Saturday, December 2, 2023

Russia's Volkskriege - Vox Popoli

Big Serge explains the transformation of the Russian approach to its war with NATO/Ukraine:

Russia began a Kabinettskriege in 2022 when it invaded Ukraine, and found itself mired in something closer to a Volkskriege. Russia’s mode of operation and war aims would have been instantly recognizable to a 17th Century statesman – the Russian professional army attempted to defeat the Ukrainian professional army and achieve limited territorial gains (the Donbas and recognition of Crimea’s legal status). They called this a “special military operation.”

Instead, the Ukrainian state has decided – like the French National Government – to fight to the death. To Bismarck’s demands for Alace-Lorraine, the French simply said “there can be no reply but Guerre a Outrance” – war to the utmost. Putin’s cabinet war – limited war for limited aims – exploded into a national war.

Unlike Bismarck, however, Putin has opted to see Ukraine’s raise. My suggestion – and it is only that – is that Putin’s dual decisions in the autumn of last year to announce a mobilization and to annex the disputed Ukrainian territories amounted to a tacit agreement to Ukraine’s Volkskrieg.

In the debate between Moltke and Bismarck, Putin has chosen to follow Moltke’s lead, and wage the war of extermination. Not – and again we stress this – a war of genocide, but a war which will destroy Ukraine as a strategically potent entity. Already the seeds are sown and the fruit begins to bud – a Ukrainian democide, achieved through battlefield attrition and the mass exodus of prime age civilians, an economy in shambles and a state that is cannibalizing itself as it reaches the limits of its resources.

There is a model for this – ironically, Germany itself. After the Second World War, it was decided that Germany – now held to account for two terrible conflagrations – could simply not be allowed to persist as a geopolitical entity. In 1945, after Hitler shot himself, the allies did not demand the spoils of a Cabinet War. There was no minor annexation here, no redrawn border there. Instead, Germany was annihilated. Her lands were divided, her self-governance was abolished. Her people lingered on in a stygian exhaustion, their political form and life now a plaything of the victor – precisely what Moltke wanted to do to France.

Putin is not going to leave a geostrategically intact Ukraine which will seek to retake the Donbas and exact revenge, or become a potent forward base for NATO. Instead, he will transform Ukraine into a Trashcanistan that can never wage a war of revanchism.

Clausewitz warned us.

This is why studying history, even as an amateur hobbyist, is invaluable. The ability to recognize the patterns that play repeatedly play out over time will often provide the intelligent, but informed amateur a better basis for understanding and anticipating events than the professionals and political decision makers.

It’s educational to note that while the professionals and politicians never understood the significance of the Special Military Operation designation, many of the armchair military historians did.