Wargaming Russia’s Military Options in Ukraine.
A similar scenario that has been considered is the seizing of the entire southern coast of Ukraine in order to connect Russia and its security forces in the Moldovan breakaway region of Transdniestria to Crimea . The logic goes that this would cripple Kiev by cutting off access to the Black Sea and would secure all of Russia’s interests in the region in a continual arc. In terms of effort required, Russia essentially would be doubling the land bridge option. It would require an attacking force of 40,000-60,000 troops driving almost 645 kilometers to seize territory encompassing 103,600 square kilometers over 23-28 days. The required defensive force would number 80,000-112,000. This would also add a complicated and dangerous bridging operation over a large river. Moreover, the population in this region is approximately 6 million, necessitating 13,200-120,000 counterinsurgency troops.
These first two scenarios have a serious flaw in that they involve extremely exposed positions. Extended positions over relatively flat terrain — bisected by a river in one scenario — are costly to hold, if they can be defended at all against a concerted attack by a modern military force. Supply lines would also be very long throughout the area and, in the scenario that extends beyond the Dnieper River, rely on bridging operations across a major river.
A third scenario would involve Russia taking all of eastern Ukraine up to the Dnieper and using the river as a defensive front line. When it comes to defending the captured territory, this scenario makes the most sense. The Dnieper is very wide in most places, with few crossings and few sites suitable for tactical bridging operations, meaning defending forces can focus on certain chokepoints. This is the most sensible option for Russia if it wants to take military action and prepare a defensive position anchored on solid terrain.
However, this operation would be a massive military undertaking. The force required to seize this area — approximately 222,740 square kilometers — and defeat the opposition there would need to number 91,000-135,000 troops and advance as much as 402 kilometers. Since the river could bolster defensive capabilities, the defensive force could remain roughly the same size as the attacking force. However, with a population of 13 million in the area, the additional troops that might be required for the counterinsurgency force could range from 28,000-260,000. Russia has approximately 280,000 ground troops, meaning that the initial drive would tie down a substantial part of the Russian military and that an intense insurgency could threaten Russia’s ability to occupy the area even if it deployed all of its ground forces within Ukraine.
One positive aspect would be that this operation would take only 11-14 days to execute, even though it involves seizing a large area, because Russia could advance along multiple routes. On the other hand, the operation would require such a vast mobilization effort and retasking of Russian security forces that Moscow’s intent would be detectable and would alarm Europe and the United States early on.
Two remaining options that we examined were variations on previous themes in an effort to see if Russia could launch more limited operations, using fewer resources, to address similar security imperatives. For example, we considered Russia taking only the southern half of eastern Ukraine in an effort to use decidedly less combat power, but this left the Russians with an exposed flank and removed the security of the Dnieper. Similarly, a small expansion of current separatist lines to the north to incorporate the remainder of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to make the territory more self-sustaining was considered. Both operations are quite executable but gain little in the grand scheme.
The final scenario we considered was the most limited. It involved Russia conducting small temporary incursions along the entirety of its border with Ukraine in an effort to threaten various key objectives in the region and thus spread Ukraine’s combat power as thin as possible. This would be efficient and effective for the Russian military in terms of the effort required. It could accomplish some small political and security objectives, such as drawing Ukrainian forces away from the current line of contact, generally distracting Kiev, or increasing the sense of emergency there, making the Ukrainians believe Russia would launch a full invasion if Kiev did not comply.
For all of the scenarios considered, the findings were consistent: All are technically possible for the Russian military, but all have serious drawbacks. Not one of these options can meet security or political objectives through limited or reasonable means. This conclusion does not preclude these scenarios for Russian decision makers, but it does illuminate the broader cost-benefit analysis leaders undertake when weighing future actions. No theoretical modeling can accurately predict the outcome of a war, but it can give leaders an idea of what action to take or whether to take action at all.
 Russia’s Geopolitical Imperatives. The Kremlin is buzzing with rumors of further reshuffles, restructurings and dismissals // Stratfor. 18.09.2007.
 Putting Russia’s Crimean Intervention in Context. Studying Moscow’s past military actions across its periphery gives a perspective on the Ukraine conflict // Stratfor. 12.04.2014.
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Wargaming Russia’s Military Options in Ukraine. By Ben Sheen // Stratfor. 09.03.2015.
Stratfor conducted extensive scenario planning when considering Russia’s offensive military options toward Ukraine. In this video we will examine some of the broader themes and deductions.
At the present time, Russian forces augmenting pro-Russia separatists are positioned in Crimea and southeastern Ukraine. Geographically, the area comprises rolling flat plains with no large-scale terrain features that can serve as anchors for military forces, except for the Dnieper River, running north south through central Ukraine.
When looking broadly at Russia’s military course of action, Stratfor examined the limited options first. The initial scenario we considered was the most limited of them all. In this paradigm, Russia conducted small incursions along the entirety of its shared border with Ukraine in an effort to threaten various key objectives in the region and by doing so, spreading out Ukrainian combat power as much as possible. From the Russian military perspective, this is efficient and effective, but it wouldn’t realize any additional political or security objectives not already underway. However, such a move would likely be used in conjunction with any future military actions by Russia or pro-Russia separatists.
Another limited option is a small expansion of current Separatist lines to the north, incorporating the remainder of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts to make the territory more self-sustaining. This offensive would mainly consist of direct engagement of Ukrainian forces that are concentrated along the separatist held area.
One of the most commonly rumored options entails Russia driving along Ukraine’s southern coast to link up Crimea with separatist positions in eastern Ukraine. For this scenario it was assumed that planners would make the offensive front broad enough to secure Crimea’s primary water supply, sourced from the Dnieper. This water feature is significant because much of Russia’s defensive line would be anchored on the key defensible terrain in the region: namely, the Dnieper River. This would achieve a land bridge and secure supply lines into Crimea.
In conducting such an offensive, an initial thrust would move forces rapidly through Ukraine toward the city of Kherson and Nova Kakhovka on the Dnieper River, where they would set up defensive positions. One of the potential constraints to this scenario is the fact that lines of supply would extend for quite some distance along a thin, difficult to defend, stretch of land.
Another scenario that was considered involves seizing the entire southern coast of Ukraine to connect Russia and its security forces in the breakaway region of Transdniestria. The logic goes that this would cripple Kiev by cutting it off from the Black Sea, thereby securing all Russian interests in this region in a continual arc. This would require a complicated and dangerous bridging operation over a large river, with an extended and vulnerable logistics train.
In this scenario, defensive positions cannot be anchored on the Dnieper River. This would require a greater number of forces to hold the ground, without the luxury of a geography barrier. The port city of Odessa would need to captured eventually, which would be a massive hit to the Ukrainian economy.
The two scenarios that extend along the coast possess serious flaws, leaving Russia’s force in extremely exposed locations. An extended frontage over relatively flat terrain, bisected by riverine features, is far from ideal. There are options for Russia to go beyond this; however, this would involve taking the southern half of eastern Ukraine in an overall attempt to commit less combat power.
However, this still leaves a massively exposed Russian flank and removes the security bonus of the Dnieper. A significant portion of the defensive lines would not be anchored on the Dnieper River. Instead, it would be stretched along the Kharkiv-Dnepropetrovsk axis, controlling these two cities, as well as Zhaporizhia.
One last scenario considered by Stratfor could rectify these problems. In short, Russia could seize all of eastern Ukraine up to the Dnieper, controlling all of the main crossing points, and using the major obstacle of the River as the defensive front line. Yet, taking this entire area would require a significant amount of forces moving into eastern Ukraine. The resulting occupation would also require a massive counter-insurgency campaign including operations in parts of Kiev, as well as the cities of Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk and others, where a high level of resistance would be expected.
В этом видео: в начале разговор Джорджа Фридмана и Дэвида Джадсона, затем Бен Шин (возможные действия России на Украине):
Wargaming: computerized scenario planning Ukraine Russia // Stratfor. 06.03.2015.
Media Center, Video
March 6, 2015 | 20:13 GMT
Stratfor conducted extensive scenario planning when considering Russia’s offensive military options toward Ukraine. In this video some of the broader themes and deduction will be examined.
Russia’s Military Options in Ukraine
David Judson: Hi I’m David Judson, editor-in-chief at Stratfor. What we want to talk about today is a series we’ll begin on Monday, a Wargaming exercise involving Russia in Ukraine. With me is George Friedman, our founder. I know George I don’t want to give away the punch line on what we’ll be publishing on Monday, but I would like to talk about the tool of Wargaming and how we use that at Stratfor.
George Friedman: Well Wargaming goes the gamut from extremely computerized automated models down to desktop gaming. But the purpose of it is something as fundamental to any military analysis. It goes back to Napoleon, to anticipate the issues that you might face as a general or as a politician by taking a look at the what ifs, examining the military capabilities of each side, looking at terrain at which they’re going to fight, understanding the political reasons that they might decide to fight. And then try and understand how likely various strategies are and how likely they are to succeed in them.
David: I mean in this case we took apart of the maybe six options that Russia might have and the way that western NATO forces might respond. It’s interesting to me as a tool of empathetic analysis. Is that a fair characterization that it is a way to get into the mind of Russian military planners?
George: It is partly to try to understand what’s in their mind. But actually Wargaming is less interested in the intentions of the generals or politicians as to their capabilities. So what you’re really trying to do when you try to model a conflict is to identify those things that are impossible. Casual conversation you may imagine that the Russians have the military to charge all the way to Romania or Poland and so on. In fact, they probably don’t have that capability or anything close to it. Similarly you may assume that the United States has the ability to rapidly deploy multiple divisions to block them in Ukraine. The United States probably doesn’t have that. So the most important thing that comes out of military modeling is eliminating the impossible. Because until you get down into the details, until you consider how much fuel is required to move so many tanks so far, until you’ve really examined that, you seem to have these infinite numbers of options and all sorts of capabilities. And when you look at it carefully you find out well there are really very few options on all sides.
David: Right. So we do a lot of this constraint analysis at Stratfor. In some sense it’s a check on political rhetoric. In another sense it’s a way to perhaps pre-empt even the bluffing that either side participates in. Is that?
George: Well, politicians, generals, businessmen, constantly make statements. The question is not what these people say in that they may be very honest in what they want. But to go to a very simple and unpleasant place: What’s possible? And one of the things that Stratfor does is it does not focus on the intentions simply. But it really focuses on what can be done and what can’t be done. And in the case of military modeling, where this goes back well before Clausewitz, this is essential. You’ve got to really understand what can’t happen.
David: While not being a forecast in the sense that we publish forecasts, it’s nonetheless predictive, in that it takes off the table those scenarios that are not possible and allowing us to examine a more limited number of scenarios that are realistic indeed.
George: Our name is strategic forecasting.
George: And in strategic forecasting what we do is forecast. This is a step in the forecasting process. It doesn’t say that any of these things will happen. It examines, however, which of them would happen, what the consequences would be from a military standpoint and so on. So what it does is eliminates a whole bunch of options and allows you to really focus down on what might happen. This doesn’t even assume that the Russians are going to take any military action. It doesn’t assume that the Americans would respond. It makes no assumption on what political decisions may be made. What it does ask is what political solutions can be made.
David: Right. It’s been a tedious at times, but a very interesting process of developing the methodology. And I think we’ll have a real interesting report to produce and share with our readers on Monday.
George: I think it will. I think it’ll be a very competent, professional report. And we’ll tell our readers something about what can and can’t happen in Russia.
David: Yeah. So join us on March 9 when we’ll be rolling out this study. Thanks George.
George: Thank you.
David: Thank you for coming to Stratfor.