...Butusov therefore suggests that Kyiv change its tactics—from playing defense to playing offense, but with “a scalpel.” Ukraine needs a “new concept of military activities.”
It is imperative that quick-response strike forces be created on the basis of existing formations and that systematic work be conducted toward liquidating the knots of resistance and the units of the adversary. Our defense should be proactive. The enemy should not remain in peace. We need a war of diversionary groups, howitzers and mortars, large armored units, and well-defended convoys.In a word, Butusov is recommending that Ukraine adopt hit-and-run tactics against the Russian proxies, engage in surgical strikes against strategic targets, both on the front line and in the occupied Donbas, and thereby force the terrorists to dig in, anticipate, and lose the initiative. Ukraine’s offensive actions would therefore mirror Russia’s hybrid war. Ukrainian “little green men” and diversionary units would strike at vulnerable targets in the rear, while lightly armed commandoes enjoying the support of mobile artillery units would harass the Russians and their proxies along the whole length of the front.
Here are the two key elements of Butusov’s plan:
- We can drive out the Russian Federation from the Donbas, but for that we need to conduct a genuine war—without flags, without PR, without advertising. Without any large attacks or maneuvers. Instead, locally, surgically, and fatally.
- There should be one goal of the war: to inflict maximal casualties on the armies of the occupiers.
Would Butusov’s plan work? It’s obviously premised on the inability or unwillingness of Putin to launch a full-scale attack on Ukraine. If he does not or cannot, Ukraine’s hands are free. If he does, hit-and-run tactics may still be useful, but Ukraine’s primary task would then be to defend its territory. As I’ve written many times, we have no idea what Putin will or will not do. In that case, either you may agree with Butusov or you may not.
But there would be two ancillary advantages to Butusov’s strategy. First, localized strikes would not offer Russia the option of claiming that it must launch a full-scale attack in response to a Ukrainian offensive. Since Ukraine would purposely eschew “large attacks or maneuvers,” Russia would be placed in the same position Ukraine has been in for much of 2014: continually facing small-scale attacks that, individually, never quite merited a massive response.
Second, thanks to Kyiv’s cut-off of government subsidies, social unrest in the Donbas enclave has noticeably increased, with locals demanding that the proxies provide them with money and goods. The unrest is sure to intensify as the temperatures drop in the months ahead. Butusov’s plan would both build on and contribute to such unrest. Seen in this light, disrupting separatist rule behind the lines could turn out to be the best way of weakening separatist forces on the front lines.
bth: I'd also add that NATO allies from the former Warsaw Pact need to dump their inventory of old weapons and give them quietly to Ukraine while the inventory of Poland and others is replenished with new NATO weaopons from the US and Germany.