October 24, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10278

Russian Outlet Publishes Devastating Takedown Of Ukraine Invasion

October 24, 2022
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 10278

As Russian information policy appears to have veered at least temporarily to greater honesty with the Russian public, attempts at testing the limits of that honesty have been appearing. An opinion piece that appeared in Military Review (Voennoye Obozrenie) is a case in point. The author Petr Kudinov offers a devastating critique of the Special Military Operation in Ukraine claiming that it has damaged Russia economically, demographically, and strategically. Things are more likely to get worse than better and amongst the scenarios that Kudinov offers (although he terms it unlikely) is a rollback of Russian gains not only since February 24, 2022 but even Russian gains in 2014, including Crimea. From its very outset, some of the operation's stated goals such as de-Nazification and demilitarization were beyond Russia's manpower and equipment capabilities.

Kudinov is careful not to attack Putin directly (although it is already fair game to take a potshot at the Russian President's assertion that things are going according to plan) and claims that he is erring on the side of caution in offering a gloomy prediction so that corrective action can be taken. Yet, anyone reading this opinion piece cannot escape the conclusion that the invasion has been an unmitigated disaster for Russia. The piece is more remarkable for its appearance in a strongly pro-invasion outlet.

Kudinov's opinion piece follows below:[1] (All emphases original)

Vladimir Putin meets with newly mobilized Russian soldiers (Source:

1. Regarding The Goals

Why is the state necessary?

The meaning of the existence of anything will be defined as a "goal," that is, the meaning of existence is in achieving/fulfilling the goal.

So, what is the point to the existence of states in general, and the Russian state in particular?

The answer is as follows: the state must fulfill the following goals:

1. to ensure the people's social and economic development;

2. to guarantee the people’s safety.

It’s very important that it’s exactly the degree of fulfillment of both goals that allows us to assess the degree of state’s viability. We can fulfill the goal of security maintenance, but fail in socio-economic development, resulting in a life expectancy of, say, 30 years. Or we can provide a high standard of living, but due to a disregard for security, [our country] could be conquered by a less wealthy, but more warlike neighbor. It’s the aspiration to achieve these goals in an integrated manner that determines the quality of governance of figures at the helm of political power.

Speaking of these goals, it is also necessary to introduce the concept of "time." After all, some actions can be successful in the short-term perspective, but have appalling consequences in the long term and vice versa: short-term losses could be offset by gains in the long term. And let’s keep in mind the maximal case, when a win here and now provides long-term benefits, or failures in the current period could lead to a future disaster.

Now let’s speak of the SVO [Special Military Operation] goals.

The declared "demilitarization" and "denazification" are not transferable  to the practical level and render it impossible to establish comprehensible landmarks. Therefore, I will allow myself to flesh out these declarations in the following scenarios (variants):

The Maximalist Option (Active [Military] Actions)

The goal of demilitarization is the elimination of the Armed Forces of Ukraine [hereafter - the ZSU] as a structure and organization. The maximum force they would be allowed to maintain would be something like Japan’s Self-Defense Force. The goal of de-Nazification is the removal of the [current] political leadership and the "re-election" of the government.

The fulfillment of these goals most likely demands the liberation of Ukraine's entire territory in order to cut off foreign arms shipments. Considerable investment will be required to rebuild infrastructure, as it’s unlikely that the ZSU will surrender cities and infrastructure (bridges, dams, power plants, etc.) without a struggle. Long-term deployment of significant forces will be required (both military and administrative structures, as well as police. In my humble opinion, it will certainly take more than 5 years to ensure the new government's stability.

I’m afraid to even imagine what size and equipment levels the army must have (probably the minimum limit should be around 1 million military personnel able to participate directly in hostilities within Ukraine), and what changes to the national economy are required for this.

Medium Option (Situational Scenario)

The goal of demilitarization is to remove mention of NATO from Ukraine’s constitution, and declaration of a non-aligned status. The goal of de-Nazification - certain changes in legislation (for example, explicit condemnation of the "UPA"[the Ukrainian Insurgent Army that fought the USSR in World War II] and condemning various individuals to certain punishments

The fulfillment of this goal depends on several factors: first, the willingness of Ukraine and its allies to continue the war. Second, what degree of change will suit our political leadership (here the spectrum extends from "declarative statements" to "tough wording in legislation and international mechanisms for their implementation").

Obviously, this option can only work if the following factors work sequentially: first the fading willingness of Ukraine and its allies to continue the war, followed by the attainment of agreements on legislative changes.

The only option I can propose is a gradual but permanent liberation of increasing number of territories, with a defeat for the ZSU. To serve as a "whip," the tactic that was used for the Kherson and Zaporozhye oblast could be deployed. Referendums on accession to Russia will be held after some time. Provided Ukraine and its allies will see that despite the arms supplies and the SZU soldiers' valor, the outcome remains a foregone conclusion, it makes sense to reach an agreement before there is nothing left.

This option, let’s recall, can only be realized provided the opposing side also becomes interested in it. Thus, in my estimate, the probability of this scenario's realization will be less than the maximalist and minimalist options.

The size of and equipment for our army that we are required to provide will depend on what frontlines our troops expect to reach. Provided we are preparing for the maximum scenario, and in the course of its implementation the said option is activated and our troops decide to stop, then go read the previous point. Provided we set ourselves a less ambitious goal for the territories...then it’s likely to require smaller grouping, but with much greater requirements in terms of technical equipment.

Minimalist Option (Inertial Scenario – Take Things As They Go).

The demilitarization goal: we will come up with something about the goal being achieved (e.g., by [stating] that "what’s left of Ukraine no longer poses a threat"). The goal of de-Nazification: we come up with something to claim that the goal is achieved (e.g., [similarly by making a statement that] "what’s left of Ukraine no longer poses a threat").

The fulfillment of these goals can consist of our Armed Forces reaching certain frontiers (for example, along the Dnieper river), along with fortifying defenses and awaiting the establishment of some new state of equilibrium (neither peace, nor war).

The requisite size and equipment provided for our army will depend on where we can and will be able to reach (and whether we want to advance at all from our current positions). However, the number will be definitely less than the stated minimum number in the maximum option (i.e., less than 1 million servicemen actively engaged in hostilities).

Option: Collapse

Complete failure of demilitarization and de-Nazification. A rollback to the 02/24/22 status quo ante, or the loss of the LDPR [an umbrella term for the breakaway republics of Donbass], or also the loss of Crimea [both results achieved in 2014]. This scenario, in my opinion, is possible only in the case of a loss of Russian internal political stability, when everything in the country will fall apart. This is the most unlikely scenario so far.

I don’t claim the role of an "oracle," but in my opinion, this [the third option] is the most obvious, and, consequently, most likely scenario to be realized. At least now we can rely on concrete goals rather than vague declarations.

This way, we obtain a kind of matrix of scenarios (options) of developments and their impact on security and socio-economic progress in the short and long term.

Next, let’s characterize the most important (in my opinion) events that have already taken place through the prism of time.

2. Socio-Economic Development

Nobody will return 300 billion USD to us. One can forget about them. This is a failure of our political leadership, as this (by no means illusory) risk wasn’t considered in advance (starting from 2014), and no one has tried to return this money to the economy (via the very same decrease of the tax burden, for instance). In the Short-term and long-term the decreased options for covering the budget deficit, will have the consequence of increasing in the citizens’ fiscal burden.

The sanctions pressure won’t become weaker (there is some chance of change only under the "medium [intensity]" option, but, again, based on negative developments, we will consider it the agreeable option, and we won't take it into account).

Short-term decrease in variety and quantity is practically unnoticeable to most citizens. Long-term decrease will prompt serious risks in national economic productivity due to lost access to managerial and technological competences of Western countries.

Let’s recall that many Chinese companies have Western equipment, and management also has Western employees.

If we scrutinize the branches national economy, the most depressing and simultaneously the most threatening situation could be found in the field of semi-conductors manufacturing. It’s the semi-conductor industry that now largely determines the shape and capabilities of consumer and industrial goods. There are no manufacturing capabilities at all in this critically important sector of production. There were only some hints and ideas, which disintegrated with the beginning of the SVO.

I wouldn’t place a bet on any breakthrough upon state participation.

China invested billions upon billions of USD in creating national competencies throughout all the previous years, practically since Xi Jinping's first term, despite having industry leaders both on its land and next door (Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan to a lesser extent). There are successes, but they haven’t managed to achieve technological independence (now there are high-profile corruption cases there, as well). However, let’s recall that there were times, when there were no sanctions and China enjoyed an almost unlimited budget.

I hope that no one harbors any illusions that this path is available to us? The maximum we can count on is buying some production machinery on the secondary market and using them primarily for military and paramilitary purposes with a miniscule civilian output.

Short-term [consequences] will be invisible or barely noticeable at the national level. There are old stocks, there are opportunities to import the necessary variety of goods in the necessary volumes through gray schemes.

 Long-term [consequences] prompt serious risks of retarded national economic development not only in comparison with our geopolitical adversaries, but also with regional powers, due to denied access to relatively modern technology.

The consequence of sanctions will be our increased dependence on the PRC, simply because there is no other option. In the future only China can purchase significant amounts of gas and oil, which were previously purchased by Europe, and only China has at least some (however, a national one) base to support our industry and manufacturing (machines, microelectronics, etc.).

Meanwhile, I wouldn’t count on an allied relationship [with China], as all goods will be sold at the very minimum for the same in price [as in Europe], and, most likely, will be even more expensive (provided one can come up with a supply scheme, because they won’t trade openly in the so called "sensitive" goods). Regarding the quality, most likely, it will be inferior [to the Western alternative].

There are no short-term consequences. Long-term consequences will be a loss of maneuvering space in foreign (and, possibly, domestic) policy along with increased dependence. As a result of emigration, Russia has lost a considerable number of economically active people, who can be classified as middle- and upper-class representatives. I’m not now touching upon the emotional and patriotic component of this flight.

This doesn’t override the fact that those who fled were, first of all, people who could afford to leave, which, consequently, means that in Russia they were representatives of the so-called "solvent class"; second, it was people of the most advanced professions (first of all, IT specialists) and entrepreneurs. The economy will absolutely feel it later. There are no short-term consequences. Long-term consequence is the following: no matter how one feels about those who left, now we have to replenish lost potential. It’s a repeat waste of time and money.

Over the recent years, Russia has been developing according to the inertial scenario: GDP growth didn’t exceed 3%. In the short term, we should expect a decrease in GDP, and then growth about 1-2%. There are no miracles, if in the previous 20 years we couldn’t create an innovative economy, when there was an access to almost all markets and opportunities, and everything depended solely on our will and desire, then it has become more complicated in the current situation.

The markets of developed countries are effectively closed to us, and on the developing countries' markets we will have to compete (provided we’ll have something to compete with) with the same Western countries along with the "sanctions" trap resting on our chest: our counterparties will be under the threat of secondary sanctions, and the big question is whether they will choose our goods and services, or prefer Western or maybe even Chinese ones. Our market won’t be able to act as a self-sufficient base of demand, in view of low purchasing power and small volume.

All this will cumulatively prompt a near-zero growth rate. The only thing that can save us is the creation of unique, groundbreaking products, which will have no analogues.

But let's be honest, do you believe that?

There are no short-term consequences. Long-term consequence are as follows: the economy determines the possibilities

Lagging behind competitor countries in economic development will make security measures (read further below) more expensive, and the internal risks of society’s destabilization will grow. This, in turn, will most likely lead to a tightening of the screws, and later to falling further behind and etc. Its a [vicious] spiral.

3. Security

National security will be much, much more expensive.

This is can be explained by the following: first, Sweden and Finland (which since 2014 have been cooperating with the bloc quite closely) will become NATO members. So now, the Baltic Sea basically becomes an internal NATO sea, and the NATO border will run in the close vicinity of St. Petersburg (which is a very disturbing factor even without taking into account possible US military bases).

Let’s agree that this is clearly a development "[that didn't proceed] according to plan," provided one of the few explicit goals of the SVO was to prevent NATO expansion (meaning, of course, Ukraine).

There are no short-term consequences. Long-term consequence will be growing tensions and increased defense spending compared to the current situation, as well as further diminished chances for sanctions easing.

Secondly, prior to the launch of the SVO, the only true war-ready state within NATO was the US. The other alliance member-states spent on defense noticeably less than the mandatory 2% of GDP. Now almost all member-states without exception have either raised their spending to the aforementioned standard, or started to spend even more. Some countries have also invested large sums in defense (e.g., Germany - 150 billion euros).

In other words, the aggregate [military] capability of NATO will grow, and significantly: much more money will go to NATO’s military-industrial complex (which is essentially united for all members). This won’t be noticeable next year, but we should already be prepared for it and think about what to do, because the combined potential of NATO greatly exceeds Russia’s one (China and other countries should not be considered as there are no legal grounds for this).

There are no short-term consequences. Long-term consequences will either be falling behind militarily (it would be prudent to investing heavily only in nuclear deterrence forces), or socioeconomic degradation due to withdrawal of funds.

The "protracted" time limits of the SVO increasingly raises question of Russia’s status, as a major military power. The entire world is watching our actions, and attitudes toward us will be largely determined by the successes we achieve. This will also affect our global security, as it will determine how neutral countries treat us.

There are no short-term consequences. Long-term consequences will be a decrease in Russia’s political influence in the world, and in the near sphere composed of the former Soviet republics. In turn, this will affect the possibility of entering new markets and competition with other states. As a separate consequence, it will have a negative impact on military-technical cooperation, primarily with India and other Asian countries.

Separately, I would like to mention the demographic threat. We don’t know what our casualties will be, but one of the smallest generations, i.e., those born in the 1990s, is involved in the fighting (due to age). This means that all previous demographic victories will effectively be nullified.

There are no short-term consequences. Long-term consequences will be social degradation, as the cumulative effect of other negative factors will appear: the working-age population will decrease, labor productivity won’t exceed the current level.

4. Conclusion

I’m in favor of the principle "better safe than sorry." It’s important to see "the deep end" as only in this case there is a chance to avoid falling into it. We all need to understand the conditions in which we find ourselves.

In my opinion, we are now in the [chess] situation of zugzwang: where no matter what we do, no matter how we act, in terms of socio-economic development and ensuring security, it won’t get better.

And it’s no less important to understand the conditions in which we will find ourselves in the next year and in the next 10 years provided nothing changes in these areas (i.e., socio-economic and security policy). We need to realize that the maximum scenario we can expect in this case is the preservation of the more or less current situation. And the probability of this event is less than a deterioration of the situation.

Understanding our situation should not lead to despondency and sense of doom, as there is always hope, all the more so when the diagnosis is made. For it’s only in this case that a cure can be found.


[1], October 19, 2022.

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