Russian withdrawal from Kherson a huge opportunity for Ukraine

Commentary

Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist
Archive |

In the latest blow to Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to withdraw from the key southern city of Kherson. They will retreat from the west bank of the Dnipro River, as Ukrainian forces approach the city from two directions. Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan says this retreat represents a significant opportunity for Ukrainian forces and likely marks the end of “any hope the Russians had of regaining any sort of strategic initiative.”

Excerpted from Peter’s Nov. 10 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

Have you ever been stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway?

How about trying to find a parking spot at a sold out event?

That’s the exact position Russian troops are in as they follow orders to withdraw from Kherson. Oh wait…did I forget to mention the part about artillery shells and rocket fire?

The Russian retreat from Kherson presents Ukrainian forces with a huge opportunity; 2 major choke points being flooded by enemy troops…it’s not hard to picture what happens next. Other than immense casualties, we’ll see a huge swing in strategic opportunities and a massive transfer of equipment from the Russians to the Ukrainians.

Hey everybody, Peter Zion coming here to you from the El Paso airport where I was planning on talking about investment into the United States in the future of the electronic sector. But earlier in the day, the Russian government announced the full plan withdrawal of all troops from the KEARSON pocket, which is the only chunk of territory and occupied Ukraine that is to the west of the Nieper River, which is roughly analogous to the American Mississippi. So, reports at this point indicate that the Russians are withdrawing at full speed from all positions. At the moment, it does not seem to be a route, but keep in mind that it’s about 2am local time, so that could change in a probably well, a few things to keep in mind. The Ukrainians announced they were assaulting this area four months ago. And so the Russians Ford positioned a lot of troops based on whose statistics you’re looking at, there’s somewhere between 20 and 40,000 Russian forces in the area, but it’s generally accepted on both sides that these are the best troops that the Russians have with the best training and the best equipment. Now, the Russians have not been able to effectively supply this area for about a month because a month ago, someone blew up the courage straight Bridge, which is the only heavy rail connection that can handle freight transport from Russia proper to the southern front. So whether it’s equipment, more ammo or fuel or reinforcements, everything now has to come in by truck. And the Russians have lost the majority vast majority of their tactical truck support fleet for the military and are now using civilian Vehicles making them very vulnerable. In terms of what that has meant for the war, it means that not enough shells and other than a few have been getting to the front and the KEARSON pocket. So there are more than isolated reports that Ukrainian forces for the last couple of weeks have not had to do something that’s called shoot and scoot. Normally, when you fire an artillery shell, you need to get the hell out of there because somebody tracks your shells outgoing trajectory, and they send a return present to you that will blow up your position unless you’ve moved so you shooting the scoop. But apparently, there’s been no return fire coming from Russian position. So the Ukrainians have just been able to plug away with whatever ammo, ammo they have. As to whether this is going to be a route, we should probably figure that in. The Ukrainians are being presented with a golden opportunity. Even if it’s only 20,000 Russian troops that are here. They’re now all in a state of retreat, and they all have to go to the same places. There are only two bridges across the river. And the Ukrainians have excellent territory in excellent intelligence on the entire zone. So if the Russians put up a pontoon bridge, it usually only lasts for a few minutes before it gets taken out. So really, all of the Russians need to go on the same roads and the same intersections, which are all going to be massive kill zones until they reach the bridge heads, one of which is at KEARSON city and the other one, which is damnit Novikova. At that point, while the Ukrainians have been hitting these bridges with rocket fire for weeks, and they can’t handle heavy equipment anymore, which means that the Russians are going to have to make a massive parking jam at the bridgehead dismount and then run across, while under artillery fire the entire time, the casualties are going to be immense. And that’s the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is something that’s going to be really nasty. We’re looking at really one of the biggest military routes the forces that we have seen since the early months of World War Two, in addition to a massive transfer of equipment from the Russian army, to the Ukrainian army, our best guess is that not only are the Russians going to be leaving behind their best gear, but they’re gonna leaving behind more gear than what Ukrainians captured from the Russians in the SEM assault back in September, which already transferred more gear to Ukraine, the NATO had in the previous seven months where Ukraine began the war with so by spring with a lot of deferred maintenance, the Ukrainians are likely to enter the war by May. With a tank in artillery force that’s more than five times its strength on the first day of the war. The Russians have already used a majority of their missile and tank forces, which began this war as the world’s largest. So the KEARSON withdraw and the likely route to come does mark the end of any hope the Russians had of regaining any sort of strategic initiative or any sort of meaningful offensive operations, until at least to me it will take them at least that long to bring in fresh troops and fresh gear. In that time, the Ukrainians are not going to sit on their hands, they don’t have to cross the river to strike at the Russians. Once they get to the river. Their long range rockets and artillery are going to be able to target the isthmus which is only about three kilometers wide, that connects the Ukrainian mainland to the Crimean peninsula. And that matters for more than just mere military logistics. Because the current rail bridge is out Russia can not only not bring in ammo in troops and fuel, it can’t bring in food. The only other option are some very light rail and Road connections across that dismiss coming from the rest of occupied Ukraine, all of which Ukraine will still be able to strike but will soon be able to strike. And in capturing KEARSON the Ukrainians are going to be able to cut the water flows to the Crimea canal. And water from that canal is solely responsible for three quarters of the food grown in Crimea. So no imported food, little grown food. Russia is either going to have to evacuate the entire peninsula by car across the Kirche bridges remaining roads span or suffer a 1980s Ethiopia style famine.


Get unbiased straight facts, context, and perspective!