For those who have not read Dianne Foster's article of a few days ago (Wait a Minute, We Got in This Ukrainian Mess…How?), I urge you to read it and comment. It has engendered a rather “lively” discussion, however, my intent here is to not redo her article or the comments made.
As some of you already know from some of my articles, I spent some time at the now-named National Joint Military Intelligence Center (NJMIC) at the Pentagon in the physical area of the building that houses the Offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). We supported the “war room" of the JCS with intelligence from all sources and at all levels of classification. Given the current situation in Ukraine, what would have happened in those spaces weeks or even months ago, is that a task force dedicated to the Ukraine situation would have been formed. These task forces are created to work on a specific crisis, while the rest of the intelligence analysts concentrate as usual on the entire world, nothing is neglected. These task forces are placed in special closed areas adjacent to the NJMIC and occupied by specialists in Russian and Ukrainian affairs, not to mention NATO operations. Also nearby, is one of the several terminals in Washington of the Moscow Link (MOLINK), the direct link between Moscow and Washington put in place decades ago as a means of instant communications between the president of the U.S. and the dictator du jour in Moscow. During my days in the NMJIC, one of the MOLINKs was a few paces away from my desk in a small closet-like room. Another set of terminals was in a much larger area of the National Military Command Center, where several watch officers could work and communicate at the same time. You can bet that place is a beehive of activity as I write this and you read it.
During the last few days, there has been much questioning in the press about the seeming slow-motion aspect of the attack on Ukraine by Russian forces. The reason for the slow pace of the attack became obvious to me several days ago when I received a somewhat poorly written dissection of the problems facing the Russian troops. On a site called Threadreader, a fellow by the name of Stanimir Dobrev (about whom I know little) has posted a series of statements regarding the readiness of the Russian soldiers and what is turning out to be inadequately-thought-through battle plans. Putin anticipated a mad dash to success, but now his troops are stretching supply lines to the breaking point as they are bogged down by Ukrainian forces that Putin, in his hubris, has badly underestimated. If you remember in the movie “Patton,” George C Scott, playing the general, pleads for more gas to keep the forward momentum of his units, but is denied. He knew full well that vehicles without fuel quickly become large paper weights and all plans for the tactic of fire and maneuver are scuttled.
In a separate email, I received a link to an article (Why the Russians Are Struggling) in the National Review that, in spite of its appearance in that rag, is surprisingly accurate, especially when it comes to describing how to use combined arms teams (infantry, armor, and artillery). The author is Mark Antonio Wright, the executive editor of the magazine.
“Mechanized infantry must be willing to, on a moments notice, receive the order to dismount, leave the perceived safety of an infantry-fighting vehicle, and serve as a screen for the armor. The infantry can neutralize the anti-tank missile teams. The armor can then provide covering fire, supporting the infantry as they move up, while knocking out any heavy weapons a defender might emplace. The point is that the infantry and the armor must work as a team. And this takes trust. And a hell of a lot of training. Because it’s counterintuitive to leave the safety of the vehicle to close with the enemy, you must drill and drill and drill what the U.S. military calls ‘immediate actions.’ ”
But Russian conscript troops now only serve for 12 months, a woefully inadequate time to train troops to a level at which they perform automatically. I had these maneuvers drilled into my head when I was a mechanized infantry platoon leader in the 3rd Armored Division facing Russian divisions through the Fulda Gap in West Germany. We trained constantly during the year, working closely with the armored battalions that we were there to protect. When the training schedule ended, we began again. All of my armored personnel carriers (APCs) were combat loaded with bullets, mortar rounds, and rations, ready to move within two hours of an alert, all day and any day of the year. Lacking this kind of training, Russian troops can suffer serious tactical defeats, low morale, and increased casualties. This can all add up to an ultimate collapse, especially when entering cities where armor and infantry must work together to avoid getting chopped to pieces by urban guerilla-type forces.
Putin has no big war generals to speak of (all WWII vets now being dead), except those who were in Afghanistan dealing with skirmishes and house-to-house combat on a village scale. They got their asses handed to them on a platter, as we later experienced over our two decades in Afghanistan. And word has it that Putin has ignored his civilian advisors, which places him in “bunker mentality,” possibly moving miniature tanks and trucks around on a map with no clue as to the reality. Large-scale armored battles need careful planning, especially logistics. Russia needed an in-house [German Field Marshall] Von Schlieffen. Putin is now directing war with the military and strategic mind-set of a KGB lieutenant colonel, which might explain his recent comments regarding putting Russian nuclear forces on alert, an extremely dangerous move. Nobody has any assurance he will act rationally with respect to his nuclear (even tactical) weaponry. He could flatten Kyiv or any other city in a show of strength if he feels he is threatened or about to lose this war. If that doesn't frighten you, then you do not understand what is taking place.