Finally an explanation for Russia’s piss poor military performance in the Ukraine, and provided by no less that former US 4 star General Barry McCaffrey. And the funny thing is, I had written about one part of it more than a month ago.

Before we get to McCaffrey’s explanation, and why it makes so much sense, a brief explanation, also provided by McCaffrey is needed. I wrote previously about Putin spending billions of dollars over the last 20 years upgrading his militaries’ tanks, armored transport vehicles, artillery and missiles. So why do they have 40 mile long convoys that can’t seem to get anywhere?

According to McCaffrey, there’s a very simple reason, and one we taxpayers here in the US know only too well. Good old basic graft and corruption. You remember our famous examples of the $25,000 toilet seat for US bombers, and the infamous $800 monkey wrench? Now imagine it on steroids in a basically corrupt government and manufacturing complex with no oversight! And since there is nobody in Russia who gives Putin bad news, he thinks he spent $7 billion for new shit, and the shit they gave him isn’t worth a bowl of piss Jack Daniels. Example. It turns out that Russian industry can’t seem to make tires. So instead, they farmed the contract for Russian troop and truck tires out to China for cheap ass discount tires. Which blow up like 4th of July fireworks every mile and a half or so. Stalled 40 mile convoy explained.

Now onto the main entree, and where I come in. About a month ago I wrote that nobody out there wants to go up against Mother Green and her fighting machine. My point was that China hadn’t engaged in theater wide combat since Korea, and Russia hadn’t been involved in a large scale ground invasion since they got their asses kicked in Afghanistan in the 1980’s. The US military has just come off of 20 years of constant, theater wide, live fire combat. The troops, equipment, officers, and tactics are battle tested. Nobody else can say that.

McCaffrey agreed wholeheartedly, and then he put me on the floor when he explained how Putin himself had actually jammed the corn cob up his own ass. He explained that Putin’s first military foray was against the breakaway Republic of Chechnya. But that was largely an air campaign of civilian terror, much like what we’re seeing in Ukraine, with por Russian local nationals doing the ground fighting. The Russian army was largely ancillary.

In 2008 Putin once again fought an extremely localized action in the sovereign nation of Georgia. And once again it was mostly pro Russian Georgians who did the bulk of the fighting, with the Russian army providing support. Putin carved out what he wanted, and got out.

And now we come to Ukraine, and the corn cob up the ass. In 2014, furious at Ukraine for ousting his hand picked puppet President, Putin moved in to secure the strategic,  largely Russian ethnic region of Crimea. Once again, it was largely pro Russian Crimea separatists doing the fighting, with Russian special forces in mufti, the little green men, offering support. Putin also set up Russian support for two breakaway regions in the north of Ukraine, supplying them with weapons and support.

Are you catching the common thread here? Ever since Afghanistan, all of Putin’s military adventures have been highly local, and depended mostly on either air power or pro Russian locals, minimizing his risk to his own troops.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has been at a constant state of war for 8 years now! True, they’re fighting partisan separatists, but they’re at war, and the Russian army isn’t! And in those 8 years, Ukraine has moved westward towards Europe, getting training, logistical support, and defensive armaments from the US and NATO. All of which they have become proficient with in nonstop fighting. Over the last 8 years, the Ukrainian army has lost more than 14,000 soldiers in the conflicts.

There’s your corn cob right there, and it must chafe Putin’s ass something fierce. When Putin sent his third rate army into Ukraine, he honestly had no idea that he was sending them into battle against the best trained, best armed, most battle hardened and tested army in all of Europe. And the kicker is that it was Putin himself who helped to train them up and battle harden them, by constantly giving them battle experience against pro Russian separatists, while his own troops sat in their barracks, listening to The Clash. Welcome to your world, Vlad!


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  1. I understand the price on that stuff when it’s going to our government: it pays for the contract officers who have to make sure that the government gets what it’s actually trying to buy, not a cheap substitute so that the lowest bidder can make a profit. And the lawyers and the others who deal with the cheating bidders, and the people who have to fix the crap that gets through. (I worked in a building that was less than 4 years old and already falling apart, because lowest bidder underbid and used cheaper parts.)

    • The problem with the US system for military purchases is that appropriations have to go through the legislature and, while it may put things out for tender, it doesn’t mean that they don’t overspend. The committees are civilians who get dazzled with new toys and will spend mad sums. Consider the ‘astronauts’ pen’ as an example – vast sums were spent on developing a pen that would work on zero G: meanwhile the Russians solved it by simply giving their guys pencils.

      There is also the fact that defence contractors spend large sums in ‘campaign donations’ – let’s be honest about that and call them what they are – bribes.

      • STFU and GTFO with that astronaut pen BS! JFC, that story burns my asshole worse than Chipotle.

        1. You don’t want graphite particles near electronics in a high oxygen environment. Apollo 1 anyone?

        2. Fischer is the one who spent the money to develop the pen. Fischer saw the need and put the money down to make it happen, no government funding. My first job out of grad school was with an office products company and I know the story.

        3. The Russkies were allowed to buy the pen at cost and they did. They used the space pen.

      • Graphite is flammable and pencils create a dust of the stuff. It can also mess with electronics It is dangerous in space. The pen is safer. The myth of the “smart” Russians and their pencils ignores science and the dangers of certain substances in an enclosed, gravity less environment.

    • $800/wrench pays for many contract officers/contract support. I’d lmao but it is pretty depressing especially when you consider who held office from 2017-2020 and just how big a grifter he is. I have visions of things much more expensive than $800 wrenches.

      • OR. You could’ve meant “cannot recommend this Twitter thread ENOUGH.” Given how you’d set up the sentence, that actually seems to be the more likely option.

        Personally, I wouldn’t have use “can” in the sentence at all. My wording would’ve gone “If you’d like MUCH more detail . . ., then I recommend this Twitter thread” (or omit “then” and follow with “I’d/I would recommend”). Still, I think my “cannot . . . enough” would’ve been just as good; it flows SO MUCH better than using “can” by itself.

  2. The same thing is behind the reason Russia has a poorly equipped, underfunded, low morale, incompetent army, and the Russian Minister of Defense in charge of the army has a $24 million mansion.

    Chronic uncontrolled corruption in a massively corrupt kleptocracy.

  3. I was on engineering teams for a few of the “outrageous price items”; yes, all the items raised did occur to some degree.. BUT it was often insane specs that drove the price. A cut that required a master machinist over 4 hours with a 20% scrap rate, when a reasonable (and proven reliable) tolerance could have been done by a junior in under 2 minutes…

    • I get where, as an engineer you’re coming from. For many things the old adage of good enough is good enough and perfect is a pain in the ass that’s seldom worth the effort” applies even to military equipment. Of course, with military equipment you should in most cases have “really good” (if not great) as the standard which of course will drive up cost. But for some things, even “mundane” stuff like body armor then if not perfect than as close as possible needs to be the goal and that will drive up costs even more. It gets bigger than that though. For some things anything less than perfect (or as close as possible) can cost not only lives but something worth tens of millions, or in the case of some things like certain aircraft into hundreds of millions. And for a ship or sub billions.

      My own active duty days were a lifetime ago, and had I ever been called upon to do what I was specifically trained to do (kill enemy tanks with the big shoulder launched, optically wire guided missiles of that era) I’d have probably been dead within five to ten minutes if I lasted even that long. That was the job though and especially with the Dragon which had a max range of 1k meters and took ten fucking seconds to go that distance (slow enough it was easy to visually watch them fly if you were off to the side or a target who saw the launch) if memory serves they cost six thousand a shot which was quite the sum in the 1980s. I don’t recall the price per for the T.O.W. but it was larger and longer range. The point is that each one needed to work perfectly to give gunners a chance to kill multiple tanks before getting killed by enemy fire. Kill enough to slow down an attack so other assets could be brought to bear.

      When it comes to tolerances on airframes of modern fixed and rotary wing military aircraft for some of it only construction to an incredible degree of precision will do. Same for the avionics. Modern fighter and attack jets literally can’t fly without computer assisted control – known as “fly by wire” back in the old days. Systems on ships and subs and I’m not just talking about nuclear propulsion plants on them but other things including the very screws (propellers and shafts) that drive them through the water have to be manufactured to the closest possible tolerances. They take an unimaginable beating in ordinary conditions, and all those reduction gears that transfer the steam to the shafts are painstakingly made for a reason. As are components say on an aircraft carrier’s launch systems (not enough catapult speed and both the aircraft and the person or persons in it are lost) as well as the recovery (arresting gear) systems which to the naked eye if one went below the flight deck to take a look might seem crude but again have to perform damned near perfectly every time or disaster results. I could go on and on.

      I’m reminded of a West Wing episode where Donna meets a submariner who has just been transferred to the WH as an aide to the National Security advisor. She helps him find his office in the basement which is freezing. He gets called to the situation room and with the big party going on upstairs she decides to try and get his radiator working. (This btw was in the old days when smoking was still ok in the service) He comes back to find her trying to use a big pipe wrench and they talk a bit. She makes a crack about military spending including thee hundred dollar ashtrays so he picked up the pipe wrench and slams it down on the ashtray he’d unpacked from his carton of stuff. She is surprised of course and exclaims what was that. He picks up a chunk that by the way has NO sharp edges and says “That was a three hundred dollar ashtray. It’s designed to break into three parts with no sharp edges.” He goes on to explain a bit about what happens to ships that get hit in combat or might have a collision (and attack subs in particular trailed Soviet boats close enough it was always a risk) with another ship or something that wasn’t marked (or properly so) on the charts. He concludes by saying “We live a little different life out there and it costs more money.”

      I’m not saying there isn’t waste or that defense contractors too often (if not always) create ways to milk the taxpayers for every dollar they can. That IS the case. But my point is that often what seems like waste isn’t as wasteful as it seems. Sometimes even a proven process that can be accomplished by a good and experience worker simply isn’t good enough.


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