The Wisdom of Rummy
Almost 20 years ago, in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I had the opportunity to meet the late Donald Rumsfeld. Say about him what you will, but he was great with the troops and, despite being the US Secretary of Defense, spoke to us all well and treated us as equals. He came off as “one of the guys” and didn’t want any special perks. He even tried to wave off a personal security detail (PSD) as he insisted on walking a few hundred meters to a large outdoor speaking engagement. He indeed walked, PSD alert and close by, chatting with soldiers the entire time.
Why mention him at this time? In this instance, because of one particular quote of his. He said,
“You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin would have been smart to take in this nugget of wisdom.
The Russian Third Army Corps
At some point during his “special military operation,” it must have been clear to Putin that the “army he already had” wasn’t the greatest, so he had to develop something better after the war started. In US military operations circles, we refer to this as “piss poor planning.”
The news was broken by Ukrainska Pravda in late July that Russia was “forming the Third Separate Army Corps in its Western Military District in order to address its lack of manpower in Ukraine.” Their source for this information came straight from The Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, a Ukrainian government-run website.
As an aside, they keep a ticker right below the header of their website, keeping track of how long it’s been since the Russians invaded their country.
The Russian Third Army Corps was created in June of 2022 as a “new and improved” (my words) ground unit that would take the fight to Ukraine. The “Third Corps,” as I’ll refer to them from heron out for the sake of brevity, is part of the Western Military District and was planned to comprise 15,000 – 60,000 soldiers. That’s a huge range.
Vadym Skibitskyi of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications of Ukraine had a lot to say about the new enemy unit on Ukrainian TV; He is quoted as saying, “According to confirmed data, 8 battalions were formed by mid-July. This is not enough for Russia. These battalions were formed in any way. They recruited anyone. Therefore, to conduct hostilities, Russia decided to form a third separate army corps. It is currently being formed in the Western Military District in order to use it as a unit against Ukraine. They announced their plans to form this corps by mid-August.”
He noted his information was obtained through Ukrainian Intelligence sources, which have proven to be quite reliable to this point in the war, perhaps because they have allegedly been getting some level of assistance from the West.
Skibitsky continued, “According to the information that the military intelligence of Ukraine receives from various sources, in particular from radio intercepts, we see that the lack of officer personnel is simply catastrophic. In their conversations, they say that there are no officers in the units or at all, and if there are, no one knows or sees them. And we see this problem in the formation of the same third army corps and other units that Russia is forming. In order to ensure the presence of lower-level commanders in the units, they are forced to assign the rank of junior lieutenant to the sergeant ranks.”
According to Newsweek, this is a volunteer unit, and the would-be fighters were offered what has been referred to as a “lucrative” cash bonus to entice them into military service. They have also reported that their intelligence sources inform them that troops of the Third have recently been seen being moved toward the front by way of rail cars.
The Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) has recently reported on its Telegram channel that “In recent days, our volunteers discovered photos and videos of the transportation of Russian military equipment by rail. The video shows the full warehouse of the Buk complex, and the photo shows T-80BV and T-90M tanks.” These weapons platforms are significantly newer than the obsolete T-62s that Russia has lost by the score in Ukraine.
Not Ready for Combat
There is one fundamental fact of military life that I have not mentioned yet, and it could make all the difference in how Russia’s new Third Army Corps. You can’t just throw a bunch of new recruits in a unit, train them up for a few weeks and expect them to perform effectively. It just doesn’t work that way. It takes months or years to build unit cohesion so that each soldier knows their role and trusts the others to know theirs.
In the end, they are not fighting for Mother Russia or to take over Ukraine…they are fighting for their buddies to the right and left of them, and they better sure as hell know what they are doing. So it is not surprising that The Wall Street Journal reported that troops of the Third Corps had been reported to have significant personnel issues. Reportedly, there have been multiple complaints of them being inebriated and bothering local residents.
This points to exceedingly poor discipline, and it takes strong disciple to win wars.