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Reasons behind Russia’s shifting war plan and its impact

As peace talks between Russia and Ukraine continue in Turkey, Putin announced that Russia will be shifting its military plan towards the Donbas region, aiming to reinforce and entrench its position in Eastern Ukraine. In the meantime, Russia will withdraw a substantial amount of troops from the frontline in Kyiv. It is surprising to many as previous weeks saw intense combat in the North, while a large force had already been moved and stationed near Kyiv. The strategic recalculation of Russia’s plan is indeed shocking, but it does not mean the situation in Ukraine is going to improve. 


The initial war plan and military failures


In the first week of the invasion, a battle group invaded from Belarus, through the nuclear exclusion zone in Chernobyl, and marched towards Ukraine. An air assault operation also saw Russian paratroopers shortly securing the Hostomel Airport on the first day, despite later being wiped out by Ukrainian forces. The lack of progress in the first week encouraged Russia to press even harder, with a 40-mile long convoy of tanks and troops directed towards the capital. Nonetheless, to everyone’s surprise, the Ukrainian army held out, even capturing lots of equipment and halting the invading forces. The above actions strongly reflected Russia’s war plan to secure Kyiv and dissolve its government. Under Putin’s justification for “de-Nazification” in Ukraine, its war claim centered around destroying the administration and securing Russia from the threat of Nazism.


However, not only, it failed to justify Putin’s claim, but the war also exposed the Russian military inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Its logistics proved inadequate. Vehicles lacked fuel to operate and soldiers lacked supplies to advance. Videos showing tractor towing tanks and Russian soldiers robbing stores for supplies can be seen everywhere on the internet. Russian radio was operating under public channels, letting Ukrainians eavesdrop on military plans; whilst civilians removed road signs, confusing Russian vehicles unequipped with GPS. With the West supplying Ukraine, the conflict will evolve into a war of attrition. Yet, as the impact of sanctions sinks in alongside the dysfunctional supply network, the state’s incapability to fund this costly war will place Russia in an underwhelming position. 


It is important to bear in mind that the US military only took three weeks to occupy Baghdad during the invasion of Iraq, with a complete occupation just over a month after the first land offensive. Iraq’s military was larger than Ukraine’s and their capitals are around the same size. It is arguably accurate to conclude that the strength of the Russian military is even weaker than the coalition force of 2003. Therefore, Putin’s announcement of shifting the war plan reflected Russia’s failure in occupying Kyiv resulting in altering its target to Donbas instead of establishing a pro-Russian Ukrainian government. 


The worst is yet to come


By abandoning its primary objective to secure Kyiv, a large number of Russian troops will move to the East. Most of the Ukrainian Army has already been positioned in Donbas and nearby regions since 2014 to engage with rebels. With Russia reorganizing and restructuring its invasion task force, battles of a larger scale are yet to come between the two armies. Furthermore, massive artillery strikes will be used instead to cover its military failure in securing cities. In the Chechnyan war, Russia used the same strategy of mass bombarding cities before sending in troops. The situation in Mariupol presented a similar case. By targeting civilians and military structures, casualties are yet to rise in Eastern Ukraine.


To summarize the above factors, the shifting of Russian war plan signifies its failure in regime change. Zelenskyy and his government remained strong in power and united the nations against Russia. Soon, we will see the next phase of the war, where the Ukrainian and Russian armies engage in large-scale battles followed by more bombardment of civilian targets in the East.


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