Speaking Of The War…

If the Russian army has seemed inept to you, that’s because it is.

If you’re interested, here is the best site for war information. It’s geared towards military, and its contributors are mostly data-driven soldiers or wonks. As a result, there wasn’t the usual media and government surprise about the Russians’ difficulties. As far back as November, they were pointing out the Russians’ logistical shortcomings, and this week they reported a Marine Corps University war game that, prior to the invasion, predicted very closely how it would go.

As an old Cold War brat of the 7th Army in Germany, I remember that there was no respect for the Red Army back then. They had scary bombs and large troop numbers, but our army considered them 3rd rate in all other regards. In 2022, the only thing that’s changed is that they’re much smaller. Putin’s “build-up” has been in weapons, not in building a viable army, which hasn’t attempted anything like this since their 70’s-80’s Afghanistan disaster. I don’t think this cold war will be long, because Russia won’t have the money or manpower to sustain one, or even occupy Ukraine (assuming they win). That’s not to say this won’t get very dangerous.

Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics.
-Omar Bradley

Never interfere with your enemy while he’s making a mistake.
-Napoleon

6 Replies to “Speaking Of The War…”

    1. I have not listened to the podcasts yet.

      Great Atlantic article, and certainly in line with the historical grievance opera Putin’s been singing for the past decade, and again in a speech before the invasion.

      One interesting angle is the West’s (or at least western media’s) portrayal of Putin as an evil genius, a master tactician. But here’s Holman Jenkins of the WSJ on Putin’s incompetence:

      This may be surprising to Americans who, between Donald Trump and his media assailants, were fed an exaggerated notion of Putin adroitness. Our media wets itself over Kremlin plots that our media wouldn’t know about if the Kremlin were actually competent, from its murder of overseas critics to its sponsorship of crybercrime to its role in the Malaysian airliner shootdown. A painstaking Harvard study, which few in media consulted, argues convincingly that Russia’s main success in its U.S. election meddling was getting the U.S. media to exaggerate Russia’s election meddling.

      The rank mediocrity started on day one of the Putin regime in 1999, when residents caught his agents trying to plant a bomb in an apartment building to aid Mr. Putin’s electoral prospects.

      In week two of his Ukraine war, Mr. Putin’s strategy has devolved into unloading explosives onto Ukrainian cities until the world cries uncle. This is not high-tech warfare. Any hope of gain was gone by the end of the first day. Mr. Putin’s goal is not to lose too visibly. And it’s all too obvious where he will turn for his endgame—to the Western governments from which he constantly demands the respect he believes he needs to keep his public in line.

      In a year or two, the question won’t be whether Ukraine can survive, it will be whether the Russian Federation can survive. Some 140 million people over 11 time zones may not hold together and remain loyal to a Moscow that squanders vast wealth and blood on a pointless project. And trying to persuade 44 million Europeans who are accustomed to freedom to accept recolonization by a pea-brained 19th-century despotism is a pointless project.

      Mr. Putin got himself into this mess. He volunteered for it, under compulsion from nothing except the wildly misinformed inner voice that told him invading Ukraine was a good idea. From underlings whose chief motive perhaps was to get out of the room without a scene, he heard that billions gifted to the military were spent efficiently and without graft. He heard that the sanctions-proofing he ordered up went swimmingly, with industries and elites compliantly relinquishing the benefits of overseas inputs, expertise and finance. He was fed a stream of foreign press reports testifying to his presidential genius, his mastery of cyberwarfare, his use of Twitter and Facebook to control the minds of his adversaries. The latest reporting says he even kept his government in the dark about his Ukraine plans so his pristine overconfidence could remain undisturbed.

      Consider Russia’s GDP. The country is closer to 10 inches tall than 10 feet tall, a fact known to Western leaders, whatever their mistakes. Flipping through the playing-card deck of the Putin coterie, a few still boast reputations for ability and spine, like Rosneft chief Igor Sechin, Defense Minister Gen. Sergei Shoigu and central banker Elvira Nabiullina. These people might be smart to do something about Mr. Putin before he does something about them, given that his choice of scapegoats is likely to begin with those whose competence he finds most threatening.

      Mr. Putin perhaps already is fighting in Ukraine merely to improve his bargaining position. The Russian leader may soon be looking for an out. Then Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and U.S. President Joe Biden will have some agonizing choices to make.

      One of the best descriptions of Trump also came from Mr. Jenkins: “Trump plays checkers. The game is chess.” That’s looking true of Trump’s hero Putin. Maybe that’s why he admires him so much.

  1. Showing everyone that Jenkins piece and stealing “grievance opera” because that is a marvelous turn of phrase.

  2. I have no idea if I read that phrase somewhere or made it up.

    It’s interesting that grievance motivates both Putin and Trump.

    I read over the weekend that the head of Russia’s military, Sergei Shoigu, has never been a professional soldier. His main talent has been political, as a loyal yes-man to Putin. He spun operations in Crimea and Syria (like playgrounds compared to invading Ukraine) as proof of the formidability of Russia’s updated army, with slick videos and spiffy new uniforms based on Stalin’s post WWII designs. Small wonder things haven’t gone well. He’ll be a convenient fall guy.

  3. Yeah, that was an oversight. He’s been an effective apparatchik, so he’s had a good reputation in Russia. He might yet be highly regarded there as true war news is heavily supressed. But he’s clearly in over his head, as anyone without a true military background would be.

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