The Zemplen War (Syaran: Zemplenska vojna; Ruvelkan: Zempleni Háború; Ruvelkan Script: Ủìṳũłìṵĩ Üíǔīṷḯ) was a major conflict fought between Ruvelka and Syara over the long-disputed territory of Zemplen. The war took place between 23 May 2008 to 19 July 2010 following a period of heightened tensions between the two nations over the Zemplen territory, a border province that was populated primarily by ethnic Ruvelkans but controlled by Syara. After a period of escalation, conventional hostilities broke out that pitted largely two equal powers against one another in what would be one of the bloodiest conflicts in Tyran of the 21st Century.
Syara and Ruvelka have long fought over disputed territory following the collapse of the Adamdar Empire. During the Ruvelkan Civil War, Syara had invaded and occupied several regions of western Ruvelka and maintained a number of these territories even in the era following the end of the Siduri War, the Zemplen area being the largest in terms of size and population. Per an agreement between the Syaran and Ruvelkan governments, both sides had deployed peacekeepers to the area in an attempt to reduce tensions. In 2005 the two nations came to blows in the Imerti Conflict, a brief five day war that further soured relations between Ruvelka and Syara. After a rise in nationalist activity, however, the Syarans doubled the size of their peacekeeping force. While this increase in military presence was within the parameters of the agreement, the build-up was heavily armed and included tanks and artillery. Ruvelka protested and responded with an increase in its own forces. A series of unresolved standoffs followed and eventually broke out into fighting between the two sides, prompting both nations to mobilize their armed forces. Attempts to mediate the conflict failed after neither side was able to come to an agreement.
Syaran and Ruvelkan forces were largely evenly matched in terms of numbers, technology, and training. The Syaran Commonality Armed Forces were able to seize the initiative in the late summer, taking control of the disputed border territories. Syaran expectations that Ruvelka would sue for peace after losing control of the border regions were dashed when Chancellor Edviná Molnár refused to negotiate. SCAF Central Command devised a new strategy to destroy the Imperial Armed Forces of Ruvelka to force a settlment, resulting in Operation Aspis. The fighting only widened as a result, locking both nations in a protracted conflict. In late November Ruvelka launched a strategic counter-offensive that lasted until late December, which reduced Syaran gains across the entire front. In the Spring of 2009 Syara launched a a series of offensives into southern Ruvelka, resulting in a stalemate around Aszód. Syara then launched a major offensive against central Ruvelka resulting in the Battle of Sagerejo, the bloodiest battle of the war. Another offensive in the north In mid-2009 resulted in the capture of Kaposvár and Kunhegyes, but heavy Syaran casualties forced the SCAF to suspend major offensive operations. After a failed offensive in the fall, both sides settled into a statelmate during the Winter of 2009-2010. Ruvelka began gathering its strategic reserves for a major offensive, which it unleashed in June, throwing the frontline into dissarray and forcing Syara to withdraw from Ruvelka entirely. Both sides agreed to a ceasefire in July.
The peace talks were mediated by Shalum and resulted in the Treaty of Aragon. Syara was forced to abandon all its claims to Zemplen and all disputed territories inhabited primarily by Ruvelkans; in exchange Syara received lands that were controlled by Ruvelka but populated by ethnic Syarans. Although the terms of the treaty exchanged ethnic territories, it was largely seen to have favored Ruvelka as Syara lost 8,045 square kilometers of territory. Diplomatic relations between the two nations were eventually re-established in 2011.
Fought between two modernized and industrialized nations on par with one another in terms of technology and organization, the war shattered many pre-concienved notions about how a modern war between peer opponents would play out. Expectations of a rapid war of technological dominance were overshadowed quickly by the rapid depletion of smart munitions, advanced fighter aircraft, and modern armored fighting vehicles, and instead boiled down into a war of attrition marked by heavy casualties and slow moving offensives. Both Ruvelka and Syara conducted extensive information warfare efforts to sway international opinion to either side. In an agreement with Ossoria and Cacerta, both Ruvelka and Syara abstained from naval operations in the Sundering Sea so as to avoid interference with the major sea lanes that ran through the Divide. In the air, Ruvelka initiated a strategic bombing campaign to destroy Syaran military production facilities and manufacturing capability. Both sides conducted cyberattacks on one another. The war was extensively covered by international media outlets on television and the internet. Tensions remained high between Ruvelka and Syara in the years following the war, and only recently have both sides made efforts towards establishing a peaceful relationship.
- 1 Background
- 2 Build up and deployed forces
- 3 Course of the War
- 4 Ceasefire and Resolution
- 5 Casualties and losses
- 6 Comparison of tactics and doctrine
- 7 Aftermath and Legacy
- 8 Foreign Involvement
- 9 Reactions
The territory of Zemplen had been contested between Ruvelka and Syara for much of modern history. The region holds special significance to Syaran national history and pride, being the location of the ancient battlefield of Nemaro, which is considered to mark the beginning and end of the Makedonian Empire. Though settled predominantly by ethnic Syarans for much of history, by the time of the Adamdar Empire the population began trending towards a majority Karvelebi populace. Following the fall of the Adamdar Empire the region came nominally under the influence of the Kingdom of Galania, but was lost to Ruvelkan control in the Ruvelkan-Galanian War. Control of Zemplen became a major point of contention between the two states. In 1873 the region as seized by the Makedonians during the Ruvelkan-Makedonian War, but in 1910 the Ruvelkan Socialist Republic had gained control of nearly 3/4ths of the region. Lingering resentment over Ruvelkan control led to Syaran invasion during the Ruvelkan Civil War, which allowed the Republic of Syara to seize Zemplen with limited resistance.
Despite Syaran efforts to encourage Ruvelkan emigration from Zemplen, a sizeable Ruvelkan population remained within the territory in the years leading up to the Siduri War. Zemplen was used as a staging point for the Syaran invasion, and remained under Syaran control after the end of the war, as the Common Axis felt that pre-war borders needed to be restored. Syaran control over Zemplen remained a sore spot for Ruvelka, but in the post-war reconstruction there was little desire to force another conflict.
The post-war era proved to be decisive for both nations. While Ruvelka steadily modernized and recovered from the war, Syara floundered amid the Broken Years. The rise of nationalism and religious fundamentalism within Syara during the 1960s and 70s was watched with unease in Ruvelka, but Debrecen had little desire to get involved in the internal politics of its long time rival while it still had many of its own problems.
The outbreak of the Refusal War between the Wardens and the Royalists faced Ruvelka with a political dilemma. Ideologically neither side appealed to Ruvelka, but the threat of a nationalist, fundamentalist Syara provoked Ruvelkan fears, even if the Wardens rhetoric was not explicitly targeted towards Ruvelka. For many within Ruvelka’s government, including Chancellor Maia Sabauri the best possible course of action was to pursue whatever course of policy would lead to the war’s continuation, under the auspices that the civil war would weaken Syara to the benefit of Ruvelka.
Ruvelka's long time strategic partner Acrea on the other hand saw the conflict as a golden opportunity to not only solve Ruvelka’s long running geopolitical concerns, but also turn north-west Siduri into a bastion of Acrean support. Trier saw the Royalists as the more desirable to the two, wary of the nationalist tendencies of the Wardens, and began pushing for a joint Ruvelkan-Acrean campaign to support the Royalists. Debrecen was more reluctant to involve itself directly, fearful that its presence would, potentially, either incense Syaran nationalists or cripple Syaran support for the Royalists. Ultimately Ruvelka agreed to allow Acrean aircraft to station out of western Ruvelka in support of the Royalists, while Ruvelka eventually contributed $750 million worth of medical supplies, food, ammunition, and weapons to the Royalist armies. The Royalists were soon backed by an unlikely alliance of Acrea, Ruvelka, and pro-monarchist Ossoria.
Expectations of a Royalist victory ran high throughout 1985 despite some setbacks, but a series of strategic defeats throughout 1986 suddenly made the possibility of a Warden victory strikingly real. Despite a sustained bombing campaign the Wardens made serious inroads through 1986, and in the winter launched a successful invasion of Galania. By early 1987 the Ossorians had seen the writing on the wall and withdrew their support for a modicum of assistance. Despite a flurry of Acrean bombings the Royalist armies steadily collapsed in the spring and summer, leading Trier to approach Debrecen with a request for direct intervention by the Ruvelkan Imperial Army backed up by Acrean airpower. But Ruvelka had little interest in pursuing open conflict with the three and a half million Wardens now storming through Galania and Makedon, and Ruvelka withdrew its support as the last Royalist forces surrendered.
As expected tensions between the now Warden-dominated Syara and Ruvelka did spike, though for reasons different than most predicted. As the Republic of Syara had collapsed, the Imerti Independence Front, or ‘’Iznoseno’’, launched an attempted takeover of Imerti. The effort was unsuccessful, turning the region into a hotbed of unrest and violence in 1987. Fearful of the threat to its ethnic minorities living along the eastern banks of the Sinareka River, Ruvelkan Imperial Fusiliers deployed to the region, causing Warden outrage. The Wardens responded by sending nearly 20,000 troops into Imerti to quell the Iznoseno and safeguard Syara’s borders, leading to a tense standoff that lasted for over a year. Eventually the recently elected government of Saša Mlinarić negotiated a resolution which ceded Imerti east of the Sinareka to Ruvelka, roughly 11% of Imerti’s overall territory.
Uneager for another war, Mlinarić negotiated the Commonality-Principality Border Agreement with Ruvelka in 1993. The Agreement was met with mixed reactions from both nations. It did little to solve the underlying matter of ethnic discrimination or income inequality. To many Warden hardliners, the ceding of Imerti territory to Ruvelka was an affront to Syaran religious concerns given Imerti’s status as the home to the Shrine of Pelops.
Matters did not improve in Zemplen itself, where the long running Sakarvelbos Damouk’ideblobis Modzraoba continued to fight for Zemplen’s independence from Syara. In response Syara launched the Zemplen Resolution Campaign, dispatching the Ministry of Security and 25,000 personnel to quell the SDM. The 1990s saw a continuous slate of violence in Zemplen through bombings, shootings, and assasinations of pro-Syaran figures, but public backlash after the botched 1997 Sopron Bombing and Syaran pressure saw the SDM decline.
Tensions in Zemplen did not, however. Syaran economic prosperity during the 1990s and early 2000s had been driven heavily by the coastal cities and urban areas which now formed the cornerstone of Syara’s economy. Zemplen’s domestic economy, long dependent on the mining sector, soon found itself facing stiff foreign competition for zinc, aluminum, and coal. As Zovahr directed funds towards its more productive provinces, Zemplen began to significantly lag behind. By 2004 average median income in Zemplen was 30-40% lower than the rest of Syara, while unemployment rose from 6% to 15%, before reaching over 30% in 2007.
In January 2008 Telev Mining Consortium, the second largest employer in all of Zemplen, filed for bankruptcy and laid off its entire workforce within the region. Unemployment skyrocketed, and Zemplen's economy, long dependent on the mining industry, began to collapse. In Feburary after extensive lobbying the Syaran government agreed to implement a stimulus program aimed at revitalizing Zemplen's economic fortunes. However in the midst of a general economic downturn caused by a recession in Æþurheim, Syara's largest trading partner, the Syaran government limited it's stimulus package to focus on urban areas populated predominantly by ethnic Syarans. While not officially excluding Ruvelkans, the prioritization of Syaran neighborhoods had clear effects on Zemplen. By March revitalization efforts had largely stabilized wages and unemployment numbers for Syaran towns, while Ruvelkans living in Zemplen struggled with rabid unemployment, food shortages, and rolling blackouts. On 11 March the Ruvelkan government announced its intentions to start aid deliveries to ethnic Ruvelkan enclaves in Zemplen, which Syara refused to allow out of fear that the Ruvelkan government would attempt to smuggle in weapons, as had happened in Imteri five years prior.
Riots soon broke out in ethnic Ruvelkan population centers, leading Syara to increase its peacekeeping force to the maximum limit of 2,000 troops. Debrecen condemned the act, pointing out that Syaran peacekeepers were being reinforced with main battle tanks and heavy artillery, and not further law enforcement or riot police. In response Ruvelka deployed additional peacekeepers, a move that Zovahr denounced as a "flagrant attempt at intimidation through escalation". Through April 2008 there were more than 50 reported clashes between peacekeeping forces and rioters, resulting in 27 deaths and hundreds of injuries, along with hundreds of arrests. On 13 April Ruvelkan peacekeepers operating near the border town of Siratz were shelled, resulting in the death of two Ruvelkan soldiers. Syara denied responsibility, blaming the attack on Ruvelkan nationalists within Zemplen.
On 25 April riots broke out in Sopron as over 15,000 ethnic Ruvelkans occupied the city center, demanding a withdrawal of Syaran peacekeepers and allowance of aid from the Principality. The protestors remained in Sopron until 14 May, when they were finally forced to disperse by Syaran riot and military police in clashes that killed 17 people and left more than 500 wounded. Ruvelka urged the Organization of Tyrannic Nations to officially condemn Syara, which the Commonality responded by accusing Ruvelka of inciting ethnic violence within Zemplen. Tensions finally came to a head on 20 May when Ruvelkan nationalists seized control of a radio station on the outskirts of Szellő and began broadcasting anti-Syaran messages. A Syaran peacekeeping force was dispatched to take control of the radio station and arrest the Ruvelkans, all of this just 2 kilometers from a Ruvelkan peacekeeping outpost. According to Syara, when Syaran peacekeepers approached the radio station they were fired upon by the inhabitants, forcing them to level the building. Ruvelka maintains that Syaran forces purposefully destroyed the building before attempting any kind of take over. A nearby Ruvelkan patrol, which was attempting to respond to a distress call issued by the radio station, arrived on the scene shortly thereafter. Both sides reacted negatively to the other's presence, and a firefight broke out between the two forces. Syara and Ruvelka to this day maintain the other side fired first, but by 16 May clashes between the two peacekeeping forces had broken out across Zemplen.
Although both sides made efforts to negotiate a ceasefire, neither was able to come to terms. Syara refused to remove it's peacekeepers until Ruvelka did so, and Ruvelka was unwilling to remove their protection of ethnic Ruvelkans in Zemplen. Both sides hastily mobilized nearby military forces and deployed them to Zemplen, resulting in a series of engagements that began on 23 May, which is generally considered to mark the beginning of the war.
Build up and deployed forces
The Zemplen War would see an unprecedented level of mobilization of both populace and the national economies of Ruvelka and Syara to a level not seen since the Eracuran War. Because both Ruvelka and Syara were similar in population, size, economies, and technology, the war was considered a peer conflict. Nevertheless, both Syara and Ruvelka differed significantly when it came to the specifics of their respective war machines.
On paper, both Ruvelka and Syara were states that employed conscription to fill the ranks of their armed forces, but both differed in the execution. Ruvelka employed (and still does) universal conscription, whereas Syaran conscription was limited to males. Ruvelkan conscription was heavily enforced and offered little room for exceptions, limited to medical or psychological conditions (Vilageism does not lend itself to conscientious objection). Syarans could exempt themselves from military service for a variety of reasons, including college deferments, religious grounds, and in some cases family reasons (the Syaran National Army typically avoided conscripting from single child households).
As a result Syaran and Ruvelkan manpower depths varied considerably. In 2003 Ruvelka fielded 400,000 personnel in uniform, while Syara fielded 300,000. Following the Imerti Conflict both nations expanded the size of their armed forces, with Syaran numbers rising to 450,000 troops while Ruvelka increased their numbers to 600,000. More telling, Ruvelkan reserves when combined with the Territorial Defense Force meant that Ruvelka could field more than a million trained military personnel in the event of a war. Syaran reserves were divided between two levels; the Syaran Army Reserve and the Syaran Strategic Reserve. While the Army Reserve consisted of another 250,000 troops with organized and detailed formations, the Strategic Reserve was a paper army whose equipment and armaments were kept in deep storage.
Mobilization proved a more difficult concept to carry out. When fighting first broke out in May 2008 both Debrecen and Zovahr ordered a general mobilization of its forces, but this was largely limited to active duty forces that needed to be brought up to combat ready status. It wasn’t until negotiations fell through in late July that it became clear that a full scale conflict was inevitable that both states ordered their reserves fully mobilized, a process that provided a number of challenges. Syara initially enjoyed a significant advantage with regards to mobilization as a result of extensive planning and preparation. Both the Syaran National Army and the Army Reserves were well integrated, with divisions often having reserve brigades assigned to their order of battle. Other brigades were also removed from active duty to form the nucleus of reserve divisions as they were brought up. As a result within just a few weeks Syara had mobilized an additional 300,000 troops, earning them temporary numerical superiority along the border.
Although it possessed a larger manpower pool courtesy of its extensive reserve system, mobilization proved a more difficult task for Ruvelka. Ruvelkan mobilization plans by the time of war had not been heavily vetted or tested; in 2005 Ruvelka mobilized some 200,000 reservists during the Imerti crisis, but less than half were combat ready in the five days it took for the conflict to conclude. In the three years between the Imerti Conflict and the Zemplen War Ruvelka revisited its mobilization plans in an attempt to hasten the process, but this reformation was still ongoing by the summer of 2008. As a result Ruvelka’s mobilization process failed to field enough forces in time to halt the Syarans from capturing the border regions, and was still developing during Operation Aspis.
Once the war began in full conscription was the primary means by which both Ruvelka and Syara maintained their armies in light of heavy losses suffered on the battlefield. Per the Zhelev Administration’s desire to avoid imposing too much of a burden on the civilian economy and population, Syara did not enact widespread conscription, operating under the assumption that the war would be concluded in under a year, which could be maintained by volunteers and existing conscription policy. Ruvelka, by comparison, immediately called up all available men and women into service.
Neither side ever reached their manpower goals; Ruvelka’s aim of seven million men and women in uniform proved too ambitious as the Principality’s logistical system began to fray as Ruvelkan manpower reached close to five million. Syara set five million men under arms as its goal, but this too proved too much, with Syaran recruitment and conscription only able to produce a little over four million troops at its peak.
Course of the War
Although both the Imperial Armed Forces of Ruvelka and the Syaran Commonality Armed Forces had been placed on high alert and partially mobilized prior to the outbreak of hostilities, neither side was fully prepared for the scale of the fighting, which quickly escalated to beyond Zemplen. On 24 May two battalions of the Ruvelkan 18th Royal Mechanized Division were ordered to advance into Zemplen and secure strategic areas near ethnic Ruvelkan towns, while on the same day elements of the Syaran 23rd Mechanized Infantry Division were ordered to take up positions within Zemplen to repel expected Ruvelkan assaults. Fighting quickly erupted across the rest of the border in a series of confusing and ad hoc engagements between border forces.
On 25 May Syaran troops shelled Ruvelkan positions along the border in the Kunhegyes Distrct, resulting in a number of casualties both civilian and military. Further south on 27 May Ruvelkan fighters from Albertirsa bombed Syaran border outposts, killing or injuring twenty Syaran border guards. Such one sided engagements continued until roughly mid-June, when mobilized military forces began conducting organized operations. On 4 June the Syaran Central Command issued a full mobilization and call up of all reserves, which was followed by an official declaration of war issued by Zovahr later in the day. The Syaran declaration placed the blame fully on Ruvelka for "instigating ethnic violence and lawlessness within disputed regions". Debrecen responded with it's own declaration of hostilities just after midnight, resulting in both nations being in a state of war effective 5 June. The Ruvelkan Imperial General Staff ordered an immediate mobilization of all military forces including the Territorial Defense Forces. On 29 May the Ruvelkan National Airspace Command declared the airspace above Zemplen and several other border regions were to be avoided by all civilian air traffic. This order was followed by a similar declaration by the Syaran Aviation Federal Agency.
While sporadic fighting and skirmishes continued to erupt all throughout June and July, the Organization of Tyrannic Nations attempted to negotiate a ceasefire between Ruvelka and Syara. Despite 12 sessions over a two week period in mid July no agreement was reached, with both sides blaming the other for a refusal to compromise. Once it became clear the conflict would not be halted in the short term, pressure from both Ossoria and Cacerta resulted in a rare joint Ruvelkan-Syaran agreement to refrain from any kind of naval operations within the Sundering Sea. A joint Ossorian-Cacertian task force would remain off the cost of the two nations for the duration of the conflict, and no major incidents occurred between the Ruvelkan and Syaran navies in the Divide.
By the end of July it was clear that neither side would be willing to stand down, and the OTN withdrew its efforts to negotiate a ceasefire. Over the course of the month, Ruvelkan Imperial Fusiliers and Imperial Army forces had infiltrated deep into Zemplen, Imerti, and Armavir, overrunning local garrison and internal security forces. On Friday, July 25th Zovahr announced its final ultimatum, which demanded the complete withdrawal of all Ruvelkan military forces from the border. The demand was rejected by Debrecen as expected on 26 July with the declaration that Ruvelka would stand down its forces until Syara had done so itself.
Disagreements on how to proceed confounded both sides. On the Syaran side, Executive Zhelev was willing to conduct military action within the disputed regions but did not desire a larger war. Foreign Minister Županić wanted to appeal to Acrea to convince Ruvelka to back down, while Chief of Staff Vakhtang Avakian favored an immediate offensive. The rejection of the Syaran ultimatum on the 26th led Zhelev to call an emergency meeting late on the same day. Avakian and Defense Minister Vitanov continued to press for a rapid military strike against Ruvelkan forces in Zemplen, while Županić was disagreed. The rest of the cabinet was largely split between the "pro-war" and "pro-peace" side. After several hours of debate Zhelev authorized for a limited offensive into Zemplen and the border regions to remove Ruvelkan forces from them, followed by a unilateral ceasefire on the part of Syara to demonstrate the Commonality's willingness to avoid a larger war. Avakian proceeded to implement the already planned Operation Aspidoon, to be launched on 3 August.
In Debrecen debate over what course of action to take continued after the 25 July ultimatum was announced and rejected the next day. Chancellor Molnár had already made clear her intentions to fight for Zemplen, fearful that another withdrawal like what had happened in Imerti three years prior would embolden Syaran transgressions against Ruvelkan soil. Chief of the Imperial Staff Áron Surány was more cautious and favored withdrawing most of the Ruvelkan forces out of Zemplen and Imerti. Surány's arguments were pragmatic; despite a larger reserve system and in depth mobilization scheme, the balance of power along the border seemed to favor Syara. Ruvelka had amassed over half a million troops along the border, compared to 350,000 Syarans, but Ruvelka's reserves were still making ready; equipment was still being pulled out of storage depots and armories, while Ruvelkan intelligence indicated that the Syaran National Army had stood up 12 divisions at near full strength.
Surány's concern, which he explain to the Chancellor on 28 July, was three fold. First, although Syaran and Ruvelkan soldiers were largely equal in terms of skill-at-arms, Ruvelkan doctrine emphasized autonomous units operating largely on their own with little direction from strategic command, to ensure combat capability even after lines of communication were lost. The large armies being mobilized in western Ruvelka therefore would have limited experience working with one another, or conducting large scale maneuvers with one another, something the Syarans would on the contrary have plenty of experience with. Surány also was concerned that the Ruvelkan Territorial Defense Force was not prepared for high intensity operations, and would be better utilized augmenting still mobilizing divisions further east. Lastly, Surány feared that the loss of too many of Ruvelka's main line formations early on would hamper its ability to resist the Syarans early on.
Chancellor Molnár ultimately disagreed, stressing that ceding too much territory to Syara would simply encourage them to capture more. Given Ruvelka's history, Molnár argued that anything less than immediate resistance would cripple Ruvelkan morale. The next day Molnár informed her cabinet of her intention to contest Syaran forces wherever possible. Royal Princess Daniella Prohászka sent a letter the same day confirming that the royal family stood behind the Chancellor's decision. Both sides continued to mobilize and deploy forces on their respective sides of the border, while intermittent clashes continued across Zemplen and Imerti between 29 July and 2 August.
By August 2008 the Syaran National Army had mobilized 12 divisions along the border, totallying over 200,000 troops with over 2,000 tanks and nearly 3,000 artillery pieces. Despite a general order to refrain from crossing the official border between Ruvelka and Syara, regular shelling and airstrikes by the Commonality Air Force targetted Ruvelkan staging grounds along the border. By now Ruvelkan Fusiliers and Army units had penetrated into Imerti, Zemplem, and Armavir, in addition to capturing the city of Sopron from the Zemplen Security Forces. Low level fighting continued along the contested regions, but major clashes temporarily subsided as both sides attempted to reorganized their armed forces for a more direct confrontation.
By 2 August Ruvelkan intelligience began detecting the moving of Syaran armored and mechanized forces into staging areas along the border, and reported to Debrecen that Syaran forces had shifted from a defensive posture to an offensive one. The exact disposition of Syaran forces, in terms of their operational intentions and capabilities, remained unknown and thus prevent Ruvelka from accurately predicting which forces would strike where. The news reached Debrecen in the morning and led to an emergency meeting between the Chancellor and the Imperial General Staff. Chancellor Molnár immediately floated reinforcing Ruvelka forces already within the border regions in order to directly contest and halt the expected Syaran offensive. General Surány was reluctant to agree, citing that the still mobilizing Ruvelkan forces would have to move ahead without much of their heavy weapons and equipment, leaving their offensive capability limited. Eventually it was agreed to dispatch additional forces to Zemplen and Imerti within 48-72 hours.
The Syarans launched the August Offensive on 3 August, employing over 200,000 troops with over 2,000 tanks and nearly 3,000 artillery pieces. The Commonality Air Force began the offensive, code named Operation Aspidoon, in the early morning with airstrikes against the airfields of the Ruvelkan Imperial Air Force along western Ruvelka. Syaran mechanized infantry and tanks quickly followed suit by assaulting Ruvelkan forces that had infiltrated Zemplen, Imerti and Armavir. Heavy clashes broke out in and around the city of Sopron, which had been seized by nearly 6,000 Ruvelkan Fusiliers and Imperial Army troops in late July, driving out the Syaran garrison. On 7 August the Syarans had surrounded the city and began shelling the main Ruvelkan command post in the Sopron National Airport, resulting in heavy damage to the airport and adjacent infrastructure. The destruction caused by the Syarans and their artillery against a city that was legally within their jurisdiction is later credited with helping to turn international opinion against Syara.
By 12 August Ruvelkan Ruvelkan forces within the border regions had been routed from their positions. By the 15th it was clear that Ruvelka could not contest control of the border regions and the Imperial General Staff ordered a withdrawal. On 25 August Chancellor Edviná Molnár confirmed that Ruvelkan forces were pulling back from the disputed regions but denied that Ruvelka was willing to accept a ceasefire. Molnár later stated that Ruvelka would not accept an armistice until "the invaders have been driven from every ujj of our soil". By 26 August Syaran troops were in control of over 90% of the disputed regions. Executive Dragomir Zhelev announced a unilateral ceasefire on 28 August, but it was quickly broken when Ruvelkan and Syaran forces clashed near the town of Tira in the Zemplen.
The Ruvelkan refusal to accept terms surprised the Syaran government, who assumed that Ruvelka would sue for peace after being driven out of the disputed regions. Attempts to negotiate a ceasefire was outright refuted by Debrecen, who stated they would only negotiate once Syaran forces had pulled back to pre-war borders, a demand that was summarily refused by Syara. For the next few weeks there was comparatively little fighting save for sporadic skirmishes bewteen Syaran and Ruvelkan forces as the Syaran government tried to decide a new course of action. In general the Syaran government did not desire a protracted war, but did not believe that Ruvelka would simply accept Syaran control of the disputed regions. Beginning on 27 August Syaran intelligence also deduced that Ruvelka was massing forces for a counter offensive, aimed at 'liberation' the disputed regions from Syaran control. With that in mind Syaran Central Command devised a new strategy; the destruction of the Imperial Armed Forces of Ruvelka, under the assumption that with it's military destroyed Ruvelka would have no choice but to cede to Syaran demands. Syaran assumption that the SCAF would be able to defeat the IAFR was based on the success the Syarans had found during the August offensives, but Central Command failed to take into account that a war of attrition favored Ruvelka, with it's larger population and deeper reserves of manpower. Aware that Ruvelkan reserves were beginning to mass, the SCAF began preparing for an immediate resumption of the offensive.
The refusal of Debrecen to accept a ceasefire resulted in a series of high level meetings within Zovahr regarding the future of Syaran efforts. Much of the civilian leadership were reluctant to continue hostilities on the basis that Syara now exercised de facto control over the border regions. Military leadership was less ethused as the prospect of simply holding onto what they had gained; Syaran intelligience indicated that the Ruvelkan armed forces were continued their mobilization scheme and would soon field hundreds of thousands of additional troops. SCAF leadership painted a grim picture of Syaran forces strung out along an extended defensive line throughout the border, facing down a massive Ruvelkan juggernaut that would drown out the Syarans in a tidal wave of men and munitions, which served in stark contrast to the hopes of the Foreign Ministry that a peaceful settlement could still be reached.
On 6 September Executive Zhelev met with his cabinet and military leaders in Zovahr to discuss possible plans of action. The SCAF, led by Chief of Staff Vakhtang Avakian, presented the evidence gathered by Syaran intelligience:
- Ruvelkan military forces along the border were preparing for a strategic offensive aimed at recapturing the disputed territories
- Ruvelka's extensive reserves would allow the Principality to overwhelm Syaran defenders regardless of their defensive dispositions
- If defeated along the border, the SCAF would likely be unable to prevent any further Ruvelkan incursion into Syara itself
- The only viable course of action was a pre-emptive offensive operation to destroy the Ruvelkan forces massing along the border.
These concerns gave a pessimistic view of Syara's military situation were not entirely accurate. Although Ruvelka posessed the ability to mobilize more troops than Syara, the progress of Ruvelkan mobilization was far behind schedule, leaving Ruvelka forces along the border dangerously underequipped compared to the Syaran units manning the border. Despite the urging of Chancellor Molnár the Ruvelkan military was still weeks away from any kind of major offensive. SCAF Central Command put forward a plan for a pre-emptive strike aimed at destroying the Ruvelkan armies gathered along the border, codenamed Aspis (shield). Field Marshal Avakian frame the operation as a defensive effort, down to the name; Syara would cross the border, destroy the Ruvelkan armed forces in a single decisive operation, then the political government could approach Debrecen again for negotiations. With their armed forces in tatters the Ruvelkans would have little choice but to sue for peace and accept Syaran control of the border regions.
In Debrecen, Ruvelkan intelligence services warned the Ruvelkan Government and Imperial General Staff on 9 September of increasing signs that the Syarans intended to launch a second major offensive. Uncertainty regarding when the offensive would occur and where it would be directed against complicated Ruvelka's response. Chancellor Molnár theorized that the Syarans would attack outward from Zemplen to create a buffer space between Ruvelka and the lands Syaran had recovered. General Surány felt a likelier avenue was an drive into the Kunhegyes District on the grounds that the Koryal Plain of north-western Ruvelka would be bettter suited to Syaran armored forces. Defense Minister Dominik Veres suggested that a coordinate drive in the north and center was probable. Rienforcing these sectors proved beyond the immediate capacity of Ruvelka however; by mid-September it was clear that Ruvelka's mobilization was beyond the scope of its logitiscal ability to carry out, and Ruvelka's supply system nearly collapsed under its requirements. Emergency acquisitions of trucks and cars resulted in nearly 12,000 civilian vehicles being pressed into service to help ease the burden on the Ruvelkan military.
By 11 September Ruvelkan intelligence gathered that Syara was now massing forces across the border and was not planning for a localized push into any particular sector. Unable to determine the exact ojbectives, debate continued to rein within Ruvelkan leadership. Molnár almost immediately suggested a pre-emptive strike, but Surány insisted against it, arguing that the Ruvelkan military was not in a position to do so. Despite outnumbering the Syarans nearly 2:1 in manpower along the border, he identified three main problems:
- Ruvelka's logistical capacity had been stretched to the limit and was struggling to deal with mobilization of Ruvelka's reserves. The supply situation was therefore unconducive to either offensive, or even defensive, operations.
- 40% of Ruvelka's front line divisions were lacking their heavy weapons and equipment. Shortages of anti-tank weaponry and artillery would leave them poorly equipped to handle Syaran armored and mechanized forces.
- Over-commitment of what combat ready forces Ruvelka had risked crippling long term defensive strategy if they were to be destroyed in the opening phases of the conflict.
Surány presented his alternative: pulling back Ruvelka's forces to a new defensive line between 30-50 kilometers east of the border, save for already prepared defenses around cities like Albertirsa. Molnár immediately objected to the idea, citing the political unfeasibility of surrendering even more Ruvelkan land to Syaran control, while also insisting it would only encourage further Syaran efforts. Debate continued until the 13th, when it was finally agreed to deploy Ruvelka's most recently mobilized reserves in secondary defensive positions behind the front, on average between 25-35 kilometers from the border. The plan was still being carried out when the Syarans attacked on 14 September, three days earlier than Ruvelka intelligience had predicted they would.
The Syaran invasion on 14 September 2008, which came to be known as Operation Aspis, was spearheaded by nearly 800,000 troops and over 4,000 armored vehicles. Early in the morning over 400 aircraft from the Commonality Air Force launched from their airbases and airfields across eastern Syara to strike at targets in western Ruvelka. Primary targets were Ruvelkan command and control centers and known assembly areas for mobilized Ruvelkan troops, followed by forward airfields and similar targets of opportunity. The invasion was led by three army groups; Army Group Alpha in the north led by Nikodemos Cvetkov , Army Group Beta in the center led by Aleksandar Čorić, and Army Group Gamma in the south under the command of Daniel Mladenov Todorov.
The objectives of the Syaran army groups were the destruction of the Ruvelkan military forces massing near the borders, specifically those in the Balatonalmádi, Aszód, and Kunhegyes Districts, with secondary efforts against the Sagerejo District to secure the eastern borders of Zemplen and Imerti. The invasion caught the Ruvelkans still in the midst of their mobilization; they had more than a million troops near the border with most were disorganized and lacked heavy weapons. Within two weeks the Syarans had routed many Ruvelkan troops from the border, capturing nearly 70,000 of them and seizing control of Dunakesi, Balatonalmádi, and Pannonhalma. However Ruvelkan resistance was stiffer in other areas; in the fortress city of Albertirsa entrenched Ruvelkan troops made the Syarans pay dearly for its capture in the only battle where Syaran losses eclipsed Ruvelkan casualties.
The scale of the invasion, which had transcended the disputed border regions, prompted a wide array of reactions from the international sphere. Traditional Ruvelkan ally Acrea denounced the invasion, having already expressed support for Ruvelka during the early fighting in the spring. Mansuriyyah likewise condemned the invasion and began covertly supplying Ruvelka with support, while the Common Sphere expressed diplomatic support for Ruvelka and condemned the invasion. Prime Minister of Gylias Kaori Kawashima rallies support within the Common Sphere to further politically back Ruvelka. Syaran ally Æþurheim by comparison voiced support for Syaran "defensive actions", and Syara received backing from Svinia and Tennai.
Within 24 hours of the invasion, the Ruvelkan National Air Space Command suspended all civilian air traffic over western Ruvelka, and later imposed restrictions on all civilian air traffic out of Ruvelka. This forced the abrupt landing or diversion of more than 700 flights, many of which had to land in Arkoenn and Mansuriyyah.
Syaran success in some areas was overshadowed by bitter fighting elsewhere. At the Battle of Sarud ferocious Ruvelkan counterattacks nearly broke the Syaran 7th Army while in the Kunhegyes District as a whole Army Group Alpha struggled to break through stiff Ruvelkan defenses. By 8 October the Syarans had captured Sarud but their position along the Ankhal River remained tenuous. By the end of Aspis the Syarans had largely advanced to the Ruvelkan National Highway that runs through western Ruvelka connecting Kaposvár in the north to Aszód in the south.
Perceptions that the Syarans had scored a major victory proved shallow. In reality the Syarans had failed completely at their goal of destroying the Ruvelkan military. As Syaran forces settled into their new positions in early October, Ruvelkan forces reformed into their own Army Groups, North, Center and South. Operation Aspis had come at a heavy cost for Ruvelka, who recorded the loss of 63,398 killed or missing, 153,425 wounded, and 68,500 captured for a total of 285,323 casualties. Syaran losses however were also heavy with nearly 42,000 killed, 116,000 wounded, and 8,000 captured or missing, total of 166,243 recorded casuatlies.
For Zovahr the situation wasn't clear. Reports of success were tarnished by high casualties, and unclear assessments of the remaining military strength of Ruvelka. On 14 October the Army Group Commanders were summoned back to Central Command to report on the situation. The reports from the Field Marshals was mixed; Cvetkov, who had faced stiff Ruvelkan resistance in the heavily urbanized northern border with Ruvelka reported that Army Group Alpha had made limited progress and suspected that Ruvelkan forces in the Koryal Plain remained in good order. Čorić by comparison stated Army Group Beta's position was good and estimated that Ruvelkan forces opposite in Army Group Center were badly depleted and unable to resist further offensive action. Todorov was more ambivalent, identifying the destruction of several major formations but warning that the Ruvelkand had retired to strong defensive positions along the Matra Mountains.
Unsure the exact state of the Ruvelkan forces, Executive Zhelev opted to pursue the diplomatic route and informed Debrecen that Syara was willing to discuss a ceasefire on 15 October. In Ruvelka this message was received poorly by Chancellor Molnár, who was opposed to any negotiations while Ruvelkan territory was occupied. She nonetheless agreed to a cabinet meeting with leadership of the armed forces the same day where they discussed the situation at the front.
Like Syara, Ruvelka's standing was complex. Ruvelka had lost control of all the major border regions and several major urban areas. Its forces had been badly mauled, and the Army Groups were strung out along awkward defensive lines. Chief of Staff Surány predicted it would be two months before the Imperial Army was in position for major offensive operations. Despite that, Ruvelka's position was not hopeless; Syaran forces had by all accounts suffered heavy losses themselves, and while Ruvelka's own losses were heavy, mass conscription and call up meant that Ruvelka had replenished its losses by November, at least in manpower. With that in mind, the Chancellor summarily rejected Zovahr's offer of negotiations. The Chancellor wanted to go on the offensive before the start of November, but the Imperial General Staff quickly pointed out that the armed forces were in desperate need of reorganization and resupply.
The supply situation for both sides was a major issue. Fuel was especially concerning; both sides were consuming nearly a million gallons a day and neither Ruvelka nor Syara were major oil producers. Lack of fuel quickly became the primary concern for both armies. Ruvelka possessed a large strategic petroleum reserve of nearly 150 million barrels, but by October over a quarter of it had been used up. Although less mechanized than Syara and therefore less dependent on oil, Ruvelka's smaller economy had more difficulty acquiring more. A much needed trade agreement with Acrea alleviated Ruvelkan fuel concerns for the most part, and by the end of the year Ruvelka was the second largest importer of oil in Tyran, only behind Syara. Syara's larger economy allowed it to purchase fuel in greater quantities than Ruvelka, but the constant drain of its foreign currency reserves on acquiring petroleum would lead to a severe financial crisis later on. Syara would ultimately consumed nearly 16 billion gallons of fuel during the war, and Ruvelka over 12 billion. Total consumption by both sides would be 700 million barrels by the end of the war.
By late October Ruvelkan conscription had produced 300,000 additional troops ready for deployment, which convinced Chancellor Molnár of the feasibility of a major strategic offensive. By mid-October Molnár made clear her desire to launch a counter-offensive aimed at repelling all Syaran forces from Ruvelka, but Chief of Staff Surány quickly pointed out that Ruvelka's reeling armies were not prepared for one. The Chancellor requised her insistence on an offensive but late October by continued to push for Ruvelka to go on the attack at the earliest possibility.
By late October the front line had stabilized in most areas save for the center. Between 2-14 October the Syarans had launched Operation Hippikon with 6th Army against the 1st Debrecen Front. Although Ruvelkan forces had previously struggled to contain Syaran offensives, this time the overextended Syarans struggled to dislodge the dug in Ruvelkan defenders. After nearly two weeks of inconclusive fighting the Ruvelkans were forced to withdraw to avoid being outflanked by Syara's 1st Army. Army Group Center's commander, Eliska Hanáková, had the 1st Debrecen Front 45 kilometers east of Sagerejo, while the recently raised 11th Kiskőrös Front took up positions north of the city.
In early November Field Marshal Čorić ordered 9th Army under Colonel General Valentin Stavrik to attack positions held by the 2nd Székesfehérvár Front. The Ruvelkans however refused to committ to a full scale engagement following the withdrawal of the 1st Debrecen Front, and gave ground while the 8th Balatonalmádi Front took up positions further south. By 13 November Stavrik ordered a halt despite the lack of major progress and expressed his concerns to Army Group Beta Headquarters that the 9th Army was in danger of being overextended attempting to tie down the bulk of two Ruvelkan Fronts.
The positions of Syara's army groups were beginning to concern some Syaran leaders. Army Group Alpha in the north had been expected to break into the Koryal Plain and take advantage of the flatter terrain to encircle and annihilate Ruvelkan forces in the Kunhegyes District, but the heavily urbanized north had proven too difficult to surmount, and Syaran forces were forced to engage in sustained, costly battles over dense urban areas. In the far south, Army Group Gamma had effectively been halted by the western Matra Mountain Range, which the lighter Ruvelkan forces were well suited to fight in compared to the heavier mechanized Syaran armies. As a result, Army Group Beta was forced to maintain a front line twice the length of its sister formations, covering nearly two entire Ruvelkan Districts. By mid-November this had become obvious even to Syara's political leadership, as Executive Dragomir Zhelev began questioning the wisdom of Syara's deployments.
Ruvelkan planners had noticed the overextension of the Syaran lines by late October and informed Debrecen of the development, highlighting the Balatonalmádi District as suitable grounds for a counter-offensive. Chancellor Molnár seized on this as grounds for launching a major counter-offensive, which Chief of Staff Surány agreed to on principle. The plan, which became known as Operation Szablya, called for a main thrust by Army Group Center against Army Group Beta, with primary focus given to the Syaran 6th and 9th Armies. Diversionary efforts were to be directed against Army Groups Alpha and Gamma to pin them in place, with the hope that once Army Group Beta was pushed back to the border, Alpha and Gamma would withdraw to defend Syara itself. The Ruvelkans began massing their forces for the impending offensive in early November, and by the 18th fielded over one million troops in Army Group Center against roughly 700,000 Syarans.
On 10 November Syara's Central Command met to discuss the situtation at the front. All three Army Group Commanders, coupled with representatives from all three SCAF branches, and Defense Minister Vitanov were present. Vitanov laid out the primary concerns from the Zhelev Administration, namely the lack of a feasible conclusion to the war, and growing concerns about Ruvelka desire to continue the war. SCAF's Chief of Staff Avakian expressed a firm belief that the Syarans could land a knockout blow on the Ruvelkan military, but admitted the SCAF would need some time to prepare for another major offensive. Vitanov countered with concerns regarding reports of Ruvelkan buildup, suggesting that the Ruvelkans were still in good shape and in fact now outnumbered the Syaran armies. This sentiment was echoed by Army Group Alpha Commander Field Marshal Cvetkov, who highlighted increasing levels of radio traffic from Ruvelkan units.
Field Marshal Čorić, commander of Army Group Beta, argued otherwise and insisted that Ruvelkan forces were spent and would not be able to resist a second major offensive. More critically, Čorić dismissed concerns that the Ruvelkans were intending to launch a major offensive. Čorić's claims did not sit well with many in Central Command, but the Field Marshal remained insistent and argued that Ruvelkan forces in Army Group Center were on the verge of collapse. Čorić nevertheless conceded that the Syaran armies would need some time to prepare for a second offensive and suggested the winter be spent preparing for it. The Syarans assumed defensive positions on 16 November, at which point the Syarans fielded roughly 2,500,000 troops supported by over 18,000 armored vehicles, including over 5,000 tanks and nearly 6,000 artillery pieces. Ruvelkan forces began taking positions in preparation for the offensive on 16 November, during which Ruvelka massed over 3 million troops along the front. Over 1,300,000 were assigned to Army Group Center, along with 3,000 tanks, over 60% of Ruvelka's total armored strength.
The Ruvelkans unleashed their offensive on 23 November, precipitated by numerous infiltration efforts by Ruvelkan Imperial Fusiliers throughout Syaran lines, and heliborne troops targetting Syaran artillery pieces and communication centers. The main thrust fell on the 9th, 6th, and 1st Armies of Army Group Beta, while diversionary efforts against Army Groups Alpha and Gamma were carried out simultaneously. Syaran troops occupying the center of the front line in Army Group Beta, having been led to believe that the Ruvelkans were not capable of an offensive by Field Marshal Čorić, were overwhelmed by Ruvelkan infiltrations and assaults and were quickly forced to withdraw. Within a week more than 10,000 Syaran troops had been captured and Syaran forces had been pushed back nearly 30 kilometers in some sectors. By late November the Ruvelkans were just 20 kilometers from Dunakesi.
The Ruvelkan advance however began to quickly unravel. Ruvelkan commanders, who operated in a doctrine that emphasized unit autonomy rather than centralized control, lacked experience in coordinating multiple division-sized ooperations, and Ruvelkan preference for free reigning tactical control from junior officers, especially below the regimental level, began to lead the Ruvelkan advance astray. Ruvelkan forces continued to sieze tactical objectives and locations, but Ruvelkan Army and Front Commanders struggled to keep their forces operating with a coherent unity of effort, leading to an increasingly disorganized advance. By December the Ruvelkan diversionary efforts against Army Group Alpha and Gamma had also failed or been repulsed, allowing the Syarans to shift their reserves to the center to deal.
On 2 December Field Marshal Čorić was recalled to Zovahr where he was reassigned to Central Command Operations Directorate, effectively sacking him of his position. His former Deputy Commander, Colonel General Arisdages Koundakjian took command of Army Group Beta and quickly made use of fresh reserves to shore up the Army Group's front line. By 6 December the Ruvelkans had been halted in their entirety and on the 8th Koundakjian, now a Field Marshal, ordered a general counter-offensive. Overextended and now outgunned, the Ruvelkans of Army Group Center were steadily forced back to their starting positions.
Alarmed by the reversal of Army Group Center, Chancellor Molnár ordered attacks against Army Groups Alpha and Gamma to force the Syarans to divert Syaran attention and forces away from the central sector of the front. These hastily planned attacks launched from 10-17 December failed to do much damage to Syaran forces whom were now well prepared for them, and after days of bloody fighting the Ruvelkans had accomplished little. In spite of this the Syarans themselves were becoming exhausted as well; Army Group Beta in particular was down to 60% of its combat power and was in serious need of rest and repair. Sporadic fighting continued until the 19th, when the Syarans broadcasted a request for a ceasefire to observe the Winter Solstice, which Debrecen agreed to.
Losses for both sides were heavy. The Winter Counter-Offensive had cost Ruvelka more than 100,000 troops killed, wounded, or missing, while the Syarans recorded over 77,000 killed, captured, or wounded. All together 2008 had claimed over 480,000 Ruvelkan soldiers killed, wounded, missing, or captured. The SCAF recorded over 262,000 losses during the same time frame. It took several months for both sides to rebuild their stregnth following nearly 5 months of continuous fighting, as noted by Gwenllian Ní Áeda in her book Zemplen in Flames: The Syaran-Ruvelkan Conflict:
With the end of 2008 came a brief respite from the intense combat that had dominated Ruvelka's western Districts for six months, but it was just an inkling of what was to come. By January 2009 both sides had suffered in excess of a quarter-million casualties; that number would rise drastically in the next several months. With their pre-war forces largely depleted by constant operations and munitions stockpiles constantly in need of replenishment, both Zovahr and Debrecen filled their ranks with freshly raised troops and reservists. These soldiers, overwhelmingly young men and women between the ages of 18-25, could scarcely call themselves adults but they were suddenly thrust into what would become the most destructive conflict of the 21st Century. Their rushed training, combined with the hastily manufactured weapons they carried, would lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths over the next two years.
The strategic situation at the end of 2008 mostly favored Syara. The SCAF had made impressive gains in some sectors, threatining Kaposvar and Kunhegyes in the north, and having captured Balatonalmadi, Dunakesi, Pannonhalma, and Albertirsa in the south. Fighting subsided for the winter of 2008-2009 as both sides rebuilt their shattered forces and geared their economies towards war production.
Syaran Central Command desired to return to the offensive in southern Ruvelka by seizing Aszód, Ruvelka's largest southern city as well as a major industrial hub. The Syarans hoped that capturing Aszód would pave the way for a general offensive east into the Matra Mountain range where Army Group Gamma could envelop and annihilate the Aszód and Püspökladány Fronts, leading the collapse of Army Group South. Syara launched Operation Synaspismos on 18 February 2009, employing the bulk of the 10th Army under Colonel Genearl Tihomir Orlić to outflank Ruvelkan forces along the western edge of the Matra Mountains, while the 6th and 8th Armies pinned the remainder of Army Group South in place. Entrenched behind strong defenses the Ruvelkans succesfully resisted the Syaran attack for several days, but after a week of fighting Syaran artillery had steadily reduced Ruvelkan defenses through continuous shelling. On 25 February Syaran forces broke through Ruvelkan lines 40 kilometers north-east of Aszód, which allowed the 90th Mechanized Division to rapidly push through and seize the vital road junction at Akhtenis. The 28th Army and Aszód were effectively cut off from the rest of Ruvelka.
XXXV Corps under Lt. General Zaharinka Mitrovska proceeded to initiate a loose encirclement of Aszód, assuming that the city would surrender not long after the 28th Army realized it was surrounded. North and east of the city XXXVI Corps continued to overrun Ruvelkan defenses in the foothills of the Matra Mountains, reducing Ruvelkan positions with heavy artillery fire. Realziing the entire Ruvelkan disposition in the south was under threat of collapse, the 4th Aszód Front under Stepanie Yeghoyan was ordered to counterattack and attempt to isolate XXXVI Corps. The hastily prepared offensive sputtered out after only a few days due to poor planning and limited logistical support, including a disastorous armored battle at Annokh Valley. The complete failure of the offensive, which Chancellor Edviná Molnár later said "felt like one of the darkest days of the war" resulted in the collapse of the Ruvelkan counter-offensive and a withdrawal of Ruvelkan forces from the Aszód District.
The first major campaign of 2009 had ended in disaster for Ruvelka. Ruvelkan losses were exceptionally high, nearly 38,000 troops killed, wounded, or captured, along with 228 armored fighting vehicles destroyed and 18 aircraft lost. Syara casualties were just 8,000. Despite their immediate success however things did not turn out entirely in Syaran favor. It was expected by Central Command that the encirlement of Aszód, combined with the defeat of the Fifth Imperial Army would force the Ninth Army to surrender. But both the city and the Ruvelkan garrison refused to do so. On 5 March XXXV Corps attempted to push into the outer districts of Aszód, only to be repulsed within eight hours. The Ruvelkan garrison continued to refuse Syaran demands for surrender, locking both sides into a protracted siege that would last until the final months of the war.
Syaran Spring Offensive
Despite their failure to force Aszód's capitulation, Syaran Central Command was encouraged by Syaran success in southern Ruvelka and deemed further offensives feasible. In March 2009 the SCAF was holding a frontage largely in line with major Ruvelkan population centers, namely Kaposvar and Kunhegyes in the north, and Sagerejo in the center. Despite the failure to destroy the Imperial Armed Forces of Ruvelka, Chief of Staff Vakhtang Avakian believed that Ruvelka's armed forces were nearing the end of their logistical capacity to resist and could be defeated in the face of another major offensive. Following the conclusion of Operation Synaspismos Avakian summoned the Army Group commanders to Zovahr on 12 March to discuss future plans. Avakian proposed a major offensive aimed across the entirety of the front, staggered in sequence to inflict a series of increasingly devestating blows that would knock Ruvelka out of the war and force Debrecen to sue for peace.
Avakian proposed an initial offensive in the south by Army Group Gamma, following by a central push by Army Group Gamma, and finally a northern thrust by Army Group Alpha. Avakian believed that the sequence of operations would force the Ruvelkans to commit their reserves to each sector of the front, depleting their forces and leaving them increasingly weakened and unable to prevent follow up Syaran offensives. By the end of June, the Ruvelkan Imperial Army would be in tatters and Syara would be in position force Ruvelka to accept terms of surrender.
The Syaran Field Marshals gave a mixed response. Todorov, commander of Army Group Gamma, was lukewarm to the idea, warning that his forces were still recovering from the fighting earlier in the year but acknowledged that Ruvelkan forces of Army Group South under Tibor Fehér were likely depleted and poorly prepared to handle another offensive. Field Marshal Arisdages Koundakjian, holding the center of the front with Army Group Beta, agreed to the offensive, arguing that Ruvelkan forces were badly weakened from their winter counter-offensive. Nikodemos Cvetkov of Army Group Alpha on the other hand raised significant reservations about the proposal. He iterated several key concerns:
- Ruvelkan forces of the Imperial Army had grown in size since the winter fighting and were arguably better prepared to resist Syaran advances given fresh deployments of troops and equipment.
- The ability to encircle large formations of Ruvelkan forces amid the varied terrain of western Ruvelka was severly limited, making a decisive military victory difficult to envision
- Syaran forces would likely be unable to conceal preparations for such a massive offensive operation, meaning the Ruvelkans would have time to prepare defenses, exapserated by the gap between Syaran offensives
Todorov then provided additional concerns, highlighting that Army Group Gamma would be forced to undergo any offensive understrength; as XXXV Corps had been detached to deal with the Siege of Aszód while elements of 8th Army would have to take up defensive positions along the Matra Mountains facing Kerepes and Püspökladány.
Avakian countered these concerns by arguing that the terrain both Army Group Alpha and Gamma were facing, the Koryal Plain and the Kenderes Steppe respectively, were well suited to Syaran doctrine and preference for armored warfare. Avakian inisted that Syaran superiority at the army and corps level would be sufficient to overcome Ruvelkan defenses and numerical superiority. Avakian wanted to begin the offensives on 1 April 2009, but Todorov insisted that Army Group Gamma needed more time to prepare and regroup, and the offensive was pushed back to mid-April. Despite the objections of Cvetkov, Executive Dragomir Zhelev gave authorization to Avakian to pursue the offensives.
Army Group Gamma began the Spring Offensives on 17 April with Operation Sagaris, sometimes known as the Battle of the Kenderes Steppe. Despite fighting on relatively open ground that was well suited to their armored and mechanized forces, Syaran forces ran into stiff Ruvelkan defenses that prevented a breakthrough. Attempts to outflank the Ruvelkan positions with the 8th and 10th Armies failed due to poor timing and shortages of manpower, leading the offensive to be called off and abandoned on 7 May. The failure of Sagaris led accusations to fly within Syaran Central Command, with Field Marshal Todorov receiving heavy criticism for his poorly planning and deployment of forces.
While Syaran forces were still struggling to breakthrough in the south, Field Marshal Koundakjian launched Operation Polyandreion in the center against Ruvelka's Army Group Center. Like her counterparts in the south, General Eliska Hanáková had been made aware of Syaran intentions and had deployed Army Group Center into elaborate and complex lines of defense that blunted the initial Syaran advance. The failure of the Syaran 6th Army to pin down Ruvelkan reserves allowed Hanáková to redeploy them to counter the pincer efforts of 1st and 9th Army, throwing the Syaran offensive into disarray. By mid-May, the Syaran 1st Army had become bogged down in fighting around Sagerejo, halting the Syaran drive. Eventually 6th Army under Colonel General Marko Kukolja managed to break through Ruvelkan lines and assist in the capture of Sagerejo on 27 May, but two days later Ruvelkan forces of the 1st Debrecen Front launched a major counter attack against the 9th Army, forcing the Syarans to halt their drive eastward to avoid being outflanked to the Army Group's southern flank.
With Syaran forces in the south and center stonewalled, Field Marshal Cvetkov launched Operation Harpe in northern Ruvelka. Unlike his counterparts in the south and center, Cvetkov chose not to attempt an encirclement of Ruvelkan forces in the Koryal Plain and focused on reaching as far east as possible to threaten the Ruvelkan port of Mateszalka, which would cut off Ruvelka from much needed trade with Acrea as well as allowing Syaran forces to outflank the Kurilla Mountains.
The initial Syaran advance went well. The 2nd and 3rd Armies succesfully pinned Ruvelkan forces near Kaposvár and Kunhegyes while 7th Army broke through in the center and raced east. Aware of the danger posed by the Syaran breakout, Chief of the Imperial General Staff Áron Surány ordered all availible reserves to Soltvadkert to halt the Syaran advance. In the ensuing battle the Ruvelkans succesfully halted Simeon Karandzhulov's 7th Army. Karandzhulov wanted to continue the offensive with reinforcements from 2nd and 3rd Army, but Cvetkov had grown increasingly concerned about the exposed flanks of 7th Army, citing the continued resistance of Ruvelkan forces in the vicinity of Kaposvár and Kunhegyes. On 16 June 2009 Karandzhulov was ordered to withdraw his forces back west to assist in the capture of the two cities.
News of the Syaran withdrawl was initially well received by the Ruvelkans, but now Chief Surány was growing concerned that Ruvelkan forces near the two cities were in danger of being completely surrounded and cut off. Péter Novák, commander of Army Group North, insisted on holding the two cities and believed a counter-stroke was possible to eliminate the risk of Syaran encirclement, but it proved too late. Despite repeated Ruvelkan efforts to halt 7th Army, but 24 June the Syarans had surrounded the two cities, entrapping nearly 200,000 Ruvelkan troops.
Between early to mid-July the Syarans steadily reduced the Ruvelkan positions in both cities inspite of frequent and fierce Ruvelkan counter-attacks. By 15 July it was clear that a breakout was not possible, although small bands of Ruvelkan soldiers were able to slip between Syaran lines. The next day Novák called off his forces from further attacks against the Syaran lines, leading Kaposvár to surrender the same day. Kunhegyes followed suit two days later on 18 July, bringing an end to Operation Harpe.
The Syaran Spring Offensives provided some of the bloodiest fighting of the war and resulted in massive casualties on both sides. By the end of July the Syarans recorded over 400,000 casualties, including over 100,000 killed. Ruvelkan losses were even heavier, with 127,000 killed, 406,000 wounded, and 170,000 captured. The loss of the historically significant cities of Kaposvár and Kunhegyes proved a sharp blow to Ruvelkan morale, coupled with the nearly 1 million Ruvelkan soldiers and civilians that were killed, wounded, captured, or went missing. Despite this, the offensives were ultimately a crippling strategic loss for Syara. Despite major gains in some sectors, the Syaran National Army had been gutted by the fighting, losing nearly 2,000 tanks destroyed or heavily damaged, and with many front line divisions at 50% strength or less. The losses stunned the Syaran Central Command, who subsequently placed a halt on any major strategic offensives for the rest of the war.
Ruvelkan Autumn Counter-Offensive
Despite heavy losses during the spring fighting, Chancellor Edviná Molnár believed that Ruvelka had gained the upper hand in the war due to intelligience reports that the Syaran Central Command had ordered a halt on major offensive operations. Molnár began pushing for a counter-attack against the Syarans, hopign to take advantage of their heavy losses and drive them back to the border. Chief of Staff Surány, as had become the norm, cautioned against an overextension of Ruvelkan forces, but agreed that a limited series of offensives were possible to exploit gaps and weaknesses that had developed in Syaran lines. Like the Syarans had decided six months prior, the Ruvelkans opted for a three prong offensive in each sector of the front by each Army Group. Army Group South would carry out Operation Hretha, Center would launch Operation Balaton, and North would conduct Operation Overshadow.
Unlike the Syaran spring offensives, the Ruvelkans opted for more local and smaller scale operations to exploit areas where Syaran forces were overextended. Nevertheless Ruvelka committed some 3 million troops in support of the counter-offensive against a roughly equal number of Syaran forces. Hretha and Overdrive began on 16 September 2009 against Army Group Gamma and Alpha respectively. In the south the expected heavy clash never ocurred; rather than engage in a pitched battle, Field Marshal Todorov ordered Army Group Gamma to withdraw back to the Matra Mountains. After some fighting along the foothills and ravines, General Fehér called off the offensive, citing the Ruvelkan forces lack of preparation for extended fighting against entrenched Syaran troops in the mountains. While the operation did not result in significant gains, the Imperial General Staff were largley pleased with the operation and gave the go ahead for Balaton in the center, to be launched on 22 September.
In the north, Operation Overshadow intended to isolate and decimate the Syaran 2nd Army, which was holding position along the northern coast of Ruvela. Amid the relatively flat terrain of the Koryal Plain, the Ruvelkans deployed over a third of their armored forces to eliminate the Syaran threat to Mateszalka. Heavy fighting between Syaran and Ruvelkan armor resulted in gains against the 3rd and 2nd Armies, but counterstrokes by Syara's 7th Army mitigated Ruvelkan advancements. By early October the fighting had entered into a standstill and amid heavy losses the operation was called off on. Compared to Hretha, Overshadow was viewed by many Ruvelkan commanders as a failure, in large part due to the losses of nearly 1,500 Ruvelkan armored vehicles. Later analysts have generally held that the operation was strategically succesful, as subsequent offensives by Army Group Alpha were reduced due to heavy losses sustained over the course of 2009.
The largest Ruvelkan operation came in the center with Balaton. The main effort of the counter-offensive fell against the over-extended 9th Army, beginning on 22 September with diversionary attacks against the 1st and 6th Armies. The Ruvelkans made good progress against the 9th Army, but by 27 September efforts against 1st Army had failed, allowing for the less pressured 6th Army to shift reserves of armored and mechanized brigades to plug the gaps forming the 9th Army's frontage. For two weeks the Ruvelkans managed to make gains against 9th Army, forcing the Syarans back over 50 kilometers, but the increasingly exposed flanks of the 8th Balatonalmádi Front began suffering heavily under attacks from 6th Army. Hanáková ordered the Ruvelkans to assume the defensive on 11 October, after which Field Marshal Koundakjian attempted to bring about a general counter-offensive. Sporadic fighting continued until 19 October when Chief of Staff Avakian ordered Army Group Beta to halt.
Balaton's outcome remains a point of contention. General Hanáková labled the battle a "very bloody draw". While the Syarans were forced back in several sectors of the front, the Ruvelkans fell short of their aimed objectives and Syaran counterstrokes inflicted significant losses on Army Group Center. By the end of the Ruvelkan Counter-Offensive, casualties were both sides thus far in the year had been massive; nearly 1 million Ruvelkan losses and over 500,000 Syaran casualties.
However over the course of the next few days the situation turned sour for Ruvelka. The diversionary attack against Army Group Beta, aimed at pinning down Syaran reserves, had failed and by 5 October the Syarans were rapidly redeploying 5 heavy mechanized divisions from their reserves to block the advance of the Ruvelkan forces. Despite fierce resistance the Fusilier detachments inserted behind Syaran lines were unable to hold their position in the face of whithering Syaran artillery fire and repeated sorties by the Commonality Air Force. On 10 October Syaran forces counterattacked in the Dunakesi sector and repulsed Ruvelkan forces. Despite repeated strikes by the Imperial Air Force the Syarans were able to drive the Ruvelkans back to near their starting positions. On 16 October Southern Spear was declared over by the Imperial General Staff. Both sides had suffered heavy losses; more than 29,000 Ruvelkans had been killed, and more than 26,000 Syaran troops had perished. Although a failure, Southern Spear made it clear to the Imperial General Staff the inability of Ruvelkan forces to isolate partial sectors of the front; for future offensives, the Imperial General Staff concluded that only an assault across the entirety of the front would suffice.
By Fall 2009 both Syara and Ruvelka had exhausted their ability for immediate large scale operations. Neither side appeared in a position to achieve their strategic goals; the Syaran Commonality Armed Forces were in desperate need of rest and refit before resuming the attack, while the Imperial Armed Forces of Ruvelka needed months to replenish its losses. As became typical of her behavior during the war, Chancellor Molnár insisted on not giving the Syarans any breathing room. As early as January 2009 the Chancellor had been suggesting ways to strike back against Syara, and following the heavy fighting and losses in the Syaran Spring Offensives began pushing strongly for Ruvelkan reprisal.
Said reprisal ultimately came in the form of Operation Eclipse, a strategic bombing campaign aimed at damaging Syaran manufacturing and limiting the SCAF's ability to construct armored vehicles and materials needed for the war effort. The bombings, carried out by Cacertian built AFSB-2 Spettro strategic bombers, began on 22 July 2009 and continued until 14 November. The raids were carried out by the 47th Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment commanded by Colonel Vanessza Márton utilizing Cacertian built AFSB-2 Spettro strategic bombers. The first raid was launched against industrial targets in the city of Gbevec, Makedon. Five more raids were conducted between July and November, the final raid launched against Syaran assembly areas near Mislava, Galania. Flying from extremely high altitudes, the Ruvelkan bombers either fired stand-off weapons from within Ruvelka's pre-war boundaries, or engaged in high-speed "flybys", making use of their supersonic speed to outrun Syaran air defense and patrolling fighters. The largest raid was conducted on 6 September, when a dozen Ruvelkan bombers hit munitions factories in Myzova. The majority of these raids were conducted without Ruvelkan loses, but on two occasions Syaran air defense systems shot down a total of three bombers while damaging another two. Ruvelka ceased its campaign on 14 November, as Syaran awareness of the raids and defensive preparations made the operation too risky to continue.
The strategic impact of the bombings has been a source of contention since the end of the war, as has controversy regarding the endeavor itself. It is generally acknowledged that Eclipse did not significantly impede Syaran industrial production of weapons manufacturing, however the diversion of Syaran fighter aircraft and air defense systems to defend Syaran airspace has been credited as impacting air operations in a war where the Commonality Air Force already faced a significant numerical deficiency. The decision to bomb Syara itself drew international criticism from some circles, largely due to the over 100 civilian workers who were killed during the campaign. Syara never retaliated with a bombing campaign of it's own, lacking strategic bombers itself, and during the war labeled the campaign as "terror bombing" due to civilian casualties. Although Syara declared the operation a war crime, none of the five crewmembers captured by the Syarans were charged as such, and were released in the prisoner exchange that followed the end of the war.
Apart from Eclipse, neither side was prepared for any major strategic action. In late November the Syarans launched a drive against Polgardi, resulting in a Ruvelkan victory during the Battle of Sárkeszi. Less than two weeks later Syaran forces of 6th Army launched Operation Ouriachos and attempted to breach the Kurilla Mountains on the path towards Hajdúböszörmény amid heavy snowfall, but after several days of inconclusive fighting the Syarans called off their attack. After pausing during the cold winter, Syaran forces in central Ruvelka launched another minor offensive known as Operation Toxon, aimed at the city of Székesfehérvár in the firsy major Syaran operation of 2010. Employing their forces in smaller elements known as tactical combat groupings, the Syarans made minor success, but fears of becoming overextended and a need to conserve strength for an expected offensive in the summer led to Toxon being halted on 10 January 2010.
With some success in Toxon, the Syarans launched Operation Pelekys to capture the Zala Peninsula in northern Ruvelka. Expected heavy Ruvelkan resistance never emerged, leading the Syarans to capture Zala with little note. In an effort to make further gains, 3rd Army launched Operation Machaira on 7 March, hoping to exploit passes through the northern Kurillas. The Syarans again made good progress, but faced increasingly heavy resistance from the 5th Zalaegerszeg Front which eventually forced Field Marshal Cvetkov to call off the operation. Cvetkov and 3rd Army's commander, Colonel General Vladislav Ivov Kochanov clashed after the operation, with Cvetkov angered that the 3rd Army was now out of position and poorly oriented to repel a Ruvelkan counteroffensive.
Cvetkov's concerns proved valid. While the Syarans had been diluting their strength attempting to achieve local tactical victories, the Ruvelkan Imperial General Staff had begun massing its forces behind the Kurillas for another strategic offensive. Concerned that more and more Ruvelkan soil was falling into Syaran control, Chancellor Molnár insisted that final, all-out offensive be launched to drive the Syarans out of Ruvelka entirely. The ambitious plan called for the commitment of virutally all of Ruvelka's reserves to be deployed in a series of increasingly devestating blows, aimed at overwhelming the entire Syaran front line rather than focusing on limited operational objectives. Although a failure of the offensive would have likely spelled doom for Ruvelka's chances at victory, the Imperial General Staff felt the opportunity was right.
Between January and May the Ruvelkans amassed a total of 4,317,000 troops, 4,320 tanks, 4,000 artillery pieces, 758 attack helicopters, and 986 aircraft to take part in the offensive. Officially known as Operation Homefront, the attack would commence all at once, across the entire 1,029 kilometer front. Syaran forces by May 2010 consisted of 3,567,000 troops, 5,850 tanks, 5,430 artillery pieces, 410 attack helicopters, and 1,180 aircraft across the entire front.
Operation Homefront commenced on 7 June with multiple Fusilier infiltrations across the entire front, followed shortly by the Imperial Air Force conducting massive coordinated airstrikes against Syaran troop concentrations, fortificaitons, fuel depots, and forward airfields. Within hours more than 3 million Ruvelkan troops were on the attack. The scale of the operation became apparent to the Syarans within a few hours, although their intelligence had detected the buildup months prior the scale proved beyond Syaran expectations. As predicted by the Imperial General Staff, the massive scale of the offensive prevented the Syarans from reinforcing their positions, as they lacked the reserves to cover every threatened sector. After two weeks of ferocious fighting and heavy losses Central Command abruptly gave the order for all Syaran forces in Ruvelka on 15 June. Despite desparate rear guard actions and blocking maneuvers the Syarans struggled to halt the Ruvelkan advance, and by 20 June the Syaran forces were in full retreat back to the border. On 18 June the siege Aszód was finally lifted. On 23 June Ruvelkan forced re-entered Zemplen, which was cleared of Syaran forces by 6 July. For the first two weeks of July Ruvelkan forces rapidly re-occupied the disputed territories, finally able to defeat the SCAF in detail due to the Syaran National Army being forced to abandon much of its heavy equipment in Ruvelka.
Although it had exahausted Ruvelkan troops and depleted reserves of fuel and ammunition, Operation Homefront was ultimtaley a decisive Ruvelkan victory. Syaran forces had suffered 150,000 men killed, wounded, or captured, losses which the Commonality could no longer afford. On paper still a sizeable force, the SCAF had been fully defeated, and it's badly mauled forces struggled to reform themselves now inside Syara itself.
Ceasefire and Resolution
On 12 July Chancellor Edviná Molnár announced the cessation of Ruvelkan combat operations and declared that Ruvelka was ready to negotiate an end to the conflict with Syara. The next Zovahr signaled it's willingness to come to the table. Later that day both sides agreed to a summit held by Imperator Tyler Holland of Shalum. The summit was held on 16 July in Aragon, where both sides sat down to discuss the resolution to the conflict. It was attened by Chancellor Molnár and Executive Zhelev. The Ruvelkan proposal was as follows:
- Complete cessation of hostilities and signing of an official peace treaty
- All military forces stand down and be returned to their normal garrison stations
- Syaran withdraws all claims to control of Zemplen, Imerti, and Armavir
- Ruvelka will transition control of Tarnova and Rostuša to Syaran control
- Full exchange of prisoners of war
- Re-establishment of full diplomatic relations within an appropriate time frame
Syara was ultimately in no position to contest Ruvelkan demands and agreed to terms on the 17 of July, slated to officially go into effect on 19 July. The war was officially over at 0001 19 July 2009.
Casualties and losses
The economic impact of the war has never been calculated to an absolute degree of certainty. International assessments of the conflict estimate that total expenditures by both Ruvelka and Syara exceeded $4 trillion. The reconstruction of eastern Ruvelka is estimated by the Ruvelkan government to cost somewhere around an additional $1.5-2.5 trillion.
According to compiled assessments, a total of 1,691,670 people died in the Zemplen War, 436,208 of them civilians, the vast majority of which were Ruvelkan. An additional 42,338 are considered missing and presumed dead, while 4,261,258 military personnel were classified as wounded.
In October 2012 the Ruvelkan Government officially released its "Casualties of the war with Syara (2008-2010)
- 558,658 killed in action
- 162,115 died under medical care
- 9,018 non-combat related deaths due to accident or unrelated medical issue
- 2,291,453 wounded in action
- 27,886 missing and presumed dead
- 259,449 captured
The report listed Ruvelka's material losses as follows:
- 3,655 tanks destroyed or discarded
- 7,500 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed (The exact number is not known, partially due to Ruvelkan definitions of IFVs and APCs)
- 2,161 artillery pieces destroyed or lost
- 26,449 utility vehicles and cargo trucks destroyed or lost
- 633 helicopters lost
- 439 fixed-wing military aircraft lost
The Ruvelkan government officially reported that 434,867 Ruvelkan civilians were killed during the conflict. Ruvelka attributed most of the civilian casualties to indiscriminate Syaran artillery barrages.
Syaran losses were officially declared in February 2011 in a special session of the High Council during which the Syaran Commonality Armed Forces laid out their recorded losses. These losses totaled:
- 411,216 military personnel killed in action
- 106,802 military personnel died of wounds (outside of combat; under medical care)
- 7,653 non-combat related deaths (accidents, non-combat related health issues)
- 1,975,348 military personnel wounded (combat + non-combat related injuries, as defined by requiring medical assistance)
- 167,325 military personnel captured
- 14,452 military personnel missing, presumed KIA
Syaran material losses amounted to:
- 3,429 main battle tanks destroyed
- 2,795 infantry fighting vehicles destroyed
- 5,211 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 2,640 artillery pieces destroyed
- 26,791 utility vehicles destroyed
- 166 helicopters destroyed
- 301 unmanned aerial vehicles destroyed
- 525 aircraft destroyed (all types)
A separate report issued by the Government of Syara recorded 1,341 civilian casualties, the majority of them killed during the initial fighting of the war before the commencement of major operations.
Comparison of tactics and doctrine
Syara and Ruvelka were guided by separate doctrines deeply driven by their own respective histories and national characteristics. Prior to the war Ruvelka embraced a doctrine centered around light infantry and lower level unit autonomy. The Syaran Commonality Armed Forces were guided by a doctrine which focused on the rapid employment of armored forces in vast sweeping maneuvers.
Neither doctrine proved particularly effective in its original form. Ruvelkan emphasis on unit autonomy left its higher levels of command lacking in the organizational skills necessary to coordinate the maneuver of multiple divisions and armies. Syaran emphasis on wide sweeping armored offensives proved ill-suited towards the rugged terrain of Ruvelka's many forests and mountains. Both sides adjusted their fighting styles and methodology accordingly as the war went on, adapting to the changing circumstances and developments on the battlefield.
Ruvelkan forces often found themselves deficient in fire support and armor compared to their Syaran counterparts and thus relied heavily on aggressive tactics to compensate. Ruvelkan forces made extensive use of camouflage and deception to conceal troop movements, at times moving entire divisions at night to avoid detection from Syaran surveillance. In combat the Ruvelkans would attempt to maintain a fluid battle line at all times, avoiding static positions except when necessary. When attacking Ruvelkan forces would often split up into multiple detachments, with some units holding down or engaging Syaran formations while other Ruvelkan troops were infiltrate Syaran lines to attack Syaran positions from the rear or flank. The Ruvelkans would make extensive use of terrain, particularly rugged mountains and hills or thick forests, to sneak entire companies and even battalions through Syaran lines (at the Battle of Sarud and entire regiment was able to infiltrate a Syaran position). While engaged the Ruvelkans would try to maintain activity at all times, often having units immediately counter-attack after their sister units came under attack. The Ruvelkans preferred to be on the move near constantly both to confuse the Syarans and avoid being targeted by their artillery.
When on the attack Ruvelkan forces preferred to concentrate troops at a specific point, usually an exposed salient or rugged stretch of land, so as to achieve local superiority. Because these attacks often had to be conducted with inferior levels of firepower and armored support compared to Syaran troops, these attacks were typically conducted stealthily or at night to maximize their changes of success. Because they fielded fewer tanks, Ruvelkan commanders often opted to concentrate their available armor, either as an assault force or a reserve, and deploy it to the point of crisis on the battlefield. To avoid unnecessary losses the Ruvelkans chose to limit the employment of their armor and typically kept much of it in reserve.
Ruvelka's leading tank ace of the war, Malvina Hazen, described Ruvelkan usage of armor in a rare interview in 2012:
Standard procedure was to employ only a quarter to a third of the total force up front, with the remainder in the rear usually 250 - 700 meters back, dependent on size. So a company would usually stick four of its tanks forward with the other platoons arranged in a diamond back. Depending on the frontage of the attack the exact position of the flanking platoons would vary; if it was a narrow attack they'd nearly be on line with the lead platoon but stuck out further on the flanks so once contact was initiated, they could move out and stalk [Syaran tanks] for flank shots and such. In comparison to the infantry who always preferred to strike first, cavalry preferred to let [the Syarans] make the first move and respond accordingly. We especially like sinking the Ghosts right into the ground, piling up brush and snow on top until the barrel was barely a few [inches] off the ground, making it really good for shots on tracks and wheels.
Because of their fewer numbers, the Ruvelkans usually massed their artillery at the division and army level for fire support, launching mass bombardments during and in the leadup to operations, at the cost of limited fire support during the actual operation compared to Syaran forces. Ruvelkan troops thus relied heavily on attack helicopters and gunships for fire support. Helicopters formed the cornerstone of both offensive and defensive operations for Ruvelka. On the attack, helicopters were utilized in a variety of roles. The HH1 Helicopter Gunship was frequently used as transport for Fusiliers to be dropped off behind Syaran lines, often to perform reconnaissance or destroying high value targets like artillery pieces and air defense systems. Frequently offensives would begin with heliborne infiltration, and inserted Fusiliers would act as forward observers calling in airstrikes and artillery on Syaran positions. On the defense platforms like the HH3 Attack Helicopter would hover at below treetop level before popping up to fire off munitions before returning below the minimum elevation extent of Syaran air defense systems.
Ruvelka's own air defense systems were few in number compared to Syaran air defense forces. Ruvelkan anti-air was heavily integrated into the Ruvelkan Imperial Air Force, who cooperated for the purpose of controlling the skies. Because of their superior numbers of fighters, the RIAF often assumed a defensive posture with regards to its force employment, letting the Syarans mass their own air power at a particular part of the front before responding in kind. This allowed Ruvelka to maintain a strategic edge in fighter aircraft, allowing the Syarans to make temporary gains and achieve parity in certain areas while maintaining Ruvelka's numerical superiority.
Ossorian author Gwenllian Ní Áeda noted that Ruvelka had a "complicated relationship with defensive operations":
At their core, most Ruvelkan tactical commanders did not enjoy engaging in sustained defensive operations, their chief complaint being the constant exposure to Syaran artillery that it invited. This was in contrast to Ruvelka's senior commanders, including Chief of Staff Surány who preferred keeping Ruvelka forces near permanently on the defensive so as to encourage Syara to commit to costly offensives. In spite of their problems with it Ruvelka proved effective on the defense; Ruvelkan combat engineers grew very proficient in the construction of earthworks and fortifications in short notice. Ruvelkan tactical intelligence, made possible by the ease of which Ruvelkan troops could frequently infiltrate Syaran lines, allowed for a degree of foreknowledge of Syaran dispositions that would many Syaran commanders would have given their right arm for. While the predicament for the Ruvelkan front line soldiers forced to endure sustained Syaran shelling was not enviable, once the Syarans began their attacks Ruvelkan commanders were able to repeatedly shift appropriate reserves and resources to handle critical situations.
Despite this many Ruvelkan officers saw the defense as a temporary effort to be conducted while preparing for the attack, in comparison to the Syarans who had more solidified views of offense and defense. While many Ruvelkan commanders preferred the offensive (a sentiment that Chancellor Molnár shared), the actual conduct of offensive operations proved difficult. Ruvelkan pre-war emphasis on unit autonomy meant that many Ruvelkan generals were inexperienced when it came to maneuvering and coordinating large armies of several divisions. This inexperience proved crippling during the early stages of the war, notably in Operation Aspis, but as the war continued Ruvelkan commanders gradually developed their own operational art. Offensives would often be preceded by significant deception efforts meant to conceal Ruvelkan intentions and objectives, including leading Syaran commanders to believe that an expected offensive would occur on an entirely different section of the front. Once the attack began Ruvelkan commanders preferred to remain fluid and proactive with the conduct of their maneuvers, and often avoided becoming too fixated on their objectives. This left Ruvelkan commanders with significant leeway in choosing their avenues of attack and their priorities, a fact that was not always popular with higher levels of command who envisioned specific objectives and goals to be reached.
Logistically supporting major offensives proved difficult for Ruvelka at first as well. The solution that eventually developed was largely ad hoc and wasn't codified into doctrine until late 2009. Rather than rely on a complex set of interlocking logistical support elements, Ruvelka centralized its logistics at the Front and Army level. This "Push" system gathered supplies and resources at a centralized location, where it was then "pushed" out to subordinate units based on assessments and predicted consumption rates by the headquarters's logistical staff. This system was not always particularly efficient, as it relied on a centralized allotment of resources that did not always reflect the actual conditions of the line divisions, nor was it flexible enough to sustain a rapidly changing fluid offensive. It was, however, very proficient at ensuring that Ruvelkan formations had what they needed when zero hour arrived, after which depleted divisions would typically be rolled up into follow up formations and resupplied afterwards.
Syara began the war with an advantage in material, a superiority it maintained for most of the conflict courtesy of its larger economy and experience. Unlike Ruvelkan tendency towards light infantry, Syaran forces were heavily mechanized and supported by large amounts of armor and artillery. Both elements were heavily incorporated into Syaran battleplans on both the offense and defense.
Unlike the Ruvelkans, who typically operated with noticeable separation of arms (although forced upon rather than be design), the Syarans employed their mechanized infantry, armor, and artillery in close cohesion for tactical level combined arms. This eventually led to the development of what became known as the tactical combat groupings, which served as the staple of Syaran operations later in the war.
When in combat Syaran forces preferred to remain on a continuous effort with their sister formations to preserve unity of effort. When engaged the Syarans leaned heavily on their superior firepower, particularly their artillery, in order to break up Ruvelkan forces or to disrupt Ruvelkan maneuvers. Like the Ruvelkans the Syarans preferred to fire and maneuver, but employed their mechanized and armored forces in their role rather than bands of light infantry supported by helicopters. Syaran forces themselves rarely left the extent of the range of their artillery, which at times limited their offensive capability. While the Syarans practiced concealment and deception to a significant degree themselves, this was often reserved for preservation and protective efforts; hiding important assets like air defense and supply depots from Ruvelkan airstrikes or Fusilier infiltration. Unlike Ruvelkan reliance on infiltration and stealth to gather intelligence, Syarans often conducted reconnaissance in force.
Tanks were a field where the Syarans were typically superior. The Myrmidon main battle tank was the most modern in the Syaran arsenal and superior to Ruvelka's own armor, but the majority of Syara's tank fleet was composed of older Minotaurs and Manticores which were more vulnerable to Ruvelkan weaponry. The ideal usage of armor in Syaran planning was for deep maneuvers into enemy lines, to break through and link up with other Syaran forces that had broken through into the Ruvelkan rear echelons. Unlike the Ruvelkans the Syarans relative plethora of armor meant that tanks were often distributed throughout the ground forces, with older models usually assigned to infantry formations while the more modern were reserved for armored cavalry units.
The standard Syaran operational maneuver was the encirclement, which formed the basis for many Syaran offensives. This proved to be illsuited to Ruvelka, where much of the country was dominated by thich forests and mountains. Ruvelkan defense-in-depth further limited the success of encirclement, while Ruvelkan penchant for infiltration and stealth often allowed large amounts of Ruvelkan troops to slip through Syaran lines. As the war progressed the Syarans began gradually shifting their focus to emphasizing their conventional superiority in set piece engagements. Syaran operations shifted towards attacking and destroying Ruvelkan forces in straight forward engagements where the Syarans could leverage their superior artillery and armor to annihilate Ruvelkan formations outright. When utilized properly this tactic was very successful, but adept Ruvelkan officers could often avoid pitched battle or disrupt Syaran efforts entirely.
The Syarans prefer to operate in short bursts rather than sustained efforts. They strike quickly and then either withdraw or bite and hold, preferring to remain either continuously in contact with their enemy or completely broken off; half-measures do not suffice. Armor and mechanized forces are concentrated heavily together so they act effectively as a single unit rather than several separate forces. This makes them potent but co-dependent; the infantry do not want to assault without the tanks, the tanks do not want to move without the infantry, and neither wish to go anywhere without the artillery. If they are able to engage on their own terms it is almost impossible to effectively break contact without suffering significant losses. While they are aggressive, they are not fond of risk taking and if led to believe they are facing stronger forces then they expect, they will retreat very quickly, nor will they chase down withdrawing forces if it means leaving the protection of their fire support.
The Syarans grew to loathe Ruvelkan attack helicopters and Fusilier infiltration as much as Ruvelkans despised Syaran artillery. While Syara fielded attack helicopters of their own, the principal form of air support was in the hundreds of fixed wing gunships the Commonality Air Force fielded. The Syarans quickly learned however that their light attack aircraft were overly exposed to Ruvelkan ground fire and anti-air, leading to murderous losses in Syara's fleet of attack aircraft. While CAS missions generally switched over the drones and Zephyrs, there were never enough of these to go around to the frustration of Syaran ground forces. Artillery thus remained the principal arm of fire support, and became heavily taxed as a result.
Defending against enemy aircraft fell to Syara's air defense forces, which unlike Ruvelka's integrated anti-air doctrine, was heavily independent. Syara fielded significantly more air defense systems than Ruvelka, including SHORAD, SPAAGs, and mobile SAMs in abundance, but these efforts were often not well coordinate with the CAF, as the Syaran National Army typically did not trust the CAF to provide adequate air support for the ground forces. Air defense systems were frequent targets for Ruvelkan infiltration efforts, along with artillery, and their destruction was often seen as a sign of an impending offensive.
Compared to the Ruvelkans the Syarans abode by a strict divide of offensive and defense operations and planned accordingly, a far cry from the Measured Battle Doctrine of their grandfathers in the Siduri War. On the defense the Syarans were fairly proactive, often expanding their area of operations through security efforts and small scale assaults on local terrain points of interest. When on the defense the Syarans made heavy usage of mines and fortifications. Unlike the Ruvelkans the Syarans tended to crowd more of their forces towards the front line, which made it easier to springboard into the offensive, but as shown in Operation Homefront could be exploited.
Aware of the demand of mechanized warfare, the Syarans fielded a complex but robust logistical system that employed logistics and supply formations down to the brigade level, which were interconnected with division, corps, and army level supply depots through an intricate system of delegation and support. This system afforded more flexibility than Ruvelka's "Push" system, allowing units to adjust their requested resources faster and more efficiently, but it also required significant resources and manpower to carry out effectively and was heavily reliant on road and railways that were liable to be targeted by Ruvelkan air power and special forces.
As the largest conflict yet in the 21st Century in Tyran, the Zemplen War has served as a repertoire for how a modern peer-to-peer conflict would play out.
Although considered peer opponents the Syarans and Ruvelkans approached warfare from different philosophies and doctrinal concepts. The Syarans, basing their experience on the Siduri War and the Eracuran War, developed an armed forces geared towards large scale mechanized combat, which the air and naval forces were intended to compliment through the use of tactical air power and littoral support. The Syaran National Army, the largest and most prominent branch of the Syaran Commonality Armed Forces was a heavily armed fighting force consisting primarily of mechanized infantry and tank forces supported by large amounts of artillery, both self-propelled, towed, and multiple launch rocket systems. Syaran troops were organized into combined arms brigades with their own organic fire support, air defense, combat engineering, and support elements.
Syaran officers usually tried to employ their forces so as to encircle Ruvelkan formations, which typically involved pinning down individual Ruvelkan units while Syaran troops maneuvered to outflank and surround them. Syaran officers were products of a highly detailed doctrinal education that stressed the importance of firepower and maneuver. When maneuvering was not possible, Syaran officers often leaned on their artillery to suppress and destroy Ruvelkan forces. Syaran infantry rarely advanced beyond the range of their own artillery, and almost always fought with direct fire support from battalion heavy mortars, or brigade and divisional level artillery. Air support from the Commonality Air Force typically came in the form of Syara's twin light attack aircraft designs, with additional support from attack helicopters and armed unmanned aerial vehicles. The role of Syaran tanks varied depending on their location within the formation. In armored units, the primary purpose of Syaran tanks was to serve as an armored spearhead, leading a break through into enemy lines while in mechanized infantry the tank was often used as infantry support.
Syaran formations were typically either mechanized or armored, but during the war fresh divisions had to be raised to fill out corps and field armies, which became identified as Motorized Divisions. Mechanized and Motorized Divisions were square divisions of four maneuver brigades each, an artillery brigade, and four to six battalions of support troops including air defense, engineers, transportation, medical, signals, and maintenance. Mechanized divisions consisted of three mechanized brigades and one armored brigade. Mechanized brigades reflected this setup with their subordinate battalions. A Motorized Division consisted of three motorized brigades and one mechanized brigade. Most Motorized Divisions were also afforded a dedicated anti-tank brigade, and most of their artillery was towed, rather than self-propelled in mechanized divisions. Armored divisions consisted of only three maneuver brigades, two armored brigades and one mechanized brigade, along with a self-propelled artillery brigade, which was smaller than the ones found in mechanized divisions. An armored division's prescribed strength was roughly 250-300 tanks, 100-150 infantry fighting vehicles, and 40-60 artillery pieces. A mechanized division usually fielded between 100-200 tanks, 200-350 infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers, and 60-80 artillery pieces. A Motorized division fielded on average 50-100 tanks, 300 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, and 70-100 towed artillery pieces.
The Imperial Armed Forces of Ruvelka by comparison were centered around light infantry by virtue of Ruvelka's history and terrain. Ruvelkan strategists considered it likely that large portions of Ruvelkan territory would be occupied by a foreign invader and therefore a paramilitary reserve force would assist the war effort by carrying out partisan activities behind enemy lines while the regular armed forces continued to resist using Ruvelka's geographic boundaries and barriers. The Ruvelkans trained to fight without the benefit of a centralized command structure or constant communications, and therefore officers at all levels were trained and expected to be able to conduct independent operations without the support of other units. Ruvelka practiced (and still practices) mandatory universal conscription, and thus a high amount of Ruvelkan formations were staffed by conscripts.
Because of Ruvelka's thick forests and many mountains, Ruvelka did not field a large amount of heavy armored vehicles and preferred employing lighter, airmobile armored vehicles that could be transported by helicopter. Helicopters played a vital role in Ruvelkan combat doctrine, both for transportation and fire support. Many Ruvelkan troops and officers were trained in heliborne operations, and the usage of attack helicopters and helicopter gunships for fire support and interdiction was heavily drilled into Ruvelkan doctrine.
Aftermath and Legacy
In Syara, the shock of the defeat after months of what seemed like military success profoundly shook the core of Syara's Warden ideology. The administration of Dragomir Zhelev collapsed shortly after Syara's defeat, with the former Executive receiving much of the blame for Syara's woes. The Syaran economy struggled in the immediate post war aftermath, though by the end of 2009 had largely recovered in terms of trade volume. Syaran society was deeply impacted by the war, doing much to shake faith in Syaran's Warden dominated government and called into question many of the nationalist and revolutionary aspects of the Warden Way.
Syaran culture was affected in many ways. In the immediate aftermath of the war dozens of memoirs and stories were published in Syaran literature, combined with a spike in war-related films, songs, and poetry.
The Ruvelkan victory in the Zemplen War helped to establish the Grand Principality as a capable military power under proper leadership, contrasting heavily with the Ruvelkan performance during the Imerti Conflict. Chancellor Molnár’s Cooperative Commonwealth Party (and by extension the greater political alliance of which it was a part, the Progressive Alliance) dominated the nation’s federal elections in 2010. The war validated the Ministry of Defenses long-term strategy of defense-in-depth and restored the populace’s confidence in its military commanders.
After Syara's successful drive into Ruvelka which led to nearly a third of the nation being occupied by the invading force, Ruvelkan Command was quick in their attempts to find assistance from nations with whom the Principality maintained close relations; this included neighboring Mansuriyyah and Acrea. Although Mansuriyyah was not directly involved in the conflict, they did provide political and materiel aid to Ruvelka alongside strategic aid by allowing Imperial Fusiliers to launch helicopter-borne infiltrators and reconnaissance teams behind Syaran lines.
In mid-2008, shortly after the start of the war, the Acrean Army implemented Operation Hlín at the request of Ruvelkan leaders. The assistance operation consisted of two main components; the deployment of Acrean expeditionary combat forces to Ruvelka and the establishment of sustainable logistics support to Ruvelka. All forces deployed were organised under Acrean Forces in Ruvelka (ACRFR), a theatre command led by Supreme Commander General Jürgen von Edel, supported by RAMC General Ludvig Skarsgård and Army Generals Eirik Stordalen and Frederik Rasmussen. An air combat command controlling elements of the Royal Acrean Air Force who were deployed to the theatre to support Ruvelkan capabilities in the air was placed under the command of RAAF General Michel Volland.
The arrival of Acrean combat forces began with the deployment of the 4th, 6th, and 7th Marine divisions of the RAMC who first landed at the port of Mateszalka before landing forward engineering and logistical troops. Coordinating with Surány, engineers began construction and reinforcement of Ruvelkan infrastructure while light elements of the Marine divisions arrived. Addressing infrastructure was the focus of the first phase of Operation Hlín in order to accommodate the strain that the addition of thousands more armoured vehicles and troops would cause to wartime Ruvelkan infrastructure.
RAAF combat aircraft were deployed to Ruvelka. The aircraft deployed covered a wide range of capability; the vast majority were multirole fighters, supported by electronic warfare aircraft with a small number of air superiority aircraft being deployed as well. Acrean pilots maintained a high operational tempo throughout the conflict, necessitating the diversion of extra maintenance and sustainment personnel and resources from Acrea to ensure combat readiness. Additionally, training assets were deployed in order to support the transition of Ruvelkan pilots to newly delivered EF-165 Drakens.
Public support for the intervention in Acrea was initially moderately high. Syara was persistently viewed as an aggressor and a threat to regional security since the beginning of the conflict, and the close historical relationship between the two states fostered a strong sense of responsibility to uphold previously signed defence treaties. Public and political support further increased with the intervention of Aethurheim into the war, which led to the mobilisation of four Army Reserve divisions to be sent to Shalum. This combination of factors was vital for Acrean leadership to maintain the public and political support for the intervention, even as it proved to be Acrea's most costly military operation in decades in terms of both lives and spending.
Acrean combat operations in Ruvelka ended with the end of the war in July 2010. The extensive and robust rotational system established by the Acrean military meant that although peak Acrean strength in Ruvelka was relatively steady throughout the conflict, a substantially higher number of Acrean troops actually saw combat in Ruvelka. Acrea suffered 19,216 killed, and 86,124 wounded.
As 2008 turned over into 2009 and Operation Synaspismos came to an end, it was clear this was not going to be a fast or clean war. Having previously attempted to assist in mediation the years prior, Syara's ally the United Republic of Æþurheim offered military assistance. The Supreme Chancellor Karlos Vocht was a big proponent of a strong Æþurian military, and had been eager for a chance to recover national face since the lukewarm end of the 90s War. With that, as early as February of 2009 elements from the Republikk Hær began arriving in Syara, logistics and engineering teams and SKO operators to pave the way for a larger deployment. In March, the first Stormtruppen brigades began arriving, bringing with them heavy armor and aerial elements from the Luftforsvar. When Operation Sagaris launched in April over 60,000 Æþurian military personnel were in theater and joined them on the front in Ruvelka.
The Common Sphere diplomatically supported Ruvelka, which was an associate member.