In combat, the vast majority of soldiers revert back to the lowest level of their training. That’s okay if the training was excellent. Russians are making big mistakes in the war with Ukraine, and they will be written in history as some very dumb things. They look like the poorly trained conscripts of the Soviet army of WWII, who were largely unskilled and inexperienced, having served little to no time in the Russian Army, much less in combat.

Russian Army troops in WWII.
Russian Army troops in WWII. Dunno about you, but I can’t help but feel really sad for these hapless soldiers who were (still are) treated so poorly by their own Army and expected to fight on. Today, Putin is of the mindset: “They will fight for us no matter the cost.” Yeah, right, Vlad.

A Hard Lingering Fact: The Russian Army Is Still Poorly Trained

American forces have some of the best training in the world. They take 18-year-old, non-thinking, knuckleheads and turn them into skilled killers who eagerly sprint into action on orders.

Not all countries are fortunate to have our infrastructure, funding, longevity, wartime skills, and teaching prowess. Most, including Russia, lack those resources on all levels. Thus, when they face combat, their soldiers, airmen, and marines are demolished by superior fighting forces. In the case of Russians fighting in Ukraine, we are now seeing the severe limitations of the Russian Army and its poorly trained men. The world no longer fears the Russian Bear, having witnessed its sluggish performance in the ring.

Russia is throwing its men to the Ukrainians and their western-backed wolves and is being handed its head. Soldiers are getting mired in the spring mud, not knowing what to do, whom to obey or listen to. Out of anger and frustration, they are killing their own officers, perhaps even their own generals.

In combat with seasoned and highly motivated Ukrainians and their bands of mercenaries, Russians are getting slaughtered.

According to Ukrainian and American sources on the ground, Russians are fleeing and not holding their positions and appear to refuse to fight and, in some cases, desert. Even in desertion, these Russian soldiers do not know where to flee, whom to turn to. They lack proper equipment and clothing, weapons, and ammunition.

Most of all, they lack proper military and survival training. Therefore, the lowest training they fall back on when things go badly is terribly inadequate. We do not have to accompany these hapless Russian soldiers to know these statements are accurate. All we need do is look at the results of the war so far, and they prove my points well.

Things would be quite different for Russian soldiers if they were fortunate enough to have trained in the US Army. Thank goodness they did not because they would be numerically superior and well trained as well.

It takes more than sheer numbers to win a war, though.

These Russian soldiers simply are not surviving in the war with Ukraine. One must wonder whether those directing the Russian Army will unleash a nuclear attack on Ukraine out of sheer desperation. Let us pray not.

The Russians clearly don’t know the meaning of the acronym SURVIVAL. It’s a word we learned all too well in the US Army.

The acronym itself is a tool of survival when things aren’t going well. When I was a Ranger, it was my favorite book, FM 21-76. It is now designated FM 3-05.70. You can download it here.

On The Russian Failures In Ukraine: View From A Specialist in Ukraine

Timothy Ash is a Senior EM Sovereign Strategist within the Emerging Markets Team, BlueBay Asset Management. He stated recently in Kyiv Post: “I think it is clear that Russia’s military campaign has gone spectacularly wrong. As Mike Kofman says the Russian military had too many centers of gravity to the point that they had none. Three fronts, in effect but with none really having sufficient force strength to succeed.

Intelligence was lacking: they thought that Ukrainians would not fight and would welcome Russian troops with open arms.

Tactics were poor: they played to Ukrainian strengths by putting boots on the ground and leaving their troops exposed to overwhelming numbers of Ukrainian insurgents. ”

He fought with Russian-backed militants in Ukraine. Now he’s a U.S. soldier.

Read Next: He fought with Russian-backed militants in Ukraine. Now he’s a U.S. soldier.

Morale was low: not helped by the fact the Kremlin lied to its own people saying no war was coming. Imagine a Russian soldier hearing the Kremlin say that they were not stupid enough to be pulled into an Iraq/Afghan style war in Ukraine, only for them to be sent into exactly that war.

And the kit has underperformed. The myth that Russian military technology is quality and much better value for money has been exploded – whereas only 40% of Russian cruise missiles seemed to explode. This came after Russian military kit was trounced in the recent conflict in Nagorni Karabakh by Israeli and Turkish technology.

“Russian military arms sales will suffer for years to come because of this.”

[Personally, I think that Russian arms sales will boom, although they will no longer command top dollar for their weapons and ammo. Foreign countries will be able to buy Russian hardware on the cheap, and we will see sales of Russian ammo skyrocket in the US.]

For the benefit of the Russian Army and its poorly trained soldiers, let’s revisit SURVIVAL.

Dino Garner’s personal copy of FM 21-76.

Size Up The Situation

If you are in a combat situation, find a place where you can conceal yourself from the enemy. Remember, security takes priority. Use your senses of hearing, smell, and sight to get a feel for the battlespace. Determine if the enemy is attacking, defending, or withdrawing. You will have to consider what is developing on the battlespace when you make your survival plan.

Surroundings: Determine the pattern of the area. Get a feel for what is going on around you. Every environment, whether forest, jungle, or desert, has a rhythm or pattern. This tempo includes animal and bird noises and movements, and insect sounds. It may also include enemy traffic and civilian movements.

Physical Condition: The pressure of the battle you were in or the trauma of being in a survival situation may have caused you to overlook wounds you received. Check your wounds and give yourself first aid. Take care to prevent further bodily harm. For instance, in any climate, drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. If you are in a cold or wet climate, put on additional clothing to prevent hypothermia.

Equipment: Perhaps in the heat of battle, you lost or damaged some of your equipment. Check to see what equipment you have and what condition it is in. Now that you have sized up your situation, surroundings, physical condition, and equipment, you are ready to make your survival plan. In doing so, keep in mind your basic physical needs: water, food, and shelter.

Use All Your Senses

You may make a wrong move when you react quickly without thinking or planning. That move may result in your capture or death. Don’t move just for the sake of taking action. Consider all aspects of your situation before you make a decision and a move. If you act in haste, you may forget or lose some of your equipment. In your haste, you may also become disoriented so that you don’t know which way to go. Plan your moves. Be ready to move out quickly without endangering yourself if the enemy is near you. Use all your senses to evaluate the situation. Note sounds and smells. Be sensitive to temperature changes. Always be observant.

Remember Where You Are

Spot your location on your map and relate it to the surrounding terrain. This basic principle is one that you must always follow. If other persons are with you, make sure they also know their location. Always know who in your group, vehicle, or aircraft has a map and compass. If that person is killed, you will have to get the map and compass from him. Pay close attention to where you are and where you are going. Do not rely on others in the group to keep track of the route. Constantly orient yourself. Always try to determine, as a minimum, how your location relates to the location of:

• Enemy units and controlled areas.

• Friendly units and controlled areas.

• Local water sources (especially important in the desert).

• Areas that will provide good cover and concealment.

This information will allow you to make intelligent decisions when you are in a survival and evasion situation.

Vanquish Fear And Panic

The greatest enemies in combat survival and evasion situations are fear and panic. If uncontrolled, they can destroy your ability to make an intelligent decision. They may cause you to react to your feelings and imagination rather than to your situation. These emotions can drain your energy and thereby cause other negative emotions. Previous survival and evasion training and self-confidence will enable you to vanquish fear and panic.

Improvise

In the US, we have items available for all our needs. Many of these items are cheap to replace when damaged. Our easy-come, easy-go, easy-to-replace culture makes it unnecessary for us to improvise. This inexperience in “making do” can be an enemy in a survival situation. Learn to improvise. Take a tool designed for a specific purpose and see how many other uses you can make of it. Learn to use natural objects around you for different needs.

An example is using a rock for a hammer. No matter how complete a survival kit you have with you, it will run out or wear out after a while. Your imagination must take over when your kit wears out.

Value Living

All of us were born kicking and fighting to live, but we have become used to the soft life. We have become creatures of comfort. We dislike inconveniences and discomforts. What happens when we are faced with a survival situation with its stresses, inconveniences, and discomforts? This is when the will to live— placing a high value on living—is vital. The experience and knowledge you have gained through life and your Army training will have a bearing on your will to live. Stubbornness, a refusal to give in to problems and obstacles that face you, will give you the mental and physical strength to endure.

Act Like The Natives

The natives and animals of a region have adapted to their environment. To get a feel of the area, watch how the people go about their daily routine. When and what do they eat? When, where, and how do they get their food? When and where do they go for water? What time do they usually go to bed and get up? These actions are important to you when you are trying to avoid capture. Animal life in the area can also give you clues on how to survive. Animals also require food, water, and shelter. By watching them, you can find sources of water and food. Keep in mind that the reaction of animals can reveal your presence to the enemy. If in a friendly area, one way you can gain rapport with the natives is to show interest in their tools and how they get food and water. By studying the people, you learn to respect them, make valuable friends, and, most importantly, learn how to adapt to their environment and increase your chances of survival.

Live By Your Wits

Without training in basic skills for surviving and evading on the battlespace, your chances of living through a combat survival and evasion situation are slight. Learn these basic skills now—not when you are headed for or are in the battle. How you decide to equip yourself before deployment affects whether or not you survive. You need to know about the environment you are going to, and you must practice basic skills geared to that environment. For instance, if you are going to a desert, you need to know how to get water. Practice basic survival skills during all training programs and exercises. Survival training reduces fear of the unknown and gives you self-confidence. It teaches you to live by your wits.

The Psychology Of Survival

From Dino Garner’s personal collection via Envato.

A key ingredient in any survival situation is the mental attitude of the individual involved. Having survival skills is important; having the will to survive is essential. Without a desire to survive, acquired skills serve little purpose, and invaluable knowledge goes to waste.

There is a psychology to survival.

You will face many stressors in a survival environment that ultimately will affect your mind. These stressors can produce thoughts and emotions that, if poorly understood, can transform a confident, well-trained person into an indecisive, ineffective individual with a questionable ability to survive. Thus, you must be aware of and be able to recognize those stressors commonly associated with survival. It is also imperative that you be aware of your reactions to the wide variety of stressors associated with survival.

The Russian Army Needs To Go Home And Regroup

In Ukraine, there’s a simple bottom line: the Russian Army has shown the world its many problems and limitations. When this war is over, they must return home, regroup and think hard about the many lessons learned from this conflict. My message to them: read FM 21-76. The download is free. Spread it far and wide.

Better luck next time, tovarish.

Maybe.