Ukraine War Analysis. Phase 3

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by Aleks (edited by Algora)


Welcome to my analysis of the third phase of the Russian Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine. Phase 3? Yes, Phase 3. We have only a few references from Russian officials about the phases. Especially, when Phase 2 officially started, we had some remarks from Russian officials about that. And that’s all. That’s why I decided  to make my own classification of phases of this war. I have presented them already in a few articles. Especially, you can read about it in the analysis of Phase 2.

According to the Black Mountain classification, we are still in Phase 3. That means that this analysis will contain events that have already happened, and inevitably it will contain some predictions of how events could unfold going forward. Phase 3 roughly began in August 2022 and is still ongoing.

Since many important events took place and are going to take place, I will need to keep my chapters short.

Even so, as I pointed out in the reference to my phase classifications, I will summarize the definition of Phase 3 below:

Phase 3 was activated when NATO escalated its supply, command and control of the Ukrainian forces. This prevented them from collapsing in Phase 2. The purpose of Phase 3 is to destroy the Ukrainian matériel and human potential in regions that are militarily favorable for the Russians, and to overstretch both the Ukrainian and the NATO logistics in Ukraine as much as it is possible, and thus to trigger a total Ukrainian collapse and hence its total defeat. This would be accomplished by using strikes on both its logistics and energy infrastructure, to accelerate the result.

This article is going to explain this in detail.


Phase 1

Read my article about Phase 1.

Phase 2

Read my article about Phase 2.


I will cite Clausewitz here, as I did several times already. “War is merely the continuation of politics by other means.” One wins a war by achieving the objectives set by the political leadership. And here I will point out the objectives, as I did in the last two analyses. This is important to reiterate as many times as possible. Why? Because most commentators always forget what the objectives are and keep trying to analyse or criticize the war based on the assumption that the war is fought for the sole purpose of fighting a war. This is utterly wrong.

These are the objectives, set by the Russian leadership:

  1. Denazification of Ukraine.
  2. Demilitarization of Ukraine.
  3. Bring to justice those Ukrainians that have committed (war) crimes against its own population from 2014 onwards.
  4. Free the Donbass and ensure its independence and security.

These are the sole objectives of the Special Military Operation (SMO).

I will explain in detail how the implementation will most likely be achieved.

Personnel Situation in the Russian Army

Phase 3 began in August 2022. August was a difficult month for the Russian army.

Many Russian soldiers signed up for a certain period. For example, for half a year. Due to the necessity of secrecy, most soldiers didn’t know for certain that there would be war and that THEY would participate in this war. All contracts were issued with normal service periods in order to preserve secrecy. This eventually led to the situation that a not insignificant part of the Russian professional invasion army saw their contracts expire at the end July 2022.

I don’t have exact numbers and I won’t throw around made-up numbers. What I do know is that far more soldiers left the army, due to expiring contracts, than new troops could be brought in. In fact, this means that from August 2022 onwards, the size of the Russian forces in Ukraine decreased significantly.

However, the line of contact still had the same length. Which means, less troops per mile (density) than before. Since in reality we don’t have Y soldiers every X miles, this is just an average. In reality less regions/villages were manned with Russian troops. Yes, Russia used the Donbass militia extensively, but they were not enough to fight off the whole rest of Ukraine and NATO mercenaries. Which, by the way, they shouldn’t do at all.

Summarizing, we can conclude that the personnel situation for the Russians deteriorated sharply in August 2022.

Training and Equipment from Abroad for Ukraine

Ukraine, on the other hand, started to mobilize as many able-bodied citizens as possible from the beginning of the war. First, they were used to plug the gaps and to establish a defence along the whole line of contact and to build up reserves. Then, newly recruited soldiers were used to plug the holes on the frontline. In Phase 2, the grinding consumed tens of thousands of troops at the frontlines in dead and wounded.

But during Phase 2, Ukraine reached a point where they stabilized the situation. The ratio of casualties on the frontlines and the recruiting of new troops became stable and the best of the mobilized people could be separated to be sent abroad for training. The situation occurred that Ukraine mobilized people, on the one hand, to be immediately and almost without training, into the trenches to plug holes, and on the other hand, to be sent abroad for training.

Why send them abroad? Why train them at all and not use them right away on the frontlines, to turn the war? NATO correctly understood that Russia has superiority in almost everything. Only not in the numbers of troops committed to Ukraine. That’s why plans were designed to train and equip huge numbers of troops abroad, where they can’t be targeted during or right after the training. They would be trained according to NATO standards to be used in particular in predesigned operations, to fully exploit Russia’s biggest weakness: the number of soldiers it has in Ukraine.

Several tens of thousands, some sources say up to one hundred thousand, troops were trained in the EU states. Equipped with NATO equipment, their task would be to attack strategic Russian positions with human wave techniques and stress Russian logistics and their concentration of forces at several sections so much that Russian forces simply would collapse. As described in the analysis of Phase 2, the Ukrainians’ only chance is to exploit the fact that Russia is conducting a SMO and not a full-scale war. Thereby it has only a limited number of troops committed. If these troops were outmanoeuvred, they would do one of the following things:

  • Retreat from a certain section to avoid being overrun and defeated.
  • Find themselves cut off from supplies and eventually either captured as POWs or killed for propaganda purposes.

We have already experienced the first of the two possibilities several times. Not the second.

Ukraine’s approach

Russia was fully aware of the fact that it needs to handle a war with limited human resources, while NATO is trying to exploit this fact, by using a pool of human resources that must not  be extended so much as to collapse vital functions of the state. This point has already been reached, as I write this text.

Therefore, the Russian planners needed to design a strategy that would include a lot of manoeuvres, pinning down, and deceptions. Only in this way could Russia handle such a far-larger enemy force. In the end we saw that it still was not enough, but I will come to this point later.

Now let’s take a look at several events to work out the strategies applied .

The Ukrainians announced early on that they would start an offensive on Kherson and eventually on Crimea. Obviously, it is rather strange if someone announces its military strategy in advance. But it looks like the Russians had intelligence that it must be true and they prepared accordingly. A large Russian formation was deployed west of the Dnieper. Not only a large force, but a very elite one as well. Many paratrooper units were deployed here, which are not designed for such long-term defensive operations. It is a sign, of being overstretched.

As far as I can see, the forces committed to the Kherson front were absolutely sufficient to hold the line. And they did. Eventually the Ukrainians actually started the announced large-scale offensive on Kherson in August. Every wave of Ukrainians was defeated. The situation caused several tens of thousands of casualties on the Ukrainian side by the time of its preliminary end in November 2022.

I heard many sources and scenarios. And I concluded that the following scenario was the most probable. It looks like the NATO command planned to block huge numbers of Russia’s troops, especially the most elite ones, in Kherson, while secretly preparing another large-scale offensive in Kharkov (Russian held territories of Kharkov) and use it as a lever to apply maximum pressure on the Russian Donbass operations. Eventually, that would trigger a collapse of the front in Donbass, coming from the North.

This could have worked indeed, had Russia not mobilized. (Most soldiers that left the army after their contract expired in July/August 2022 were directly re-mobilized and recommitted on their positions without additional training. They were already experienced. So, the northern Donbass front could have been directly stabilized.)

The NATO plan was thwarted. Now the next approach was to cut off the most experienced Russian troops on the West Bank of the Dnieper. Defeating them or taking them prisoner would have been the last big chance to win the war. Why, win the war? We need to remember, as I pointed out in the analysis of Phase 1 and 2, that if a party achieves the objectives, as set by the political leadership, it has won. It doesn’t matter how many casualties etc. were taken. Well, I pointed out in these articles that Ukraine’s goals are the Western/NATO goals and these are simple… We can break them down to: “Collapse Russia as a state and remove President Putin.”

If we think about it, it becomes clear that if 40,000 Russian troops, many of them elite ones, were trapped at the West Bank of the Dnieper, they couldn’t be saved. They would be either annihilated or taken prisoner. What does it mean to be “trapped” on the West Bank? Well, after the mobilization was announced, it was pretty clear to the West that the former plans were void. They had one last chance of triggering a collapse in Russia: cutting off the Russian grouping on the West Bank of the Dnieper . . .. by destroying the dam at the Kakhovka reservoir.

Ukraine accumulated some 60,000 troops, or more, for such an operation. If the dam were destroyed, Russian logistics would collapse immediately. Without logistics Russia couldn’t hold the West Bank. Especially not against such a large grouping.

Whether this plan had any chance to succeed or not, I don’t know. What I know is that the newly appointed commander of the SMO, General Surovikin, decided that it’s not worth the risk and decided to withdraw all troops to the left side of the Dnieper.

This decision has two implications:

  1. The Russian troops are safe.
  2. NATO’s last chance to win the war was thwarted. Considering the fact that soon, most likely in December, another 220,000 Russian mobilized troops will arrive on the battlefield or in the rear, there is no theoretical chance or possibility left that would conclude in a Ukrainian victory. Essentially, by withdrawing from Kherson city, Russia killed all hopes the West had of achieving any kind of victory or negotiation leverage (several thousand Russian POWs). It is over. Only, the killing will continue now, until the Ukrainians collapse.

For a detailed analysis of the withdrawal and all military implications (as opposed, to the geo strategic considerations, pointed out above) read my according article.

The main front, though, is neither Kharkov nor Kherson. It is indeed the Donbass, since it is the strategic goal of Russia to free it. Most troops and equipment are concentrated in Donbass and offensive operations are being conducted, since the beginning, along the whole line of contact.

You might ask why there is no progress? I will come later to this, and I explained it already in the analysis of Phase 2, but it is very favourable for Russia to fight exactly at this position. Let the Ukrainians transport all their troops, supplies, equipment across the whole of Ukraine and go the same way back for repairs. Fight in a hostile environment. The Donbass population is clearly most pro-Russian of all regions in Ukraine. Most likely most of the civilians are already gone anyway. Which means, Russia can simply let the Ukrainians come and kill them over and over again. This is exactly what is happening. The Ukrainians are frequently rotating  totally reduced formations (brigades and battalions) out and replenishing them with newly formed and mobilized ones. Some call it a meatgrinder.

Moreover, Russia has total air dominance in Donbass and very short supply lines to Russia. It is the perfect spot now, to keep fighting there. The only reason why it is still working is that the Ukrainians can’t give up one inch of their territory, because all the support of the Western citizens would immediately collapse if they saw the truth, that their support and their own suffering (Europe deindustrializing and deenergizing) is in vain. Perfect conditions for Russia to destroy the whole Ukrainian army at favourable places under its dictated conditions.


I mentioned it in several articles. NATO knows exactly that their only possibility to win the war is to deliver such a defeat in a single battle to Russia that it would cause mass protests in Russia. And eventually a coup against Putin. Hence, taking prisoner some 40,000 troops or similar events (I know, exaggerated, but only to highlight the strategy). This is only possible as long as Ukraine is able to exploit the biggest Russian weakness: the finite and low number of Russian troops in Ukraine. I described above the Ukrainian approaches to exploit this fact. Even though the probability is low that such a disaster would take place, the probability is still too high. Don’t get me wrong. Russia would be able to conclude the SMO even without mobilisation. But with a far greater effort from every single soldier and with the risk that through some feint or subterfuge entire  Russian formations could be taken captive. Or as President Putin said, that there are not enough troops available to keep such a large frontline properly manned and equipped.

Well, to fight off the Ukrainian army safely is one reason for mobilisation. Later in this article we will see that Russia will be forced to take, one step at a time, as the Ukrainian army keeps collapsing, all the territory of Ukraine. In the first two Phases this wasn’t necessarily mandatory . In Phase 3 it is necessary. I’ll describe it later in detail. Nevertheless, Russia will need many troops available while it keeps advancing into central and western Ukraine, in order to keep the rear secure and maintain order. As well as maintaining logistics and infrastructure works and taking care of huge camps of POWs. This will be needed when the collapse begins. This is the third reasons for mobilising.

This was the second reason. The third reason is a little unpleasant. Depending on what strategy General Surovikin (I will discuss this in the strategic planning chapter) has chosen, Russia will need far more soldiers than not. If General Surovikin decides to execute head-on deep penetration operations in a front section, that is well defended (somewhat unlikely), then Russia logically sustains huge losses. Not because it has a bad army, but because that’s how warfare works. You can easily calculate losses in such a scenario. This is what every general staff does when planning such operations. And in turn it would mean that these calculations would be passed in advance directly to Moscow to the recruitment offices and the second mobilisation wave would be activated before the offensive starts. Why? Because the estimated losses would occur and the reserves would be needed to be built simultaneously to replenish the losses and fill up in real time the depleted frontline formations. These mobilisations would continue until the war is concluded. Second wave, third wave etc. etc. etc. Essentially what is going on in Ukraine currently.

I personally consider reason three as very unlikely, that’s why I won’t argue further on this. What I want to do is to say that reason one and two combined will materialise. Russia will need to cover a large frontline with enough soldiers. And Russia will advance and with a high velocity in the western direction, as soon as the last material and human reserves of the Ukrainians are depleted. Along the way Russia will need to leave soldiers behind to maintain everything mentioned above. So, I assume that we could see another 2-3 mobilisation waves. Roughly for every 400 miles of territory another mobilisation wave.

What is possible as well is a total collapse or total surrender. In this case it is possible that Ukraine could be “handed over” into a Russian military administration. No more hostilities and mobilisations would be needed. Since we all assume that the West will avoid this scenario and fight literally to the last Ukrainian, I don’t give this, very desirable scenario, a high probability. Even though I assume that this is and always will be President Putin’s favourite outcome, to stop the bloodshed between brothers.

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