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Tipsheet

Here’s Why Russian Forces Can’t Take the Ukrainian Capital of Kyiv

AP Photo/Darko Bandic

When the Conservative Political Action Committee kicked off in late February, so did Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It seemed by the time the conference ended; Russian troops would be in firm command of the country. The Ukrainian capital of Kyiv was projected to fall within days of the invasion. Retired Gen. Jack Keane, a regular on Fox News, did say that the Ukrainians will mount a solid defense, but they will eventually be overrun by Russian troops. Not the case. We underestimated the Ukrainians' ability to stand their ground. We overestimated the Russian military’s supposed prowess. What happened? It seems that things have atrophied. 

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Russian armored tactics used to be excellent. Russian tanks are not usually blown to bits in the numbers like we’re seeing in Ukraine. To add more humiliation to Moscow’s supposed military might, armored columns have run out of gas. Everything is stalled except in the city of Mariupol which is besieged and engulfed in classic urban house-to-house fighting right now. Despite no food, water, or electricity, the Ukrainian defenders are not surrendering. Elsewhere, Russian forces are truly stuck in the mud. 

Will the capital fall? As of now, no—the Russians don’t have the men or materials to capture the capital. Vladimir Putin is reportedly pressuring Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko, but he is reluctant to deploy forces into the country. The first phase of this war is over, and Russia failed. 


Frank Ledwidge of the University of Portsmouth was on DW News, Germany’s English-speaking outlet, where he noted what former CIA Director David Petraeus said on CNN, that Russia’s top-down command structure has really done them regarding operational efficiency in Ukraine. Post-Crimean annexation, Ukraine retooled its strategy and tactics. They appear to have taken to heart the notion of trusting your subordinates to get the job done. In the US, we have our non-commissioned officer corps that’s entrusted to do that—they’re the backbone of any armed forces. Russians can’t do anything without their general saying so, which is why so many of them are deployed in front-line situations which have led to them being killed by Ukrainian snipers. Ledwidge noted that this could be due to some help from Western intelligence services but the two separate thoughts on how to fight a war are on display and the Russian way is very much killing them in the field. That 40-mile-long convoy hasn’t moved in days. With reports that Russia has gone as far as they can at this point, it might become a 40-mile funeral procession, as Ukrainians are picking off these idle vehicles. 

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In Russia proper, Putin has placed scores of Russian intelligence officials and FSB generals under house arrest. Was he sold a bill of goods? I think so. Russia thought they could bulldoze their way through, the Ukrainian military would melt away, and the government would collapse. It didn’t. Ukraine has a military of some 500,000 but there are millions of Ukrainians who are willing to do anything to fight back. 


Afghanistan was called the bear trap for the old Soviet Union. Is Ukraine becoming that for Putin’s Russia? We don’t know. We must wait until April when fresh forces can be mobilized. Putin has already said that no conscripts will be used, adding that he was shocked that some of these forces were used in the initial invasion of Ukraine. That’s probably not true; he knew. Putin just thought this was a going to be a cake walk. 

France 24 English had a lengthy segment about time being Ukraine’s ally. Again, the sentiment is that we must wait until April. Also, Russia’s dominance of the skies remains a pervasive problem. Using conscripts is apparently not popular in Russia due to bad memories of the Chechen Wars. Right now, Putin must do everything to avert popular discontent. 


Putin did game out the international response but obviously didn’t think Ukraine would stop his forces cold. The West slaps sanctions, I get a country. It’s a trade-off he thought would be days in the making. Now, he must wait for fresh forces, but even then, we don’t know if they’re motivated for this war. We potentially have thousands of Russians just deserting their columns. Communications are jammable because their secure network failed. It’s just a mess, and some of these issues can’t be solved with just adding fresh troops.

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