Ukraine warns that Russia is about to launch a major offensive. The next few months will determine the outcome of the war.
This caution, however justified, is clear. The invasion did not go according to plan. Moscow’s archaic military tactics were exposed.
Despite initially gaining momentum, the Russian forces were eventually repelled and their attempts to seize control of the whole Donbas region in eastern Ukraine fell apart.
The Russians did not anticipate the strength and determination of Ukraine‘s resistance or the continued support of the West.
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The Russian army has been severely battered, and their air force has been conspicuously absent.
Despite Russia‘s incredible array of military capabilities – which is regularly displayed during large parades – it has not been able to transform this equipment into battle-winning ability. The illusion of Russian invincibility was created by systemic corruption, autocratic leadership, and a dependence on 20th-century military tactics. This illusion has now been discredited.
Next? Russia can mobilize more soldiers, but that does not mean it will produce the same quality of soldiers. Despite the lessons learned, the Russian forces still have the same weapons and thousands of inexperienced soldiers. So how can they turn the tide?
Modern battlefield success depends on teamwork, an all-arms approach. Russia requires its tanks, artillery and infantry to operate coherently in 21st century warfare. This is where the Russian advantage of size could be decisive.
There is an alternative: throwing more inexperienced recruits into cannon in the vain hope of mass victory (20th-century war) – this will make them more vulnerable to Ukrainian high tech precision weapons. However, Putin seems more concerned about his place in Russian history then the fate of his conscripts.
While warships, tanks, and fast-jets are a tangible and credible visual deterrent to enemy ships, the key measure of warfighting ability is how these military assets will be used. This requires intense training, both individually and collectively.
Although it is costly, time-consuming and difficult, teamwork is essential to maximize the capabilities, intelligence, and experience of all assets in order to build decisive capability. Russia is clearly not a member of the Joint Environment, but Western militaries continue to train in it.
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While the Russian invasion in Ukraine had and will continue having terrible consequences, it has highlighted the huge gap between Russia’s warfighting capabilities and its political rhetoric.
Russia might have thought that it was a military near-peer to the US a year ago. But how has the world turned out to reveal the truth behind this rhetoric.