The unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine is only days old, but some reports filtering out of the war zones seem to show that Russian forces are not making the progress they expected, and their military forces are not as well trained and adept as advertised.
Russian strongman Vladimir Putin has always attempted to demonstrate that the “Russian Bear” is as strong and dangerous as it ever was during the heydays of the Soviet Union. But his invasion of Ukraine may be undermining that pose.
The way Putin has sold his military, one would have thought that Russian forces would have been able to roll over Ukraine and crush it in hours. But according to a Fox News report Saturday, Russia is “increasingly frustrated” by a lack of momentum in its invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
According to a “senior U.S. defense official,” Russian forces cannot even fight at night.
“Most movement starts just before dawn and occurs during the day because they don’t have night vision and are not trained in night vision, which contributed to slower than expected progress,” Fox News digital reporter Peter Aitken wrote.
One problem Russia has is that its military is made of conscripts, not highly trained professional soldiers. And some may even be ill-fed. Fox added that some Russian soldiers were trying to buy lard and alcohol from Ukrainian civilians.
Relying on ill-trained troops, and failing to prepare them properly, could be the big mistake that dooms the Russian effort.
Another report, on inews.uk, quoted a civilian as saying troops don’t have any real idea what they are doing and why they have been sent into Ukraine.
Worse for the Russian military, if a report by The New York Times is any indication, Russia’s targeting of the Ukrainian military has been ineffective, indicating that Russian intelligence is flawed.
The Times noted that Russian progress had stalled after its forces crossed the border.
“No population centers had been taken, a senior Defense Department official told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday. Nor had Russia yet managed to achieve air superiority over Ukraine, partly because the Ukrainians are using mobile systems and partly because Russian missiles have hit old air defense sites, which could show a flaw in Russia’s intelligence. The Ukrainian air defense and missile defense systems were degraded, he said, but the country’s air force was still flying planes and denying air access to Russia.”
“It’s not apparent to us that Russian forces over the past 24 hours have been able to execute their plans as they deemed they would,” Pentagon’s chief spokesman John F. Kirby said on Friday. “But it’s a dynamic situation.”
Ben Wallace, the United Kingdom’s defense minister, also recently insisted last week that Russian forces have not achieved their early goals set for the invasion.
“Our assessment as of this morning is that Russia has not taken any of its major objectives, in fact, it is behind its hoped-for timetable,” Wallace told Sky News on Friday.
“They have lost over 450 personnel. One of the significant airports they were trying to capture with their elite Spetsnaz [special forces] has failed to be taken. In fact, the Ukrainians have taken it back,” he added.
“So, I think, contrary to great Russian claims,” Wallace concluded, “and indeed President Putin’s sort of vision that somehow the Ukrainians would be liberated and would be flocking to his cause – he’s got that completely wrong. The Russian army has failed to deliver on day one its main objective.”
Another indicator that things may not be going as Putin hoped is the Russian president’s announcement on Sunday that he was putting his nuclear forces on high alert in reaction to Western financial sanctions against Russian businesses and individuals, NBC News reported.
That’s not the behavior of a man who sees his plans falling into place.
There is no telling how long this conflict will rage, granted. But the invasion so far seems to be showing that the Russian army is neither supplied with cutting-edge weapons, nor manned by top-notch soldiers.
One thing does seem sure. The war is not going according to Putin’s plans.