A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jul 19, 2022

Why Russia Is Failing In Ukraine More Quickly Than Most Realize

Russia's logistics situation was already dire when Ukraine began using US-supplied HIMARS missiles to destroy ammunition, supply and transportation centers dozens of kilometers behind Russian lines. The addition of ammunition that can reach targets 300 kilometers away puts every Russian troop or supply concentration in Ukraine within reach. 

But even if the enhanced artillery were neutralized - which, so far, it has not been - the failure of Russian equipment is now reaching epidemic proportions as most of its first class military hardware has been destroyed or irreparably damaged. Which is why most military commentators - as opposed to journalists - now believe the Russian army's collapse is inevitable. JL

Nadin Brzezinski reports in Medium, image Efrem Lukatsky, AP:

Ukraine is going to end in very Russian way. It’s starting to look like the armies of Vladimir Putin will go home on foot, leaving a lot of equipment behind. Why? They are facing a logistics collapse like that seen by the armies of the Tzar in 1917. Given how central artillery is in Russian doctrine, if batteries fall silent, you are done. How long before a total collapse? If Ukraine gets ammo that can reach 300 km (now confirmed), no Russian depot within Ukrainian territory will be safe. This includes Sebastopol, in Crimea. Every time Russia sees reversals, bombing of civilian areas increases. So does the talk of a nuclear use. These are the threats of a government that can see the writing on the wall.

I can only make an assumption, in the spirit of the same Russian propaganda and in a language they understand, that Putin is a sent Cossack, a puppet of the West, staged in order to finally finish and destroy Russia. What they have successfully performed and is being implemented. In exchange, he receives personal benefits in unlimited quantities. This is, of course, conspiracy, but absolutely in the spirit of the obscurantism that Russian state media and officials are now spreading. (Russian officer)

There are many ways wars can come to a halt. Total surrenders are the ones most people imagine. The surrender of the Japanese on board the USS Missouri comes to mind. Or, for that matter, Victory Day in Europe. Rarely do wars end that way.

Total surrenders are rare as nails. Most end around a table and even the shape of the table is contested.

Ukraine is likely going to end in very Russian way. It’s starting to look like the armies of Vladimir Putin will go home on foot, leaving a lot of equipment behind. Why? They are facing a logistics collapse like that seen by the armies of the Tzar in 1917, after the Summer offensive.

First, a tad of background. Because we have seen signals of this since the beginning of the war. If the Russian plan had worked, and they took Kyiv in three days, we would not have noticed these systemic problems with the Russian army.

But now we do, and have.

The first sign of this was a Russian general who reportedly shot himself because his tanks were in a sorry state:

This was early. It sounded too incredible to be true. And to be fair, ninety percent of his reserve tanks might be a tad high. Nevertheless, it happened. Then we had another tidbit. This came from Major General Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine's Intel chief. He was rather specific in the interview with Sky News:

So, somebody within the Russian Ministry of Defense has confirmed how bad the logistics are. He has also told the world, or at least those of us who read certain Telegram channels, this is from Volyanedia, just how bad the Russian situation is. We already knew that troops were also refusing to fight. The number of refuseniks is growing, so remember the Summer offensive of 1917 as you read this.

These are the logistics trains. They are obviously not able to meet demands.

Barrels need to be changed regularly, or they will fail. When they fail, if lucky, you only get them to banana, as the explosive gasses breakthrough. If not, you get an explosion that injures and kills personnel.

Let’s just say these failures are terrible for morale. Artillerymen know the barrels need changing. They also know what happens and likely why when barrels fail.

This speaks to the issue, and given how central artillery is in Russian doctrine, if batteries fall silent, you are done. This also means the grinding way of war cannot happen if you don’t have the ammo or guns.

But we are told by people like Dylan Ratigan that sanctions don’t work. Here is a textbook example. They are working and are affecting the effectiveness of the force. No wonder the Russian elite is talking of autarky at this point.

Remember the general that shot himself? Here you have absolute confirmation of what we were told. Perhaps ninety percent was too high, but one in four tanks that work is a problem. I have gotten confirmation from a source on this as well. Twenty percent of these tanks went to war with sticky turrets. Crews found about this the hard way, in the middle of combat.

No wonder crews abandoned these tanks.

They are also getting cars, read armor that basically does not work. This means Russians are loading these at the supply depots without even checking to see if they will turn on.

It’s a mystery how they are doing that since these are not light, but sure. Perhaps they are craning them onto trains.

We have seen this in fewer fire missions. Ukrainian HIMARS continue to pound supply depots, so expect this to grow. It’s more than eleven at this point.

The problem they have is they don’t have the trucks to drive these from bases inside Russia. Nor do they know how to do that. Russia would need something like the Red Ball Express after the Allies landed at Normandy. They don’t have the trucks at this point.

It is not how they are used to logistics, and there is no flexibility. This is a twentieth-century army with nineteenth-century logistics. Think of the toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic. It froze because the factories closed, not because there was no shipping.

In this case, imagine if the factories still produced it, but we were short of shipping containers. If we lost half, we would still have the issue. Russia has no shipping fleet to speak off. And it is used only using rail, with some trucks.

Remember what Budanov told Sky News? He wasn’t prescient. He knows the Russian way of war, and his people picked on this signal, and he decided to make his assessment public.

And likely, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will go on offensive as soon as the battlefield conditions favor them. There are already anecdotes of Russian troops changing into civilian clothes and trying to melt away. Granted, some may stay behind troops, but a Russian resistance in Kherson, for example, has no local support.

A Russian guerrilla operation in Ukraine will likely fail. Little green men to continue a fiction will not work. They are also considered spies under the laws of war.

And here, you get more noise as to how effective the sanctions have been. So when people tell you but, but, here you have it, somebody is leaking like a sieve. I suspect it’s frustration driven.

But there is more…and I will use just the very significant pieces from this other long article. Let’s just say somebody or a few somebodies are leaking, and I am there for this. It speaks to deep frustration from the General Staff. They know they lost the war.

These are cables and hydraulic lines. We have tanks in storage. Some pretty rough storage. But we know that tanks must be given a thorough check and maintenance before being sent to the troops. Russians are not doing that, as I wrote above. This is more evidence of this.

It has huge implications. Yes, on paper, Russia had 10,000 tanks before the war started. Many of these were in storage depots. Those are by train lines because it makes it easier to load and ship. They don’t have mechanics to do the most basic of work.

So what we have is mostly a paper army. At this point, these things are showing up to the front where there is no capacity to fix them. So crews have abandoned many of these tanks. Now we know why.

Oh, it gets much worse. Since there is no declaration of war…

This is the implication because the tank factory supposedly stopped running due to sanctions; they are still producing some new tanks. It’s just not for the war effort. They are using whatever they still have to fulfill an export order.

Put yourself in the shoes of the general staff for a damn second. You need tanks, but the export market is taking priority in the middle of a war. Incidentally, they are no longer producing Armatas either. This is as dysfunctional as it gets.

And if you thought it could get worse, you know it could.

We do something similar. We send badly damaged vehicles or those in major maintenance to a tank factory. That is not the strange thing here. Its the following paragraph.

The reforms of the 1990s converted a lot of industries into profit businesses, including these plants. They are competing for business and working, it reads to me as if they were just in time manufacturing centers. They also are part of the export market.

Now the previous minister was not very popular with the military because he wanted real reforms and to stop some of the practices that led to this mess, including ghost divisions. So blaming him, and it would not shock me if he lined his pockets either, is hardly a surprise.

So what happened after Shoigu became the defense minister? In a normal country, you’d expect real reforms, right? Not quite, he normalized this arrangement.

Then there is the restoration of the equipment near the front lines. It reads like western supply and repair depots during world war two. American Sherman tanks were affectionately called Zippos by the crews because they tended to light up like a Roman candle when hit. Crews died. These husks were recovered and sent to the rear.

Why? Those that could be fixed were and went back into service. The Russians are trying something similar. We all have seen the jack-in-the-box turrets. Crews don’t survive that. But the vehicles need to be repaired. Like American crews, Russians first need to clean these tanks from human remains, hardly a pleasant job.

If you thought this was a job for military troops, it was in the US military. It’s not for Russia. They are bringing factory workers to do this grizzly job. They are paying people within Ukraine 300,000 rubles per month and on the Russian side 150,000.

Realize the money is really good. They cannot keep technicians. Not even with what are incredibly good wages. And I cannot say I can blame them. It’s telling, though, that the Russian army does not have the mechanics to do this. It’s another failure in the logistics system.

They have repair depots, but it really looks like it’s just for oil changes at jiffy lube. The real work to return tanks to service is done by people who can get out of this job even easier than the troops.

Military Bloggers

There is an awareness that the war has been lost. It’s not just Igor Girkin. He has warned that short of general mobilization, Russia would lose. Given the issues with logistics, I don’t believe a Russian mobilization would have helped. In fact, arming Mobiki, Donbas troops, with Mossin Nagants now makes sense. I don’t think there were enough AKs to give them, which is a wild thought.

But this one was more transparent in his most recent post:

The panic among the bloggers, mostly on the far right that is nationalist and believes in Eurasianism, and the special mission of Russia is clear. They see the war as lost and blame Vladimir Putin for it.

How long before we see a total collapse? If Ukraine gets ammo that can reach 300 km, no Russian depot within Ukrainian territory will be safe. This includes Sebastopol, well within Crimea. There are negotiations underway.

Incidentally, expect more threats of nuclear weapons. Every time Russia sees more reversals, the bombing of civilian areas increases. So does the talk of a nuclear use. These are the threats of a government that can see the writing on the wall.


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