«The Russian army will be near Kyiv in February»: a dubious forecast of former American diplomats


One of the largest US weekly magazines «Newsweek» published an article by David H. Rundell and Michael Gfoeller «Lessons from the U.S. Civil War Show Why Ukraine Can’t Win». Its main content is that the help of Western allies to Ukraine will gradually decrease. And this, together with the brutal tactics of destroying the energy infrastructure of the new commander of the United Russian Forces in Ukraine, Serhii Surovykin, will eventually lead to the defeat of Ukraine.


Former diplomats and their strange historical parallels

David H. Rundell is an American diplomat who has worked in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates for 30 years. He is considered an expert on Saudi Arabia, where he lived for more than 15 years, and wrote the book «Vision or Mirage: Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads». Today he lives in Dubai and is a partner of Arabia Analytica.

Michael Gfoeller, like his co-author, worked as a diplomat for a long time: from 1984 to 2010, he served in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Russia, Moldova, Poland, and Belgium. For two years, he worked as Senior Political Advisor to General David Petraeus, then Commander, of US Central Command. He is also one of the founders of Arabia Analytica. Michael Gfoeller loves archeology and traveling and has written many books on these topics.

What do former American diplomats see in common in the US civil war and the current Russian-Ukrainian war, and why, in their opinion, should Ukraine lose?

The comparison between an American general during the Civil War and a Russian military man looks very strange

They believe that the northern states won the US Civil War thanks to the brutal but successful actions of General William Tecumseh Sherman, who made «Georgia howl». David H. Rundell and Michael Gfoeller, comparing the American general with the commander of the Joint Group of Forces of Russia in Ukraine Serhiy Surovikin, believe that he will force «Ukraine to howl»:

“Armies need railroads and while Sherman systematically tore up the tracks leading to Atlanta, Surovikin is destroying the electricity grid which powers Ukrainian railroads. This has left Ukrainian cities cold and dark, but Surovikin seems to agree with Sherman that «war is cruelty, and you cannot refine it.“


Fictional successes of the Russian army

However, the successes of the Russian army under the leadership of Serhiy Surovikin in Ukraine are quite doubtful. As of early January 2023, it has not managed to completely destroy the energy infrastructure. The head of the National Energy Company of Ukrenergo (electricity transmission system operator in Ukraine), Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, said that in theory there is a possibility of a complete blackout, but in practice, he does not currently see such a threat:

«I believe that we have already passed the worst with the missile attacks, I really hope so. The dynamics of these attacks and the effect of those attacks show that the Russians have less and less able to cause any disturbances in our energy system».

The reasons for this are the shortage of Russian missiles and the effectiveness of Ukrainian air defenses, as well as the help of Western allies, who send generators, transformers, cables, and other equipment to Ukraine.

General Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy intelligence chief, noted the shortage of missiles in Russia in an interview published on January 4, 2023. He believes that it will try to compensate for their lack by using drones, primarily of Iranian production.

Shahed-136 — Iranian drones, which the Russian army uses under the name «Geran-2» to attack the civilian and military infrastructure of Ukraine

However, Iranian drones cannot cause significant damage to the energy infrastructure, as the Ukrainian military effectively neutralizes them. Thus, according to information provided by Air Command press officer Yurii Ihnat, on January 1-2, 2023, all 84 Iranian drones launched by Russia were shot down.

Moreover, Russia already lacks artillery shells, which significantly reduces its offensive capabilities, as stated by Britain’s armed forces chief Sir Tony Radakin.

Against this background, the massive offensive of the Russian army and the loss of Bakhmut, as written by David H. Rundell and Michael Gfoeller, are not very promising. Battles for Bakhmut began at the beginning of August 2022, but the Russians were never able to take the city.

The city of Bakhmut was almost 60% destroyed by the Russian army. Source: https://www.facebook.com/dw.ukrainian/posts/pfbid0wueQm29HuZYDkRe79fEKy8zv6Fs5SdWqPpQqNujExX6nykxp2GR4HchsYNYSmSCMl

The authors’ assertion that Putin went from a special military operation to a full-scale invasion just six months after it began seems far-fetched. In fact, Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine began back in 2014, and the large-scale war, which also targeted the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, began on February 24, 2022. The world media, in particular, the BBC, wrote about it from the very beginning of the invasion.

These authors are not the first to write about the Russian-Ukrainian war… and not the first time they are wrong. Their article with the sensational title «What Would a Russian Victory in Ukraine Mean for the Middle East» was published on June 28, 2022. Russia’s victory in it is beyond doubt:

“By some measures, Russia has already won the war. From Kharkiv province in the northeast to Mykolaiv province in the southwest, Russian forces have methodically taken control over vast stretches of eastern and southern Ukraine.“

“A Russian strategic success of such magnitude would expand Moscow’s influence across the Middle East. From the Black Sea to the Persian Gulf, Russian prestige would soar. Syria is already a Russian protectorate which has security implications for Israel. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE already have military ties with Moscow which they would certainly seek to strengthen. Russian arms sales in the region would grow with Moscow’s military success.“


What is the situation at the beginning of 2023?

As a result of two successful operations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine last fall, Russia lost control over the Mykolaiv and Kharkiv regions and was forced to leave the right bank of the Kherson region along with the only captured regional center. Russia is forced to buy drones from Iran and has a shortage of missiles and artillery shells. According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as of January 6, 2023, the losses of the Russian army amounted to more than 110,000 enemy personnel, 3,000 tanks and 6,000 armored fighting vehicles.

Summary of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the losses of the Russian army as of 06.01.2023

The help of Western partners to Ukraine, contrary to the predictions of David H. Rundell and Michael Gfoeller, is only increasing. On December 23, 2022, the House of Representatives of the US Congress passed a bill on state funding for the 2023 fiscal year, in which $44.9 billion is provided for assistance to Ukraine. And already at the beginning of January, as «The Guardian» writes, Germany and the USA, after France’s decision to transfer AMX-10 RC armored fighting vehicle to Ukraine, also agreed to transfer heavy equipment, namely infantry fighting vehicles Marder and Bradley.

AMX-10 RC, French armored fighting vehicle

As you can see, the forecasts and analysis of David H. Rundell and Michael Gfoeller can hardly be considered professional, and their views unbiased. Attempts by the Russian army to completely destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have failed, and the Russian army lacks missiles and artillery ammunition. This, as well as the help of Ukraine’s Western allies, make the possibility of a successful Russian attack on Kyiv unlikely.


Yevhen Dzhumyha

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