Russian incompetence and Ukrainian capabilities.

September 17, 2022

Russian forces continue to prioritize strategically meaningless offensive operations around Donetsk City and Bakhmut over defending against continued Ukrainian counter-offensive operations in Kharkiv Oblast.

Ukrainian forces liberated a settlement southwest of Lyman and are likely continuing to expand their positions in the area.

Ukrainian forces continued to conduct an interdiction campaign in Kherson Oblast.

Russian forces continued to conduct unsuccessful assaults around Bakhmut and Avdiivka.

Ukrainian sources reported extensive partisan attacks on Russian military assets and logistics in southern Zaporizhia Oblast.

Russian officials continued to undertake crypto-mobilization measures to generate forces for Russian war efforts.

Russian authorities are working to place 125 “orphan” Ukrainian children from occupied Donetsk Oblast with Russian families.

Comment: The Russian chain of command appears to be incapable of making rational decisions. Whether this is due to their own ignorance of military science and art or political interference in command decisions is not clear.

In spite of Russian ineptitude IMO, it is critical for Ukraine to consider if it has enough resources in the Kharkiv sector to allow it to attack south to achieve encirclements without exposing what might be a vulnerable flank to the east.

What looks like an emerging total collapse of Russian forces in Ukraine will continue to develop if continual pressure is maintained. pl

This entry was posted in Russia, The Military Art, Ukraine Crisis. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Russian incompetence and Ukrainian capabilities.

  1. Fourth and Long says:

    Colonels of FSB and GRU (“retired”) respectively Igor Girkin (Strelkov) and Vladimir Kvachkov. Speaking yesterday to precisely your points. For those who understand Russian or can work the Auto-Translate in Ytube. Strelkov highlighted a segment on his telegram ch featuring Kvachkov speaking of deficiencies of military art. The entire Ru net is abuzz with trying to answer the question of your focus on Interference from High Command or the other focus on possible treasons/betrayals/bargainings – the latter 2 focii sometimes difficult to disentangle or indistinguishable. I only watched a bit of this.

    Strelkov’s most recent on the situation at the front:
    https://youtu.be/PO17uRp3vG4

    • Fourth and Long says:

      Ru soldier Pavel Filyatov interviewed in Paris. Excerpt below.

      https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/russian-retreat-ukraine-leaves-putin-pressure-home-rcna46616
      Even soldiers who have fought in what the Kremlin insists on calling its “special operation” are returning home, refusing to go back to the front, and challenging the official narrative surrounding the war. As Ukraine retakes territory, videos are appearing online appearing to show massive amounts of equipment abandoned by retreating Russian soldiers.
      While the television has told the public that they’ve been fighting a good, clean war, soldiers are telling their friends, families and fellow citizens stories of a chaotic, unclear and troubled operation.
      “Russian society, just as the Russian army, is decaying and falling apart because of corruption,” Pavel Filatyev, a Russian soldier who has published a scathing memoir of the first two months of the war, told NBC News. “So the Russian army often is not acting carefully, they are acting unprofessionally, and a lot of mistakes are being made.”
      He fled Russia last month after publishing his 141-page account of the war on the Russian social media network VKontakte. NBC News interviewed him in Paris, where he is now seeking asylum. He said that he was stationed in Crimea on exercises before the start of the war Feb. 24, and his unit was sent into the southern Kherson region without sufficient supplies and ammunition.
      “Everyone steals as much as they can at each and every level,” Filatyev said when asked about the reason for equipment shortages. “On paper, everything is amazing. Our soldiers should be well-fed and happy. But in practice, somewhere along the line the extra food was stolen and sold, same with boots and even bulletproof vests.”

  2. Leith says:

    Chris Owen, an OSINT analyst suggests Russia’s ineptitude in Ukraine is partly due to a lack of unified command. I suspect he is correct.

    Prigozhin with his Wagner Group mercenaries reports directly to Putin and not to Colonel-General Zhidko nor to Gerasimov and Shoigu. The Khadyrovites have their own separate chain of command also.

    Rosgvardia troops in Ukraine currently appear to be OMON or SOBR, mainly special police units responsible for seeking out Putin’s mythical ukronazis. No doubt they are responsible for much of the torture and mass graves. Their chain of command is likely to be under the FSB or other RU security services. Rosgvardia normally only has lightly armored vehicles, no tanks and no heavy artillery. They and perhaps a few so-called LNR/DNR units were holding the Izumi area where Ukraine’s offensive was so effective.

    For the Russian Army itself I have to wonder if there is dissension among the different service branches?

  3. Fourth and Long says:

    Almost alm ost certain, Li, unrelated:

    Building collapses after strongest in series of earthquakes shakes Taiwan

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/18/taiwan-earthquake-damage-hualien

    T a i w a n unscrambled: i naw at – in awe at – i gnaw at. Ina what?

  4. walrus says:

    I confess I am in a dilemma. It seems we have at least four narratives here. Two are identifiable – these are the true believers on both sides, I hesitate to call them trolls. Then there is Col. Langs professional appreciation of the situation and a few skeptics, who can also be labelled “gullible fools”, “useful idiots”, etc. I put myself in this latter category.

    I find it hard to believe that the Russian Army is as corrupt, backward, inefficient as Col. Lang and TTG suggest, but that is one explanation for events that is consistent with observations. If this is true, then Col. Lang’s prediction of a Russian collapse is valid.

    Similarly Russian apologists also sound believable. For Col. Langs appreciation to be true, V. Putin, judging by his speech at Samarkand, is either a very slick liar or is totally mislead by his Generals.

    Confident predictions of the outcome elude me. In the immortal words of Dennis Connor: “ It isn’t over till the fat lady sings”.

    • John Merryman says:

      Walrus,

      I think that was Yogi Berra.
      It’s quite possible the Russian army is as corrupt and incompetent as they say, yet it seems the Ukrainian equals it, with much more complex logistical issues.
      No one seems to argue with the fact the Russians are making even more money off their energy sales, than before, while the Ukrainian economy is on life support and various of their European neighbors keep letting slip they’d like to get some of the land back the Soviets included in Ukraine. Russia, win, lose or draw, is not going away, but Ukraine very well might.
      Then there is the fact the EU and Nato need some outside boogeyman to keep them from each other’s throats. It is Europe.
      While everyone likes to say Putin is deranged, criminal, stupid, whatever, at least he can figure out how to walk off a stage, without someone having to come on and lead him off, as Biden has required on a number of occasions.
      So geostrategically, the West seems to have more serious fractures running through the deeper social and cultural foundations, than whatever is happening militarily. Something about winning the battle, but losing the war.

      • Fourth and Long says:

        Choices:

        Two million migrants this year alone through the US southern border.

        Ukrainian army with Himars and soon F-16s on your borders of Voronezh and Kursk Oblasts with shelling into Taganrog and troubles in Armenia and Central Asia.

        Details:

        Incompetent corrupt Ru army whose capacity to defend the country is under question worldwide and in Russia itself by those who are awake.

        Defunded police during nationwide wild riots, looting and arson. And 365 police who do nothing while 19 children are butchered over the course of an hour with full knowledge of the not corrupt, well paid, hero police.

        No wonder some people join the US military.

        • John Merryman says:

          When we get into the winter and there are people freezing to death in Europe, the more urbane Russians are probably going to be glad they didn’t emigrate.

          • blue peacock says:

            “..people freezing to death in Europe..” These would be the same people no matter if there was a war in Ukraine or not or the Nordstream pipeline was shut or not.

            IMO, the energy situation in Europe is no doubt challenging but not catastrophic. Those expecting the western europeans to capitulate will be mistaken. In fact European leadership across their political spectrum now recognize in very plain terms that relying on sole sources for energy supplies is not a strategy. They will change. Since energy projects are multi-year it will not be immediate but the transition will take place and Russia will be poorer for that.

    • TTG says:

      walrus,

      It’s not much of a dilemma. Militaries and defense contractors always oversell their latest technological wonders. Even though we know better, we tend to believe them. It’s also easy to judge a military on their weapons. Russia has done a magnificent job of marketing their new weapons and their military reforms to the entire world… especially to their own political and military leaders in the Kremlin. While all that marketing was going on, the ultra-kleptocratic Russian deep state was stealing the country and the military blind. My guess is that Putin, Shoigu and Gerasimov were more surprised by the Russian military’s pitiful performance than any of us in this committee of correspondence.

      The Russian campaign in Syria was and remains a stunning success. I wonder what happened to the generals who developed and carried out that campaign? Were they deliberately sidelined because of their demonstrated competence and ability to think? There was none of that insightful brilliance in their Ukrainian adventure. Of course that was a totally different mission than the invasion of Ukraine. In my opinion, Syria was the more difficult mission to execute correctly. If Russia approached the Ukrainian war as we approached the first Gulf war, there might have been a different outcome by now. Unfortunately for the Kremlin, they believed their own bullshit. As one Ukrainian soldier put it early in the war, “We’re very lucky they’re so f*cking stupid.”

      • Leith says:

        TTG –

        General Zhidko who has been commanding Russian forces in Ukraine since May was previously Chief of The General Staff of Russian forces in Syria. Dvornikov whom he relieved had also served in Syria. General Surovkin, now in command of the Southern Military district in Ukraine also served in Syria as head of the aerospace forces there. General Serdyukov who was sacked by Putin for the Airborne disaster at Hostomel had been commander of Russian troops in Syria in 2019.

        I agree that the Russian military did well in Syria, but I respectfully disagree that it was a “stunning success”. The Russian Air Force is today still bombing rebels in Idlib province and ISIS pockets in the desert of Deir ez-Zor province but have not been able to liberate either. Wagner merc attacks in Idlib and on ISIS cells in the desert have been fruitless also. Plus neither Russian and Russian trained Syrian air defenses were able to intercept Israeli or US missile attacks on Syria despite the hype that claimed they shot them all down. Their Spetznatz did well as did their Engineers and their Muslim MPs that interacted with Syrian civilians. I’m not sure if the Russian Airborne Brigade in Syria or other Russian ground troops there were in combat? I’d be interested if you have any info on that.

        • TTG says:

          Leith,

          I thought the brilliance was in not committing Russian ground forces or trying to remake the SAA into a spitting image of the Russian Army. The Muslim MPs and the whole idea of the reconciliation center were very smart. Except for the Russian Aerospace Force, it was a light touch applied on a Syrian problem in order for it not to become a Russian war. The jihadis, with Turkish and Gulf help, remain a stubborn problem for Syria, Iraq, the US and Russia.

          Perhaps those generals were uninhibited to apply a creative solution to Syria because they were not saddled with lifetimes of Soviet/Russian doctrine and procedures that applied to Syria’s case.

          • Wunduk says:

            The initial success of the Russian intervention in Syria was due to an initial burst of innovation (reconciliation center, MP patrols, shock and awe aerospace intervention) and deploying high quality PMC personnel. Problems started as soon as they aligned themselves with the Qaterji brothers who played both sides. The initial advantage was sacrificed on the altar of personal profit if one can believe ‘Grandpa Martin’ / Marat Gabidullin’s book of 2016 (French translation May 2022).

          • Leith says:

            Wunduk –

            Thanks for the insight. I had heard that the Qaterji family was buying oil from ISIS. But rumors at the time implied it was being resold to Erdogan’s son-in-law. Was Prigozhin or Russian military higher ups involved in those shady deals?

      • Mark Logan says:

        I suspect the difference in Syria is they merely provided organization, supply, and technical assistance to highly motivated fighters.

        Read yesterday the Ukrainians have found about 400 “tanks” ( I understand the press calls anything with tracks a “tank”) and tons of artillery ammo in Kharkiv which had been abandoned by the Russian troops. Either their officers didn’t have any faith in their menor they just up and ran and the officers couldn’t do anything about it. Maybe their officers ran, I don’t know. Anyway, did the Russians have anything like that happen to the SA under their guidance in Syria? Those guys knew what they were fighting for.

        I’ve seen so many vids of Russian POWs saying they had no idea they were even in Ukraine or being coerced into serving there. Here’s a recent one that struck me as plausibly not-faked. There are so many like it. The poor bastard was so badly trained, so unmotivated, he switched sides, and his tale is so ridiculous it seems to fall under the category of YCMTSU.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3l2FgTr4fUw&t=1s

        • Sam says:

          Mark,

          This BBC article reinforces your comment and the video you shared.

          There are not only concerns about poor leadership. Basic equipment appears to be in such short supply that it is having to be crowdfunded. Dozens of public social media groups are collecting money for a whole range of kit – everything from drones to socks and underwear.

          https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-62914958

          It appears there’s a mismatch between reality on the ground and Putin’s perception of his military strength.

          • Mark Logan says:

            Sam,

            What I am guessing as most telling is not only didn’t the Russian’s fight, they didn’t even pause to disable their equipment before abandoning it, there are vids of UA forces simply hopping in them, starting them up and driving away with APCs. Nor did they pause the few moments it takes to blow up the ammo caches. Sheesh, only Usain Bolt might find something to admire in that retreat.

  5. cobo says:

    Central Asia is getting intersting, and there is quite a buzz over the recording of Putin walking arm-in-arm with Erdogan. To my untrained eye, he isn’t the dominant figure.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxYGWEGuL04

    Ukraine may just be step one in an all out NATO offensive, as I have thought. Erdogan is also playing nice with China. Turkiye has the right to pursue its own interests. The relationship with Greece matters. Turkiye’s relationships with Central Asia matter. To my mind, Armenia doesn’t matter.

    Eastern Europe, for all its complexities, is almost simple to understand comapred to all this.

    • Fourth and Long says:

      I pretty much agree. But you overlooked that the reason the Pretzeldunce of Russia was hand in hand with the President of Turkey might have been that he misread the man’s name tag as: Erdo Go Nad.

      Sorry. But anything is possible. I prefer Dan O’Godre for the nice old country flavor. “Dan! Oh Danny! Wanna hold handies with me, Danny Dan Yore Dag Goneness?”

      It’s the way chiefs of state talk these days. It’s a lot like the way monkeys sound but slightly better. Hold my hand. Yes. Whisper the GPS coordinates of your house in my ear again, please. Do you use radians, degrees, grads? Tell me, do you insult your intelligence leaders on national TV too before invasions? Is it a smart idea in your opinion? Joe Biden is looking rather good these days, at least on the 60 minutes trailer they showed on Margaret Brennan’s CBS show today. Silver haired, trim, fit as a fiddle, controlled clipped speech, erect in his chair. In a word – Presidential.

      ,

    • mcohen says:

      Turkey is representing the middle east with ukr wheat supplies.

    • Bill Roche says:

      What could Russia have that Turkey could possible want? Other than Georgia, Armenia, and Crimea. If Russia can’t beat those backward Ukies imagine the problem they’d have w/t Turkish Army. After all the Turks and the Russians have not always been friends, have they.

  6. jerseycityjoan says:

    As someone who knows nothing about these things, I can only say it seems impossible that Russia could have gotten itself into the position it is in. Nevertheless, it has.

    I recall seeing pictures on the front page of the Daily Mail showing Ukrainians including older women doing self defense training. The articles showed all these hung ho civilians. One of the people actually used a wooden gun. It all seemed incredible to me that they were bothering. I said to myself “Don’t these people realize this won’t be like WWII? Things will fall from the sky and people won’t be using rifles.” Well obviously I was completely wrong.

    Putin still has nukes though. I hope to God nobody in Russia uses or tries to use them.

    That the Russians are in this pickle yet make time for the gratuitous cruelty of kidnapping thousands of children and sending them far away shows us who we are dealing with. The cruelty is not just experienced by the Ukrainians but by the Russians forced to participate all along the way in such a awful thing.

    • Leith says:

      JC Joan –

      The birthdate in Putin’s Russia must be toast if they have to resort to kidnapping children like the Comanches did in 19th century Texas and Mexico. Let’s hope when this war is over there will be a major rescue operation.

      • jerseycityjoan says:

        They were losing population for awhile after the wall fell but Wikipedia says they are back to their 1990 level. I know that in general they do not welcome immigrants. Whether that is just the government talking or the people too, I am not sure.

        In any case, my impression this child snatching is just vicious and it seems to be strictly official. There isn’t much media coverage. I have not seen interviews with any parents affected, for example. Everyone may be too afraid to speak out. I do not know if they are keeping the kids together or putting them with families.

        I sure hope everyone is returned but that is not how these things happen, is it? Will they use the kids as bargaining chips in the future? If you can order them to be taken, what can’t you do? By the way, this is probably a question the Russian people are asking themselves. I would be, if I were them.

  7. jim ticehurst.. says:

    Alot of Current Events Dont Make Sense to me either..Many Comments are confusing..
    and ramble..with No Rose….Russia should Not Have a Logistics..Supply Problem in the Donbas.To .bring material to the Front…No Food..No Uniforms..Is being done on Purpose..? To Demoralize the Troops ?? Putin has no Regard for Life..
    Any Army knows you FEED the Troops…and Ciggys and Beer..The USA did that Well..for 80 Years…
    There was alot of Mechanized Gear and Ammo Left Behind for the UA to use..Did Commanders order that done on Purpose..?? Are they trying to shorten the War..?

    Force Putin to Negotiate..?? Take The New World Order Somewhere Else..Create a New Platform..What did He…Xi and Erdogan and The Church Groups agree on..?
    They seem to Be Forming a New Coalition…Down Range…Wide Scope..Target..
    JT

  8. Barbara Ann says:

    Leith’s explanation is doubtless relevant and maybe there is political interference. Oddly the exact opposite also appears to be the case. I saw Putin accused of abdicating his role as CinC a few days ago after Peskov suggested questions re the Kharkiv counteroffensive be addressed to the MoD. Extraordinary detachment, but it certainly seems to support Strelkov’s Planet of Pink Ponies theory that the leadership is totally out of touch and/or in total denial. The fact that Putin, Shoigu and Gerasimov were spending their time at tank biathlons and exercises in the far east of Russia during a war in the west also speaks volumes about their level of engagement.

    The more I read and listen to realist Russian military opinions (such as the Strelkov/Kvachkov interview Fourth and Long mentions*) the more convinced I am that the rot is very deep indeed. It truly seems like we are at one of those moments in history where it transpires that what was assumed to be a great military power is in fact entirely anachronistic and incapable of competing with a state of the art army – NATO-trained Ukraine in this case. Parallels with Nicholas I and the Crimean war seem ever more apt.

    *Despite the severely mangled YouTube auto translate it is clear Kvachkov (who has an interesting wiki btw) is saying Shoigu’s reforms were completely unsuccessful and that the Russian army at least, is stuck with a pre 21st century war fighting capability and is consequently completely outclassed. Paper maps, no domestically produced recon drones and a number other deficiencies are mentioned in the interview. I am certainly not qualified to interpret or comment beyond this and unfortunately this interview will only properly make sense to Russian speakers.

    What the heck happened to the “radically upgraded” Russian military TTG reported on just a few years back? If Shoigu is a Pink Pony Planet inhabitant too maybe his subordinates just treat him like a mushroom and steal everything. https://turcopolier.com/russian-army-is-radically-upgraded-by-sergei-shoigu-ttg/

    I do not share in Walrus’ dilemma. It is quite clear to me Col. Lang is right and that Russia will be beaten again on the battlefield unless some something miraculous happens in the immediate future.

  9. jim ticehurst.. says:

    I Dont Believe Any of This is Going to Come to An End For Ukrain..They have to many Options..Seem to Enjoy this “Military Action”,,and Killing Ukraine Citizens and Displacing them by Millions..etc..Barbaric…Russian Troops gp Into Villages…Kill Familys..Loot for Foot..Booze..Cigarettes..Torture,,Not Many Military Targets Taken Out..Not Hitting Ukrainian Supply Routes..Depots..Burning Up American Money and Hardware…While Joe Joe..Has Used Up Our Strategic Stockpiles..38 year Low.
    Russia Now Using Iranian Buzz Bombs to Effect…
    Taiwan Devastated By Bad Earthquake Today..If Chinas going to Invade..NOW is The time…What Actions will Spead out The United States Globally..

    Why has Western Asia started Herating Up and In Play..I anticipate Its Part of
    Russias Strategic Plan for the New World Order..Suddenly Turkey..Armenia..
    Syria..expanding Fronts..To Russia..Is Georgia in Play for More Southern Movements by Russia..Tehrans Plan..The Ayatollah is getting sick..?? Remember the TRUE Hardliners Rhetoric of the Past..??
    Our ICC has all the Tools..They Know…But Are there any More Blitz Kreigs In that New World Order east to West..West To South..

    This will Not End With Ukraine…Ukraine is the KGBs Torture Chamber for now.

    I think Walrus has good Instincts ..on this One..
    JT

    • Fourth and Long says:

      If this was the old 1930s style kgb the war would be over by now. They are corrupt, yes, but they are not the kidnappers and torturers you make them out to be. We have a nation where mass shootings occur daily. They don’t. And they aren’t corrupt because they are inherently evil or something. It has to do with the way the place is and the need to survive. If all you read is western news coverage by their mortal enemies UK and US and you don’t read their literature, watch their movies and TV, and watch and listen to their music and dance and figure skating, you get a very incomplete sense of them. They are a marvelous people led by very dicey and ruthless kleptocrats who in the 90s dismantled all that was good in the Soviet Union and stole it for themselves. Can you grasp that one factor which accounts for their incomplete battlefield performance is simply that their boys are not intoxicated with hate and bloodlust?

      It’s funny to look at Navalny’s videos (I don’t care for him, but he is almost brilliant or blazing and quite brave) and see him trash the ruling eminences by showing films of rich estates overflown by video-recording drones.
      All the ones I’ve seen except one seem more or less valid in the sense of “how does a guy with that job get that much property?” Former President Medvedev was the chief executive of one of the largest and richest companies in the world. A very successful company that delivered the merchandise, paid high dividends and employed tens of thousands of Russian people. People with roles like that in the west are billionaires and have huge estates. So why pick on him? Maybe our Defense chiefs have gigantic estates too, I don’t know.

  10. Jovan P says:

    I fail to see why the Russian army should be more corrupt than any other army in the world. They are certainly under performing and as everything in life is possible, they can lose in Ukraine (and that’s just one of the fronts in the global conflict). I’d bet against it, but God only knows. It seems that their coordination is bad, in the high command there is a policy don’t bring the bad news, don’t be the messenger and repeat the phrase ,,everything is going according to plan”.

    Otoh, this war/spec op is pretty specific, only now are they going after the Ukrainian infrastructure, which they ought be doing from the start. Many of their soldiers lost their lifes in the beginning when they tried a bloodless coup, and although militarily this wasn’t the best course of action, politically it was probably necessary to try it.
    This war showed that their aviation is not good enough (using too little smart bombs and etc.), their AA weapons are top notch, because of their AA capabilities they underestimated drones (which why they are buying them from the Iranians), their MLRS are worse than the US ones, that PWC Wagner is currently important (from being a taboo theme), etc.

    Historically, the Russians can perform different in a short term. They performed bad in the 1939-1940 winter war, were crushed by the Germans in 1941 and most of 1942…and in 1945 defeated the Japanese 1 million strong Manchurian army in a few weeks. If the Russians prevail, I have the sense that they will celebrate their victory by remembering their fallen ones and mourning about this war and it’s victims that could have been avoided.

  11. mcohen says:

    The opening moves would have been to secure the tunnels.that is the problem in kherson.the rus got in first.if ukr can hold till winter then they must dig under.gaza is a good example and Syria.The rus generals from Syria understand tunnels and there strategic placement.taken land with tunnels below is tricky so the front at khariv needs to be aware.imho only

  12. Babeltuap says:

    WEP forum said on their website Germany plans to decouple from Russian energy mid 2024. Even called it a “Herculean” task. I wonder what they would call the task having to do it by 3 weeks ago? Maybe Tony Starkean Time Travel.

    As for dissent of Russian Soldiers, there is dissent on both sides to include UN countries. End of the day however no amount of reports or propaganda will change the reality of reliance on Russian gas and oil being cut off.

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