(艺术指导。 Jean-Dominique Lavoix-Carli)
The September 2022 Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russia is hailed as very successful. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the “true heroes” who allowed for a “very rapid liberation” of 8000 sq km by 14 September 22 “in the east, notably in the Kharkiv Oblast, and the south, notably in the Kherson oblast”, (e.g. BBC新闻，22年9月12日。 有线电视新闻网，22年9月14日）。
Yet, U.S. President Joe Biden and other American officials, as well as Germany Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht first cautioned against a feeling of “premature victory”, of a “turning point in the war”, even though they acknowledge the territorial gains (Lolita Baldor and Ellen Knickmeyer, “美国领导人避免在乌克兰战斗进展中跳胜利舞“, AP, 13 September 22; Reuters, “德国表示，判断乌克兰的反攻是否是转折点为时尚早“, 14 September 22). As time passed, on 18 September, President Biden appeared as far more confident in an interview, stating that “They’re defeating Russia” (Reuters, “乌克兰称军队越过东北部的奥斯基尔河，泽伦斯基发誓不会放松警惕“, 19 September 2022).
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在这篇文章中，我们将首先简要地强调为什么看一套全面的情景是重要的，以及为什么在一场战争的背景下，信息被使用宣传或psyops而退化，这就更加重要。然后，我们将重点关注的不是西方青睐的预测乌克兰胜利的情景，因为这种情景是众所周知的，而是描述另一种情景，与最常见的叙述不同。我们将把它称为 "红色方案"，指的是 红队 (从敌人的角度出发)。我们主要提出解释，而不是情景叙述（讲故事），使用地图追踪两位主角对乌克兰地形的控制的演变，并每天建立由 战争研究学院.首先，我们提出了我们的关键假设，然后按照战争期间的各个阶段进行了解释说明。
Many commentators tend to focus on a single scenario highlighting a Ukrainian victory and a Russian defeat. The current Ukrainian counter-offensive goes hand in hand with the Russian “debacle”, “rout”, “disaster”, “disintegration”, etc. This is indeed one scenario. Its narrative runs more or less as follows:
然而，适当的预见性必须考虑所有可能的情况（见 常见问题 on scenarios), even those that are unlikely, contrary to one’s objectives or unpalatable. Actually those scenarios are even more interesting because they are those that allow for the best planning, for truly countering the enemy and finally for victory and success.
Furthermore, a swift Ukrainian victory by heroes in the framework of a Russian rout could also be a way to narrate events that is part of the information operations (I/Os – psyops) of Ukraine and its allies (see Helene Lavoix, “信息战与乌克兰战争", The Red Team Analysis Society, 24 May 2022). More surprisingly but not impossible, it could even be part of Russian I/Os and deception, as Russia is meant to be a master at using “反射性控制” (refleksivnoe upravlenie / рефлексивного управления).
As during war information is degraded and as we shall not know with certainty what is truly taking place on the ground until archives are opened – i.e. in 30, 60, or 100 years according to cases and countries, we need to rely on scenarios. Scenarios allow to make hypotheses and to take into account uncertainty, which is key when information is lacking or of dubious quality. Furthermore it will help us stretching our minds, asking inconvenient questions and thus think out of the box.
A Red Scenario – Main hypotheses
The first territorial objective, as declared when Russia launched its “special operation”, is to free and protect the territory of the two separatist Republics of the Donbass: the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) (俄罗斯联邦总统的讲话2022年2月24日06:00，克里姆林宫，莫斯科）。
2月24日，俄军在战争刚开始时就采取了一项行动，突出了这个目标的重要性。它恢复了北克里米亚运河的水流量(皮夫尼奇诺-克里姆斯基区在乌克兰的第聂伯河和克里米亚之间，于2014年被乌克兰切断了(《世界报》)。路透社, "莫斯科称俄军疏通了通往被吞并的克里米亚的运河水流,” 24 February 2022).
A Red Scenario – Phases in the war
Phase 1 – 24 Feb 2022 to 29 March 2022
Considering the Russian territorial objectives for this scenario, all operations carried out outside Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and the southern part of Zaporizhzhia oblasts are either “decoy” operations or “negotiation” ones.
However, hardly any progress was made in the western part of Donetsk Oblast, which remained strongly in Ukrainian hands. There, the 2015 “contact line” acts as a quasi border where an attrition war started and would last.
All other territorial gains and operations – which includes Kiev, despite Western beliefs – were secondary or part of Russian psyops and could be abandoned to consolidate the territory taken that is part of the objectives.
On 1st April 2022, the massacres of Bucha and other locations around Kiev was then revealed, creating widespread outrage (e.g. Eliot Higgins, “俄罗斯的布卡 "事实 "与证据的对比", Bellingcat谈判停止了。）尽管土耳其最初希望看到谈判继续进行，但谈判还是停止了(萨巴赫日报, "土耳其总理恰武什奥卢表示，土耳其期待更多的俄乌和谈“, 7 April 22).
Phase 2 – April 2022
Withdrawal from the north and repositioning of forces on real territorial objectives with, as potential “decoy area”, Kharkiv Oblast
The only remaining territory not belonging to their main goals is in Kharkiv oblast. This area could then be used as “decoy” or way to pin down Ukrainian forces on areas that did not matter to the Russian side. The slow withdrawal from Kharkiv region started then.
Phase 3 – May 2022 to date
Phase 3-1 – The conquest of Luhansk Oblast – Attrition warfare elsewhere
Hypothetical Phase 3-2 – Conquering Donetsk, Keeping what was taken and Ending the War?
This also means countering the Ukrainian counter-offensive officially started on 29 August 22, but with earlier premises (Reuters, “乌克兰称期待已久的南部攻势已经开始“, 29 August 2022, Oleksiy Yarmolenko, Tetyana Lohvynenko, “俄军牺牲在顿巴斯的大规模攻势以加强其在南部的地位‘, 12 August 22).
By 14 September, Ukrainian troops have re-conquered 8000 sq km of Kharkiv oblast (DW, “乌克兰在东北地区稳定反攻成果“, 14 September 2022). Notably the Ukrainian army could mobilise enough men, with a smart strategy to surprise “the rather small Russian forces of the 144th Motorised Division reinforced with disparate independent units” (Michel Goya, “1918年在乌克兰？", La Voix de l’Epée, 11 September 2022). Russian forces did not really fight and the “massive Russian forces stationned in Izium retreated eastwards” (ibid.). Izium was re-taken by Ukraine (Ibid.). Actually, according to the maps below, the territory liberated seems to have stabilised on 12 September, and even up to 18 September with different declarations however (see below).
无论用什么说辞来解释乌克兰在哈尔科夫州取得的成功，不管是俄罗斯军队撤离以重新部署在其他地方（俄罗斯 国防部电报) or plain defeat in losing a territory (by Western analysts and Russian nationalists military bloggers and discussions in the Duma as stressed by the ISW “俄罗斯进攻性运动评估，9月13日“), it remains that the territory held in Karkhiv was not part of the main Russian objectives. This area could, of course, have a tactical, operational and strategic use, but yet it was not part of the Russian aims. Furthermore, its value in obtaining territorial gains in Donetsk may not have been that high considering the absence of results of the previous months. Hence losing it may not be as crucial as commentators, whatever their nationality, including Russian, may think, if – and this is a key “if” – a new front line along the river Oskil, or along the border of Luhansk oblast is established.
The Russian “recognition” of defeat in Kharkiv that is hailed in the West as something new (see details in ISW, “俄罗斯进攻性运动评估，9月13日“) may not matter that much either, as long it is not followed by other defeats or series thereof in areas corresponding to main territorial objectives. In that light, the loss of a very small part of Luhansk oblast on 10 September may be far more important, if it were to be followed by other losses.
Moreover, considering Russian practice of reflexive control and psyops, we should not forget the possibility that not only the change of rhetoric regarding the Ukrainian victory in Kharkiv – i.e. Russia recognising defeat there – but also, most importantly the very swift loss of territory could actually be part of an information operation.
One possible indication that deception could have been at work comes from an inconsistency highlighted by military experts. Specialists wonder about the inability of the Russian army to detect “five armoured-mechanised brigades near the front in Zmiv”, despite all the Russian intelligence capabilities (Goya, “1918年在乌克兰？“). The only explanations that are offered are a failure of tactical assessment in the chain of command and failure of understanding at highest level (e.g. Goya, “1918年在乌克兰？“). Of course, these explanations may very well be correct. Yet, one possibility is not envisioned: would it be possible that detection took place and that nothing was done, purposefully, because something else is at work, indeed deception.
那么我们需要思考的问题是：俄罗斯领导层对不防守并因此失去领土有什么兴趣？然后承认失败？这能为哪些目标服务？对这些问题的回答是多方面的。例如，就承认战败而言，ISW 细节 其中一些，特别是在对乌克兰有影响的俄罗斯国内政治方面。除此之外，我们还应该加上一些答案，例如，与真正将俄罗斯和亲俄部队重新定位在主要目标上有关的答案，与将乌克兰部队从俄罗斯的主要目标上击垮有关的答案，以及与创造可能有利于乌克兰部队过度自信的条件有关的答案。
Of course, an alternative would be that indeed the Russian tried to focus their war effort elsewhere considering that Kharkiv oblast was not part of the main aims, that American and Ukrainian intelligence spotted it and that they smartly took advantage of the Russian strategy. If ever a “Reflexive Control” operation was at work, then in would have backfired.
Whatever the explanation, the Ukrainian advance also signals the disappearance of the last non-key position held by Russia, while a large part of Donetsk oblast remains to be conquered. A new line of front must be established that will be a defense line to protect Luhansk oblast, i.e. from a pro-Russian perspective, the LPR. This new front line could run along the Oskil River with as main cities Logachevka-Dvorichana -Kupyansk-Boroza-Lyman, possibly joining the Siverskyi Donets river. It would allow Russia to keep use of the railway, and protect le LPR “border”.
However, by 19 September 22, Ukraine would already be on the Eastern bank in some ares, and either fighting to keep that position, while Russia tries to repel Ukrainian forces (e.g. ISW, “俄罗斯进攻性运动评估，9月18日“), or in full control of it according to Ukrainian Armed Forces and President (Reuters, “乌克兰称军队越过东北部的奥斯基尔河，泽伦斯基发誓不会放松警惕“, 19 September 2022).
If Russia proved unable to construct and hold that new front line, or if it considered the threat has now increased considerably considering the support given to Ukraine, then Russia might resort to escalate longer range attacks behind the front line to disrupt Ukrainian advances, as signaled by attacks during the first part of September (e.g. The Guardian, “俄罗斯的打击使乌克兰哈尔科夫地区的电力和供水中断“, 11 September), or to other means. 这可能意味着向扩大战争范围的转变。俄罗斯可以用乌克兰使用的类似战略来为这些攻击辩护，因为乌克兰现在使用了更远的武器。 支持，如情报 由其盟友提供，特别是美国人, as well as foreign “mercenaries” and “advisors”.
Once the retreat, plus holding of the new front line, and repositioning are done, Russian and pro-Russian forces will likely focus on their main objectives, Donetsk oblast, while defending elsewhere, with the right bank of the Dniepr in Kherson Oblast – which includes Kherson – as potential focal line of defence for the south.
Ending the war? Patience and length of time…
The polarisation at work in Ukraine and among its allies – i.e. the U.S. and Europe, would probably forbid any peace negotiations allowing Russia and the separatist Republics of the Donbass to keep the territory conquered. (e.g. Reuters, “乌克兰称军队越过东北部的奥斯基尔河，泽伦斯基发誓不会放松警惕“, 19 September 2022)
The key actors which positions would need to change are Ukraine’s allies. The latter, from a Russian point of view, need to favour stopping the war and reaching a negotiated settlement recognising the territory conquered by Russia, the DPR and the LPR, plus probably the neutrality of Ukraine.
The Russian political authorities may thus position themselves for a kind of “intense frozen war” that would last at least over the winter 2022-2023.
Relatively, Russia may suffer less of the sanctions it faces, all the more so it benefits from the rise in energy prices. Indeed, for example, a Russian economy ministry document expects to see “Russian earnings from energy exports to $337.5 billion this year, a 38% rise on 2021 revenue from oil” (路透社, 17 August 22). However, Russia still has to face recession and probably long term economic damage (Bloomberg, “俄罗斯私下警告说，经济将长期受到严重破坏“, 6 September 22).
Nonetheless, Russia is also most likely to withstand pain with more equanimity, compared with European populations, which are already showing signs of rebellion against energy prices (Reuters, “Can’t pay, don’t pay” – Italian group urges energy bill strike“, 15 September 2022).
Furthermore, the very aggressive American actions worldwide, aiming at remaining the leader of the world and enforcing its international order, notably against China, only strengthen the partnership and friendship between Russia and China (e.g. Al Jazeera, “法国和美国代表团访问台湾，与中国的紧张关系持续发酵“, 8 September 2022; Helene Lavoix, “中国和美国之间的战争--规范性问题“, 4 July 2022, and “美国的国家利益“, 22 June 22, The Red Team Analysis Society)Ministry of foreign affairs of the People’s Republic of China, “国家主席习近平会见俄罗斯总统弗拉基米尔-普京“, 15 September 2022). As a result, Russia is likely to have time on its side. Finally, the American stance may get out of hand, fundamentally upsetting the global strategic terrain.