Thu, 29 February 2024

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
Press releases

The spectre of General Ludendorff has struck Putin’s troops

4 min read

Those who observe the events on the Russian-Ukrainian front cannot help but notice that in recent months Russia has concentrated all of its forces and resources in Donetsk, and more specifically in the area around the small town of Bakhmut.

Russia is pulling in its last professional troops, throwing in a huge number of unprepared conscripts, and forgood measure adding a load of ruthless cutthroats from private military companies such as the Wagner Group. The Ukrainians repel between eight and 20 enemy attacks daily. Every day during active combat operations, Russia loses up to a whole battalion (around 500 of its soldiers and officers). The piles of corpses of Russian soldiers that are not removed lie on the battlefield, and their blood, together with the snow, water and the smell of decaying bodies, infiltrate the positions of the evermore demoralised Russian invaders.

All of the forces of the Kremlin, from President Vladimir Putin to his personal cook, are involved in this battle, and the fate of Putin’s regime is at stake. History loves to repeat itself in the guise of past farces and tragedies. 

It now falls to the civilised world to help Ukraine end this war on the battlefield

Putin –who loves to justify the barbaric present with the heroic past of the Russian and Soviet people by organising celebrations and parades in honour of military victories – is now becoming the face of a great defeat.

What is happening now on the Ukrainian front is an uncanny repeat of the early spring of 1918 during World War I, when German General Erich Ludendorff persuaded the Kaiser to throw all of his forces against the Entente, mainly against the British, with the aim of encircling and destroying British troops. Operation Michael was the biggest and most infamous operation during that battle, and its mission was to encircle and destroy the British forces between the Somme and the English Channel.

The British defences, Ludendorff claimed, were to collapse, allowing German troops to invade French territory, avoiding a clash with the bulk of French forces. The Germans wanted to cut off France from the English Channel and force it to sign a peace treaty on Germany’s terms – but the battle consumed most of their equipment and personnel. And after that, the German war machine failed. The precise same military tactics of General Erich Ludendorff are now being rehashed by Lieutenant Colonel Putin.

However, if one could say that Erich Ludendorff had a small but real chance to break the British defences before the arrival of the American army in Europe, Putin instead has zero chance to break the military fortifications that have been built for almost 10 years on the Soledar-Bakhmut front – with the advice and participation of the best Western military engineers, and where highly motivated, well-trained and armed Ukrainian troops are prepared to die for their homeland.

The failure of Ludendorff’s operation forced Germany to surrender. The same price will be paid by Russia when the last Russian troops capable of advancing at Bakhmut will be ground down over the next month. After Germany’s defeat, Ludendorff shamefully fled to Sweden; unlike him, Putin has nowhere to run – except perhaps Iran or North Korea – as today, the rest of the world has closed its doors to him.

It now falls to the civilised world to help Ukraine end this war on the battlefield – this coming spring, auspiciously 105 years since the famous German defeat called the Ludendorff Offensive. As a man who is passionate about mysticism and esotericism, Putin loves symbolic dates.

Ludendorff was also fond of this in his final years, helping to usher in the arrival of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. But while Ludendorff managed to survive the shame of Germany’s defeat during World War I, I hope that Lieutenant Colonel Putin will not have such a chance. 

In Ljubljana, July 2001, US President George Bush, Jr. famously claimed to have looked into Putin’s eyes and seen a soul there. If he had looked deeper, however, behind the cowardly soul of the Russian dictator, he would have seen the hiding spectre of the failed general and fascist Erich Ludendorff. 

How fitting, then, that against the spectre of cowardice and fascism, President Volodymyr Zelensky's surprise visit to Bakhmut this week shows him to be made of sterner stuff. On the 300th day of the war, Zelensky joined the heroic defenders of Bakhmut - and in so doing, captured the victorious spirit of the Entente allies that broke Ludendorff's offensive, and Germany, a century ago.

Alexander Temerko is councillor of the IEA, former junior defence minister of the Russian Federation during the Yeltsin era, and a UK businessman and political activist

PoliticsHome Newsletters

Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.


Foreign affairs