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Myths die hard. For decades we were told about the power of the Russian Army. Based on poorly understood histories of things the Red Army did against the Germans seventy years ago we were taught that somehow no one could stand against the onslaught of Russian tanks and legions of Russian soldiers.
The Ukrainians just did. Maybe they didn’t listen to all the stories. Maybe, with a lot of help from the U.S. and others, they just actually prepared for the reality of combat with what now passes for a Russian Army. Whatever the case, the Ukrainians are winning, and Putin may very well have already lost this war.
The plan was simple enough. It was Russian shock and awe. Take Kyiv in a couple of days. Install a puppet government. Tie the whole thing up in a bow before the Ukrainians had a chance to react and the world to intervene.
Unfortunately, for Vlad, it turns out that rapid, carefully choreographed strikes like the United States has conducted twice against Iraq in the last few decades take a modern military, professionalism, and superb logistics. When the dust settles the Russians will be shown to have none of those things.
The wheels are coming off for Putin in Ukraine.
In many places, the Russian offensive has ground to a halt. The Ukrainians are now going on offense. It is the Russians who are worrying about being encircled and cut off.
Logistics fell apart quickly for the Russians. They outran their supply lines. Vehicles could not be refueled. Soldiers could not be fed.
"They're actually not trying to advance right now,” a senior U.S. defense official said of the Russians recently. “They're taking more defensive positions."
A group of some 10,000 Russian soldiers is now in imminent danger of being fully surrounded near Kyiv. Exhausted and out of supplies these Russians may soon be faced with either surrendering or being annihilated.
Even where the Russians are not being forced back or encircled their advance has ground to a halt. They are just looking to hold on. They are asking local villagers to feed them, so they do not starve. That’s not how invasions are supposed to go.
There are persistent reports of morale and discipline collapsing in Russian units. In Melitopol 70 Russian soldiers allegedly mutinied and refused orders. Another incident a few days later may have involved as many as 200 mutineers. A report that a Russian commander was run over and killed by his own troops has been making the rounds on the Internet for almost a week now. Individual reports are hard to confirm, but it seems clear that the Russian Army is far from a well-oiled machine. It is coming apart at the seams in places.
Announcements from Moscow in recent days seem to indicate an increasing focus on limiting the goals of the invasion to establishing the independence of the separatist areas in the east. This is an effective admission of defeat. Those areas were outside the control of the Ukrainian government when the war began. Putin did not need to start a war to achieve something that was already a fait accompli.
As many as 15,000 Russian soldiers may have been killed already. No one knows how many have been wounded. There are increasing reports that the Russians cannot keep up with the task of processing and removing their dead from the battlefield.
Russian tank losses have been so heavy that the Russian Army is now pulling vehicles from long-term storage and attempting to restore them to operational condition. In the village of Klimovo near the Ukrainian border a repair and restoration base has been established for this purpose.
Unfortunately for the Russians, most of the vehicles being pulled from storage are in terrible condition and impossible to put back into service.
A Ukrainian intelligence report advised, "In particular, in the 4th tank division of the Russian Federation, it was found out that out of 10 "reactivated" tanks, only one is in a more or less operational condition. The rest are completely dismantled. Some of them do not even have engines. At present moment, the plan for transferring to the front of the equipment removed from storage has actually been disrupted. According to available information, the commander of the 13th tank regiment of the 4th tank division of the Russian Federation “shot himself dead."
Putin is on record as believing that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century. He wants desperately to reconstitute as much of the power of the Soviet Union as possible. Unfortunately, for Vlad, Russia is now perilously close to being Bulgaria with nuclear weapons. Without its oil and gas exports, it would not even be that.
More to the point, perhaps, not all Russians share Putin’s fantasies. The men and boys Putin sent into Ukraine are not dedicated to fulfilling Vlad’s dreams. And, unlike their grandfathers and great-grandfathers in the Great Patriotic War, they are not fighting against invaders. They are the invaders, and they know it.
There will likely be a great deal more death and destruction before this conflict ends, and Ukraine has already paid a heavy price. That does not change the fact that the course of this conflict is increasingly clear to everyone except Vladimir Putin.