On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine and seized the disused Chernobyl facility – Copyright AFP/File Sergei SUPINSKY
Syria’s 21-year war has seen the use of chemical weapons in combat for nearly a decade. The Russian-sponsored Syrian foreign fighters are likely capable of fighting in chemical weapons combat environments.
given Russia’s total disregard for humanitarian considerations, the use of chemical weapons is very likely. The total loss of Russian ground forces also means that Russia is very likely to be looking at alternative combat missions.
Modern chemical weapons include a number of very unpleasant options. These weapons can be delivered by air, drone, artillery, or missile troops. However, the use of chemical weapons is complex. It is highly unlikely that Russia’s conscripts have anywhere near the training required to turn them in, let alone fight in a chemical warfare environment.
Hence the likely deployment of Syrian fighters. These are not “jihadists”. They are more aptly described as “martyrs of money”. They don’t seem to mind destroying their own country or people. If anyone has benefited from Syria’s heinous war, it’s these guys. They’ve been making good money for over a decade.
The realities of the use of chemical warfare in Ukraine
As a problem solver, chemical weapons leave a lot to be desired:
- These weapons aren’t actually totally destructive.
- Protective equipment limits their effectiveness.
- The distribution of chemical warfare agents can literally be disrupted by a gust of wind.
- The appearance of attackers in protective gear would immediately tell the defenders what is happening.
- Russian artillery and missiles appear to contain many duds. These systems would routinely fail to deliver some chemical agents.
- Russian standoff weapons are surprisingly inaccurate. Chemical agents delivered by these weapons would also be of dubious accuracy.
- These weapons did not work decisively in Syria.
- Accidents involving chemical weapons use are quite common.
The risks for defenders should not be underestimated:
- Unprotected people are definitely at risk.
- These weapons can blind and maim people.
- Recovery from non-fatal incidents can take months.
- Some chemicals are stubborn and can contaminate large areas.
- Chemical weapons are highly disruptive to combat operations.
The tactical situation sets the tone
Russia can’t win in Ukraine. They know that. They can’t even pretend to win. The defenders in Kyiv outnumber the Russians and defeat the Russians by a considerable margin. Veteran Ukrainian expats and foreign volunteers are already in Kyiv.
Tactically, every millimeter near Kyiv looks like a disaster for Russian forces. The Russians cannot support an encirclement. An encirclement would stretch their forces far too thinly, with or without the help of entrenched forces north-east of Kyiv. They don’t have the troops, the military talent, and obviously not the guts to successfully besiege, let alone take, such a large city. They are being beaten and cannot admit it.
Their victims look like they could be even worse than estimates. There are several signs that Russians are afraid. Her behavior shows signs of panic. They attack more like lost tourists than anything remotely resembling a coherent force. The Russian armed forces are extremely undisciplined. They literally run away when they resist. Civilians also report that Russian troops are nervous and are firing at everything.
This isn’t the famous Red Army or anything, although bizarrely some Russian vehicles fly the Soviet flag. It’s not Stalingrad either. There is video of a Ukrainian soldier mockingly speaking excellent German, trying to gently lure out Russian troops hiding in an IFV: “Good morning, Russian pig soldiers…” Who’s intimidating whom, you say?
The Syrian fighters are called in mainly because the Russians obviously can’t even fight their own war. Putin’s number of 16,000 Syrians is also suspiciously similar to the number of Ukrainian volunteers. It’s not an empty threat; but it’s also not as believable as an option for ground forces.
Where would the use of chemical weapons end?
If these weapons are used, Russia’s now extremely desperate tactical situation could make their use standard anti-city operations for the foreseeable future. Russia simply does not have the resources on the ground to win a conventional war in Ukraine.
(Even if they “win”, the Russians cannot remain in Ukraine. They cannot hold such a vast territory in the face of such resistance, nor can they supply it. They may not even be able to pay the troops. Feeding them and providing them with basic necessities is also clearly a huge, if amazingly stupid, problem.)
The problem is this:
- Chemical weapons can kill large numbers of unprotected people.
- The West needs to face this reality and do something about it.
How many cases of chemical weapons use can be accepted? Where would it stop if there was no incentive to stop it? How many Ukrainians even have to die before these guns become a major escalation?
A partial solution:
- Bring as much chemical and bioweapons protection and decontamination equipment to Ukraine as soon as possible.
- Military assistance should also be given to Ukraine as soon as possible. Russia’s threat to cut off arms shipments is very hollow and remarkably stupid. What, they’re going to shoot every single vehicle in Ukraine? They would be out of ammo in a week, and they don’t seem to be hitting anything anyway.
- Tell Russia that humanitarian corridors and human rights must be respected or military force used to enforce them.
The irony is that Western military power could have exterminated this ridiculous Russian mob a week ago. Russian forces around Kyiv could be cleared out in about a day.
The only reason Russia can even claim to be taking part in this war on its own is that the West has not provided sufficient deterrence. Many innocent people died as a result. This situation needs to be corrected.
The conclusion: Get out of the Ukraine.
The opinions expressed in this Op-Ed are those of the author. They do not purport to represent the opinions or views of the Digital Journal or its members.