Zelensky’s Secret ‘Ministry of Ungentlemanly War’ – POLITICO | Albiseyler

Zelensky's Secret 'Ministry of Ungentlemanly War' - POLITICO

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Jamie Dettmer is an opinion editor at POLITICO Europe.

Hardly a day goes by without news of yet another Ukrainian commando raid on targets in Russian-occupied Ukraine – sometimes even with hints of Kiev-orchestrated sabotage or perhaps assassinations inside the Russian Federation.

Last week he saw an a particularly dramatic raid, when Ukrainian commandos flew across the western Black Sea in rigid-hull inflatable boats to recapture several oil rigs east of Snake Island. Dubbed the Boyko Towers, the platforms were occupied long before the February 2022 invasion – Russia took them in 2015, following the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry was quick, as always, to tout the military success, and the country’s military intelligence service noted that the airstrike was of strategic importance, saying: “Russia has been deprived of the ability to fully control the waters of the Black Sea, and this brings Ukraine many steps closer to regaining Crimea .

These Ukrainian raiders may have been trained by Britain’s Royal Marines and Army Commandos, who earlier this year trained around 1,000 elite Ukrainian soldiers to carry out amphibious assaults on small boats in Britain.

And this training was apparently used to good effect – not just on the westernmost edge of the Black Sea, but for many raids across the Dnieper Riveras well as the incursion into the Crimean peninsula itself that reportedly killed dozens of Russians last month.

But like the British during World War II, Ukraine may claim more military significance and value for its commando raids than it might warrant, and assessments of their impact may be overstated.

Britain’s Royal Marines and Army Commandos trace their history back to the Second World War.

Following the evacuation of British forces from France at Dunkirk, wartime leader Winston Churchill wanted to see attacks along Nazi-occupied coastal Europe. “Enterprises must be prepared with specially trained units of the hunter class who can develop a reign of terror on these coasts, primarily under the butcher and barrage policy,” he noted on June 6, 1940.

Part of Churchill’s thinking was that such coastal raids would boost British morale while demonstrating Britain’s determination never to surrender to the enemy. With any luck, it would also inspire others in the occupied countries to resist and undermine German morale.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky | Omar Marques/Getty Images

This was also the reasoning behind United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s order for the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in 1942 – he wanted to boost morale after the disgraceful attack on Pearl Harbor, and the best way to do that would be to take the war for granted. the heart of the Japanese capital – just like the Ukrainians in the drone attacks on Moscow.

But despite the claims in the many books and films that have sprung up over the years, the British Commando’s wartime raids probably had mixed success and military significance, though they were daring, dangerous and inspiring and morale-boosting.

The most successful was Operation Chariot in 1942 — an amphibious assault on the heavily defended port of Saint-Nazaire in German-occupied France, in which an obsolete American destroyer loaded with explosives was rammed into a dry dock and detonated. The facility was useless for the rest of the war, forcing German warships in need of major repairs to return to German waters and risk a dangerous encounter with the powerful British Home Fleet.

But even Operation Chariot – dubbed by some as “the biggest raid of all” – came at a significant cost. Most of the 18 smaller landing craft carrying commandos tasked with destroying other facilities in the harbor were sunk by German gunfire, and with no way to escape, many were killed or forced to surrender when they ran out of ammunition.

Of the 612 commandos on the raid, only 228 managed to return to Britain – among them, on a personal note, my father – 169 were killed, 215 were captured. And as the war progressed, the raids were slowly discontinued as they were no longer considered effective and led Germany to strengthen its coastal defenses.

Shortly after the British Army Commando began to take shape, Churchill also ordered the establishment of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), tasked with carrying out espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance, as well as assisting resistance groups in German-occupied Europe. “Go and set Europe on fire,” Churchill told supervising minister Hugh Dalton.

But as with the Commandos, so too with SOE, which eventually grew to 13,000 agents – 3,000 of them women. And while no one doubts their sheer bravery, there has been considerable debate about the true military impact of what has been dubbed “Churchill’s Secret Army” – or “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare”.

Some historians have argued that many of SOE’s high-profile operations—including the assassination of the cruel Reinhard Heydrich, the acting Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia and one of the architects of the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”—did not serve much practical purpose. purpose and were potentially counterproductive.

And after the war, both historians and critics within the SOE argued that these operations only led to mass reprisals and the disintegration of resistance networks – the main purpose of which was ultimately to develop underground armies ready to intervene and assist Allied forces when the tide of war turned and liberation was at hand .

“SOE was inefficient as an organisation, unnecessarily dangerous to work in, ineffective in pursuing its aims and counterproductive in terms of the results it achieved,” concluded John Keegan, one of Britain’s leading military historians.

Others, however, are not so dismissive. In his book “The Secret War”, Max Hastings noted that by sponsoring resistance groups, SOE “allowed the resurrection of self-respect in occupied societies”, enabling all European nations to “maintain their cadres of heroes and martyrs”.

Ukraine certainly has its heroes and martyrs. But only when the war is over will we have an opportunity to judge exactly how powerful her commando was.

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