The massive missile attack on Kyiv and Ukraine on Oct.10 was perceived by many as the beginning of a new phase of the war. I believe a new stage of the war began in September, when the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) made a powerful counteroffensive, and the Kremlin responded by announcing a “partial” mobilization (more precisely, the beginning of a phased mass mobilization) and urgently organized the annexation of four temporarily occupied regions of Ukraine.
Symbolic strikes on certain objects by both sides have a great informational and political response, but do not significantly affect the course of hostilities.
What does the massive missile attack on Kyiv and Ukraine mean, and what was the reason for it?
The most obvious answer is that it was Putin’s revenge for personal humiliation caused by the attack on a key bridge connecting the Russian mainland with the Crimean peninsula. For Putin, the Kerch Strait Bridge is a sacred object. Also, the incident on the bridge occurred the day following his birthday and was perceived as a symbolic gift to the Kremlin leader. Not least of all, it was viewed as a “humiliation of great Russia.”
Therefore, the second reason for this massive missile attack on Ukraine was the need to appease Putin’s war supporters.
After the attack on the Crimean bridge, the Russian authorities, in particular the commander-in-chief, were slammed: Statements were made about the weakness and indecisiveness of the Russian leadership. Given this, it was necessary to demonstrate the strength and power of the commander-in-chief and Russian weapons. The massive missile attack on Ukraine, especially Kyiv, best suited propaganda television.
The third reason was an attempt to weaken Ukraine’s resistance potential through the destruction of critical infrastructure facilities. That’s why they hit heat and power plants in big cities from Kyiv to Lviv. In addition to trying to freeze Ukrainians in winter, the Kremlin longs to disrupt Ukrainian electricity exports to the European Union. According to available data, plans to strike Ukraine’s energy facilities were determined in advance. It was planned to make such strikes during the heating season in Ukraine, but this scenario moved forward for the reasons mentioned above.
One way or another, the attack was about escalation of the military conflict and the new tactics of the Russians – targeted attacks on critical energy infrastructure facilities. The enemy has not succeeded in defeating the AFU at the battle front (on the contrary, they are suffering a humiliating defeat) which is why the Kremlin is trying to strike Ukrainian home fronts to demoralize Ukrainians, to break our will to resist. However, as this war has shown, the effect of such actions by the Kremlin will be the exact opposite.
Finally, there was an underlying motive – forcing the West and Ukraine to make peace on Russia’s terms through war (or its escalation). It’s been Putin’s signature style since the war against Georgia in 2008 when the very term “compulsion to peace” appeared. Now it seems Putin is preparing preconditions for negotiations on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia in mid-November.
What to expect next?
First of all, it’s not worth expecting a quick and magical end to this war. Many people write about the agony of Putin’s regime. It’s premature to draw such conclusions. The Russian beast is wounded, but still has the power to inflict painful blows on us. The enemy will continue trying to force us to make peace on his terms. In this instance, Russia is attempting to move the war into a positional phase – as was the case in Donbas from 2015 to February 2022 – rather than a conventional and stable peace.
However, Russian resources are not infinite: They are gradually being depleted. Russian military experts speak of a highly probable shortage of high-precision missiles in Russia in the near future.
“Russia annually produces no more than 50 units of each type of long-range cruise and ballistic missiles: sea- and land-based Kalibr, Kh-101 air-launched missiles, Onyx anti-ship missiles and Iskander missiles – a total of approximately 200 pieces per year. In addition, a little more than 20 Kh-32 air-launched missiles are produced in Russia every year,” Russian military expert P. Luzin said in a comment to German newspaper Bild. “It is neither organizationally, nor technically, nor technologically possible to dramatically increase production or purchase of missiles in other countries for such massive attacks as on Oct. 10.”
Of course, Russia had stocks of such missiles, but they were largely used up during this war and are unlikely to be quickly restored, especially amid Western technological sanctions. Russia will compensate for the lack of modern missiles with old Soviet-style missiles, as well as Iranian drones. But such massive strikes against Ukraine, such as on Oct.10, cannot be carried out by the Russians all the time. Pointed strikes on infrastructure facilities are more likely.
Given the new Russian war tactics, a priority for Ukraine is to strengthen our air defense system and create an anti-missile defense system. President Zelensky discussed this at an online meeting of the G7 leaders. In particular, Germany has already handed over the first of four promised IRIS-T SLM air defense systems to Ukraine, but this process should be accelerated as much as possible.
Another priority is the supply of additional equipment and other resources to Ukraine for the rapid restoration of those energy facilities which have been destroyed or may be destroyed. We must work out the strategy and tactics of ensuring the operation of vital systems (supply of electricity, heat and water) in case of new Russian attacks on critical infrastructure facilities. We must also bear in mind the risk of attacks on transport infrastructure facilities (railways, bridges, etc.).
Will Russian missile attacks on Ukraine affect the possibility of a new negotiation process between Russia, Ukraine and the West?
Hardly. Ukraine will not make peace on Russia’s terms. After the annexation of four temporarily occupied regions of Ukraine by Russia, it is even more impossible. Moreover, the West already understands that any concessions to Putin will not help stop the war, but will only strengthen aggressive ambitions and demands of the Kremlin leader.
However, as before, negotiations are possible for the exchange of prisoners, ensuring the safety of Zaporizhia NPP, and the extension of the grain agreement, and the West can use certain negotiating tactics to deter Putin from nuclear threats.
In any case, the fate of the current war between Ukraine and Russia will be decided not by missile attacks or secret negotiations, but on the fronts of military contests in the east and south of Ukraine.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the Kyiv Post.
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