Look at the picture of Russia’s General Sergey Surovikin, or as he’s known in Russia, General Armageddon, below. He looks like a man who can count on one hand the number of times he’s smiled his whole life. By all accounts he’s a superb general and he must be so reckoned in Russia. He took over command and the first thing he did was order a politically embarrassing retreat. There wasn’t a peep of criticism from Russian politicians or media. This guy looks like a tough customer, so hold the applause for the Ukrainian “victory.” Winter is coming and a probable Russian offensive. From Big Serge at bigserge.substack.com:
Russia Abandons Kherson
In January, 1944, the newly reconstituted German Sixth Army found itself in an operationally cataclysmic situation in the southern bend of the Dnieper River, in the area of Krivoi Rog and Nikopol. The Germans occupied a dangerous salient, jutting out precariously into the Red Army’s lines. Vulnerable on two awkward flanks, and facing an enemy with superiority in manpower and firepower, any general worth his salt would have sought to withdraw as soon as possible. In this case, however, Hitler insisted that the Wehrmacht hold the salient, because the region was Germany’s last remaining source of manganese – a mineral crucial for making high quality steel.
A year prior, in the opening weeks of 1943, Hitler had intervened in another, more famous battle, forbidding the previous incarnation of the Sixth Army from breaking out of a pocket forming around it at Stalingrad. Prohibited from withdrawing, the Sixth was annihilated wholesale.
In both of these cases, there was a clash between pure military prudence and broader political aims and needs. In 1943, there was neither a compelling military nor political reason to keep the 6th Army in the pocket at Stalingrad – political intervention in military decision making was both senseless and disasterous. In 1944, however, Hitler (however difficult it is to admit it) had a valid argument. Without manganese from the Nikopol area, German war production was doomed. In this case, political intervention was perhaps warranted. Leaving an army in a vulnerable salient is bad, but so is running out of manganese.