All major newspapers are presenting comparisons between the Ukrainian army and the Russian army. The essence of those comparisons is that Russia vastly outguns Ukraine. This makes Ukraine the underdog. All true, but you can have all the men and the materiel in the world, but there are factors that can easily undo those advantages. Let’s look at a few of them.
1. Russia did not assemble enough troops to make this a cake walk
Perhaps to deceive the world and let us think no invasion was going to happen Russia did not build up an overwhelming force to storm across Ukraine.
2. A corrupt and poorly organized army
Russia’s army is not the best organisation in the world and is not a well-oiled machine. It has little experience. Its recruits are green, young, unmotivated, underpaid and lack training. For decades only boys from the poorest and least influential families ended up in the army. Whoever had a chance of escaping conscription did so. It’s highly likely stories about mothers offering sex to officers to keep their sons out of the army are true.
The Russian army often organized grand scale exercises, but it’s probably only a small core that participates every time. It’s also doubtful those exercises prepared them for something of this nature.
What is likely happening on the ground is that there is very poor coordination between Russian ground troops, Russian artillery and the Russian air force. This means that the Russian ground troops can be relatively easily held up. Imagine stumbling around in a forest where all kinds of unpleasant surprises can jump at you. That’s what it must be like for Russian ground troops right now. A struggle to keep supplied and a struggle to know what and where to hit…
3. Logistically this is a daunting operation
This is the same problem Russia faced when it tried to defeat the Chechens in the nineties. The Russian army’s performance in Chechnya was dismal. It went straight to Grozny with tanks and the Chechens destroyed the last and first tank in their tank columns and they could stuck on the streets of Grozny. Back then even food didn’t always reach the Russian front lines.
4. Lack of reconnaissance
The Russian army could easily target fixed structures, but anything that could be put on wheels or hauled away was probably shuffled around a lot by the Ukrainians. Russia does not have such a sophisticated air reconnaissance branch as the US has.
Russia probably doesn’t even know where most Ukrainian units are. Plus, local resistance is popping up everywhere.
Russia at this point is facing a regular army plus what the Germans would have called a Volkssturm. Meaning civilians grabbing weapons and doing what they can to disrupt the Russian operations. With the extra advantage that the Ukrainian improvised resistance is not facing a highly motivated or fanatical enemy.
5. Lack of motivation. Talk of bringing in 12,000 determined Chechen fighters
The Russians don’t have their heart in this fight. They are asked to fight against fellow Slaves, they share many values, the same religion, sort of the same culture, beliefs, memories, etc. The Russian soldiers have stumbled into Ukraine on the orders of Putin, but these are not soldiers spoiling for a fight or itching to obliterate their enemies. This is almost like a civil war with neither parties wanting this. But when it comes to motivation the Ukrainians have every reason to fight like hell. Their homes are under attack. The Russians are far away from home and probably don’t feel like putting up much more than a token fight, hoping Ukrainian resistance will simply disintegrate.
6. The Russians drank their own kool aid. They hoped the Ukrainians would meet them as liberators or would just skedaddle and hide
There are indications that the Russians hoped the Ukrainians would simply pack their bags and leave at the mere sight of the first advancing Russian tank.
Part of the problem is that the Russians believed their own propaganda
7. Not enough troops to occupy key points. Leaving supply lines vulnerable and making real gains impossible. Maybe the real reason Putin says he doesn’t want to attack cities
As long as the Ukrainian resistance is motivated enough even small units or mobile bands can easily move behind the Russian invading forces and undo any gains made.
There are not enough Russian troops in Ukraine to permanently occupy cities or even villages.
8. A flawed game plan. What can this accomplish?
Even if things were going a bit better on the ground Putin cannot occupy Ukraine for a long time. Ukraine is one of the larger countries in the world with a population that runs up to 40 million.
Even if Putin captures Kiev he cannot install a puppet regime that would get any international recognition or have any credibility. He would have to permanently occupy the country to prop up that puppet regime.
Did Putin really launch this ill-conceived attack betting on Ukrainians deserting in droves?
9. So what now?
He can pull out and claim victory. He could say his objective was to destroy Ukraine’s offensive capabilities and that he has achieved this. But who would believe him? If he pulls out now the Ukrainians will celebrate this no less than total victory.
He can step up his efforts and start using much more excessive force. He could opt to use such indiscriminate force that he practically razes Kiev to the ground. But even then… His reputation would be damaged even more fundamentally and he would still not be able to claim that as a victory. Ukraine would be even less prone to accept Russian rule…
Looks like Putin jumped head long into a hornets nest.
There’s little he can do to save face now.
He could turn to the negotiating table and get a promise on the part of Ukraine that it will be neutral in exchange for a Russian promise to leave it alone….
But at this point I don’t see why Ukraine should even agree to that…