George Friedman Rates Putin’s War Leadership

Putin’s mind may not be firing on all cylinders. Russia’s propaganda machine still works — at least inside of Russia with the full support of riot troops on the street. But the world is seeing a side of Putin and the Russian military which many Russians would rather have kept hidden.

Russian planners did not want to fight the war Russia has been fighting. Rather than a rapid and decisive defeat of Ukraine, Russia is engaged in a slow, grinding war unlikely to impress the world with its return to the first ranks of military power. At this point, even a final victory in its first objective will not redeem the second. It is important to start identifying the Russian weaknesses.

Moscow failed to understand its enemy. Russia clearly expected Ukrainian resistance to collapse rapidly in the face of the massive armored force it had gathered. It did not expect the Ukrainian populace to fight back to an extent that would at least delay completion of the war.

The three Russian armored battle groups were widely separated. They did not support each other. Instead of a single coordinated war, the Kremlin opted for at least three separate wars, making a single decisive stroke impossible. A single integrated command, essential for warfighting, seemed to be lacking.

…All of this culminated in the Russians’ final mistake. They expected the overwhelming availability of armor to cause a rapid capitulation. Ukraine is a large country, and if it is to be occupied by armor, the armor must move rapidly. Obviously, they expected shock and awe to break Ukraine’s will to resist. The shock was dissipated by the loss of surprise. The awe was limited by Russia’s inability to concentrate strategic force, and ultimately by Ukraine’s mobilization of its population as a resistance force.

Friedman: Evaluating Putin’s Performance

Corruption in Russian Military Led to Stagnation and Rot

We know about the lousy Chinese tires rotting on Russian military vehicles, contributing the the great stallout north of Kyiv. We know about the long-expired food rations Russian troops were given. We know about the lack of training for the army, navy, and air forces leading to widespread incompetence. These are a few examples of the effects of universal corruption that haunts Russia down to its genome.

… Corruption in Russian defense is not limited to the military-industrial complex. It penetrates the political level as well, likely altering the incentive structure for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top security officials. Recent investigations show that top officials in the Russian Defense Ministry own property that significantly outmatches their income, pointing to possible involvement in corrupt deals.  

Maintaining a luxurious lifestyle disincentivizes top security officials from giving expert advice that might disappoint the autocrat and cost them access to corruption networks. In the case of Ukraine, this would have meant the risk of reporting to Putin that the country he wanted to invade would put up a fight, that civilians were not looking forward to joining the “Russian world” and would likely greet troops with Molotov cocktails rather than bread and salt, as per local tradition. In this way, the corrupt loyalty of Putin’s top officials might have backfired and contributed to intelligence failures and erroneous risk assessments in Ukraine.  

Of course, corruption in the Russian security sector does not predetermine the outcome of the war. Russia still has extensive capabilities and numerous troops to be thrown into combat. But whatever gains the military might make, they will have done so while battling the challenges caused by rampant corruption, from erroneous risk assessment at the top to expired military rations on the ground. 

Corruption Strikes Deep

A Spreading Will to Kill Russian Soldiers

Russia’s aggressive destruction of Ukraine’s infrastructure will make the occupation costly and onerous. Based in part on this RAND examination of insurgency dynamics, the Russians will also be challenged by the existence of a large sanctuary in western Ukraine; strong external support for the insurgency; the probable emergence of a hybrid rural-urban insurgency (which are particularly difficult to dig out); the probable lack of a legitimate partner government in Kyiv; probable lack of any reliable partner security forces to defray the cost of all of these occupation tasks; and, primarily, the very low likelihood that the Russians will seek or be able to address the root causes that will drive the insurgency. Russians destroying Ukraine today are fueling the will to kill Russian soldiers tomorrow and for years to come.

A Foolish Invasion, a Ruinous Occupation

The Ukrainian insurgency movement is building. Here is a report on one such approach:

According to Anton, 250 fighters have fanned out all around Kyiv, but 800 more are embedded in different units of Ukraine’s armed forces or territorial defense, fighting to keep the Russians out of the capital.

“If these units are destroyed or moved back,” he says, “they will remove their fatigues, put on civilian clothing and become insurgents that very day. They can operate autonomously, with their own resources, and make life a living hell for the invaders. Morale is extremely high.”

Not only that, the Resistance Movement has apparently fielded any number of scouts, informants and civilian reconnaissance teams, including, Anton says, “little old ladies and old men with canes, who watch the enemy’s movements and then call in their location.”

Free Ukraine

It would be too kind to Russia to say that it is becoming a third world nation. Most third world nations have some kind of a future, although bleak. It is not clear that Russia has a future.

Ominous clouds for Russia’s future

Russia needs a million troops to occupy Ukraine, but that would leave the rest of Russia undefended!

Russian bombing of civilians and infrastructure amounts to genocide . . .

The ongoing genocide of Ukrainians by Russians is reminiscent of Stalin’s Holodomor of the early 1930s, when independent-minded Ukrainians resisted Moscow’s push to collectivist agriculture. Many millions of Ukrainians starved in that earlier version of holocaust-style ethnic cleansing by Russia against Ukraine.

Once again, Russia is intentionally pushing Ukrainian people into starvation, in a repeat of the great genocidal travesties of the 20th century by Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim, and the North Vietnamese.

Putin is addicted to mass murder — his admirers demand it of him.

Kremlin officials are ‘privately denouncing’ Vladimir Putin’s ‘clusterf**k’ invasion as US officials warned that the isolated Russian despot could lash out in anger at Ukraine’s fierce resistance by using small nuclear weapons on some of its cities.

Russian journalist Farida Rustamova, who was well-connected in government circles before fleeing the country as the Kremlin launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent, has claimed that officials in Moscow never believed that Putin would go to war.

They are now allegedly making ‘apocalyptic’ forecasts about the weeks and months ahead as fighting grinds on and punitive sanctions bite.

When asked how Russian politicians were reacting to the crisis, one source told Rustamova: ‘They’re carefully enunciating the word clusterf**k. No one is rejoicing. Many understand that this is a mistake, but in the course of doing their duty they come up with explanations in order to somehow come to terms with it.’

It’s Putin, What Can You Say?

Putin’s shabby brain cannot allow Europe to be free and at peace

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