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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Breaking down new military tactics used by Russia and Ukraine

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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Since February 2022, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of soldiers, forced millions of civilians to flee their homes, and left entire cities in ruins. The most recent report from Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense indicates that Russian combat casualties alone have surged to nearly 310,000 since the start of the full-scale invasion.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan provides insight into the evolving military strategies of the war. Despite an ongoing stalemate, Zeihan examines how both sides are adjusting their tactics to navigate the constantly changing developments on the battlefield.

Excerpted from Peter’s Nov. 10 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

From 30,000 feet, the pace of the Ukraine War appears to be slowing and even reaching a stalemate; however, when we zoom in on places like the Dnieper River and Mariupol, we can see the new tactics and strategies being implemented on both sides.

The Ukrainians are beginning to use smaller waves of units to push across the Dnieper and hold ground along the riverbank. If this continues and they can successfully move south, there’s a chance that they can cut off supply routes and stir up some problems for the Russians.

Of course, the Russians aren’t sitting idle. Between sending more troops through the meat grinder and layering the region with mines, the Russians have been able to prevent any major breakthroughs for the Ukrainians.

There is plenty happening behind the scenes.

Everybody Peters in here coming to you from my home office in Colorado. I haven’t done a Ukraine update in a while because there’s been a lot of cross currents, the front hasn’t moved very much. And in most people’s minds, that means a stalemate. And there’s definitely some truth to that. We’ll get into that a little bit. But there have been a lot of change in tactics on both sides. This is the first year that the Ukrainians have brought tanks into the fray and tried to do combined arms. However, the American styles combined arms, the NATO style also includes air power, and at least air parity. And the Ukrainians have nothing like that. So they’ve discovered that sending in lots of armor without air cover is new, well, it’s gone for them as well, as you would expect it would. So that kind of devolved back to some older strategies that were using in the first part of the war are using a lot more small units. And that means the pace of activity has been necessarily slower, they have achieved a number of points of breakthrough in the first second, and sometimes even the third line of Russian defense. But the Russians have been proven able to put up more and more and more minds to slow the Ukrainian, so they’ve never actually been able to achieve any sort of breakthrough. So we’ve had a lot of incremental changes in the front. But nothing like the big breakthroughs in places like Izzy and McPherson, like we saw last year. For their part, the Russians had been innovating their strategies as well. Maybe innovating is the wrong word. They’ve done a silent call up of a couple 100,000 more troops and just threw them right into the meat grinder and a place called Ivica, sorry for the pronunciation there, which is not too far from other places that the Russians were basically doing human wave tactics last year. And they’re having very similar results very, very, very slow going dating meters a day, at the cost of 1000s of lives. But in the last, it’s called two weeks, the Ukrainian seemed to be trying something new. And it would normally be something that I would just say, as suicidal, but let me give you an idea of what they’re doing. And then maybe you can choose for yourself. So let’s do a fun little screen share, go to Google Earth because it’s awesome. All right, we’re looking here at southern Ukraine. And this is an oversimplification. But if you zoom in just a little bit, this river here, this is the Nieper it’s basically the front line for a large portion. Basically everything south of this line is now in Russian hands and everything in North line is in Ukrainian hands. And for those of you who remember to earlier in the year, the Russians thought that the Ukrainians were gonna be pushing across the river, they blow up all the bridges, and especially this dam right here, which is the Nova COVID Dam. And what that meant is the entire upstream reservoir, which is one of the world’s largest drained over the course of just a few days and flooded everything to the south of this point. So this whole area became flooded.
You can call that a war crime you can call that deliberate destruction call that whatever you can call it, Max, call whatever you want. But what it did do is turn this entire southern section into kind of a no go zone for most vehicles, because you had exposed riverbank above here, which was muddy, or late at I guess it was muddy. And then down here he had flooded a riverbank that was muddy. So the Ukrainians who had wanted to hit the Russians in two or three different places suddenly found this entire swath became non viable. Well, what we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks is the Ukrainians have been probing across this river enforce and actually holding ground not just using small units, but larger groups troops. It’s unclear just how many but the point is they haven’t been going over at night, mucking things up, and then running back before dawn, they’ve been going immediacy in there for days, and the Russians have seemed to be incapable of dislodging them. And my first thought that this is just suicidal, because if, if your cranium and you don’t have a bridge that you can retreat across, anytime that the Russians are able to bring any sort of artillery or even just infantry to bear on your position, there’s nowhere to go your backs against the river, you’re just gonna die. That’s not what’s been happening. Because further to the east, the Russians had been throwing human waves at a very specific location, that editing again, again, apologies for the pronunciation.
And that’s all of the available troops in the area. The Russians are hitting that spot to prevent the Ukrainians from having a breakthrough further east, in separate ETF prep province. And what that means is it’s been difficult for the Russians to get reinforcements and material and just fuel into this zone right here. So let me zoom in a little bit more, you can see how the geography is working against the Russians and for the Ukrainians in this point. You’ve got these sand dunes area, the Nature Park, where there’s no infrastructure at all. And then you’ve got clusters of Russians over here at this junction point of the transport system and at this junction point of transport, so
And so what the Ukrainians have done is land all the way across the river throughout here to keep these two groups engaged. And then they’ve used their artillery from the other side of the river to just decimate the parts that are in here basically making this a no goes zone for the Russians, which has allowed the Ukrainians to build up a bit of a bridge head isn’t quite the right word, because there’s no bridge. But you get the idea. Any forces that are over here in the east, any Russian forces that are over here in the east, are under pressure because of that massive battle further east, and it’s difficult for the Russians to get anything through that zone two been resupply their troops further to the west. And then the groups that are here on the west side of the sand dunes, get their supplies to Crimea. But the courage bridges lost both of its rail connections and half of its road connections. So the Ukrainians are able to play fast and loose in this area. And they’re increasingly poking left and right, West and East, especially to the east. Because if they can dislodge the Russians here or simply enter into a bit of a war of movement, then this entire zone over here, which is occupied territory, becomes in play. For those of you who’ve been following the worst since the beginning, the silly city of Marietta poll is right over here. And variable can really only be supplied by road now. And the places where the Russians are and Ukrainians are attempting to basically have a mutual breakthrough of each other’s lines. We’re rounding here. So all of the Russian forces are going to this zone, leaving this entire southern swath, potentially with very limited supplies. And so if the Ukrainians can break the connection here, then these little connections that are all that allow stuff to go from Crimea north, all of a sudden are pinched off, and you could have theoretically a bit of a breakthrough. Now, there are a lot of moving pieces on this. I’m not suggesting this is where we’re going, but this is the sort of tactic you normally wouldn’t expect to see and we’ve now been seen it for about two weeks. So it’s something to keep your eye on.
As more things develop, of course get back to you but that’s where we are today.

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