Saturday, September 24, 2022

Mariupol pays a terrible price for Russia’s military incompetence

In an earlier article, I described how the stalled campaign to capture Kyiv might force the Russian president to reassess his theory of victory in Ukraine, and that he might look to the south to claim some kind of success. The Russian military wants to claim Mariupol as a victory so that it might sell to the world (and probably its own soldiers) the idea that the Russian military can still win. Russian planners probably reason that if they can win at Mariupol, it might provide the morale boost to its poorly led, and frequently deserting, soldiers.

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Given the amount of destruction wrought by the Russians, the city now has minimal military utility. The vicious assault on the city and its citizens will be of keen interest to investigators from the International Criminal Court. The entire Russian military chain of command in the south is responsible for having overseen indiscriminate targeting of civilians and thousands of unnecessary deaths. They might now be seen as suspected war criminals. In their depraved leadership of the Russian forces, they have been unethical, unprofessional, and unsoldierly.

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Mariupol also shows just how awful the Russian Army is. Many observers had assumed, in the past three weeks, they had already seen the worst of the Russian military. Poor leadership, bad planning, awful logistics and non-existent coordination with their air force indicated that the Russian Army was not the professional, 21st century force many believed. But Mariupol is demonstrating a new low in corrupt leadership and the unnecessary brutalisation of Ukrainian civilians.

Finally, Mariupol is an example of what 21st century urban combat has become. Through a combination of long-range bombardments and close quarter fighting, the Russian assault has turned most of the city into grey, rubble-strewn wasteland. A large proportion of the city’s residents have already fled. The Russians have forcibly “evacuated” tens of thousands more. It is estimated that around 130,000 starving, terrified citizens remain.

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Such scenes have not been seen in Europe for decades. For many, the obliteration of Mariupol is reminiscent of the Second World War. These kinds of scenes were thought left in the 20th century. But there are still national and military leaders in the world who view these kinds of devastating city assaults as the price to be paid for their aspirations.

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It is possible that despite their courageous stand, the defenders of Ukraine’s tenth largest city will not be able to hold out for much longer. The Russians have been slowly but surely advancing, strangling this once vibrant metropolis of nearly half a million souls.

If the Russians do capture Mariupol, they will finally have their continuous corridor from Crimea to Russia, and another port. They may even be able to claim it as a military success. But it will be a victory in name only, bought at massive cost to the people and infrastructure of Mariupol. And we might well coin a new phrase to supplement the term ‘Pyrrhic victory’ – Russian Victory.

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Nation World News Desk
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