Drawing Clonclusions From Russia’s Poor Performance in Ukraine

A screen grab from the video released by the Ukrainian military showing a helicopter shot down by a missile.
A screen grab from the video released by the Ukrainian military showing a Russian helicopter shot down by a missile.

After observing the Russian war machine in the field, I have a few thoughts and observations. I am sure the professional analysts at the DIA, CIA and other alphabet agencies, think tanks, and other outfits have even more. So what can we learn from my uneducated perspective using open sources?

Their Night Vision Must Suck

While Russia is happy to lob missiles, rockets and artillery shells at urban targets in Ukraine all night, there reportedly is very little infantry fighting being done at night. Our military prides itself on owning the night, and our helicopter pilots train to fly nap of the earth missions using night vision. It’s not just our special forces that have night vision, but the average infantry grunt. So where is Russia’s night vision?

Conclusion: Either they do not have enough night vision equipment or they dont’ train their grunts to use it.

Where is their Airforce?

Before the invasion, we all saw those charts comparing the size of the Ukrainian military to the Russian military, and the Russians had ten times as many planes and closer to 20 times as many helicopters. In fact, CNN called it David versus Goliath. So where are they? Why isn’t Russia they dominating the sky?

Why aren’t the Russians using more precision munitions? We are seeing footage of Ukrainian drones making precision hits on Russian armor, but no video of Russian precision munitions hitting Ukrainian targets. The initial attacks used precision munitions to target military units, but now they appear to be relying more heavily on artillery.

Conclusions: Russia only has a limited amount of precision munitions and are unwilling to use them willy-nilly. Once it was obvious this was a real fight, they no longer cared about civilian deaths or preserving infrastructure.

The Unmoving Convoy

Then there’s the reported 40-mile long convoy that has been stuck for days. I’ve heard multiple excuses: they ran out of fuel; they had too many flat tires; they got bogged down in the spring mud. My mind has two thoughts: Target-rich environment and fish in a barrel.

I expect a squadron of A10s or a few dozen attack helicopters would make short work of them. Even a good artillery barrage assisted by a spotter nearby should be able to do some damage.

Just some of the unmoving 40-mile long convoy
Just some of the unmoving 40-mile long convoy that stopped on its way to Kyiv.

Conclusions: The biggest surprise is not the poor performance from Russia’s legacy equipment, but their reliance on tactics that would be more at home in World War II. They say you always prepare to fight the last war; maybe in Russia the last war is still a ground invasion of Europe using tanks and armor.

I’m not sure what’s stopping Ukraine from sending 100 guys with Javelins or NLAWs out every night to get into position to blow up every fourth of fifth vehicle the next day, snarling up the road for another week.

What’s Going On?

Questions: Did the Russians underestimate the Ukrainians? Or did they over estimate their own readiness? Was attacking on multiple fronts too ambitious, as some pundits have argued?

Did they believe their own PR and expect to be welcomed as liberators? Has Putin surrounded himself by yes-men, as some claim, who are afraid to tell him what the true situation is?

Conclusions: Russia vastly miscalculated their “welcome” in Ukraine and the Ukrainian people’s feelings towards them. They expected to be welcomed as liberators by a sympathetic public, the government would fold, and the war would be over in 48 hours. Because they believed their own PR, they were unprepared and overly ambitious. Now they have realized their mistake and are pushing forward more aggressively, but in some areas are forced to play catch up. Suddenly, they are stuck in a long war. It would not surprise me to see Russia make peace with Ukraine, but I think they will take Odessa and Kyiv first.

A State of Disrepair

What happened to the much ballyhooed Russian military? When did they fall into such disrepair? Where’s all their high tech equipment and fancy fighter jets? It’s like they’re fighting World War II using Soviet era weapons.

Am I the only one who thinks our forces could wipe the deck with them? Or is that my patriotism talking?

Conclusions: Russia spends far less on its military than we do. Their annual budget is about $70 billion. We spent about 11 times as much at $766 billion. One hopes that we’d get not only more but better precision munitions, airplanes, missiles, weapons, night vision, etc. We also have a professional army, while Russia seems to rely on conscripts.

The Nuclear Question

What about their nuclear forces? Have they been maintaining their warheads to the same standards as their trucks? If Russian soldiers are surrendering without firing a shot, is there any hope that the guys manning the nuclear silos, mobile launchers and submarines might feel the same way?

Conclusions: We don’t know, but it would be foolish to count on a degradation of Russia’s nuclear hardware and delivery systems. Russia’s submarine service is considered the crown jewel of its navy, and it has at least four new missile subs, or boomers, in its fleet. Submarine-launched ballistic missiles are the first strike nuclear weapons we should fear most. Each Borei-class sub carries 16 of their missile fitted with six to ten MIRV warheads in the 100 to 150 kiloton range.

Russia Shifts Gears

After the failure of his initial attack and bludgeoning on the global stage, Putin appears to be shifting gears. He went from thinking Ukraine would roll over to deciding destruction is the only way to win. Russian commanders are now threatening to flatten entire cities if they don’t surrender. Russia has threatened to use nukes on multiple occasions and has also threatened war with NATO. Are these the action of a clever man or a crazy one? We may never know.

How long will Russia be able to keep up the military assault and live with the sanctions? Will they be able to feed the troops, fuel the vehicles, and resupply enough ammo to keep up a months-long attack?

Will the inrush of anti-tank missiles and Stingers from across Europe allow the Ukraine soldiers to keep knocking out armor and shooting down helicopters? How much of that can Russia’s wallet and Putin’s pride take? How much internal pressure is he getting as the sanctions start to bite? Will Putin escalate things, and if so, how far is he willing to go?

Conclusions: We must wait and see. That unknown hurts the stock market, the oil futures, and brings us a step or two closer to a recession.

All we as individual preppers can do is what survivalists and preppers have done since the 1970s, we must prepare for the worst but hope for the best.