Leadership: Russian Failures in Ukraine


August 31, 2023: Russia continues its tradition of declaring reports of military failures as state secrets. Those who violate this policy are often punished. If many reveal or discuss openly these problems, the government backs off and promises that attention will be paid and changes made. This is especially true if critics use the Internet to communicate about the problems. A current example is the deplorable state of Russian forces in Ukraine. Russian commanders there are often corrupt and dedicated to enriching themselves at the expense of their troops. This often means commanders ignore their military duties and allow the enemy to take advantage of that.

This is currently happening in Ukraine. Russian troops have seen their supplies and transport destroyed or blocked by Ukrainian missile attacks and more effective use of artillery, armored vehicles and infantry. Russian use of poorly trained troops and shortages of supplies and modern weapons means the Ukrainian forces are more effective. This has helped the Ukrainians succeed during their current counteroffensive in southern Ukraine. That means Russian forces are facing better trained, equipped and led Ukrainian units which advance against even prepared Russian defenses because the Russian troops defending these fortified zones are equipped with less capable artillery and shortages of ammunition. The Ukrainians have more capable and more effectively used artillery that prevents Russian artillery from disrupting the Ukrainian advance through Russian minefields and around Russian fortifications.

Ukrainians locate and destroy Russian electronic systems that jam Ukrainian communications and disrupt use of Ukrainian UAVs to locate and destroy Russian artillery and supplies. NATO military aid included equipment to handle the Russian jamming, along with technical advisers to make equipment adjustments as needed. Russia had a limited number of jamming systems and once the Ukrainians figured out how to detect, locate and destroy them, the jamming became much less of a problem. This meant more accurate Ukrainian artillery fire against Russian forces.

Russian military commanders insist that their artillery personnel are capable of finding and accurately firing at Ukrainian artillery. In practice this is rarely true because most Russian artillerymen are not receiving much training before going to Ukraine and, once there, are expected to learn on-the-job. That can work in peacetime but not in a very active combat zone. Moreover, the modern Western artillery used by Ukrainian forces is more capable than the older artillery weapons the Russians have in Ukraine. This puts the Russian artillery at a disadvantage and the Ukrainians are taking advantage of it.

Lack of training for Russian troops and the less effective weapons and equipment they use results in more Russian casualties and lower morale. Senior Russian defense officials and military commanders appear unwilling or unable to remedy these problems. Ukrainian forces take advantage of this and the result is success when attacking the less capable and demoralized Russian troops, even in fortifications. While Russia is still officially committed to victory in Ukraine, most of those running the Ministry of Defense and the military are less certain they can make that happen.




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