Directly fighting Russia over Ukraine may be the last big mistake the U.S. government ever makes. From Mike Whitney at unz.com:
“If anyone from the outside interferes in Ukraine, they should know this: If they create threats for us… we will retaliate immediately. We have all the tools we need to respond, and all the decisions on this (matter), have already been made.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin
There’s no doubt that the retreat from Kherson was a black-eye for the Russian Army. There’s also no doubt that the general who ordered the evacuation made the right decision. True, the optics are terrible, but optics don’t win wars. Strategy, valor and firepower wins wars. Russian General Sergey Surovikin appears to grasp that fact which is why he made the unpopular decision to retreat.
Surovikin could have made the more politically acceptable choice and defended Kherson to the end, but the risks far outweighed the benefits. By all accounts, the 25,000 Russian troops in the city could have easily been encircled and annihilated by Ukrainian artillery. Additionally, Surovikin would have been forced to commit more troops to a rescue mission that would not have advanced Russia’s overall military strategy in the slightest. Russia’s immediate goal is to complete the liberation of the Donbas, a task that is not yet finished and which requires more of the troops that had been pinned-down in Kherson.
For all intents and purposes, the retreat from Kherson was a no-brainer. If the nightmare scenario had unfolded –as many had expected– and thousands of Russian soldiers wound up surrounded and slaughtered in defense of a city that holds little strategic value, then popular support for the war in Russia would have vanished overnight. Neither Putin nor Surovikin could afford to take that risk. So, instead, they opted to pack-it-in and evacuate while they still could, which of course, incited the fury of their critics who are still hopping mad. The good news, however, is that the Kherson public relations disaster will have no meaningful impact on the outcome of the war. Russia is still on-track to achieve all of its strategic objectives despite the pitfalls it has encountered along the way. Here’s a brief recap of the Russian withdrawal from an interview with Colonel Douglas MacGregor:
“When General Surovikin took command… it was decided that Russia was going to wait for a decisive operation to end the war. In other words, no more simply defending southern Ukraine and the territory we’ve annexed, no more expectations of negotiations with anyone– those are over– we have to end the war.
How do you end the war? Well, you launch operations that are so devastating in their destructiveness that the enemy cannot resist them. However, if you are going to do that you’re going to have to scale back current activities. (like Kherson) In other words, you have to make changes on the ground, shuffle troops, change resource commitments because you are now building up for forces that are not yet in southern Ukraine … but are being prepared with this mobilization of 300,000 troops integrated into this new force for future operations… which will come this winter once the ground freezes…. So, I would regard (the withdrawal) as an operational decision with short-term benefit in support of the long-term strategy of building this enormous striking power…The Russians no longer place any confidence in negotiations. I don’t think we could say anything to the Russians at this point that would persuade them to stop.” (“EVERYTHING changes in 4 weeks: Interview with Colonel Douglas MacGregor”, youtube; Start at 50 seconds)