A day after Ukraine’s much-heralded counter-offensive appears to have failed, almost before it had even begun, a major dam in the Russian-occupied region of Kherson is suddenly bombed, prompting mass evacuations as floods spread across the region.
As we detailed earlier, both sides accuse each other of an attack that puts tens of thousands of homes at risk and might even threaten the safety of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant
The partial destruction of the Kakhovka Dam on early Tuesday morning saw Kyiv and Moscow exchange accusations about who’s to blame, but a report from the Washington Post (WaPo) in late December extends credence to the Kremlin’s version of events.
Titled “Inside the Ukrainian counteroffensive that shocked Putin and reshaped the War”, its journalists quoted former commander of November’s Kherson Counteroffensive Major General Andrey Kovalchuk who shockingly admitted to planning this war crime:
“Kovalchuk considered flooding the river. The Ukrainians, he said, even conducted a test strike with a HIMARS launcher on one of the floodgates at the Nova Kakhovka dam, making three holes in the metal to see if the Dnieper’s water could be raised enough to stymie Russian crossings but not flood nearby villages. The test was a success, Kovalchuk said, but the step remained a last resort. He held off.”
His remark about how “the step remained a last resort” is pertinent to recall at present considering that the first phase of Kiev’s NATO–backed counteroffensive completely failed on Monday according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. Just like Ukraine launched its proxy invasion of Russia in late May to distract from its loss in the Battle of Artyomovsk, so too might does it seem to have gone through with Kovalchuk’s planned war crime to distract from this most recent embarrassment as well.
The abovementioned explanation isn’t as far-fetched as some might initially think either. After all, one of complexity theory’s precepts is that initial conditions at the onset of non-linear processes can disproportionately shape the outcome. In this context, the first failed phase of Kiev’s counteroffensive risked ruining the entire campaign, which could have prompted its planners to employ Kovalchuk’s “last resort” in order to introduce an unexpected variable into the equation that might improve their odds.
Russia had over 15 months to entrench itself in Ukraine’s former eastern and southern regions that Kiev still claims as its own through the construction of various defensive structures and associated contingency planning so as to maintain its control over those territories. It therefore follows that even the most properly supplied and thought-out counteroffensive wasn’t going to be a walk in the park contrary to the Western public’s expectations, thus explaining why the first phase just failed.
This reality check shattered whatever wishful thinking expectations Kiev might have had since it showed that the original plan of swarming the Line of Contact (LOC) entails considerable costs that reduce the chances of it succeeding unless serious happens behind the front lines to distract the Russian defenders. Therein lies the strategic reason behind partially destroying the Kakhovka Dam on Tuesday morning exactly as Kovalchuk proved late last year is possible to pull off per his own admission to WaPo.
- The first of Kiev’s goals that this terrorist attack served was to prompt global concern about the safety of the Russian-controlled Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant, which relies on water from the now-rapidly-depleting Kakhovka Reservoir for cooling. The International Atomic Energy Agency said that there’s “no immediate nuclear safety risk”, but a latent one can’t be ruled out. Should a crisis transpire, then it could throw Russia’s defenses in northern Zaporozhye Region into chaos.
- The second goal is that the downstream areas of Kherson Region, which are divided between Kiev and Moscow, have now been flooded. Although the water might eventually recede after some time, this could complicate Russia’s defensive plans along the left bank of the Dnieper River. Taken together with the consequences connected to the first scenario, this means that a significant part of the riparian front behind the LOC could soon soften up to facilitate the next phase of Kiev’s counteroffensive.
- In fact, the geographic scope of Kiev’s “unconventional softening operation” might even expand to Crimea due to the threat that Tuesday morning’s terrorist attack could pose to the peninsula’s water supply via its eponymous canal. The regional governor said that sufficient supplies remain for now but that the coming days will reveal the level of risk. While Crimea still managed to survive Kiev’s blockade of the canal for eight years, there’s no doubt that this development is disadvantageous for Russia.
- The fourth strategic goal builds upon the three that were already discussed and concerns the psychological warfare component of this attack. On the foreign front, Kiev’s gaslighting that Moscow is guilty of “ecocide” was amplified by the Mainstream Media in spite of Kovalchuk’s damning admission to WaPo last December in order to maximize global pressure on Russia, while the domestic front is aimed at sowing panic in Ukraine’s former regions with the intent of further softening Russia’s defenses there.
- And finally, the last strategic goal that was served by partially destroying the Kakhovka Dam is that Russia might soon be thrown into a dilemma. Kiev’s “unconventional softening operation” along the Kherson-Zaporozhye LOC could divide the Kremlin’s focus from the Belgorod-Kharkov and Donbass fronts, which could weaken one of those three and thus risk a breakthrough. The defensive situation could become even more difficult for Russia if Kiev expands the conflict by attacking Belarus and/or Moldova too.
To be absolutely clear, the military-strategic dynamics of the NATO-Russian proxy war in Ukraine still favor Russia for the time being, though that’s precisely why Kiev carried out Tuesday morning’s terrorist attack in a desperate attempt to reshape them in its favor. This assessment is based on the observation that Russia’s victory in the Battle of Artyomovsk shows that it’s able to hold its own against NATO in the “race of logistics”/“war of attrition” that the bloc’s chief declared in mid-February.
Furthermore, even the New York Times admitted that the West’s sanctions failed to collapse Russia’s economy and isolate it, while some of its top influencers also admitted that it’s impossible to deny the proliferation of multipolar processes in the 15 months since the special operation began. These include German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, former US National Security Council member Fiona Hill, and Goldman Sachs’ President of Global Affairs Jared Cohen.
The military-strategic dynamics described in the preceding two paragraphs will inevitably doom the West to defeat in the New Cold War’s largest proxy conflict thus far unless something major unexpectedly happens to change them, which is exactly what Kiev was trying to achieve via its latest terrorist attack.
The reason why few foresaw this is because Kovalchuk admitted to WaPo last December that his side had previously planned to blow up part of the Kakhovka Dam as part of its Kherson Counteroffensive.
It therefore seemed unthinkable that Kiev would ultimately do just that over half a year later and then gaslight that Moscow was to blame when the Mainstream Media itself earlier reported the existence of Ukraine’s terrorist plans after quoting the same Major General who bragged about them at the time. Awareness of this fact doesn’t change what happened, but it can have a powerful impact on the Western public’s perceptions of this conflict, which is why WaPo’s report should be brought to their attention.