Landing in Crimea, a surprise that Ukraine is preparing for Russian troops? What are the chances of landing and where is the key

The discovery of a new strategic direction of armed confrontation, especially one that is considered unlikely, changes the rules of the game and in most cases brings victory to the one who initiates it. But much more important than the idea itself is when and how it will be implemented.

Recent military developments on the peninsula – the destruction of a vital Russian air surveillance radar, the brief landing of a Ukrainian reconnaissance group, the drone attack on the training bases of two major Russian combat units – indicate that Ukraine is in operational preparations for a landing in Crimea.

When can the landing be made? Theoretically, superiority in the air and at sea is necessary. The Russians had both at the start of the war, but they didn’t even try to land. So the key might be somewhere else.

For now, Russia is militarily weakened at home and will find it very difficult to engage in land-based confrontations anywhere but Ukraine.

Two key developments have demonstrated that Russia is internally vulnerable and does not have troops capable of dealing with regular or special forces operating at great distances from the Ukrainian front.

The first of them is the invasion of the Belgorod region in May-June 2023 by the pro-Ukrainian paramilitary formations of the Legion for the Freedom of Russia and the Russian Volunteer Corps. It took the Russian military almost three weeks to regain control of the areas attacked by the militants.

The second event is the attempted coup d’etat by Yevgeny Prigozhin on June 23-24. Then several Wagner paramilitary formations, equipped and manned by one or two mechanized brigades, occupied the headquarters of the Southern Military District, located in Rostov-on-Don, and then moved towards Moscow with great ease, having managed to capture a distance of about 700 km in one day. A plausible explanation for the fact that no one spoke out against Prigogine is that in the Rostov, Voronezh and Lipetsk regions, as well as in their neighboring regions, there were no longer ground troops capable of fighting, since they were sent to the front.

The Ukrainian counteroffensive this summer brought almost all of Russia’s ground forces to the front line.

Armored Troops of the Armed Forces / Ministry of Defense of Russia

Shortly after the invasion of the Belgorod region, the Ukrainian army finally launched a counteroffensive operation. Its announcement back in winter-spring allowed the Russian troops to prepare well for defense, including through the transfer of a large number of troops and a large amount of military equipment.

The head of the Pentagon called the Ukrainian counteroffensive slow and bloody. Kyiv troops are systematically reducing Russian troops without spectacular jumps. Such a combat strategy, adopted by the Ukrainians, dictated by even the complex Russian defense, demanded the maximum morale of the Moscow troops, which have been losing initiative and under constant pressure for almost three months now. The Russian General Staff decided to send new troops to the front, leaving Russia even more vulnerable at home, including in Crimea.

The forces of the Russian army, which can be used in ground operations, have reached the limit. The situation was noted by the British Defense Intelligence Service, which, in its report of 28 August, stated that Russia most likely canceled joint strategic exercises Zapad-2023 due to lack of troops and military equipment.

For its part, the Institute for the Study of War, a US think tank that also follows the Russo-Ukrainian war, said in its August 28 report on the events that Russian forces are almost entirely used to stop the Ukrainian counteroffensive and no longer have the ability to resume offensive operations. on a large scale, including due to the degradation of the elite forces – the landing troops.

How could the landing be carried out in the current conditions, when Ukraine does not control the sky and the sea?

Allegedly, the landing of Ukrainian troops in the Crimea is a gamble, but the Ukrainian raid on August 24 proved this. there is a window of opportunity for a small, agile, high-tech force operating dispersed against strategic targets on the peninsula..

Russia, having failed to land its invasion force in Odessa Oblast, felt that Ukraine was even less inclined to carry out such an operation in Crimea. Based on this conclusion, and also influenced by the development of the war, Russia sent combat units from the peninsula to the front line.

To protect coastal and important facilities, he allocated insufficiently trained personnel, unable to properly deal with the elite Ukrainian forces that would be involved in the event of an amphibious landing.

We remind you that the Ukrainians sent only a research group of the Main Directorate of Military Intelligence (GUR) to the raid on August 24, which in a short confrontation destroyed about 30 Russian soldiers without recording losses.

Information is key

Moreover, the GUR seems to be able to receive very accurate and important information about the position of Russian troops in Crimea in real time. This made recent advances possible and allowed more accurate planning of possible landings. In addition to information obtained by technical means and from NATO, it is noted that the GUR and other Ukrainian intelligence services have a reliable network of local informants who promptly confirm to them the movement of Russian troops on the peninsula.

The ability of local agents to operate relatively freely also depends on the support of the civilian population, and not just on the work of the Russian security apparatus. This would mean that in the event of a possible landing, the Ukrainian military would at least not have hostile locals who could interfere with their mission. It seems that for the Crimeans, the disadvantage of living in tension with Russian security institutions is becoming increasingly obvious compared to the status of autonomy in Ukraine, strengthened later by NATO membership.

With these few resources on their side, the Ukrainian special forces, possibly supported by Western long-range missiles, will have some chance to destroy certain priority targets (radar, airfields, communication lines, etc.), which will facilitate landing at a higher altitude . strength.

Negative scenario

Chances are good that the landing will fail and the elite Ukrainian forces will be destroyed, but sometimes you can learn more from a failed operation than from a successful one.

The question is rightly asked about the worst-case scenario: the landing failed, and the elite Ukrainian forces were destroyed. For a while, defense and offense would have worked without them. But these forces have a strategic impact. The effect of the action is felt on the front line after a longer time, but with a devastating impact.

Therefore, the special forces to be destroyed must be replaced as soon as possible, since in the absence of aircraft and long-range missiles, only they can make incursions into the depths of the enemy’s defenses to destroy his strategic objects. , which contributed to a severe limitation of his actions.

The solution to such a scenario could be NATO, which, having demonstrated that it has trained and equipped at least 10 Ukrainian combat brigades in three to four months, could consider doing so for one or two special forces brigades, if it has not already done so.

Of course, there are some important limitations here too. The first is obviously a longer training time, and the second is human nature, because people with the necessary qualities – moral and physical strength and very good health – are extremely rare.

In addition, even if the landing fails to achieve its main goal, Russian troops, in order to repel another attempt, will be forced to take risks and bring their warships closer to Ukrainian anti-ship missiles and drones, as well as withdraw troops from the front in Crimea, because its nowhere to bring from anywhere. And the fortifications in the Zaporozhye region will not be able to stand without people who will fight in them.

Recall that important lessons were learned from the unsuccessful Allied raid on Dieppe (August 1942, during World War II), which were applied during the famous Normandy landings. Of course, the details are different, the weapons are different, the tactics are different, but the principle is the same: test, learn from your mistakes, and then do better.

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