Is It Time For A More Muscular Policy To Replace Russia’s Special Military Operation?
Voluntarily limiting Russia's special operation was done for the right reasons related to humanitarian and political goals, but it unwittingly prevented the military success of this campaign upon which those two aforementioned objectives’ success is dependent, thus making last weekend’s outcome inevitable.
The Kharkov Context
Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov has taken the lead of those domestic forces that are demanding a more muscular policy to replace Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine following the setback that their country unexpectedly experienced during Kiev’s NATO-backed blitz across Kharkov Region. He told his followers in a voice message on Telegram that “If today or tomorrow changes are not made in the conduct of the special military operation, I will be forced to go to the country’s leadership to explain to them the situation on the ground. I’m not a strategist like those in the defence ministry. But it’s clear that mistakes were made. I think they will draw a few conclusions.”
Kadyrov’s remarks channel the frustration that many across Russia are feeling after what just happened over the weekend. The optics were especially painful after the climax of that counteroffensive occurred while President Putin opened Europe’s largest ferris wheel shortly before fireworks lit up the capital’s sky to celebrate the city’s founding 875 years ago. Those familiar with famous Polish painter Jan Matejko’s masterpiece “Stańczyk”, which Wikipedia accurately describes as depicting a solemn court jester lamenting the loss of Smolensk (that in hindsight portended much worse consequences to come) while the royal family obliviously danced the night away, probably felt just like its subject did.
For detailed context into what just took place in Northeastern Ukraine and in order to better understand the rest of the present piece, the reader should review the author’s latest analytical series about it:
It would also help if they check out his five prior pieces below explaining various dimensions of Russia’s ongoing special military operation in that neighboring former Soviet Republic:
To oversimplify the gist of the first four articles from the author’s latest analytical series, a combination of serious intelligence shortcomings, wishful thinking, and the self-imposed limitations placed upon the Russian military by President Putin’s hybrid humanitarian-politically driven special operation mandate were arguably responsible for the setback that was just experienced during the Kharkov Counteroffensive. As for the last five pieces, their relevance to the present one is that they touch upon why the Russian leader limited his newly restored world power’s mission to a special operation: he’s averse to civilian casualties and hopes to rebuild historical bonds between their people afterwards.
Perfect On Paper But Counterproductive In Practice?
This outlook was strategically sound on paper since it aimed to mitigate collateral damage and thus retain the socio-physical basis upon which to reconstruct Russian-Ukrainian relations, but it was predicated on his forces achieving and maintaining full military dominance over their opponents, which ultimately didn’t happen. As the author told Azerbaijani media in July, “All Sides Of The Ukrainian Conflict Underestimated Each Other”. Of pertinence, Russia didn’t expect Kiev to illegally militarize residential areas and thus de facto exploit civilians there as human shields for slowing its advance like Amnesty International recently proved nor for NATO to so robustly and successfully rearm its proxies.
By declining to match Kiev’s total war doctrine towards the conflict by hitherto not targeting utility infrastructure and command centers that could have crippled its rearmament capabilities and thus ensured its lasting demilitarization after having destroyed its entire military-industrial complex by late March per its opponent’s own admission, Russia inadvertently set itself up for all that transpired. Voluntarily limiting its special operation was done for the right reasons related to humanitarian and political goals, but it unwittingly prevented the military success of this campaign upon which those two aforementioned objectives’ success is dependent, thus making last weekend’s outcome inevitable.
The very fact that everything got to this dramatic of a point in the first place speaks to the observation that Russia’s military actions throughout the course of its special operation have been comparatively mild and nowhere near what one would have expected from the US during its own campaigns. Furthermore, this self-restraint confirms that Russia has far-reaching mutually beneficial socio-economic and political goals that it plans to advance after the conflict ends and thus doesn’t want to flatten Ukraine like America flattered Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya. These complementary observations therefore discredit the prevailing US-led Western Mainstream Media (MSM) narrative about Russia’s conduct.
Russia’s dozens of partners across the vast swath of humanity known as the Global South appreciate the way in which its military has conducted itself thus far, which explains why they’re all rallying around it and not a single one of those states has capitulated to American pressure to sanction Moscow. Nevertheless, despite remaining a reliable partner for helping those countries bolster their “Democratic Security” capabilities and thus safeguard their sovereignty in the face of the US’ attempts to impose its neo-imperialist hegemony onto them, many of these same states and especially their societies might now be wondering whether Russia has somewhat lost its luster after what just happened.
Mainstream Media Meddling
There’s no denying that it experienced a setback over the weekend, one that was completely unnecessary in hindsight and largely attributable to serious intelligence shortcomings and wishful thinking by some officials, which provides a semi-solid basis upon which the MSM can launch forthcoming information warfare operations aimed at further weakening support for Russia abroad. Not only that, but those pernicious efforts could also plausibly impact the political situation at home, which the US-led West has always sought to meddle in for decades and unprecedentedly ramped up its activities in this respect right after the start of Russia’s special operation.
Constructive Suggestions & Critiques
It's therefore crucial for Russia to meaningfully counteract the shift in perceptions (irrespective of how factually grounded such views might presently be) at home and abroad about the course of its ongoing campaign, which is one of the most powerful arguments in favor of a more muscular policy replacing the strictly limited special operation. Apart from the immediate soft power drivers, such a change in outlook would empower the Russian Armed Forces to do what’s needed to achieve the military objectives upon which the success of the humanitarian and political ones is dependent. Continuing to voluntarily fight with one hand behind its back is considered by some to complicate the entirety of Moscow’s campaign.
Quite clearly, this well-intended approach at the very least indirectly contributed to Kiev’s NATO-backed build-up ahead of the Kharkov Counteroffensive, which wouldn’t have taken place had Ukraine’s regional utility networks and command centers already been largely incapacitated or destroyed long ago at the start of the special operation. Of course, it goes without saying that immediately promulgating such a muscular policy would have probably made it impossible to meet Russia’s humanitarian goals and would almost certainly have sunk any chance of advancing its political ones after the conflict, not to mention how it would have been twisted by the MSM as so-called “proof of Russian war crimes”.
Humanitarian Benefits vs. Military-Political Costs
By staying the course in its special operation thus far, Russia successfully mitigated collateral damage to civilians and infrastructure, for which it deserves hearty praise. Be that as it is, this commendable outcome occurred at the unintended expense of Ukraine recovering with NATO backing from its large-scale demilitarization that had been achieved by late March, which in turn means that the Kremlin’s political objectives still remain as distant as ever. Moreover, the MSM paid absolutely zero attention to the humanitarian-driven dimension of President Putin’s calculations in ordering his armed forces to unilaterally restrain themselves and instead continued accusing Russia of “war crimes”.
Worse still, Kiev’s NATO-backed military build-up from April onward that was inadvertently abetted by the self-imposed limitations placed on the Russian Armed Forces for the most respectable humanitarian reasons connected with their leader’s ambitious long-term geopolitical goals kept the conflict going up until now, thus perpetuating civilian hardships. That’s not whatsoever to imply any criticism of President Putin personally since he of all people wants his country to emerge victorious more than anyone else, especially considering how all of this will shape his legacy across the centuries, but just that “the path to hell is paved with good intentions” as the oft-repeated saying goes.
In truly trying to help the largest number of people possible or at the very least reduce their hardships throughout the course of his country’s special operation, his purely well-intended decision to stay committed to restricting his military forces’ actions in the special operation for hybrid humanitarian-political reasons is one of the primary factors explaining why the conflict hasn’t yet ended and the situation for millions of civilians remains precarious. To dispel any ambiguity, speculation, or uncertainty, President Putin isn’t being blamed for any of this since he was forced by military-strategic circumstances initiated by NATO into commencing this campaign lest Russia turn into its puppet.
No self-respecting leader would ever have agreed to allow their country to become its geostrategic adversary’s vassal, though neither would any self-respecting leader not place reasonable restraints on their military forces’ conduct that they authorized in defense of their objective national security red lines in order to limit collateral damage as much as possible, especially since the theater of hostilities happened to be populated by the same people who that leader considers to be historically fraternal. President Putin therefore unquestionably did the right thing by initially limiting the scope of what his armed forces were allowed to do during the special operation, but the situation has since changed.
In spite of the Russian leader’s noble intentions, some dimensions of the conflict aren’t evolving according to his expectations. While there’s no doubt that countless lives have been saved by the strict limits placed upon his armed forces and the hardships that civilians experienced have thus been comparatively less intense than what they otherwise could have been, the inadvertent consequence of this well-intended policy enabling Kiev to continue perpetuating the conflict with NATO backing and even rearm itself to the point of launching the Kharkov Counteroffensive suggest that it might be time for President Putin to consider doing away with some of the special operation’s unilateral restrictions.
Should he decide to do so, which would only happen if he sincerely believed that the overall benefits outweigh the predictable costs that this would have on his humanitarian and political goals as initially conceived after reviewing all the information at his disposal as the head of state tasked by his people with shaping their civilization-state’s grand strategy, then it might even necessitate formally changing how the military’s mission is described from a special operation to something else. Whether thenceforth regarded as a counter-terrorism operation like the one in Syria for example, the purpose behind this renaming would be to emphasize the new rules of engagement and shape perceptions accordingly.
Only President Putin has the authority to decide whether a more muscular policy should replace the special operation, and he’d only do so if he thought it was the best thing to do for his own people first and foremost followed in equal measure by civilians caught in the conflict zone and his military that’s operating there. The Russian leader might therefore conclude that it’s best to continue staying the course by retaining the self-imposed limits on his armed forces’ activity in Ukraine or he could realize that some proverbial “short-term pain” might be required for achieving “long-term gains” that more effectively and sustainably advance the interests of those aforementioned three.