The Russian military establishment has been the target of criticism as a consequence of the disappointing results of the fighting in Ukraine. In military expert Dr. Konstantin Sivkov, a doctor of military science, who previously served in the general staff, the army has found a defender.
While the interview with Nikita Yurchenko is hews closely to Putin's exhortation to address problems rather than gloss over them, Sivkov essentially argues that the Russian military was stabbed in the back. Sivkov claims that the original attack in the opening phases of the war was carried out in keeping with a well-conceived plan and had achieved massive success. This attack could have decided the war but was reined in by the politicians, oligarchs, and Russian Academy of Sciences Members. This pattern was repeated in the later stages of the war, leaving Sivkov convinced that "If it were not for all the aforementioned 'sabotage' on part of the Russian political class, the course of hostilities would have gone in a different direction."
Sivkov's comments are an indication that the Russian military establishment is getting tired of being the whipping boy in the blame game over the fighting in Ukraine.
The interview with Sivkov follows below:
Dr. Konstantin Sivkov (Source: Ria.ru)
"Leave The Fighting To The Military"
The Special Military Operation (hereafter – the SVO) revealed a huge number of problems and difficulties in the Russian army and political system. Moreover, on December 21, 2022, Vladimir Putin, speaking at a meeting of the Defense Ministry collegium, stated that mistakes needed to be addressed rather than glossed over, even if they lie on the emotional spectrum.
"I ask the Defense Ministry to attentively consider civilian initiatives, including considering criticism and responding to it correctly and promptly. Understandably, the reaction of people, who see problems—and, of course, problems always appear in such a large, complex job—can also be emotional. But certainly, those who do not keep silent about existing problems but strive to make their contribution to solving them should be heard," emphasized the President of Russia.
For his part, military expert Konstantin Sivkov believes that the issues facing the SVO are to be solved politically. According to him, Russia should urgently stop playing along with its "Western partners," stop trying to negotiate with the Kyiv regime, and act with the utmost severity towards the Banderites, who perceive only political weakness and inability to make a decision behind our "gestures of goodwill."
"This Was Not A 'Cavalry Charge,' But A Normal Offensive Operation."
Q: "Konstantin Valentinovich [Sivkov], we have a group of people in our country, who believe that the SVO represents the ill will of a single person. Tell us, in your opinion, is this true or were there some reasons [for the military operation]?"
A: "The basis and initial reasons for the SVO had, of course, existed. If the SVO had not started at the end of February, we would have been fighting today on the territories that we cannot even imagine now. The hostilities would have certainly affected the core Russian territories, we would have been fighting the enemy not in Donetsk or Lugansk, but in the Kursk and Belgorod oblasts, and, probably, in the Crimea too. The adversary was preparing for war, he was given a task, and we needed to beat him to the punch."
Q: "We began the SVO well enough, advanced quickly, took Kherson without a fight; in the first days our troops made a raid at Gostomel... and then everything had changed. Why didn't a quick 'cavalry charge' plan to occupy Ukraine work?"
A: "Let's start by stating the obvious. This was not a 'cavalry charge,' but a normal, carefully designed large-scale offensive operation on a full frontline scale. This operation, as is evident, went strictly according to plan and was very successful. Had we continued to carry it out, the operation would have been completed by the middle of April, by the beginning of May at the very latest, the tasks set as the basis of the SVO would have been completed.
"The reason why this didn't happen is beyond the art of warfare, but instead lies in the political realm. I will remind you that our entire successful advance ended the moment we made a "goodwill gesture," namely we withdrew our troops from Bucha, Gostomel, from under Chernobyl, from Chernihiv, from Sumy, and even partially withdrew the forces from Kharkiv oblast. This was despite the fact that Kharkiv was already encircled at the time."
Q: "Where did the things stand at that time? Can it be stated that our troops were achieving the set tasks?"
"Our troops were advancing successfully. If one was to recall how it all occurred, the operation could have been 100 percent properly completed. Politics, which was based on different rationales, intervened in warfare. On the one hand, there was, certainly, pressure from the West. Naturally we are talking about pressure on the country's leadership in economic terms.
"Pressure was also exerted by certain oligarchs, owners of factories and enterprises, who in the '90s privatized, or, in essence, appropriated, the national wealth during the criminal regime of the time [of Boris Yeltsin]. There was also pressure by certain scientists from the Academy of Sciences, who demanded that everything be stopped, as they enjoyed profitable contacts with the Western community. They too are agents of the fifth column. And, naturally, we must not forget our country's obvious commercial interests, which also played a certain role. All these factors combined, mutually reinforcing, forced our leadership to take this step or, to put it bluntly, enter into collusion.
"If you recall, this act of collusion occurred in Istanbul. At first, we proposed to hold the meeting in Minsk, but Istanbul was selected. We agreed to stop our offensive, by which time Army General Alexander Dvornikov, the commander of our forces, had been removed from his post and all further action plans were cancelled.
Istanbul talks between Russia and Ukraine (Source: Rbc.ru)
"Previously, the military objectives of the SVO were strategic ones: air supremacy, decisive defeat of the enemy all the way down its operational structure, major rear strikes aimed at destroying a troop formations, i.e., everything was designed according to classic military science, including the goal of encircling large enemy forces in the fortified areas near Luhansk and Donetsk, in order to cut off supplies and defeat enemy's forces part by part.
"Instead, we moved the fighting to the front line, striking the enemy head on. As a result, the enemy remained in the fortified area, and retained the potential to supply and regroup personnel. Thus, the enemy could bring in new arms and ammunition. Consequently, the enemy was free to maneuver and manage the available forces, which meant that we were unable to fulfil any of the plans to the extent that we had hoped.
"Practically, the result of all this was that already in August the enemy was able to organize a group of forces—since we had not bothered to attack accumulations of manpower and military commissariats— and to build it up to such a degree that in some sections of the front the enemy exceeded our forces by nearly tenfold.
"All this permitted the enemy to carry out a successful counter-offensive at the end of August, even in places which were not, in fact, the direction of the main strike, but auxiliary. Whereas, in the direction of the main attack, the enemy's offensive was repelled, and the advancing troops were, actually, simply destroyed in a 'kill zone' set up by our artillery. Thus, the enemy lost almost three brigades.
Q: "What was our response?"
A: "The auxiliary Kharkov direction, where the enemy had concentrated considerable forces, proved to be a serious lesson for us. It became then clear that a strike [against Russia] was being prepared, and a quite serious one. Our forces were practically forced to retreat without putting up any resistance. That is, we left these territories without trying to defend them in battle.
"Had we prepared for this strike, by combining the efforts of infantry, artillery, and aviation—let's remember, we have complete dominance in the sky—we could have easily destroyed the advancing enemy troops, but we did not. We made the same exact decision when we unjustifiably decided to abandon Kherson. The reason for this was that it was suddenly discovered that there was an ammonia pipeline running through Kharkiv Oblast and up to Odessa, how about that!
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"In summary, we surrendered Kharkiv Oblast, we abandoned the western bank of the Dnipro River and Kherson not because of military necessity, but due to politics. After that we conducted a partial mobilization and engaged in training of the mobilized forces. Theoretically speaking, [the manpower] that we got via mobilization should suffice, provided we stop wearing our troops down in frontal attacks and conduct a large offensive campaign with a full-fledged phase of air action.
"In this case, I believe the ground operations can, within 3 to 6 months, inflict a decisive defeat to the armed forces of the Kyiv regime and liberate the territory now occupied by the Kyiv Banderites. But in order for this to happen, a political decision needed to be made, which we didn't see by the end of autumn. Generally speaking, we are quite capable of not only of launching active offensive operations, but also of holding territory that the enemy will be forced to cede to us."
"The Enemy Threatens To Take Crimea And This Is A Direct Consequence Of The 'Gesture Of Goodwill.'"
Q: "To what degree, in general, does politics influence combat operations? To what extent is this just probing of our ability to strike back?"
A: "That's quite a valid question. I would like to note that one very serious episode has gone unnoticed, which, however, has extremely important and unpleasant consequences for us. I am talking about a Ukrainian UAV strike at our strategic airfield in Engels. It is important to understand that this is not just an attack on some military target or civilian infrastructure. This airport, and the aircraft stationed there, are part of Russia's 'nuclear shield.'
"According to the available documents, we can already start a nuclear war! The guiding framework of the program, recorded in the founding documents defining Russia's use of nuclear forces (including nuclear deterrence forces), is spelled out in the document titled "On the Fundamentals of the Russian Federation State Policy in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence."
"This document, in paragraph 19 "v" ["c"] reads, "The enemy's impact on critically important state or military facilities of Russia, whose disablement would disrupt the response of nuclear forces." In other words, this constitutes ground for the transition to nuclear war. This strike by Ukrainian saboteurs tested the Russian leadership's resolve. They were observing how we would act in response to the provocation. And we gave the most favorable signal to the West, i.e., we pretended that nothing much had happened.
"In the end, Ukraine unleashed similar strikes upon us, demonstrating its capabilities, while we have only stated that such measures are unacceptable, when terrorist acts were already taking place on core Russian territory. The British are talking about the possibility of a Ukrainian terrorist strike on Moscow, suggesting striking at night. What will they demand next?
"It depends on the capabilities, but it is a fact that they will strike, including with American missiles. The Americans, by the way, do not mind. The Poles are making statements too! Some Polish newspapers have started to publish the information about a big military exercise that will take place on March 27, 2023.
"They are calling up 200,000 reservists for this exercise. Usually, exercises involve from 40,000- 50,000, but 200,000 is a lot. It is a full-fledged front, if you consider the manpower. And one does not need to be a rocket scientist to understand that this is open, clear, and unambiguous preparation for the coming war!
"What's more, NATO has authorized the transfer of up to 3,000 armored vehicles to Poland, including "Abrams" tanks. Also, 180 "K2" tanks are expected to be delivered. These are South Korean-made vehicles, and, as of now, I would call them one of the finest examples of the Western tank engineering school. Technically speaking, naturally, it's not the West, but rather the East, Asia, but in fact the [engineering] school is the same. Their combat potential is higher than that of the "Abrams" tanks.
Hyundai "K2" tank (Source Koreatimes.co.kr)
"A total of about 880 armored vehicles, about 2,000 different armored cars, infantry vehicles, and similar equipment will be delivered. Add about 400,000 personnel, and [you'll see] this front is already being prepared. The British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has already stated that he will reach an agreement and be able to supply long-range arms to the Kyiv regime. All of this is a consequence of the fact that we have reacted with such gentleness and indifference to the strike on our nuclear force facility by the Ukrainian terrorists.
"To summarize: I would argue that the reasons for 90 percent of all the difficulties that have arisen during the SVO are political in nature, and only 10 percent are the fault or shortcomings of the Russian military, which is now performing its duty. The fact that today the enemy is shelling the Kursk and Belgorod oblasts, the fact that it is threatening to take Crimea, is a direct consequence of the "gesture of goodwill" that was made back in spring at that memorable meeting in Istanbul."
"Zaluzhnyi Is A Dangerous, Cunning But Clever Enemy."
Q: "How would you assess the quality of the Ukrainian army's training and its readiness for combat?"
A: "One should preface with a disclaimer here: if we are looking at such aspects as morale, stubbornness, determination, and toughness, then, no doubt, these characteristics are abundant within the Ukrainian Armed Forces [hereafter – the ZSU]. These people possess enough determination to fight, and they, in fact, do so, there is no doubt about that. There are no cases of their retreating or surrendering en masse. The explanation is simple: they are flesh and blood of our people, and our people are used to fighting to the end.
"But in terms of training, they are greatly inferior to us, as well as in terms of training of top commanders, soldiers, i.e., it is the majority of servicemen. [Ukrainian] officers too are acting very stereotypically and primitively, stubbornly, but without proper initiative. Nevertheless, I will stress that the supreme command staff in the person of General Valerii Zaluzhnyi deserves the deepest respect and certain praise.
"He is undoubtedly a talented and well-educated general, but he is also, unambiguously an enemy, and his virtues should not be discounted. He is an enemy, but a dangerous, cunning enemy, an enemy who is clever and prepared to make sacrifices to achieve his goal."
General Valerii Zaluzhnyi (Source: Aif.ru)
Q: "I have personally heard an opinion about Zaluzhnyi that, on the contrary, he is not a very good commander and mainly operates only by being able to create a local manpower advantage without considering casualties. How objective can this opinion be?"
"I disagree with that, that's not true. He acts extremely harshly towards his subordinates, towards his troops. He possesses forces that he can and, I stress it, knows how to make use of. It's likely that he calculates, relying on political factors, issues that allow him to gloss over heavy losses to the Ukrainian army. Consequently, he can demonstrate a certain success in leading the Ukrainian army.
"If our politicians had persisted and given orders to our soldiers, things might have worked out differently, but so far what we are seeing is, on the one hand, the intelligence of Zaluzhnyi and, on the other, weakness of the people who made decisions to retreat."
Q: "Ukraine has been supplied with a huge number of arms with a total value of up to 100 billion USD. How likely is it that the West will start running out of weapons? How has Western weaponry performed?"
A: "Here as well, we shouldn't delude ourselves. Western arms have proved to be fine, passable, and in terms of their tactical and technical characteristics, considering the data we possess, they are equivalent to the arms we produce for our own army. The myth that Western arms are worse, more fragile, and are unsuitable for waging modern warfare is incorrect.
"These arms meet the capacities and requirements that have been placed on them. Naturally, there are certain differences, in some areas they are weaker, for some things they have paid the price of reduced survivability of weapons, for instance, their projectiles are lighter. Or, let's say, they have an objective superiority in terms of the weight of howitzers, for example, the Western "M-777" weighs 4 tons and our equivalent "MSTA-B" howitzer weighs 7 tons. This is a significant difference.
"It's clear that there are advantages and disadvantages to both, but in general, we are talking about roughly equivalent equipment which, when used properly, can inflict substantial damage on the enemy. As a consequence, a capability of a weapon to affect the front line is quite substantial. Moreover, Western weapons are still arriving in relatively miniscule numbers. This is superimposed on the situation that the Ukrainians have virtually no arms of their own left in Ukraine; it's also unrealistic to talk about their production in Ukraine.
"Regarding the latter, there are problems arising from both our strikes on military facilities and strikes on energy infrastructure. If it were not for all the aforementioned 'sabotage' on part of the Russian political class, the course of hostilities would have gone in a different direction.
"The shackling of the Russian Armed Forces is a fact. If you remember, even the President and Commander-in-Chief [Putin] noted that we have not really started to fight. And yet, despite all of the above, our troops managed to defeat Ukraine. Those armed forces that it had at the very start of the SVO on February 24, have been smashed and have ceased to exist at this point in time. We are fighting mercenaries and those who have been mobilized."
"Mercenaries Should Be Divided Into Two Groups: Soldiers Of Fortune And NATO Soldiers"
Q: "Mercenaries have indeed become a significant part of the SVO. There are all sorts of speculations about them. Some argue that they are Ukraine's main force and everything rests upon them, while others claim they are adventurers looking for someone to shoot. What is their quality as soldiers?"
A: "This is an interesting question. The mercenaries fighting on the side of the Kyiv regime can be roughly divided into several groups. The first are the soldiers of fortune, the 'wild geese,' the marginalized community, whose representatives came to Ukraine to make money and kill people. They were quickly pacified and brought to their senses, including by a rocket attack on their assembly point in Lviv oblast.
"And then there are those who, while pretending to be mercenaries, are in fact regular units or divisions of NATO member-states. These are, in fact, NATO military personnel, often holding documents confirming their belonging to the armed forces of said states. First and foremost, we are discussing the latter, when talking about the mercenaries taking part in the SVO on the side of Ukraine. They are usually highly skilled, well-trained, and have military specializations.
"One cannot deny their presence in Ukraine or their ability to fight, but one must clearly understand that in the end, they are just people who have come to fight for money, to earn their living by exercising their military trade, which means that they are not going to fight to the end, to death. Their numbers within the ZSU on the whole is quite small, I would say that there are relatively more of them in the units that monitor the ZSU frontline units, i.e., in the 'anti-retreat forces.'
"As a rule, either Poles or Ukrainian Nazis serve there, and there are many cases when these people shot Ukrainian soldiers who were trying to surrender. Here, too, we can state that instead of declaring Poland a party to the conflict, our leadership prefers to ignore these facts."
Q: "Another news item during our SVO was the Wagner PMC. If previously just a bit of info about them slipped into the media, and, at first, they were only known to the specialized media, now it is one of the main media topics of the year. [It's] a cool, all-conquering Russian military company with its own tanks and planes. How is it possible in our country to have a private military company with its own equipment? Is it legal?"
"I believe it's obvious that the 'Wagner' troops use trophy tanks and other armored vehicles, that is, they use what they have taken from the enemy, same as the rest of their weaponry. I also have questions about the planes, there were reports that one or two [Ukrainian ones] were captured at the airfield, then repaired, fixed up, and put back into service, but it looks doubtful, I can't deny that.
"The second important point is how things are organized. If I understand correctly, the Wagner PMC is officially registered in Poland, not in Russia. It is formally a foreign company, because the Russian legislation doesn't allow for such a legal structure as a Private Miliary Company. We have CHOP, private security companies, but there are no military companies and there cannot be [such entities], we do not even consider the possibility of registering such legal entities, for now.
"Thirdly, Wagner used to operate only outside of Russia. True, they appeared on the territory of the DPR [Donetsk People's Republic] and LPR [Lugansk People's Republic], but at first, we perceived it to be Ukrainian territory, then as independent states, and now they are already part of the Russian territory.
"The question is as follows: if it was legal outside Russia, then it is not possible to engage in the activities that Wagner is engaged in on the territory of the country. This question, which lies in the legal field, is extremely important. So far, it has not been resolved."
"Zelenskyy And His Camarilla Want Power And Money"
Q: "This year, four new regions joined the country: the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, as well as the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts. Why did we accept these regions so tardily and hastily?"
A: "This was due to purely political factors and was dictated by the desire of our leadership to demonstrate that we are not leaving [the regions] forever, but retreating, that this is our land and we will return to it. We were demonstrating that we are present in this region.
"What's more, in order to justify our hesitant actions against the troops of the Kyiv regime, we have also publicly demonstrated that it will not end this way. I believe it was also calculated that the Ukrainians would be frightened that we were sort of beginning to fight on our territory.
"But the Kyiv regime, to give it its due, didn't give a damn such intimidation. As a result, we started acting under the conditions that prevailed in order to somehow undo the negative effect that we were experiencing as a result of the large-scale offensive operation that the ZSU was conducting at the time."
Q: "Throughout 2022, there were talks of an offensive from the north, from Belarus. In December, new troops arrived there, a combined grouping of troops engaged in some maneuvers. How likely is it that we will try to launch a full-fledged winter campaign in the north?"
A: "I think an offensive from Belarus is quite possible. But I don't believe it will be a relevant solution to our strategic objectives in the near future because we don't think it's desirable to drag Minsk into this conflict due to a number of factors. Thus, this decision suggests itself, and, at the same time the situation says the opposite. So, we will see."
Q: "In the autumn, we conducted a partial mobilization, with a total of 300,000 individuals being conscripted. But there is an opinion that mobilizing 1 million is required for a successful offensive. Can we expect another wave of mobilization?"
A: "The current composition of the military force is suitable for the tasks that were put forward at the start of the SVO. I firmly believe that we have enough troops, arms, and military equipment to defeat the ZSU.
"If one was to look at the specific issue and consider the second wave of mobilization, then again, everything lies in the field of political decision, and I am not at all sure that our leadership is capable of it. That is, there won't be a second wave of mobilization, but it has to do primarily not with the military, but specifically with the political considerations that prevail among our leadership."
Q: "When you look at the photographs of the battle near the city of Artemivsk, you get the impression that something like World War I is happening there, everything is destroyed by artillery, but there is almost no progress. Why couldn't our commanders build up a required number of troops in this area and solve the issue of this fortification in the shortest possible time?"
A: "This is a purely political aspect and has nothing to do with the actions of our military command. It has to do with the fact that for some reason our political leadership does not consider it possible to defeat the ZSU with decisive strikes."
Q: "Could the conflict have been resolved peacefully or was it an objective process, an unstoppable one?"
A: "It was an objective process that could not be stopped. It was conditioned by the fact that the West needed Ukraine only as a tool to confront Russia. Thus, in the end, one way or another, the military conflict that is now unfolding in Ukraine was inevitable."
Q: "Why did Ukraine want the role? Why did it agree to it?"
A: "Because Volodymyr Zelensky and his camarilla strive for power and money. They don't need anything else; they don't think about anything else, only about personal security, power, and money. They don't really care what [they have] to do and what to sacrifice for the sake of it. The fact that such conduct on part of the top officials has nothing to do with the real interests of Ukraine is, I believe, not even worth discussing."
 Business-gazeta.ru/article/579037, January 9, 2022.