It is mainly a response to Alexander Mercouris latest video, there he again raises the possibility of Russian retreats as some kind of possible strategy. I’m sure, being very knowledgeable in historic matters, he wouldn’t find a single example of such strategy.
Alexanders point is based primarily on the fact he still can’t fully accept how many systematic problems are finally surfacing in the Russian Army. The Army that was supposed to be the strongest on European continent. I had no idea myself, of the degree of its decay. But now it clear — the military command under the current MoD leadership is totally inadequate. All the supporting services like reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, communications, command and control (including the much spoken about new netcentric capabilities), coordination of artillery and aviation support for ground forces — all of them are lacking at best. The ground forces themselves turned out to be unmotivated, having no clear understanding of the war’s goals, the nature of their enemy, and having no trust in their commanding officers. I’m generalizing, but the war isn’t won by some exceptional men or units, but by the Armed Forces as a whole.
That being said, I believe the Russian Air Force is still quite adequate and hasn’t been corrupted to the levels of the ground forces. The Navy, particularly the Black Sea Fleet, turned out to be quite helpless. The state of the space grouping of military and dual use satellites is still unclear to me, but it seems it is in a bad shape as well. I still assume the strategic forces and some of the special forces are in a very good shape, but they have no real impact on such war. Missile and air-defense forces seem to be in a good shape. Paratroopers seem to be able, but a big war cannot be won with paratroopers alone. And their usage as a positional defence forces in Kherson region is borderline criminal, military speaking. I assume the ultimately absolutely pointless capture of the airfield near Kiev, that was later just abandoned, took a heavy toll on them. And the current defensive is taking a heavier toll still.
The Russian military mostly use the Soviet legacy weaponry and ammunition. In fact, towards the end of the USSR, the Soviets were ready in induct into service systems more capable than the majority of the ones used today, 30+ years after, the collapse of the Soviet Union. At best we see some minor upgrades to the Soviet hardware, but their actual availability has fallen by many times since then. And the bulk of the hardware is from the 70’s or 80’s, so of the 40-50 years old vintage.
Even that hardware hasn’t been maintained properly. The most widely used weapon systems are the simplest ones, which means they require the least amount of maintenance and are the simplest to fix (including by cannibalization). It is frightening to think what the state of the Russian Army would be, if the Soviet Union were to produce military hardware similar to the Western, which requires much more competence of its operators and much heavier on maintenance.
On top of that, the even more distressing systematic failure has surfaced to the point of being painfully obvious — soldiers are not seen as the most valuable asset the Army has, but as some kind of serfs to be abused for the benefit of the military brass.
Which brings us to the point of supposedly very large reserves concentrating on the Russian territory. Those are probably untrained and not very motivated people, who are underequipped and not armed to the standards of the Russian Army. As such, they are not combat ready or combat efficient.
The reason Russian general staff doesn’t send reinforcements or rotate the personnel for many months, is because they have no men to replace them. And while generals are trying to create some kind of combat capable force, the ones on the battlefield are experiencing high level of attrition.
Now let’s talk tactics. I’m not a military man, so anyone of the opinion that it makes me unfitted to discuss such topics is welcome do disregard it. But I believe the point of the war is inflicting military defeat on the enemy. Military defeat means killing of enemy troops and destruction of military hardware and military industry. To kill the enemy, you need to use the advantages you have. If the enemy force had attempted offensive, but was knocked back, you can leave it as it is, and give him time to regroup, reinforce and rearm and try again with the lessons he learned, or counterattack and destroy the retreating force. The counterattack requires some reserve forces standing ready for such occasion. If you have no reserves, or they aren’t sufficient, your successful defence would be of little effect.
Ukraine had been reported as having a great deal of losses in its initial attempts to retake the Russian bridgehead across the Dnepr. Yet those were as a result of passive Russian defences and massive artillery support. The initial successes were not developed into the ultimate defeat of the Ukrainian units, they were merely thrown back and given enough time to recuperate. Russia has no initiative on the battlefield, except there the non-MoD managed forces are in play, such as the Wagner Group or the militias.
If so, there is no cunning plan by the Russian MoD or the general staff to lure Ukrainian forces or to inflict on them enough damage to ensure successful counteroffensive. Moreover, Ukrainian infrastructure, critical for the supply and reinforcement of the frontline troops is still being ignored by the Russians. One noticeable exception was the strike on Ukrainian power-generating facilities. As I speculated, that wasn’t a sign of the escalation, but an expression of anger and frustration by the Russian military command. We haven’t seen any other strike of the similar magnitude since.
Alexander also rises the point of Russian diplomatic efforts to bring the large non-Western powers to its side. The problem is no one cares about losers. If Russia would seem weak, unable to take down even the Ukraine (not mentioning the entire NATO), no amount of mediocre diplomacy could keep China and, especially, India, on the Russian side. We are now at the point of Armenia, the closest Russian ally after Belarus, is turning to the West for support against Azerbaijani military ambitions. Kazakhstan, the other major Russian partner on its borders, is openly defiant towards Russia, even after Russia managed to militarily support its current regime and to prevent a color revolution. Russian military becomes a joke, and no one is afraid of Russia, not even the countries like Kazakhstan. Russia is in quite a unique position to be able to do whatever it deems necessary for its own good, not being dependent on the UN. It has the veto vote, it has all the natural resources it need, it has all the food it needs.
While international diplomacy is important, its importance is of a very secondary nature for Russian prosperity. The first is a strong military, and an image of the power no one should take lightly. The second one is a strong civil society, which can hold the government in check. The third one is self-sufficient economy. And the fourth one is scientific and technological competency. Only after those achieved, the diplomacy can make any sense. Because, as we can see now, no one is ready to fight for Russia. China isn’t ready to supply Russia with everything it needs. India, the country which has belligerent sentiments towards China and Pakistan, on which it didn’t hesitate to act when deemed necessary, and the country which was greatly supported by Soviet Union against the West, is preaching Russia about the new era of peace in the world. Syria is detaining Russian military journalist for no obvious reasons. And I’ve already talked about the Caucasus and Central Asia states. The West is openly and extremely hostile towards Russia. The African nations have much to gain from Russia, but almost nothing to give in return. The Turkey is using Russia in its political and economic games, while openly supplying weapons to Ukraine. The Gulf states are similarly using Russia for their own benefit.
In the end, Russia gets nothing useful from its mediocre diplomacy, except for some opportunities for president Rasputin to give speeches from the Captain Obvious’ notebook and feel all grand and important about himself, like some kind of a simpleton. While Russian military is being pounded by Ukraine, a state which was designated by the West to be unimportant enough to serve as a sacrificial pawn in its evil games of world domination by the select elite. The only thing that works in Russian favor right now, is the Russian abundancy of its natural resources, the government-trusting, law-abiding and simple nature of the majority of Russians, and the impossible position the West put itself into, which has very little to do with Rasputin’s deeds of the last decade or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiatives. Russian diplomacy can be seen as being successful only in comparison to the deeply rooted systemic failures of the Russian MoD.
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