As the war in Ukraine enters a new, possibly decisive phase, the big question is whether the Russian military will prove as bad as it did during the first phase of the war.
Control of Donbass – the region in the far east of Ukraine, bordering Russia – should be easier to achieve by Vladimir Putin and his generals than their initial goal, which is to take over the entire country and oust Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from. Kyiv. Many believed that the Russians would be able to achieve this goal in weeks, if not days. Not so.
Instead, the Russian invasion faltered almost immediately, for three reasons: Ukrainian soldiers fought harder and smarter than expected, were backed by Europe and the United States (which supplied them with weapons and intelligence), and, perhaps most importantly, the Russian army proved terribly incompetent. Special for offensive war.
As some have already pointed out some time ago, this last point isn’t really surprising. The Russian Army, like the Soviet Army before, was not very good at managing long supply lines. Hence the numerous reports of the tanks running out of fuel or the Russian soldiers running out of food.
The Russian army has always had a top-down command structure, which prevents junior officers from taking the initiative (which led to tragic failures once things did not go exactly as planned, and the death of many Russian generals, who had to rush to the front lines to regain process control). Moreover, she did not have Start It did nothing as complicated as this conquest, which involved coordinating land, air and sea operations to the east, west and south at the same time.
As Napoleon Bonaparte said: “In war three quarters are moral matters; the balance of real forces is only for another quarter.” The Ukrainians, who were fighting to save their homeland, were stronger than the Russian soldiers, who were invading foreign lands, often without knowing what they were fighting for.
In addition, the West supplied the Ukrainians with very good materials. Light and portable anti-tank missiles were highly effective against Russian armor, as were the shoulder-fired Stinger missiles, which shot down several helicopters. Almost in real time, the Americans provided the Ukrainian leadership with intelligence about the location and weaknesses of Russian supply lines.
Russia entered the war with a significant advantage in terms of firepower, but the fighting spirit of the Ukrainians combined with excellent intelligence and the use of perfect weapons for ambush tactics more than compensated for this in combat.
Russian forces have now withdrawn from the Kyiv region and are expected to regroup in the Donbass, along with the pro-Russian separatists already fighting there – even as Russia continues to bomb Ukrainian towns and villages from afar, in order to continue its terrorist campaign against the civilian population and force the military Ukrainian to keep at least some troops in place.
Will the Russian officers at least be able to learn from their failures and then adopt new tactics? Are retreating Russian forces really capable of coherently regrouping? The Russian military command is currently calling for reservists to boost their ranks. Can these soldiers with little or no training really be integrated into active units? There is only one answer to these three questions: perhaps, but it is unlikely.
John Pike, director of research firm GlobalSecurity.org, believes that the reserves exist “Too weak or incompetent to make a difference in Donbass”. He adds that soldiers arriving from the Kyiv region for redeployment in the Donbass are tired and frustrated. All of these weaknesses put the Russians nowhere near their three-quarter advantage, if we use Napoleon’s quote, which they would need to outsmart the Ukrainians.
Ukraine will also have trouble in the upcoming battle. His army also suffered losses. And the weapons and ammunition that Europe had provided were running out. Little is known and nothing has been leaked about how quickly the last arms shipments (tanks, drones, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles… and the rest) will be delivered, nor how quickly they will then be transported towards the front in the east of the country (there are more than 1000 km of distance between Lviv and Donbass).
Before the main battles begin, there is no doubt that more battles will be going on (with attacks on roads, railways, and other supply infrastructure) to get to the positions as quickly as possible.
Fighting in the Donbass has been going on for more than eight years, ever since Russian-backed militias declared a separatist war against the Ukrainian authorities and army. A few days before invading Ukraine last February, Putin also recognized two independent republics (administrative division) of Donbass: Donetsk and Luhansk. The reason given initially for his invasion was to protect the Russian-speaking population of the region from a “Genocide” (More than 14,000 people died in this war and it began long before the invasion.)
For the past six weeks, even as the battles for Kyiv, Odessa and other parts of Ukraine have raged, fighting has continued in Donbass – the difference is that Russian soldiers are now openly fighting alongside separatist militias (Putin has denied that Russian forces have ever gone in Donbass among 2014 and early this year). However, surprisingly enough, the lines barely move.
Before the invasion, the two Donbass regions, in short, were divided into two parts: the eastern half, occupied by pro-Russian separatists, and the western half, occupied by Ukrainian soldiers. Since then, Russian soldiers certainly advanced into Donetsk, but the Ukrainians maintained their positions in Luhansk. Moreover, while many, if not most, residents of eastern Ukraine sympathized with Russia before the invasion, many, after seeing their homes destroyed and their neighbors killed, are now hostile to it.
Nobody can predict what will happen now. This could turn into a terrible war of attrition. But the longer it goes on, the more it looks like a defeat for Putin. En effet, le president russe voudrait obtenir une sorte de victoire d’ici le 9 mai, date connue par tous les Russes comme le Jour de la Victoire, en référence au jour de 1945 où l’Allemagne nazie s’est so rendé aux forces in Berlin.
to invade (or use its terms “demilitarized”Ukraine on this date will be a symbolic victory for Putin. Today, however, it seems unlikely that he will be able to conquer Donbass, the humble region on his frontier, so quickly.