Meanwhile, US politicians and lawmakers have leveled accusations of “terrorism” against Russia and blamed it for targeting electrical grid in Kharkov and a dam on the Ingulets River amid Kiev’s counter-offensive.
“Any effort by the West to spin what Russia’s done into a war crime is factually incorrect,” stresses Ritter, stressing that Russia’s military strategy has never been aimed at “punishing” Ukrainian civilians. “This wasn’t inflicting horrific damage on Ukrainian infrastructure. Ukraine didn’t lose any power generation capability or anything of that nature.”
The first thing one needs to understand about Russia’s strikes is that the damage that was done was not permanent in nature, the military analyst says, adding that most of the targeted electric facilities were back up and running within 24 hours. Likewise, the way Russia attacked the dam, “it can be readily repaired and the situation returned to normal in a relatively short amount of time,” he adds. This means that “the Russian targeting was very precise” being “a surgical use of military force to shape the battlefield so that Russia could rebuild its defense,” according to the military analyst.
“[The attack] was designed to temporarily remove electrical power from a broad area so as to disrupt the movement of Ukrainian forces and the ability of Ukrainian command to carry out effective command and control of these forces,” Ritter says. “[B]y taking out the electric grid, Russia effectively froze the Ukrainian movement of forces in place, buying time for their troops to consolidate to defend.”
The same thing can be said about the dam, continues Ritter: “The strike against the dam was designed to raise water levels along a strategically important river to remove bridges that had been built across this river by Ukrainian forces with the assistance of NATO that were used to sustain a significant Ukrainian military buildup that was threatening Russian forces. By removing these bridges, the Russians denied the Ukrainians the ability to supply these troops. These troops are now isolated and being subjected to military action by Russia designed to reduce the threat.”
The former US Marine Corps intelligence officer elaborates that the timing of the measure “was linked to a critical moment in the Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kharkov, where Russian troops were trying to reestablish themselves on a new defensive line” after they faced “a Ukrainian counteroffensive that was conducted by what in essence was a NATO military.”
US Military Doctrine Envisages Eliminating All Critical Infrastructure
Both US military experts agree that Washington’s stance with regard to Russia’s special military operation is nothing short of hypocritical given the Pentagon’s record of military invasions and brutal tactics of destroying civilian areas and critical infrastructure.
“US military doctrine is… to take down the enemy’s critical infrastructure at the onset of a conflict,” explains Pyne. “During the 1991 Iraq War and the unprovoked 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia, the US attacked the enemy power grid within the first few days of the war.”
Ritter was a participant in Operation Desert Storm that began on January 17, 1991. He says he is “very familiar” with the strategic air campaign that the United States waged against Iraq.
“In Iraq, we permanently disabled Iraqi electrical power plants – permanently disabled them – so that they could never again generate electricity during the course of the war,” says the former US Marine Corps intelligence officer. “That’s a departure from what Russia did. Russia temporarily disabled it. Against Iraq, we blew up every single bridge that went across the river. We blew up rail lines. We blew up roadways. We disrupted the lines of communication, the ability to travel back and forth. This is not what Russia’s done. The bridges that Russia took out were temporary pontoon-type structures that had been put in place by the Ukrainian military. When the United States takes out bridges, we permanently remove them.”
From day one of the special military operation Russia has made it clear that its objective is to minimize harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure, Ritter underscores, adding that “if the United States was involved in this war, the Ukrainians would never have been able to move a single battalion, let alone six brigades’ worth of troops into the battle zone.”
For his part, Pyne notes that many Western military analysts thought that Russia would employ far more assertive methods of war and would disable Ukraine’s critical infrastructure including its internet, electrical power, command and control and transportation system. Neither did Russia resort to unconventional technologies including cyber and Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) weapons, he acknowledges.
“If the Biden administration has any issues with the level of death and destruction occurring in the war in Ukraine, it should take positive steps to mediate a compromise peace agreement to end the war rather than doing everything it can to prolong it unnecessarily,” Pyne says.
Ritter voices a similar stance: “If NATO didn’t want the electrical grid and the dam [hit], then NATO shouldn’t have built up an army that threatened the Russian positions. This is the reality of war.”
Kiev Bears Responsibility for Rejecting Peace Talks
At the same time, Pyne believes that “Russia is justified in attacking Ukraine’s critical infrastructure given that its mostly reasonable peace offers have been rejected by Ukraine over the past six months.”
The EMP Task Force scholar refers to a series of Russo-Ukraine peace talks which led to preliminary agreements on March 29 in Istanbul and Moscow’s voluntary withdrawal of troops from Kiev. Nonetheless, the Zelensky government made a U-turn after that and backpedalled on peace negotiations.
“From the Russian perspective, it has been fighting a mostly defensive, preventive war in Ukraine to prevent Ukraine from becoming a member of NATO, which it views as an existential threat to the Russian Federation,” the former Pentagon officer notes. “As Dr. John Meersheimer has stated, the US would act the same way under similar circumstances for example if Texas declared independence from the US and became a de-facto member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”
In December 2021, Russia proposed draft security agreements to the US and NATO. The documents looked to diffuse tensions sparked by the transatlantic alliance’s decades-long eastward expansion and Washington’s efforts to arm Ukraine and create new military installations on Russia’s doorstep. The drafts envisaged Ukraine’s non-admission to the military bloc, non-deployment of offensive weapon systems near Russia’s borders, and the return of NATO’s European capabilities and infrastructure to 1997 levels. However, the US, NATO and the EU rejected the agreements’ key provisions leaving Moscow no other alternative but to take preventive measures of demilitarizing and de-Nazifying Ukraine.
“The only vital US national security interest in Ukraine is to prevent the war from escalating to a full-scale shooting war between NATO and Russia,” insists Pyne. “Given that Ukrainian President Zelensky has repeatedly stated his foremost objective is to embroil NATO in a war with Russia, the US should have cut off all lethal military assistance to Ukraine back in April and essentially declared its benevolent neutrality in the conflict.”
The only hope Ukraine has of winning is with a fair and reasonable compromise peace agreement, Pyne emphasizes. As of yet, however, Kiev has shredded any calls to broker peace with the US State Department-funded Ukrainian Center to Counter Disinformation denouncing Pyne, the author of the 15-point Russia-Ukraine peace proposal, as “an information terrorist subject to being tried as a war criminal.”