As the Russian military stumbles, its adversaries take note

On a trip through Eastern European countries fearful of facing Mr. Putin’s army next, General Milley constantly asked himself the same qu...


On a trip through Eastern European countries fearful of facing Mr. Putin’s army next, General Milley constantly asked himself the same questions. Why did the Russians perform so poorly at the start of the war? Why did they judge the Ukrainian resistance so badly?

His cautious response, to reporters in Estonia: “We have seen a great combined arms and multi-axis invasion of Europe’s second largest country, Ukraine, by air, ground, special forces, Russian intelligence,” he said, before describing some of Russia’s bombardment and concern over its “indiscriminate firing” on civilians.

“It’s a bit early to draw definitive lessons,” he added. “But one of the lessons that is clearly evident is that the will of the people, the will of the Ukrainian people and the importance of the national leadership and combat skills of the Ukrainian military have come through loud and clear.”

While the Russian military’s problems are real, the public’s view of the fight is skewed by the realities of the information battlefield. Russia remains keen to downplay the war and provides little information about its victories or defeats, contributing to an incomplete picture.

But a dissection of the Russian military’s performance so far, compiled from interviews with two dozen U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials, paints a picture of young, inexperienced conscript soldiers who haven’t been empowered to make decisions on the spot, and a non-commissioned officer corps who is also not authorized to make decisions. Russia’s military leadership, with General Valery Gerasimov at the top, is far too centralized; lieutenants must ask his permission even on small matters, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss operational matters.

In addition, senior Russian officers have so far shown themselves to be risk averse, officials said.

Their caution is part of why they still lack air superiority over all of Ukraine, for example, US officials said. In the face of bad weather in northern Ukraine, Russian officers grounded some Russian attack planes and helicopters and forced others to fly at lower altitudes, making them more vulnerable to Ukrainian ground fire, said a senior Pentagon official.

“Most of the Russian capabilities have remained on the sidelines,” Michael Kofman, director of Russia studies at CNA, a defense research institute, said in an email. “The use of force is completely irrational, the preparations for a real war almost non-existent and the morale incredibly low because the troops were clearly not informed that they would be sent into this fight.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: As the Russian military stumbles, its adversaries take note
As the Russian military stumbles, its adversaries take note
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