A map of the occupied territories with red air brushed along the train lines, which go through most marked Russian troop locations. Areas near this and Russia are coloured red while gaps between them are a dark orange. To the East, where the land is further away from the rail lines and against the sea, the map is coloured yellow. The picture resembles a blood circulatory system.

2023-11-20 Hit Them Hard Between the Rails

I am continually impressed by how Ukraine fights, because Ukraine fights smart. Again and again. What comes to mind at the moment is the wisdom of Sun Tsu:

Be where your enemy is not.

NATO has developed an army that can go anywhere. Its equipment can roll over anything and so obviously, the easier something is to roll over, the better. NATO prefers roads. Russia is geographically large and so its only practical method of defending the area is with rail. And if you’re in on that you may as well specialise. Russia is rail. You can see how much Russia is locked in on rail by the location of its forces. Apart from the front line, almost all their troop placements are on a rail. Also, where they are not on rail, they want to build one. Berdansk is on a good rail direction from Ukraine but a dog-leg for Russia. More importantly for Russia, Mariupol is entirely rail orientated towards Ukraine. Reaching it is a dog leg through the front line.  This is why they are building a new one.

Kyiv Independent - Russia builds railway connection between mariupol volnovakha donetsk

Ukraine has bridged the Dnipro just East of Kherson which is not near a rail line, it’s the gap between them. Smart. It’s push is South towards Crimea. What’s interesting is that with just a push South, the West peninsula will naturally liberate to Ukraine, because Ukraine would have cut off the blood supply to that area. What’s more, Russia has stationed artillery there to be a threat to the whole region of Kherson towards the port city of Odesa. Artillery can’t be front line. It won’t survive, so at best for Russia it is going to flee. With the mud of winter it might even now be captured.

Regarding the lack of press on the bridging, that is interesting. Ukraine needs fellow democracies behind it so it needs to advertise it’s victories. It also needs to do this to maintain morale. Russia is probably using Ukrainian sources to get a clear picture, as the Soviet style army will only report good things. So the only reason not to advertise this success is that they haven’t finished the job yet. There is a quote here that I’m not posting.

The advantage of rail over road, is that to function as a rail it has to be constructed considerably robustly. Like most things Russian, the value is in the legacy, not the current. Built to survive the first train, it can survive the winter. Roads however tend to not be as weather resistant. So, on the face of it, it would appear Russia has the advantage in winter. This however is not true. Vehicles can drive anywhere, so they can drive on railways too. Russia however is restricted to specific routes. A train cannot run on a road, not due to the wheels, but to the fact that seems odd when you think about it, a train cannot turn. It is turned.

Russian defence works by mining an area to slow down the attack, then hitting the enemy hard with large volumes of blanket shelling. It’s actually the only way it can work as their artillery is second world war quality. Good back then but wildly inaccurate now. It works only in blanket where statistically, it will on average hit a target with the natural distribution covering the area. It only works on a slowed enemy.

Tire them by flight.
Cause division among them.
Attack when they are unprepared, make your move when they do not expect it.

This means there are two opportunities for Ukraine in the South. They can have a super light rapid unit that penetrates the Russian lines and doesn’t sit still. To fast to target, it can dive into the areas not on the rail lines. Their first focus is on survival. Partly because asking for a suicide run is unethical but also because simply their presence behind Russian lines is psychologically devastating. Purposefully choosing to run from a sizeable force rather than facing it. An enemy you can’t catch is frustrating and you have to post a guard in all directions. Their next focus would be special forces style targets of opportunity, Their purpose is to run amok. Blow ammo dumps and make Russia think Ukraine is always behind them. They can also regularly use the rail lines as roads to move across areas as that will leave Russia with a dilemma. Either Russia can mine its controlled rail lines and cut its own arteries or it can let Ukraine run free.

Draw them in by the prospect of gain,
take them by confusion.

Secondly, Ukraine can heavy assault down the rail lines with heavy vehicles. Any antipersonnel mines will not touch these vehicles and any anti-vehicle mine big enough to take out one of these will take out the rail lines. The idea is to clog up the arteries until Russia has a heart-attack and dies in the south.

Thirdly, Ukraine needs to areal bomb the rail lines to break them. Not the full length, just to punch holes in it. It’s one of those things that is both a lot and yet not a lot. Twenty Storm Shadows could punch twenty holes between twenty enemy encampments, turning the railway into a splintered mess. It will also show where Russia wants to prioritise and where it can actually prioritise.

Assess the advantages in taking advice, then structure your foces accordingly, to suppliment extraordinary tactics.

One thing NATO does really well, is to let the people in the line of fire run the show and they have trained Ukraine to do this. However, NATO is used to a road army and is undervaluing rail in its advice. Ukraine has people who know the Soviet way and so therefore also know how Russia will act. I have shared my ideas here but the people actually fighting know best. Everything here is junk compared to what these people know and the best army will take the best of everything.

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention and on the battle field evolution is accelerated as bad ideas are literally killed. Ukraine will have many novel good ideas and needs to make sure they can run with them. One thing I do know for sure though, is that if there is something smart to be done, Ukraine is probably already doing it.


The map shown was from the amazing work of deepstatemap.live with just my bad paint brush over it. The railway locations was also from them.