Severskiy Donets crossing by Russian Army debacle: the stream of consciousness

A few days before, around 8th of May, Russians tried to cross the river of Severskiy Donets using pontoon bridges (3 of them, it seems), and loosing a significant number (most ?) of the armored vehicles and unknown (but it seems not insignificant) number of personnel to the Ukraine’s artillery. It seems a Battalion tactical group (BTG) was practically destroyed in this failed attempt.

The Ukrainian and Western media around the world used this operation to announce great victory of Ukrainian army. In lack of any other positive Ukrainians news, and especially given the debacle of failed Ukrainian attempt to reclaim the Snake Island, these news were heard loud and wide. Russian mostly kept quiet and some unofficial claims were maid about the insignificance of this occurrence, and the suspicious authenticity of the presented visual evidence.

So, to be clear, we know this particular Russian operation has failed, and even if the loses in men were low, and it has no real bearing on the whole of the “Special military operation”, it has significance for the morale of the opposing forces. Another “fail” to the record of Russian military planners, in addition to the “Moskva”, unprepared deep assault into the Ukraine in the first days of war, etc.

Now, Ivan Girkin, who it better known as Igor Strelkov, has reposted a text, written by someone nicknamed “Murz” who serving as a volunteer (?) in the Donbass. In it, the author blames the failed crossing attempt on the incompetence of the certain General Stepanisvhev of the Russian Armed Forces. Apparently, about 8 years earlier, then Colonel Stepanischev commanded the force of Donbass militia, caused this force to approach the fortified position of the enemy while unaware of it’s presence there, and to take a great number of loses. After which the surviving members of this force were quite unhappy with the colonel, and shot him in the leg. According to this account, the injured colonel was actually promoted in the Russian Armed Forces to the general. His injured leg was officially recognized as a combat injury, received from the enemy fire while he was leading his force into the attack.

Now, I have no idea how true or untrue it is, but I rather believe it. And the reason is that in every army of which I know, the system serves itself rather than the actual goals it was created for. So, instead of officers and commanders serving the soldiers who do the real fighting and the 99.9% of the dying, while receiving nowhere near the benefits of the officers and the commanders, the sad reality is they serve the generals and the officers. So, the death of a large number of soldiers is just that — a number, to many commanders, who cynically view the soldiers as mere stepping stones, laying the path of their career. They will say pretty but empty words then and if needed, but mainly they will serve themselves, and support their colleagues, who in turn will support them. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but I don’t expect them to reach high positions, especially not in the time of peace or limited conflict.

As I have said, it is not something which can be attributed to any armed forces I can think. To Russian Army, Ukrainian Army, US Army etc., etc. While this can be said of any large and long-lasting organization, armies at peace time are especially susceptible to the decay of corruption and incompetence. That is why I don’t have any problem believing Strelkov.

My problem with him, is that Strelkov, as many others on all sides of the issue, doesn’t seem to be able to comprehend the big picture. Sure, things are not great at the Russian side. That doesn’t mean they are better on the other side. The position of considering “who is better” is flawed. It is the result of the brain-washing we all underwent by our societies. Humans are flawed, and everything their do is flawed. The only difference is how flawed it is compared to something else. So, then we grow and encounter the reality, at least whose of us who are able to think critically and escape the mob-thinking, our world view is shuttered. We discovering that we lived the lie. So, naturally, we start to view our position, the position of our governments and societies, as weak and vulnerable. But, since we weren’t brainwashed by the other side, we start to discover that actually it is not as bad as we were led to believe. So, from one side, our own position is worse than we thought, and our enemy’s position is actually better, than we were made to believe.

This is the mistake of Strelkov’s position, as I see it. He, like many others, knows for a fact that the real situation of his side is worse than we are made to believe. What fallows is the conclusion that we are not better than our enemy. Then in reality, the question should be “who is worse”, and not “who is better”.

Yes, the Russian Army and all of its allies have a lot of real problems. But what Strelkov doesn’t want to acknowledge, is that the Ukrainians are at even worse situation. Their moral is lower, given the blatant lies of their government. Their casualties are much greater (order of magnitude greater, it seems). And their commanders not only corrupt and incompetent, but they are actually fleeing, abandoning their units on the battlefield.

So this war, as any other, should be judged from the position of “who is worse”, not the other way around. And Ukrainian’s army is worse. The Western supplied weapons are worse. And the winner is going to be the one who is “less worse”.

Of course, Strelkov’s info and even his point of view have their value. They are needed in order to improve. The infantile-patriotic view of things is damaging, even though it makes it much more easy for the government and the elites to preserve their power, while being incompetent and/or corrupt. So the criticism is needed, buy it shouldn’t bring people to the conclusion that “everything is bad” and, consequently, “everything is good” on the other side.

I maybe should clarify something. I’m picking on Strelkov, because he has a strong rational and good factual base to the things he says. But he is not the only one. For example, Scott Ritter just recently has made the same exact mistake, it seems. He was discouraged by the extremely slow, as he sees it, Russian advances. He knows the way Russian army is supposed to wage war, but what he is witnessing is quite different. In addition to the Western weapon supplies, and the Ukrainian mobilization waves, his analysis has very much changed to the view point of “Russia must mobilize 1.5 million men” in order to implement the classical Soviet armored mobile warfare.

But again, this is the result of his approach of “who is better”. And since Russians aren’t as good as he was expecting, his predictions changed. Instead, if he would look at “who is worse”, he would probably still hold to his earlier conclusion, that Ukraine forces at Donbass are near the end of their capabilities, resolve and supplies. And as soon as they will start to fold in greater numbers, the whole Donbass defensive will collapse, and the better and bigger part of Russian forces would be freed. Considering the Ukraine’s forces in Donbass are the best part of their military, the other places would fall much easier and faster. And, realistically, no amount of second hand (and most of the time low tier) heavy armament would present any challenge to the Russian Army.

Even if we assume M777 howitzers are somehow superior to the Russian long range artillery, like Msta-S or Malka SPHs, Russians still could supplement them with Smerch heavy MLRS systems, which would have advantages in range, availability, types of ammunition (including corrected and guided), maintainability, etc. Western countries could strip themselves naked of all their modern armament to give it to Ukrainians, and it won’t change the balance of power in Ukraine. It took the West 8 years of unobstructed armament and training of Ukraine Army, and almost nothing of it had left after three months of fighting, taking cover behind civilian, mostly pro-Russian population in Donbass. What can mere months of the quickly disappearing stocks of weaponry and the bottom of the barrel manpower mobilization achieve? Only the farther disillusioning of the population in Ukraine, and the lower moral of any resistance. The fate of this was was obvious before it has even started. Only direct NATO intervention, use of weapons of mass destruction, or some kind of political decision by the Russian government can change this outcome.

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