Putin’s Buffer Zone Strategy Post-2024 Election

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In the wake of the 2024 election, President Vladimir Putin has hinted at the potential creation of a “buffer zone” in territories currently under the control of the Kyiv regime. This strategy, according to Putin, is aimed at preventing the shelling of Russian territories with NATO-grade weapons that are in Kyiv’s arsenal. The concept of the buffer zone was elaborated upon by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who emphasized the necessity of such a measure to halt the ongoing artillery and drone strikes by the Kyiv regime against Russian civilian areas.

The discourse around the buffer zone is not new but has been part of Russia’s strategic narrative, especially following the cross-border incidents in the Belgorod Oblast during the summer of 2023. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) notes that Putin’s discussion of the buffer zone appears to serve multiple purposes, including justifying military actions in Ukraine, consolidating Russian territorial claims, and responding to domestic and international dynamics surrounding the conflict. The notion of a demilitarized zone, as articulated by Putin and other Russian officials, seems to pivot on the objective of extending Russian control and creating strategic depth away from its borders, ostensibly to safeguard against Ukrainian military capabilities.

Putin’s statements and the subsequent clarifications by Kremlin officials suggest a multi-faceted approach to the buffer zone concept. On one hand, it is presented as a defensive measure to protect Russian territories from Ukrainian strikes, and on the other, it is portrayed as a strategic maneuver to exert control over contested regions in Ukraine. The delineation and operationalization of such a buffer zone remain contentious, with potential implications for the broader conflict dynamics in the region.

The discussions around the buffer zone are situated within a larger geopolitical context, where military, political, and territorial considerations intersect with the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The reactions from Ukrainian and Western officials indicate a skepticism towards the feasibility and the underlying intentions of Russia’s buffer zone proposal. The complexity of the situation is further compounded by the military engagements on the ground and the broader international responses to the conflict.

Strategic Implications of Russia’s Proposed Buffer Zone Post-2024 Election

The discussion around the buffer zone’s establishment involves not only geopolitical maneuvering but also precise military considerations, particularly the operational range of artillery systems. The effective range of these systems dictates the required depth of the buffer zone to prevent strikes on Russian soil.

For example, the Western-supplied M777 howitzers, used by Ukrainian forces, have a range of 20 to 40 kilometers, varying with the ammunition type. The Excalibur guided projectiles can reach slightly over 40 kilometers. Similarly, systems like the Grad and the Czech RM-70 Vampir have a maximum range of up to 40 kilometers. These specifications underscore the rationale behind Russia’s proposed buffer zone depth, aiming to eliminate the threat of extensive shelling of border cities like Belgorod.

This military strategy indicates a broader Russian objective to establish a secure perimeter that extends beyond the immediate border, possibly influencing the conflict dynamics in Eastern Europe. The depth of the buffer zone, estimated at 40-50 kilometers, reflects a calculated approach to mitigate the risks posed by Ukrainian artillery capabilities, emphasizing the strategic importance of geographical and technological factors in contemporary warfare.

However, the feasibility and legality of creating such a zone remain contentious, with significant international opposition. Critics argue that the establishment of a buffer zone by force would violate international law and escalate the conflict further. Moreover, the effectiveness of this strategy is debated, given the advancements in long-range missile technology and drone warfare, which could circumvent the protective measures offered by a buffer zone.

In sum, Putin’s proposal to create a buffer zone following his re-election in 2024 is a complex interplay of military strategy, geopolitical ambition, and international law. The plan’s success will depend on various factors, including diplomatic negotiations, military capabilities, and the international community’s response. As the situation unfolds, the buffer zone concept will likely remain a pivotal element in the discourse surrounding the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and its broader implications for regional and global security dynamics.

Escalation in Belgorod: Russia Counters Czech-Made Vampire MLRS Attacks from Ukraine

Over the recent weekend, Russia reported intercepting numerous rockets fired from Ukrainian territory using Czech-made Vampire multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). According to Moscow’s Defense Ministry, a significant Ukrainian offensive utilizing the RM-70 Vampire MLRS was thwarted on Monday morning in the Belgorod region, a key flashpoint along the Russia-Ukraine border. The ministry stated that its air defenses neutralized 10 rockets at around 8:30 a.m. local time. This incident followed a similar occurrence on Sunday when nine Vampire rockets were reportedly shot down over Belgorod, underscoring the ongoing intensity of cross-border hostilities.

Image: The RM-70 Vampir is a modernized version of the standard RM-70 122 MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) designed and manufactured in the Czech Republic by the Excalibur Army. The first prototype of the RM-70 Vampir was manufactured in February 2015 and successful gunnery trials were held in October 2015. The original RM-70 was installed on Tatra T-813 truck chassis. The new Vampir, however, utilizes a completely new platform Tatra T-815-7 8×8 heavy-duty tactical truck. The basic configuration of the rocket launcher itself on the vehicle´s chassis corresponds with the original RM-70, but the majority of the wiring has been extensively rebuilt or completely modernized. The cabling is completely new as well. The RM-70 Vampir rocket launcher is capable of deploying concentrated bursts of fire into larger areas occupied by the enemy and destroying personnel as well as combat machinery. The RM-70 Vampir can be ready to fire in less than 2.5 minutes and leave its combat position in 3 minutes. It can fire 40 rockets in less than 30 seconds. According to information published on the Internet, since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Czech Republic has delivered to Ukraine an undisclosed number of RM-70 Vampir 122mm Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRSs).

The Vampire MLRS has been a staple in Ukraine’s artillery arsenal since the war’s onset, delivering rapid and concentrated fire. Capable of launching up to 40 rockets in less than a minute, these systems primarily target military assets and personnel, rather than fortified structures. Their design, incorporating an 8×8 truck chassis, facilitates swift relocation post-launch, minimizing the risk of counterattacks.

Marina Miron, from King’s College London’s War Studies Department, points out the strategic utility of the Vampire MLRS for Ukraine, especially given the current constraints on 155mm artillery ammunition. The preference for the 122mm rockets, used by the Vampire system, likely reflects a relative abundance of this ammunition type in Ukraine’s stockpile.

Russia’s narrative on the conflict in the Belgorod region has consistently highlighted the regularity of artillery strikes from Ukraine, framing these as unprovoked aggressions. The region’s governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, reported civilian casualties due to cross-border shelling, emphasizing the local impact of the conflict.

Moreover, recent weeks have seen increased military activities around Belgorod, with Moscow claiming to have foiled incursions by Ukrainian “sabotage and reconnaissance groups.” This narrative was complicated by reports from pro-Ukrainian Russian partisans about seizing control in parts of the Belgorod region, suggesting a more complex conflict dynamic involving multiple actors.

Significant developments included the claim of control over the Belgorod village of Gorkovsky by pro-Ukrainian partisans, a move Russia has not publicly acknowledged. This incident points to the involvement of Russian groups operating from Ukrainian territory, like the Freedom for Russia Legion and the Siberian Battalion, in cross-border operations. Russia dismissed these as Ukrainian actions, though Kyiv distanced itself, asserting that these groups act independently, albeit with Ukraine’s later-expressed support.

This uptick in military and partisan activities in the border areas like Belgorod signifies a nuanced phase of the conflict, where conventional military engagements are interwoven with partisan tactics. The situation remains fluid, with both sides adapting to the evolving dynamics of warfare, as evidenced by the strategic deployment of systems like the Vampire MLRS and the complex interplay of local and external forces in the border regions.

The U.S. Army Resurrects M777 Howitzer Production Amid Ukraine Conflict Demand

The resurgence of the M777 howitzer’s production, led by the U.S. Army and British defense giant BAE Systems, marks a significant shift in the global armaments landscape, stirred by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The M777, a piece of artillery that hadn’t seen a new order in five years, is now back in the spotlight due to its extensive use on the Ukrainian battlefield. This revival underscores the broader trend of increasing demand for artillery and missile-defense systems globally.

On a recent Thursday, BAE Systems announced its plan to recommence the production of M777 parts for the U.S. Army, a move driven by the urgent need to refurbish the artillery pieces currently in service with Ukraine. This decision not only reflects the direct impact of the Ukraine war on military equipment but also highlights the challenges of sustaining older weapon systems whose production lines were previously considered dormant.

The M777 howitzer, despite being older and towed, has gained preference in Ukraine over more modern self-propelled howitzers for its reliability, ease of use, and maintenance. The war has provided an unexpected proving ground, enhancing the howitzer’s reputation and demonstrating its effectiveness under combat conditions. According to Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former U.S. Marine Corps artillery officer, the visibility and proven capability of weapons in conflict often boost their appeal in international arms markets.

The surge in interest is not just about refurbishing existing guns but also about potential contracts for new units. BAE Systems has hinted at the likelihood of new contracts for complete M777 howitzers, as inquiries from over eight countries have emerged since the onset of the conflict in Ukraine.

The M777’s role in the Ukraine conflict has been pivotal, with over 170 units donated by countries like the U.S., Australia, and Canada, making it one of the most supplied Western artillery pieces to Ukraine. Despite its advantages, the M777 has faced challenges, with about 77 units reported damaged or destroyed. Its towed nature makes it more vulnerable to enemy counterfire compared to self-propelled artillery.

The Ukrainian forces appreciate the M777 for its accuracy and ease of repair, essential factors given the limited time they had to familiarize themselves with the equipment. The lightweight titanium construction, while making the howitzer more mobile, also renders it more susceptible to damage. This paradox has not detracted from its operational utility, as Ukrainian artillery crews have managed to keep the M777 active in the field more consistently than other foreign-supplied howitzers.

The decision to restart the M777’s production is part of a broader trend in the armaments industry, where the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has led to increased demand for various types of military hardware. This has not only included artillery but also air-defense systems, with weapons like the British Starstreak missile and German Rheinmetall’s ammunition manufacturing facilities seeing renewed interest and production.

The reactivation of these production lines, however, is not without its challenges. Companies face hurdles such as sourcing scarce materials like titanium, re-engaging suppliers, and retraining workforces. BAE Systems projects that new M777 units will be ready by 2025, indicating the time-intensive process of revitalizing dormant production capabilities.

The situation in Ukraine serves as a stark reminder of the complexities of military logistics and the importance of maintaining a flexible and responsive defense manufacturing base. As the conflict continues, it will likely spur further evaluations of military stockpiles and production strategies globally, ensuring that the armaments industry remains adaptive to the changing dynamics of modern warfare.


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