Saturday, February 26, 2022

The Russo-Ukraine Conflict - A soldier's Viewpoint

Russia has invaded Ukraine as was expected. It was a spectacular display of military capability in the face of a total military imbalance. A full spectrum application of the military instrument by land, air and sea as well as ground and air coordinated operations. In shaping the battle field environment, the Russians targeted the Ukrainian air defence and destroyed most of the Ukrainian air force on ground. Then the Russians engaged the Ukrainians along the border regions by a multi-directional maneuver while airborne assets simultaneously engaged the middle spaces and the depths i.e. Russian gunships and air force engaged middle-based Ukrainian deployments while airborne divisions landed in depth capturing airports and communication centers. Every dimension of Ukrainian military resistance was engaged piecemeal through coordinated operations. This denied any synergy or cohesion for any meaningful Ukrainian resistance and collapse is now imminent. On the second day of the invasion Russia can establish an air-land bridge, encircle Kyiv, liberate the Donbass region and possibly set into motion the series of actions to put up a Russian Friendly Government. It is unlikely that Russia would want to occupy Ukraine but would instead prefer it to be a buffer state between itself and NATO forces; as such it is expected that Russia having achieved its objectives: i.e. liberation of Donbass and installing a friendly government, would execute a phased withdrawal.

Ukraine’s predicament is mainly a consequence of it lack of capacity. It is the only country to give up its nuclear weapons on a vague guarantee by the US and Europe that they would protect it against any aggression. The promise was never kept and Ukraine was left on its own. Also the disputed question of the Minsk Agreement is being interpreted differently by every side to serve their own arguments. However, the fact remains, that it was never fully implemented despite many years having passed by. Lastly, NATOs continual attempts at wooing Ukraine to join NATO was a direct threat to Russia and had Ukraine joined NATO at any stage, NATO forces would be sharing a border direct with Russia which was totally unacceptable to Russia.

Some enthusiasts are watching the Russo-Ukraine Conflict with interest and asking the question that would India be able to execute such a maneuver against Pakistan. Well India is not Russia and Pakistan is not Ukraine. The military parity between Pakistan and India allow Pakistan a credible conventional defence of its own territories. The conclusion and effect of the so called Indian calculated, surgical intrusion on February 2019 is a good indicator as to how Pakistan can handle the Indians. Yet the most pertinent point in any such argument is that Pakistan never gave up its nuclear capability and in fact if there is any lesson in the Russo-Ukraine Conflict, its that Pakistan must never give up this capability. Yet, the military capability of both countries do not give any clear advantage to India to invade Pakistan and whatever minimum deterrence is in place for Pakistan, is more than sufficient to deny Indian adventurism.

The possible consequences of the Russo-Ukraine Conflict is global recession and collapse in oil, gas and wheat prices. Europe will suffer gas shortages, industrial closures and unemployment. Russia may experience a severe economic fallout affecting its banking, reserves and business. What’s important is that Pakistan will feel the heat with wheat shortages, high fuel and energy prices that will go way higher than what they are. Economic activity will slow down and political unrest may remain on the rise. Afghanistan will assert itself for some time by pacifying its people by embarrassing Pakistan along the Durand Line on every opportunity. Baluchistan separatist movement will accelerate because of TTP and Indian support. All these matters can be contained by a proper plan and way forward and it hoped that the Government is thinking along these lines.

Pakistan has repeatedly said it does not want to belong to any block but is there a need to say such a thing and define a position? It is recommended that Pakistan must not offer any rhetoric or wisdom, especially if it cannot sustain its commitments. In the first place the world is indifferent to what we have to say and in the second place our credibility is on the line as always. Its best to remain quiet and only contribute to any meaningful dialogue if and when invited to one. Pakistan must resolve its own political crisis one way or the other. Every matter is politicized and not dealt from a national point of view but more from hurting the opposing party. The moment in history and the current global upheaval points to a unified approach based on national interests. Vague ideological references and historical examples will not do. The government needs to put together an All Parties Conference and search for a common approach to what seems to be a very difficult time staring us in the face. Party and personal differences must be put aside; our priorities must focus on the economy with emphasis on gas and energy, then on security on the Eastern, Western and Southern Borders. Our intelligence agencies must be able to offer predictive analysis into the future and develop KPIs leading to major conclusions. Having validated these conclusions, a course of action must be mounted in a timely and cost effective manner to contain or mitigate the effects of hostile activity. The need of the hour is central authority and a decentralized execution down to the tehsil level with a coordinated civil-military oversight. This is possible by establishing fusion cells that have plug-ins related to law and order, traffic, weather, hospitals and banking including any other event etc. The plug-in involves medical units, police, intelligence, civil administration and the Army. Local bodies must be empowered as soon as possible and allowed to exercise their popular mandate. Development funds must be made available to them on the bases of a staggered system based on progress. External audits systems need to be put into place immediately. Our systems must be set up to support the country and its people. Pakistan must gear up to weather the storm that is on the horizon and it does not look too good at the moment.

About the Author :

Lieutenant General Tariq Khan (Retired), Hilal-i-Imtiaz (Military), winner of the Sword of Honour from Pakistan Military Academy and is a graduate of the prestigious National Defense University of Pakistan and has a long experience of fighting the War on Terror in the tribal areas of Pakistan and along the Pakistan- Afghanistan border. He has extensive interaction with the allied commanders employed in Afghanistan and working with top  military elite at CENTCOM. He has been one of the few Pakistan Army officers awarded with the Legion of Merit by the USA. He also has the honour of commanding one of the strike corps of Pakistan Army. He is a well read military analyst who often shares his view points, incisive and thought provoking analysis on national and international affairs.

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One line in article leaves much for consideration that Pakistan must resolve political issue in Pakistan. Politically strong and stable Pakistan is need of the region. Pakistan must not be a part of any block. After politically stablized economic revival is required. Foreign Policy must be alike a sovereign State.
Anwar Butt

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