The Fault in Russian Stars: Analyzing Russian Invasion and its Shortcomings in Ukraine

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Ever since Putin announced his ‘Special Operation’ which officially marked the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, military analysts took their seats as they presumed history in creation. This history in creation in part was due to Russia boasting one of the largest militaries in the world, invading a smaller neighbor which had troops one-fourth to that of Russia. For those analysts, it would be the first instance a major world power will lock its military muscles in a conventional manner. This would entail witnessing the latest weapon systems in combat operations as well as the culmination of military exercises Russia boasts through media projection.

But it was only a week when evident faults started to emerge in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This served as the needle pricking the balloon, the balloon of Russian military might which still hasn’t established any sizeable control in both ground or Ukrainian airspace. Despite landing in with hundreds of tanks, APCs, Strike/fighter aircraft, and airborne troops, Russia’s military invasion has been everything but anything that Kremlin would have aimed for. Imagery showing abandoned vehicles, Russian troops surrendering, Vehicles running out of fuel, Choppers shot down by portable AA systems, symbolizes a lot more than any miscalculated strategy on behalf of Putin and his military minds.

As complicated it is to gauge the overall situation in Ukraine, however, some things are clear

  1. Putin’s invasion in Ukraine wide and not limited to liberating the pro-Russian Donbas region
  2. The attempt to knock out the leaders in Kyiv has not yet been achieved

3. Nato has unified in a way we haven’t seen since the cold war

  1. Putin has underestimated the resolve of the Ukrainians (you can expect underground resistance networks to slowly organize and holding Ukraine with a puppet government will not be simple. Ukrainians are going nowhere and they can be patient, but how the patient will the Russian public be over time?)

5. Putin’s forces still have no control of the skies.

  1. Russian troop Morale is low.

7. Started indiscriminate shelling of residential districts

8. That makeshift cage armor on tanks? It didn’t work.

 

This calls for a rational assessment as to why Russia has failed to achieve dominance over a small neighboring Ukraine, which till now has fared pretty well when compared against Russian forces.

Most people don’t seem to understand just how big this is in terms of the world order. Russia’s reputation as a top military power is essentially over. She will always be respected due to her large nuclear arsenal, but that’s about it.  Leaving its stature as little more than a large North Korea with gas/oil.

To me, it’s pretty obvious why Russia’s military is so poor. The reality is that the latest US carrier alone is over half of Russia’s entire Defence budget and Russia has not spent it correctly. They’ve spent most of it on designing new generation technologies such as the T-14 MBT, SU-57, and other projects in the hope of securing funding abroad via sales. That hasn’t happened which only makes it worse but what this means is that very little money has gone into maintaining what they do have along with training. This is why their air force is virtually nonexistent. A lot of their jets are probably not airworthy and then on top of that, they are worried about combining air operations with ground operations for fear of blue on blue fire. This comes from not having the data fusion/digital awareness capabilities and training to be able to quickly identify friends from foe and act quickly.

Russia’s ground strategy appears to be to just throw masses of low-quality conscripts into areas and then shell the civilians a little bit in the hope of getting them to surrender. The only reason why Russia wasn’t exposed and looked good during the Syrian conflict was that Russia stuck mainly to air operations. Their ground operations were mostly limited to small spec forces embedded with the Syrian army to help with the ground fighting. What Russia essentially did was use the Syrian army to go into and take rebel-held areas after the air force had carpet-bombed the population out using mostly dumb ordnance.

The consequence for Russia of this invasion is that they showed that their military is just not very good.  Poor logistics, poor training, unmaintained or obsolete equipment, and troops who aren’t really motivated are not something that sends shivers down the spines of any of their future opponents.  While the overall numbers of tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, and troops sound impressive, if it is breaking down, out of fuel, and your troops are hungry, well, you don’t last very long.

A tank out of gas is simply an artillery piece in the wrong place.

Russia may eventually take Ukraine, but keeping it is something they won’t be able to do.  And afterward, any attempts at bullying are going to be met with “Bring it.”

For anyone who followed the buildup of the Russian Airforce rebuild from 2010, Their inability to buy their own goods stems back a long way. The “best” versions of the MiG-29 and Su-27 platforms etc. were often export-only options and not something Russia purchased for themselves (much in the same way the US doesn’t tend to buy the mega-capable latest F-16s while Middle Eastern customers do).

Similarly, It’s one thing to create a few technology demonstrators, and a completely different thing the create a fully operational platform with the logistics, maintenance, and integration to back it up during a conflict. Russia has managed to build some modern-looking pieces of equipment in recent years, but the beauty is skin deep.  The core of those systems still dates to 80s era Soviet technologies. Overhauled Soviet-era equipment, low flight hours for their pilots, logistics issues, and administration alleged for corruption can’t bring you very far. Leave aside any ‘ aerial superiority’

The main shortcoming for Russians has been logistics. Many invasions failed because of it. The USA is definitely the undisputed master of logistics, it’s boring as hell to do, often overlooked by analysts. But it will save lives and make the objective easier Napoleon failed in his Russian campaign because after the burning of Moscow there was no shelter for his troops. 1914 the German attack against France failed at the Marne because the Germans ran out of ammo and – surprise – were too far from their railway endpoints Railway infrastructure in Belgium was destroyed. Every following attack failed after a few kilometers because the logistics in the conquered crater field were impossible. 1944 the German attack in the Ardennes failed because they ran out of fuel.

You don’t have to destroy the tank, you just have to knock it out of service. This makes the enemy dedicate manpower and tow vehicles to the downed tank. Which in essence will turn one heavily armored target into many as all targets continue the pileup of man and machine.

This reminds me of the famous quote by American General in Second World War, General John J. Pershing.

“Infantry wins battles, logistics wins wars.” 

The invasion of Ukraine is a huge misstep for Russia and will end in a military buildup on their border nations. Neutral nations such as Sweden, Norway, and Finland will seriously consider full membership of NATO while expanding their military budgets. Considering that there is already a big export of Swedish-produced NLAWs rolling into Ukrainian airfields, it is pretty clear what the rest of Europe feels about Russia’s invasion.

What’s Next for Putin?

Russia is joining the club of countries on the naughty list with strict sanctions.  This won’t win the war or solve the Ukrainian problem, but it puts to bed any idea of a thriving and prosperous Russia while Putin is in power and maintains his efforts in Ukraine.

Putin stars started trembling the moment the war went over a week’s time.  It was around then that any economical or geopolitical gain from the war evaporated.  Even if Putin took Ukraine today he’d never be able to hold it since controlling a country costs a lot more than invading it.  Putin can’t end the war because it would make him look weak (though that’s already been established as the Russian army is woefully mismanaged ) so he continues the fight, but eventually, no amount of stubbornness will be able to prolong this war and Putin will have no choice but to pull out. But in doing so he has taken Europe to the point to which the US was striving to bring for the last two decades.

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