Why the Russian military has yet to navigate Ukraine smoothly

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Two women sit on a train platform as they comfort their children in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.—AFP

WASHINGTON: The Russian invasion of Ukraine has so far been a surprising strategic and tactical blunder marked by food and fuel shortages, abandoned armored vehicles, aircraft losses and troop deaths.

But failures in the early days, including the massive underestimation of Ukrainians’ willingness to fight back, could lead a frustrated Moscow to decide to unleash its full power and indiscriminately destroy large swaths of Ukraine, US experts say. .

American specialists who study the Russian military say they are surprised by the mismanagement of the campaign, which saw the invasion columns pinned down, apparently hundreds of Russian armored vehicles lost, and the Ukrainians preventing the air force of the Kremlin to control the sky.

“If you were to (spoil) all of this in two or three weeks, I could understand that,” said Scott Boston, senior defense analyst at the Rand Corp think tank.

“But if you, for example, tripped over the door frame when entering the house, you have another problem,” he said.

The Pentagon and private sector experts expected President Vladimir Putin’s military to quickly destroy Ukraine’s ability to fight back, undermining its command and control of Ukraine’s 200,000 military personnel, destroying its missile defenses and destroying the Kyiv Air Force.

None of this happened in the first six days. And, while there are no reliable estimates of dead, wounded, and captured Russian soldiers, the numbers appear to be much higher than would have been expected in a well-managed invasion.

Aircraft losses

An assessment by military experts from the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center pointed to the critical Russian failure to quickly seize and hold an airport just outside Kiev.

The scuffle around the airport probably damaged it too much to be used as intended to invade Kiev, they said.

Moreover, they said, “Russian aircraft and helicopter losses were surprisingly high and unsustainable” because they did not destroy Ukrainian air defenses.

The limited or ineffective deployment of electronic warfare weapons, which most analysts expected would play a significant role in attacking the Ukrainians’ communication capacity, was also surprising.

“If the Russians could have cut off Ukrainian military leaders from those they command… Ukrainian air and air defense forces would have been forced to fight in an uncoordinated fashion, making them less lethal and more susceptible to attack “said the Scowcroft. says the Center’s report.

Boston pointed out that the Ukrainians continued to use their Turkish-made Bayraktar drones to destroy Russian armor. “If they were hit by the Turkish drones once or twice, fine,” he said.

“If they are hit more than once or twice, something is wrong on the Russian side.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Russians appeared not to be coordinating their considerable and diverse capabilities well, or managing the logistics of the invasion.

“We see early indications here that although they have sophisticated combined arms capabilities, they are not necessarily fully integrated,” he said.

Equally surprising were their logistical shortcomings. “We see abandoned vehicles. We are seeing sustainment issues not only in fuel but also in food,” he said on Wednesday.

Posted in Dawn, March 4, 2022

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