Before the war had started, CIA had predicted that Kyiv will fall within four days. Russian military was supposed to conquer half the Ukraine and reach Dnieper in few days. Yet, even a full month after the invasion had started, Kyiv had remained in Ukrainian hands (at time I started writing this article, on 26th March, it was still in Ukrainian hands and Ukrainian army had even mounted counterattacks). While Ukraine had lost a lot of territory, especially in the south, Russian goal of quickly taking Kyiv and other large cities and thus forcing the Ukrainian government to resign had clearly failed. Instead of an expected blitzkrieg, war has turned to attrition. Ukrainian army is even mounting counterattacks, while Russians had settled in for static sieges of cities such as Kyiv and Mariupol.
Of course, war can still go very wrong for Ukraine. Its army is running out of the anti-tank and anti-air weapons that are crucial for stopping the Russians. Many of the most experienced Ukrainian troops in the east of the country are in danger of being surrounded and destroyed. Despite this, Ukrainian military had significantly outperformed its Russian counterparts.
So, what are the causes?
Ukrainians are defending their country, and the sense of urgency helped by Putin’s negation of Ukraine’s right to exist has led to significant unification of Ukrainians. Even ordinary citizens are taking up arms to help defend their homes. This in turn has allowed Ukrainian regulars to abandon cities for the countryside where their experience and coordination can achieve the most, as cities are defending themselves.
This contrasts Russian soldiers, who are conscrips and did not even know they were going to war, believing instead to be deploying for an exercise. Majority of Russian soldiers had very limited preparation for brutal realities of combat.
Despite the rotten and spent Western ideological talk of “Western values”, “democracy” and “human rights”, it is a very clear and strong national idea that stands in defense of Ukraine. Western expectations of quick Ukrainian collapse were likely based on belief that Ukrainians would be as shallow and unmotivated as the largely cosmopolitan and dehumanized Westerners. But in Ukraine, nobody really cares about democracy and human rights. They do however care about their nation, their country, and their freedom.
Precisely the strength of resistance in the Russian-speaking regions in the east and south had surprised both the Russia and the West. These regions contained 80% Russian-speaking population, and both West and especially Putin expected that they will greet Russian military as liberators. But the exact opposite had happened: Rusophile Ukrainians had decided to defend their country. Harkiv, cultural and political center of pro-Russian regions, had become a centre of resistance to Russian invasion. In one stroke, Putin had de-Russified Ukraine and created new national unity.
Putin does not understand or want nationalism. In his vision of the world, every nationalism is fascism, and it has to be destroyed in order to free the area for “Euroasia” for Russian imperialism (much like the West hates nationalism because it prevents their own imperialism). Putin is attempting to create Dugin’s Euroasia, but Dugin’s Euroasia is nothing but cheap imitation of Western globalism. And now Western globalist elites are in rather uncomfortable position of supporting Ukrainian nationalism in fight against Russian globalism while they themselves are busy proscribing and oppressing nationalists at home – hence their continuous attacks against the Azov battalion.
And it is Ukrainian nationalism that is making Ukraine so effective against Russian invasion. Only national idea can provide an adequate answer to new challenges, but this will likely not be accepted in the West, so mired in its cosmopolitan globalism.
Command and Control
Early predictions of mass Russian cybernetic attack that would destroy Ukrainian communications channels did not come true. Instead, Ukraine managed to maintain effective coordination along the frontline. Ukrainian government in Kiev likewise had remained visible to the public.
Russian army meanwhile had no unified command and control, and even coordination between various fronts remained weak (this however may be changing). This disunification of command also led to low morale of Russian troops, with Russian generals having to lead from the front – resuling in several of them dying. Situation is even worse because Russian army does not allow initiative to low-level officers, and they have to instead wait for the instructions from above. And these NCO’s and officers are deeply unpopular among the troops due to widespread corruption.
Strategy and Operations
Main issue with Russian strategy is that it was based on flawed assumptions. The startegic aim in the first few days was to take Kyiv as rapidly as possible and depose the president Zelensky’s government, which Russians believed was highly unpopular among Ukrainians. But in part because of Putin’s statements, Ukrainian resistance had consolidated around their government: rather than just the government, Ukrainians perceived Ukraine itself as being under threat.
While Ukrainian forces are seriously outnumbered, they are far better at utilizing the terrain and weapons than their opponents. During early stages of the war, Russians had kept concentrating their forces into slow, dense, heavily armed columns. This allowed Ukrainian light forces to cause heavy casualties in essentially risk-free ambushes, mounting hit-and-run attacks against slow-moving columns. This is made much easier as Ukrainian forces possess extensive knowledge of local terrain and conditions, which is crucial for effective irregular warfare.
Ukrainians, aside from utilizing many guerilla tactics, also integrated UAVs, artillery, infantry, tanks and electronic warfare. This led to a combined effect that was far greater than mere sum of the parts. They avoided Russian strong points and instead attacked weak points such as supply convoys. Ukrainians also seem to be targeting Russian leadership. Ukrainian air defences had been dispersed, preventing Russians from destroying them and thus denying Russians air superiority while making effective usage of drones.
Russians meanwhile had failed to properly integrate their forces and conduct combined-arms operations. Instead, they had sent isolated forces such as paratroopers ahead with no clear objective. Putin’s assumption about lack of widespread resistance also led to him avoiding usage of highly destructive tactics such as mass bombardment of populated places during early stages of the invasion.
Ukraine had managed to mobilize information channels both at home and abroad, with sole exception of the strictly-controlled Russia (while the West is just as strictly controlled, it is hostile to Russia, and thus receptive to Ukrainian propaganda while blocking Russian propaganda). This has allowed Ukraine to more-or-less control narrative of the war in much if not most of the world.
Russians, however, are not stupid. They will adapt – already have started to – and Ukraine, even with foreign help, has only limited resources at its disposal. So far, Russia had deployed primarily undertrained conscript units with very limited air and artillery support. But while there is a possibility that flaws in Russian military run deeper, this does not mean Ukrainians will ultimately win.
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