadian PM. It is a vital global service ensuring the safety of happiness and joy.
What NORAD have confirmed is that Santa makes 822.6 visits per second allowing him 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house….. phew…..
So, the chances of children seeing him are very remote, however, he has specialist stealth technologies that keep him invisible, and they can’t be compromised which is why the new drone detection technologies are being switched off.
Santa’s sleigh moves at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. This makes Rudolf a very special type of reindeer as a conventional reindeer can run at a maximum of about 15 miles per hour. His defining feature is his red nose but at 650 miles per second and with special stealth technologies, only Santa and the other reindeers should be able to see it.
However, the Grey Hare spies’ team have been informed that Santa’s stealth technology was hacked at the same time his naughty list was last year and the hackers still have not been caught. It is believed that the rapidly deployed drone detection technologies sent to Gatwick were used to enable the hackers to get into Santa’s stealth systems and ultimately the naughty list database.
Santa isn’t quiet in the run up to Christmas, whilst his elves and Mrs Clause are getting the present production working at full tilt, Santa does a series of practice runs to let his reindeers stretch their legs and confirm they still remember where to go and practice his emergency plans.
Part of their emergency plans are landing (covertly) for quick repairs so present delivery can continue. He also has spare sleighs covertly deployed in case of catastrophic failure. The Grey Hare spies saw HMS Big Lizzie being used last year as a CSSDP, covert spare sleigh deployment platform, and this year, given the increasing age of the sleighs SANTA asked if HMS Prince of Wales (POW) could host another with an Elf repair team – the code word to listen out for if you are a radio ham should there be any problems is “execute operation LizziePOW.”
Hopefully there will be no disruption and joy can be delivered to all. A very Merry Christmas to one and all from the Grey Hare Media Team.
The Russian Bear leading the bald Trump eagle in a game of nuclear Jong
As the globe breathes a sigh of relief over the positive tones regarding a formal end to the Korean War and working towards a de-nuclearised Korean Peninsula, after the meeting between Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, the North and South Korean leaders, we will start to see Donald Trump taking the credit for saving the world from a North Korean nuclear Armageddon. However, we have to ask is all as it seems?
It is very easy to see what we want to see, and a de-nuclearised Korean Peninsula is what we want to see in the same way George Bush and Tony Blair wanted to see Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), so they ensured the world saw that threat…….
We all know how Iraq has turned out because we didn’t open our eyes properly. The intelligence game is all about keeping our eyes open and acting as the conscience for decision makers. Sometimes they listen, often they don’t and when they don’t and it all goes wrong, the intelligence agencies get the blame, not the politicians who made the decisions.
As I look at the Korean issue, I want to start with Russia and ask some of the intelligence game questions.
65-year-old Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (Влади́мир Влади́мирович Пу́тин) takes a long and global view of his vision to rebuild mother Russia in the image of the USSR but utilising his version of capitalist principals, not communism.
He has effectively been in power since 1999 when he was first Prime Minister of Russia, becoming President in 2000, engineering a break back to Prime Minister from 2008 – 2012 where his close ally Dmitry Medvedev became President, Putin has now been elected for his second 6-year term of this Presidency. He will be setting the conditions to ensure he can retain power long past this second term even if this means another ‘flip’ with Medvedev.
The ‘So What?’ from this is that Putin can afford to take a long-term view of what he wants to achieve for Russia and can use that longevity to bypass any sticky overseas opposition just by playing the long game. He knows perfectly well that the leaders of the countries that oppose him are in power for relatively short periods of time and have adversarial political systems which he can easily manipulate so that dealing with the Russian bear remains a relatively low priority.
Putin is an old-school Russian, almost genetically disposed to see conspiracy from the West aimed at destroying Russia. He hankers after the days of the cold war where things were easy but loves the power and wealth he has in post-Soviet Russia; he is a Russian nationalist almost to fanatical levels, but that is his role, after all, he is President.
As you would expect his politics have created domestic enemies and friends; the difference between them and western political allies and opposition is that they are on the whole hugely wealthy and in their own spheres, hugely influential. Like all wealthy influential people, they also have ambition. Those such as Roman Abramovich and Arkady Rotenberg keep their ambition in line with Putin’s and are considered as friends. Those such as Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky are sent clear messages to toe the line or are exiled or imprisoned. That messaging, as we have seen, is delivered by Polonium 210 or Novichok.
Putin, whilst he is more than happy to ‘go it alone’ is very conscious that his fortune comes from global business and from his long-term view position and historical mistrust of the USA and other NATO countries, he wants to make political and global business alliances. He knows he can control the EU and USA from anti-Russian excesses; Trumps change of mind regarding additional sanctions against Russia whilst Nikki Haley, his Ambassador to the UN, was outlining when they would be implemented is one sign of this. Not quite the eagle has landed and more of the eagle has been warned. Germany signing a gas contract with Russia on the day they issued a statement of condemnation over the Salisbury Novichok attack is another.
Putin sees his route for alliances to be with non-NATO like-minded countries and when their economies are growing, even better. We have been seeing greater cooperation with China and India, we have seen tolerance of Iran and continued massive support for Assad in Syria, but it is China and India I am interested in here.
The South China Seas/Indian Ocean region is seeing the fastest growth of power projection military capabilities of anywhere in the world. India is developing their naval blue water capability, China is doing the same, Japan is responding with constitutional changes and expeditionary capabilities and the disputed Paracel and Spratley Islands are being militarised.
Xi Jinping’s economy continues to grow at almost 7% and he has cemented his political longevity in a way I am sure Putin is envious of. However, with only one-year difference in age, we have two P5 leaders with very long-term political stability and greater economic interaction, in 2015 Russia signed a $400 Bn 30-year natural gas supply agreement with China. They are natural global bedfellows and Russia’s courting of India makes them a natural focus for defence exports as they can pay!
Xi has been seen for a long time as Kim Jong Un’s only ‘ally’ and he is more like a great uncle trying to keep an errant, badly behaved distant nephew in check. However, Dan North from the North Korean Monitoring site 38North.org has identified a company called TransTelekom (ТрансТелеКо́m) has put a fast internet connection into North Korea alongside their older and much slower Chinese supplied connection. TransTelekom is a major Russian telecommunications company that owns one of the world’s largest networks of fibre optic cables. The company is a full subsidiary of Russian national railway operator, Russian Railways who are owned by the Russian Federation. Putin has his fingers in North Korea!
We have seen North Korea blamed for the sophisticated cyber-attack on Sony and the 2017 global WannaCry attack. At the same time, we see North Korea’s nuclear capability go from a warhead of less than 1Kt detonated in 2006 to in 2017 a warhead of an estimated 120-160 Kt exploded. His ballistic missile technology goes from short range to ICBM and failure most times to success most times, over an even shorter period of time. Where is North Korea getting its cyber training and awareness and where is it getting its newfound nuclear and missile know-how and technologies? What has Russia to gain from a relationship with North Korea? These questions have never been successfully answered.
And what of the young dictator, Kim Jong Un the man who starves his people, executes his relatives with anti-aircraft guns if he suspects them of being disloyal or if exiled, executes them in an international airport with VX, a deadly persistent military grade nerve agent? He has new friends who are helping his cyber capability and his missile technology. He has his Chinese ‘great uncle’ who has scolded him for poking Trump bald eagle with his ICBM nuclear stick. He has a need for investment and a pause in his nuclear programme, as his test site has collapsed. He has a long-term view just like Xi and Putin. He has, from his perspective, joined the ‘big boys club’ by getting the US President to come to him and showing the world his conventional and nuclear capabilities. He has given Putin an idea of what using a nerve agent as an assassins’ weapon is like. He has nothing to lose by having talks with Moon and Trump and everything to gain. He has a smug feeling in his belly.
The manoeuvring that is going on between Xi, Putin and Kim Jong Un, whilst it all seems to be separate and not interconnected, is likely to be just that, interconnected. What are Russia and China’s long-term goals and why are they playing with North Korea? There is a wider game at play here and it is probably 3 wider games, the Chinese one of global economic dominance, the Russian one of nationalistic resurgence and the North Korean one of sitting at the top table. The short-sighted view many Western countries will have of what is going on will force them to see what they want to, the cries for Trump to get the Nobel Peace Prize for ‘solving’ the North Korean issue have already started. There is a global alliance here and it may have something to do with the disputed islands in the South China Sea.
We just have to remember some recent historical examples of success and failure. The Chinese economy grows when everyone else’s recedes. Putin annexed Crimea successfully and has a strong foothold in Eastern Ukraine. He has turned Assad’s assumed demise into a winning home run. He has clearly demonstrated the power of маскировка (maskirovka) in influencing elections, referendums and political debates on both sides of the Atlantic. Kim Jong Un has got the President of the USA to come to him. We the West have a less successful record, the debacle of Iraq that resulted in the creation of ISIS and global terror, the failure in Afghanistan allowing the Taliban and ISIS-affiliated groups, to retake many of the areas soldiers blood was spilled to secure initially and Libya with the humanitarian disaster we see with refugees in the Mediterranean.
Who has the long-term vision and who sees what they want? Should we be worried? My view is, hell yes !!……….
Note: This blog is written by Philip Ingram MBE, a former British Army Intelligence Officer who has served in the Middle East and Cyprus. If you would like any further comment from Philip, please contact him by clicking HERE