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Tipsheet

Ukraine Fiasco: What the Hell Happened to Russia's Military?

AP Photo/ Russian Defense Ministry Press Service

I can’t believe the Ukrainians are holding out. I think a lot of people underestimated the Ukrainian people’s resolve. They underestimated their will to fight. We overestimated Russia’s military. This was supposed to be a lightning war. The Ukrainian capital of Kyiv should have fallen by now. It remains firmly in Ukrainian hands for now. that 40-mile-long convoy outside the capital has yet to move, and it’s been attacked daily. When Russia clinches air superiority, the whole game will change again. For now, Ukraine is holding. Its population has been mustered. More arms and ammunition are flowing into the country, and their tenacious defense has allowed that window of supply to remain open. That’s all we can do right now. We’re not going to do a no-fly zone and risk nuclear war. 

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Still, what the hell happened with this Russian operation. Thousands of troops have been killed. Thousands of tanks and armored vehicles have been destroyed. These forces are stuck in the mud. Are they gaining ground? Sure—but paying for it in buckets of blood. CBS Sunday Morning had a great segment about Russia’s tank armies. They were known for their armored vehicle warfare. World War II began very sloppily for the Russians, with virtually every army west of the Urals destroyed by Nazi Germany. The winter months saved the country—literally. After the Battle of Kursk, it became clear to the Germans that Russian tank warfare had made massive leaps that threatened their whole invasion. It did, and it would end in the bloody, bombed-out streets of Berlin in May of 1945. 

One of the reasons for the stalled advance is that Russia has no non-commissioned officer corps. Often viewed as the backbone of any armed forces, these officers take the initiative and get things done. Russia doesn’t have that, which leads to micromanagement and a bogged-down military operation. There are also no communications that are secure. 

Retired General David Petraeus, who was briefly our CIA director, noted how Russia’s secure communications network failed at the outset of the invasion. They had to switch to single-channel communications which can be jammed. It is being jammed. Russians are now taking cell phones from Ukrainians to speak with one another. This is also partially why Russian generals are being picked off left and right. The Russian command structure has collapsed in Ukraine.  

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Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of CENTCOM who is featured in the CBS segment, was asked if what is happening in Ukraine is due to Russian incompetence or Ukrainian skill. He said he doesn’t know yet, though it’s the main question as this war continues. 

Petraeus added that you cannot just take the official number of Ukrainian military members. It’s them, which he says is around 100,000 or so, plus every able-bodied Ukrainian who is willing to fight or do something to defend their country. In Mariupol, it’s a siege. They’re out of food, water, and have no electricity, but the Ukrainians are not surrendering, and room-to-room urban warfare has commenced. It’s manpower intensive. Russia’s 190,000 force that was mobilized for Ukraine is not enough, especially when millions of Ukrainians are willing to assist. This has the makings of a long, nasty insurgency fight ahead. 


We’re already talking stalemate here (via NBC News):

The nearly monthlong Russian war in Ukraine is on the verge of entering a stalemate, a senior NATO intelligence official said Monday, with Ukrainian forces preventing Russia from making progress but Russian President Vladimir Putin showing no willingness to back down. 

“If we’re not in a stalemate, we are rapidly approaching one,” said the NATO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military assessments. “The reality is that neither side has a superiority over the other.”

Belarus, a close Russian ally, may soon itself attack Ukraine and is preparing to potentially let Russia position nuclear weapons on Belarusian soil, the official said. Belarus has already allowed Russia’s military to use its territory to invade Ukraine.

The ominous assessment comes as President Joe Biden and world leaders prepare for a major NATO summit Thursday here in Belgium and other high-level meetings focused on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The U.S. and its NATO allies have been heartened by Ukraine’s surprisingly strong resistance and Russia’s lackluster military performance. But Western leaders have also warned that Putin appears unserious about diplomatic negotiations to end the war, predicting a protracted conflict with devastating consequences for Ukrainian civilians.

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We shall see what happens, but Russia’s military has been exposed as a sham with this operation. Will overwhelming numbers lead to success? Who knows? So far, it’s not. 

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