The history of Russia has shown more than once that this huge country does not take into account losses in people, and the war with Ukraine confirms the old saying in Russia that “the good of the individual cannot oppose what is good for the general public.”
“One death is a tragedy, a million – is a statistic.” – Joseph Stalin.
These words spoken by Stalin, for me, clearly show what was in the very soul of Russia in the past and now is still.
Why am I writing about it?
When in February 2014, I commented on the events taking place in the Ukrainian Donbas and Crimea, with my colleagues from my GROM unit, we watched with interest and commented on the appearance of the so-called “Green Men”. Maybe their appearance meant nothing to a layman, but to us special forces soldiers it meant a lot. The appearance of an “ordinary” private soldier can tell a lot about the condition of any army, but it also differs a lot from the equipment of a special unit soldier all over the world. Here, in Central and Eastern Europe during the times of the former Eastern Bloc of the Warsaw Pact, a rank-and-file soldier was never taken care of. The basic equipment was the AK 47 rifle: Kalashnikov, a pouch with four magazines, a tin helmet, a gas mask, a shovel (an infantry shovel), a container with a blanket, a raincoat, and a set of underwear. Tactical vests, additional pouches, a bulletproof vest, and other protectors were unavailable even in the present years.
The appearance on the Russian side of “Green Men” who looked like well-armed and well-equipped soldiers, dressed in green uniforms without any rank markings, who acted thoughtfully, there was no chaos in their behavior, effectively selecting new targets in Ukraine, it gave us a professional image of the Russian Army, and the Russian soldier. You had to fear such an opponent. Everything indicated that the Russian Army underwent a mental, technological and tactical change. Technological, because they began to pay attention to the soldier’s personal equipment, they used knee and elbow pads, ballistic goggles to protect eyesight, and practically all of them had a tactical vest with ballistics and kevlar helmets.
Mentally, because their appearance and the above equipment indicated that they began to care for each soldier separately rather than seeing them as a mob of armed men, and this is important when you want to have devoted and brave soldiers.
And the tactical change, they acted carefully, having a plan, occupying large areas of Ukraine with virtually no firing. Today we know that these “green men” are former soldiers of special forces, airborne troops, and marines of the Russian Federation, but this does not change the fact that they looked and acted professionally and effectively.
Today, eight years after those events, we could fear Russia as a country with a modern army, with well-equipped soldiers and commanders who plan to win, and not just die by thousands. That is why I entitled my today’s column “Russia Deceived Us and Itself”, because what is happening on the Ukrainian-Russian front, from the very first day showed that Russia is a military power with clay legs, with outdated equipment, poor morale among its soldiers, and with commanders who deceive their senior commanders about the real condition of their men and progress on the field.
Photos of Russian soldiers holding weapons from the beginning of the 20th century, which were used during World War II, a lot of tactical errors, little appreciation of their opponent, and general chaos in their employment and operations tell a lot about the condition of the Russian army, and the Green Men who are only a small percentage that army anyway were slaughtered during the first days of the war when they met determined resistance. Yes, Russia is still dangerous, it can end the world with an arsenal of nuclear weapons, but looking at Russian missiles, many of which fail to launch or return to strike their own launching site add to the evidence of Russia having a massive amount of unreliable equipment. The only thing worse than shooting a nuclear missile at somebody is for it to come back and hit you instead.
Looking at the chaotic moves of Russian commanders and I do not know what to call it other than extravagance in expending the lives of so many of their own soldiers. For me and others who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russian military doctrine bares no relation to a modern approach to equipment and people.
According to the figures provided by the Ukrainian side, Russian troops have lost since February 24,
4,055 armored vehicles,
958 artillery systems,
260 missile launchers,
132 anti-aircraft defense systems,
182 maneuvering missiles,
15 vessels, including mighty cruiser Moscow.
And between 60,000 and 80,000 men killed, wounded, missing, or taken prisoner.
I think as I write of Russia deceiving us by pretending to be a world power. Of course, Russia still has to be reckoned with, but more like someone unpredictable than a true conventional military power. It is getting depleted every day, and it is being dulled by the modern equipment we and other Western countries provide. Ukraine, having in the first days only a thousandth of modern equipment supplied from the west, was able to effectively oppose this huge country. All the data and comparisons regarding the economy, resources and armaments indicate that Ukraine should no longer be on the world map today, and yet it is and is fighting Russia as a peer military. I am writing about equipment, but it is not the equipment itself that wins battles, it is a man who wins or dies on every battlefield, and a soldier in war, who is cared for and trained during peace, and commanded by officers who do not throw their lives away, fight better than any other kind. The Western soldier is told what he is fighting for, he does not simply go where he is ordered. His belief is the cause of that war makes him a superior soldier to the one driven to battle wholly ignorant of his objectives, both militarily and politically.
More than anything, I think this explains why the Ukrainian soldier has beaten the Russian soldier to date. Today we can find many reports where the Russians write about how they ended up in the war. Over 100,000 randomly selected men in the Russian-occupied Donetsk and Lugansk regions were forced into uniform and sent, they were told, to a three-day military exercise. The composition of these units and formations included completely random people, such as the musicians of the Donetsk Philharmonic Society, who were incorporated literally several hours before the start of the Russian invasion. They had no real training, they did not know each other at all, and had no unit cohesion which is essential to a fighting unit.
What does it say about how much Russia trusts its own citizens to fight for a cause when, as the Russian conscripts themselves say “The leadership of the government deceived us, they told us that there would be a few days’ exercises, and in fact, we were sent to the fighting area without any preparation.”
We can ask ourselves what civilized state, what government would stay in power with losses similar to those incurred by Russia in Ukraine, and what society would accept the death of so many of its so-called “brothers and sisters” in Ukraine, in the thousand while losing a much greater number of its own sons, fathers and husbands without examining the justice of its cause?
While Russia certainly deceived the West about the capability of its army, it also massively deceived itself about what the Russian soldier could do.