Ukraine War: The Real Lessons
When we step aside from overly excitable news media reports, we see a very different and disturbing picture emerge
The Royal United Services Institute is a British think-tank tasked with studying war and all matters military. Its goal is to provide objective independent assessments that may — or may not — be used by policy makers to arrive at more adequate decisions. The RUSI has recently released a paper on the lessons learned so far from the war precipitated by Putin’s unprovoked invasion of neighboring Ukraine. And these lessons are not at all what one would imagine if one based one’s ideas on the babbling of sensation-hungry journalists.
The paper draws heavily on data compiled by the Ukrainian General Staff and covers the period February — July 2022. Some of the information in the report utilizes captured Russian documents that show the intent was to conquer Kyiv within ten days and occupy all of Ukraine by August, turning it into a captive state governed by a puppet regime installed by the Kremlin. Due to a mixture of deception and secrecy (very few Russians were involved in the planning of the invasion and so leaks were few), Russia was able to achieve a 12:1 force advantage north of Kyiv in the first three days of the invasion. As the usual metric for a successful defeat of defending forces is a 3:1 advantage, it’s clear that on paper Russia’s military should have defeated Ukrainian resistance easily.
This did not happen for a variety of reasons, one of which was that Russian secrecy precluded operational units from understanding their task and purpose. As Ukrainian resistance halted the invasion of Kyiv, there were no pre-planned reversionary actions which meant that as Ukraine increased its capacity to inflict damage on the invaders, the Russians rapidly fell into disarray.
The RUSI has identified several weaknesses in Russian military organization. They are:
1. Land priorities are paramount and everyone is subordinate to special services. This results in poorly-planned, poorly-coordinated, and poorly executed tactics.
2. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (AFRF) attempts combined forces activities in wartime but (a) does not practice sufficiently for…