Espreso. Global

Putin prepares Russian army for new large-scale offensive - UK expert Grant 

18 February, 2024 Sunday

Glen Grant, a retired British army colonel and well-known military expert, has told Anton Borkovsky, who hosts Studio West on Espreso TV, about the new stage of the war and how the Ukrainians can win

The situation on the Ukrainian front, particularly in the Kupiansk-Lyman sector and in Avdiivka, is extremely serious. The enemy has prepared a large number of resources, possibly to plan for spring combat activity. How do you see the map of hostilities?

It's clearly a very complex and concerning situation in my opinion. I believe it must be causing a great deal of concern for the senior military and the president at the moment, as they contemplate what actions to take. There's a risk, for example, that the ongoing conflict could deplete resources that may be needed elsewhere in the near future. Therefore, I think people need to make a serious assessment: do we attempt to maintain control over everything, or do we acknowledge that we're in a position where compromises need to be made in order to secure victory in the larger battle later on?

How do we prepare for the situation in Avdiivka, realizing that the enemy may intensify its activities in other parts of the frontline?

You can't simply do anything with Avdiivka except for throwing more people and weapons into it; that's the only option available. There's no secret equipment or magical solution; it all boils down to manpower and utilizing the resources at hand. The challenge lies in deciding how many lives you're willing to sacrifice to maintain control over a place like Avdiivka, considering whether those individuals might be needed for future operations in a month or two for another attack somewhere else. Resources are limited, and the country must prioritize retaining as many as possible for potential future needs."

How did the West, in particular among military experts, hear the signals of the new commander-in-chief, Colonel General Syrsky, that, for example, a defensive campaign is planned?

I believe most people around the world understand that General Syrski's stance makes sense, considering the need for a defensive posture while Ukraine faces no imminent major attack, especially given Russia's aggressive actions. Therefore, I think people will view General Syrski's perspective with a degree of understanding, recognizing that he's operating within limited options.

The more challenging aspect is how soldiers respond to the new commander and his strategies. General Syrskyi isn't always the most popular figure within the Armed Forces, so it will be intriguing to observe how he's received and interpreted by his subordinates. Moreover, it remains to be seen how much personal determination he can inject into the conflict to effectively counter Russia.

Many of the newly appointed generals and colonels have their own combat experience. What can we expect in the current situation with the rethinking of old experience and the use of new, and possibly new, technical capabilities? And what should we expect from the enemy at the same time?

From Russia, we can anticipate a concerted effort to gather and deploy as many resources as possible into the battle. Putin believes he's currently in a winning position, which simplifies his strategy. However, there have been delays in Congress regarding funding and equipment, and the European Union hasn't yet fully sorted out its response. Additionally, there's a slow production of the necessary ammunition, which poses a challenge. Putin likely perceives Ukraine as extremely vulnerable at this moment, regardless of how he views individual leaders like Zaluzhnyi or Syrskyi. And I don’t think it matters because he sees the system as a whole. And the system on the ground is weak. And he is going to throw everything he has now.

Ukraine needs to bolster its drone capabilities by sourcing more drones from the public and recruiting as many volunteers as possible to produce them, buy them, etc. Drones will be crucial, especially in places like Avdiivka, where ammunition supplies are limited. Until sufficient ammunition for guns and artillery arrives, drones will serve as the primary weapon, both offensive and defensive. I don't think there's anything else. The hope lies in the continuous improvement of drone technology by Ukrainian engineers. However, it's essential for the Ministry of Defense to swiftly allocate funds to reinforce these efforts as soon as the drones are produced.

Is the enemy now preparing for a possible large-scale offensive?

That's a valid question, and I believe the answer is yes. It's evident they're planning something significant. The real question is the scale and nature of this impending action. Russia possesses substantial military assets, including tanks, armored vehicles, and a seemingly endless supply of personnel. What they're doing with those people is mainly just throwing a lot of them into the battle to die. But they've got a lot and they don't care if they die. They just care about just keep moving forward and keep moving forward. I think we're going to see Russia attacking again somewhere heavily. I really do hope that it's not around Sumy or Kharkiv.

However, it's crucial to remember Russia's penchant for unconventional tactics, always keeping adversaries guessing. We must be prepared for the unexpected and have ample reserves ready for deployment. Contrary to common belief, we do have reserves scattered across various cities in Kyiv, in Lviv, and it's imperative to train and mobilize them effectively, because before this war is finished a lot of them will be needed. It's essential for everyone to understand the potential need for involvement, even if they're currently engaged in non-military roles.

We understand that the strategy of the Russian General Staff is not about some high-tech solutions, but about deploying meaty infantry assaults. I would like you to comment on the issue of the quantitative dimension and offensive impulse of the enemy.

There's no play in this at all. This is Russia launching an offensive with what it has, and as it acquires more resources, it will continue its offensive. Russia knows that the Ukrainian frontline is stretched, so they will always be looking for vulnerable points to  break through, somewhere where Ukraine is not strong enough.

What's interesting is the reports coming out of America suggesting that Russia may be considering firing a nuclear weapon into space. If they do, the aim would be to disrupt communications, disable GPS, actually to bring the not just the Ukrainian side, but the West down to their level of fighting, in other words to try and remove technology from the equation. This would force both Ukraine and the West into a more primitive style of warfare, aligning with Russia's preferred tactics.

I think this is a distinct possibility because as technology advances in the West and in Ukraine, it becomes increasingly challenging for Russia to achieve its objectives and they will be more likely to lose. Therefore, we may see Russia taking measures to level the technological playing field by disrupting GPS and satellite communications. So don't be surprised if such actions occur.

Please share your thoughts and advice on how to transform our defense system into a single, coherent mechanism, although there is not much time to do so.

The first priority is to establish a coordinated army, meaning not having numerous individual units scattered everywhere but instead straightening up the battlefield by clarifying who is in charge of each area much more clearly and coherently. This would significantly reduce the chances of friendly fire incidents and provide a clearer understanding of responsibilities across the battlefield. Currently, if you look at the maps, you can see people all over the place, it's not always clear who is responsible for what. While there may be clarity about the responsibility of the 110 Brigade in Avdiivka, the  other units behind it lack such clarity. This coordination is crucial and the foremost priority.

The second priority is to make a concerted effort to improve the medical system. While there have been some improvements, the quality of the medical system still falls short of what's required for an army engaged in a war of this scale. More tourniquets, the right ones, proper medical equipment, and ongoing training are still needed to meet the demands of the battlefield.

The third priority is to focus on targeted defenses that directly support the soldiers, particularly the infantry. The infantryman is at the forefront of the fighting and needs adequate support. You can’t support a soldier with an F-16, this doesn’t work. This support should include basic necessities such as infrared sights, rifles, rifle ammunition, mortars, mortar ammunition, grenade launchers, grenade ammunition and other essential equipment. These are the real basis for infantry fighting. Properly supporting the infantry is crucial for winning this war. But if you don't support the infantry lots of them will die and you will just give Russia the greater chance to break through. This is not about the big things, this is about men who are properly equipped and properly trained who can fight. This is Syrskyi's main challenge, lying in professionalizing the entire system, not just the frontline. This involves upgrading the processes from recruitment to frontline deployment for soldiers, officers and senior commanders. All levels of command need to be upgraded in their understanding of how to effectively fight this battle.

We understand that victories in wars are achieved not solely by commanders-in-chief, but predominantly by personnel and their middle management, particularly crucial in logistics, supply, and communications. Training middle management requires a significant amount of time. Could you provide us with guidance on expediting their adaptation process and minimizing any delays in their performance?

I believe the first step is to focus on recruiting individuals with expertise in logistics to bolster our logistical support. We need people who have worked in logistics all their life and move them into positions where they can actually influence the improvement of the logistics and there are such people around, whether it's within companies like Silpo or elsewhere. I mean people that know logistics inside out and have been doing it a long time. And there are people who do logistics internationally every single day with lorry companies. Some of these people need to be found and pulled into the system to see if they can improve your logistical capabilities.

When it comes to selecting sergeants, it's crucial to prioritize battlefield experience. They should prove themselves on the battlefield first, starting as soldiers, then progressing through the ranks based on their performance. Following their battlefield experience, they can undergo short but intensive training courses, lasting two to four days, to enhance their leadership skills and overall knowledge and then allow them to come back into the fight again. You can’t just recruit sergeants without battlefield understanding. So first they must fight, when they fought then you must see if they've got the ability to be sergeants. This approach ensures that we have competent sergeants who understand the realities of combat and can effectively lead their units.

I would say maybe also the same principle could be applied to officers as well. They should also gain firsthand experience in battle before receiving further training, provided they demonstrate proficiency. It's about striking a balance between battlefield experience, life experience, and having streamlined systems that facilitate swift decision-making and action. Not bureaucratic systems that take a long time waiting for someone to decide. Our systems need to be agile, capable of responding to challenges within days, not weeks or months, reflecting a shift in our approach and mindset.

General Zaluzhnyi, the Chief of the General Staff, along with several other generals, have been replaced. They all displayed discipline and a readiness to obey orders. However, it's uncommon to see generals, on whom so much relied, being dismissed in this manner.

I won't comment on the replacement of Zaluzhnyi and his team, as that falls under the president's jurisdiction and is a standard practice in every army. Throughout history, during WWI and WWII individuals have been replaced for various reasons, including mental fatigue or the need for a system refresh. This is a normal process and is not unusual.

However, what is not acceptable is how it was handled by the media. It is the responsibility of the supreme commander, or sometimes the new commander like Syrski, to inform individuals of their replacement in a respectful and face-to-face manner. Disrespecting the rank and system is unacceptable, and generals should not be treated in such a manner. Any mishandling of this situation should be rectified, and proper apologies should be issued to those affected.

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