I saw something today that filled my heart with joy. Ursula Faw posted an article with a video of a Russian tank that had run out of fuel, and potential Ukrainian refugees surrounded the vehicle and told them to wait, and they’d get a truck to tow them back to Russia. This is why Russia can’t win. The Ukrainians don’t want to be Russians.

But to me, it exposed a serious problem. As you all know, I was and still am a serious tactical conflict junkie. And I’m here to tell you that less than 96 hours into what should have been a well planned invasion, there is absolutely no excuse for a Russian tank sitting out in the middle of nowhere, out of fuel, being ridiculed by the locals.

Especially when the advance is going slower than the Russians thought. No modern army that doesn’t want to be slaughtered outruns their chain of supply. An army travels on its stomach. And also on ammunition and gasoline. A happy and effective soldier is one with a full stomach. And yet, here we are, less than 4 days into the invasion, and already Russian tanks are running out of gas? 

This tells me something. It tells me that the Ukrainians well and truly have their shit together. As the Russians advanced, the Ukrainians left units behind and hidden. And as Russian supply trains roll through, the Ukrainians are popping out to delay and destroy the supply trains, and then disappearing. That could be a reason for the slowness of the advance. The Russians don’t have enough support, and the Ukrainians are keeping ammunition as well as fgas from getting through.

A few days ago, I wrote an article that went something along the lines of In the end, it all comes down to will. And an hour ago on Ayman on MSNBC, I heard something that surprised, but didn’t shock me. A well plugged military analyst said that he had heard that there were multiple troops that were crossing over the border into the Ukraine, and then laying down their arms and refusing to fight the Ukrainians. This was something I had suspected all along.

I have written repeatedly before about how the majority of Russians don’t support an invasion of the Ukraine. They have free travel, do business, see relatives. Why change anything. Why should it be any different in the Russian military, the majority of whom are conscripts, just wasting 2 years to get back to free life. And just like the majority of the Russian people, they aren’t buying Putin’s glib explanations for the invasion.

Let’s get this straight. The front line troops should be the best trained, most loyal troops Putin has. If some of them are laying down arms and refusing to fight, what is going to happen when the second and third echelon troops start moving forward? And that brings up another potential problem.

If Putin’s own most trusted soldiers haven’t bought into his bullshit, what does that mean for the Russian police and state security agents? They have friends and relatives in the Ukraine to. News Flash! There are way more Russian protesters than there are Russian police. So far, they’ve been passive. But what if they turn aggressive? Do the police and pseudo military troops actually open fire on their own countrymen over something they personally disagree with?

Putin fucked up from start to finish. He miscalculated the will of the Ukrainian people and military, he fucked up his calculation of the resolve of his own troops, and his badly miscalculated the popularity of the war with his own populace. And right now, Putin is the only person on the planet that wants whis war to continue, for his own selfish personal political gains.

Look, I don’t know that’s going to happen next, nobody does. But I do know that he and his country are international pariahs, and his own military is showing cracks as to their devotion to the cause. The only question now is, how much more will the Russian people put up with?


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  1. Going by everything I’ve seen today, Murf? Not much more…especially when you factor in how the Ukrainians are making sure the families of their Russian POWs are getting to know their soldier relatives are alright.

    Not all of Putin’s troops will lay down their arms…but I’m beginning to wonder if said troops will defect to the Ukranian army or just outright shoot at their supposed comrades before this is over.

  2. I’m encouraged but not confident that Russia won’t prevail in the short-term. Long-term if it gets to that they are fucked and the inability (or unwillingness but more likely inability) to shut down communications in Ukraine is huge. Ukrainians see their President out with the troops manning battle positions and in tactical gear, or walking the streets of Kyiv exhorting people to fight (making the point that although he’s a dead man if Russia gets their hands on him he’s still there and is staying there) will have them ready to create all kinds of hell for an occupying force.

    What keeps running through my mind is terrain and for a couple of different reasons. First, Ukraine doesn’t offer much in the way of terrain challenges other than rivers which a properly prepared (trained) and equipped army with numerical (in theory) and (again in theory) a decisive advantage in the air can cross with bridges put up by combat engineers pretty damned quickly if and when (as has happened) defenders blow bridges. Basically, this is classic maneuver warfare due to the terrain and since Hitler’s Army demonstrated the concept via Blitzkrieg when they initiated WWII one thing stands out. An army with a major advantage in armor and air & artillery can gobble up a lot of distance and objectives quickly.

    Kyiv is only a hundred miles (if that) from the border with Belarus which might as well be Russian soil in all this. With two attack routes with one flank protected by a reasonably wide body of water most of the way there’s no reason why many divisions of Russian tanks weren’t rolling through Kyiv within 48 hours, and Russia having control of the airport. That means the next day whatever puppet Putin planned to install would have been making some bullshit speech to their new group of “legislators” also flown in.

    I also think you’ve hit on something important – Ukrainian troops hunkering down and hiding while the initial tank and other vehicles passed and waited to start shooting up supply vehicles AND had enough shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles at the ready to make lot of Russin pilots (both helicopters and jets) be extra careful about engaging in the close-in air to ground type of attacks needed to dig out defenders who had plenty of time to prepare. Russians might have had maps and even spent time in Ukraine and knew where the major roads they’d need were but so did the amply forewarned Ukrainians and Putin’s delay trying to get them to give up without a fight (like Crimea) only served to give them time to build some kick ass bunkers as well as the means to shift around without the Russians realizing they were sometimes attacking empty targets.

    Here’s the other terrain issue that will become VERY important if Ukraine can hold out for even a couple of weeks. I’ve read some reports that temperatures in the latter part of Feb have been warmer than normal. Up near 40 degrees a lot of day and even if it gets down to freezing at night it doesn’t get really, really cold. Russian tactics for such a large operation depend as all maneuver warfare does on mobility. Even paved roads get chewed up after a while by heavy armor and tracked vehicles. If the ground around them (extending way off the actual roads) isn’t frozen down solid well below what we see in all but the most northern states in this country then Russia is fucked. Tanks, self propelled artillery and rocket launchers and even lighter but still armored troop carriers will get bogged down. Talk about ducks on a pond!

    All that is before you factor in civilian resistance. There are an awful lot of Ukrainian veterans, not all of them officially in their Reserves that can provide a lot of guidance to civilians ready to fight.

    Every day Ukraine holds out and keeps Russia from gaining true control of Kyiv is a disaster for Russia’s and more to the point Putin’s chances of coming out of this better than they were before starting it. Given how quickly NATO (a larger one than existed during the Cold War) has unified and reversed so much of the damage his proxy Trump created Putin is surely throwing Trump like tantrums several times a day. Hell, even notoriously neutral Sweden and Finland are making noises about becoming members of NATO!

    And now Germany, their biggest and most important trading partner is dropping almost all resistance and if not “all in” on dropping their pants and mooning Putin, willing to take the economic hit (and winter is almost over meaning natural gas from Russia will be less of an issue than it would have been at the beginning of this month) all Russia has left is some, not full but some support from China. And you can bet your ass that if Putin puts his hand out Xi will have the kind of chat that will be one of the worst moments of Putin’s life because Xi’s help will come at a steep price to Russia’s ability to be autonomous.

    • One thing the Ukrainians have now is sidewinder ground to air missiles. These are something the Russians are familiar with as these are the nasty tool the Taliban used on the airborne troops and drove the Russians out of Afghanistan I predict this war is going to get very expensive for Putin in the short run. The longer this incursion runs on the worse is is for Putin. I believe the Russian population may yet be the deciding factor in how long the war can go on. Also Putin isn’t winning any followers to his cause threatening reprisals on country’s like Finland, for applying for membership in NATO.

    • For the Russians, it all comes down to supplies. Word I hear is that they got 10-14 days left of those and with international sanctions and financial no-fly zones popping into place, getting more is going to be difficult to impossible. AND Ukraine is about to get a floodtide of supplies of their own this coming week. This keeps up, we could be seeing a result analogous to the Russo Japanese War. The fact that Putin wants to negotiate NOW (albeit in Belarus, which got an automatic veto from Zelensky) tells me how deep in trouble the Russians are, regardless of small gains.

      • One thing about supplies for an attacking army (and for defenders but on their home turf with help coming literally from friends across the border significantly less so) is that such estimates are damned near always overly optimistic. Even for disciplined front line troops with front line equipment that is well-maintained. And with good leadership executing a well thought out strategy that allows for surprises. I’m struck by the fact that it appears most of the Russian tanks are old T-72s. Upgraded with better targeting and other systems perhaps but basically those tanks and BMPs (armored personnel carriers) are the same that I was trained to ID and kill back in the 1980s. It makes me wonder just how much top line equipment in good working order Putin and his army has, and whether they are being held back to ensure being able to hold the Crimean peninsula and the Black Sea? Or far to the east just in case China decides to go after vast tracts of land that once belonged to them? Yes, Putin has been playing footsie with Xi but at best Russia and China have been allies of convenience when it comes to Ukraine. China can’t like a reinvigorated NATO which would be able to provde support to Australia, Japan, South Korea and other allies in the Pacific. I’m guessing but I think Xi assumed Putin would have been much better prepared to smash Ukraine, and that NATO wouldn’t (after all the damage Trump created in the alliance at Putin’s bidding) unify so swiftly.

        During the Cold War China and Russia didn’t trust each other much more than they trusted us. The tenuous alliance they had was more of necessity than the old allies of convenience or the enemy of my enemy is my friend. There are centuries of bad blood between those two nations. I think Xi still has a measure of support for Putin but a qualified “go for it – we won’t oppose you” has turned tepid and the longer this drags on, and IF Putin resorts to some of those weapons that are essentially fuel-air bombs in cities the already disastrous (for Putin and Russia) reaction of the rest of the world will put China in a tough spot. Tough enough that they will both publicly and privately withdraw support for the Ukraine invasion.

        Back to the original issue, it seems Ukraine chose a strategy of allowing quite a bit of armor to pass through a ways, and once they were far enough into Ukraine start hitting supply vehicles. I’m guessing but I’d be surprised if Russia has even a week’s worth of supplies left ready to ship to their units that have advanced and they still have the problem of getting them where they are needed. I think we agree Putin was way overconfident. Maybe his generals and intel people were afraid to tell him some hard truths during the lead-up to this war. Maybe he’s just slipped over the line into delusional thinking but I suspect its closer to the former. Regardless he knows all too well that his forces are behind schedule in securing their objectives. If he’s thinking rationally he knows his whole plan is in trouble and he’s backed himself into a corner. We are in truly scary times. I’m not as concerned about nukes or other WMD as many seem to be, but some of those weapons showing up on the border are seriously awful things and use of them on cities would rightly be called crimes against humanity – the kind of war crimes that if handed over would get Putin and even those generals at the tactical level who give the “go” order to deploy them a death sentence at a special Tribunal.

        • When I think on that top-line equipment you mentioned, dselliott, I have flashes of the Third Reich’s Wunderwaffen that was supposed to change everything…and didn’t. And even if they’ve got that equipment in reserve, do they have the fuel and supplies to keep it going in the field?

          Can get behind the supply estimate being optimistic. I read this fascinating Twitter thread last night (and gods, I wish I could find it again) about the mismanagement goes all the way down to the units being deployed, battalion tactical groups. Per the poster, they lack several elements needed for the field–signal troops, artillery spotters–have to subdivide into smaller units to navigate the roads and used up about 7 days of supplies just waiting for the go order. While he was unsure this plan would work, he was adamant about how it was anything but a GOOD plan. He ascribed it to long-time rot and graft in the Russian military complex, which the higher-ups failed to account for, even WITH expectations of such. Oh and racism against the Ukrainians, thinking they’d be cowed at the sight of the Russian army (so much for THAT theory).

          • It would take a lengthy explanation to go through all the details of the Russian system but basically their army conscripts serve two years. Unless something has changed conscripts assigned to their Navy serve three but again it would take a while to explain why and even more to explain why it doesn’t change a basic truth. In their armed forces junior officers perform tasks that in western armies are handled by Sgt. and not the top Sgt. but even taks that for us would be handled by “three stiper” (or in the Corps two stripes – Corporals or E-4s in the Marines are NCOs on the same level as Sgts. or Petty Officers (E-5s) in the other branches. This has a profound (not in a good way) on efficiency and it manifests in the very ways you pointed out in your comment. That means even latest generation equipment often isn’t maintained to specs, that spotting for and directing field guns (artillery and mortars, especially the latter where targets come and go quickly) or airstrikes doesn’t take place the way it would as with western armed forces. Any Company Commander worth their salt in our army or that of our allies would be all over their platoon commanders to make sure that every NCO was as well trained as they are in such things and press them to get every grunt in the unit at least a rudimentary understanding of such things. Even if there’s a “rock painter” it’s a safe bet that his top NCO will be “suggesting” to platoon leaders this type of training is needed and if THAT person is a future rock painter he will go directly to the highest ranking NCO in the platoon to get it done even if it means extra time added to the training schedule. I’m sure there are company and platoon level officers in the Russian army with that kind of professionalism but it’s harder for them to implement.

            As for equipment, again you have a point about aged stuff being more difficult to keep battle worthy. It can be done and they sure as hell have plenty of parts but those parts have to be where they are needed and that older stuff is more prone to breakdowns no matter how well it was serviced before being sent into battle. And again, you have officers supervising the work (or even the logistics of getting parts) instead of tending to other duties like our officers would be doing.

            I would imagine things have changed for the better, but back during the Cold War when I served MAPS were classified documents that only officers were supposed to possess or read! But even if enlisted pukes are allowed access to them as I’ve already stated only some, and probably far from most know how to use them to figure out where they are in relation to their objective, or use them to accurately direct fire from supporting arms.

            I now understand the overall Russian strategy – attack from the east, south and north and Ukraine would be cut in two with its Capitol in Russian hands. Nice theory on paper, but it was based on the assumption Ukraine wouldn’t put up much of a fight. I’m sure they figured on it being tougher than Crimea but they ignored the warning signs that should have been evident from the years of fighting in those disputed eastern Ukrainian provinces. And the fact that unlike 2014 Ukraine now has an actual trained army with a considerable number of active duty and reserve troops who have experienced actual combat. Not to mention a civilian population that outside those disuputed areas is as fiercely nationalistic as their own. Russia on paper does in fact have a superior number of troops and equipment but NOT anything close to the amount needed to execute their pre-war strategy in the expected time. Also, as has been noted again and again taking over a country as large as Ukraine and both holding it and pacifying a mostly hostile population are two very different things. That’s a lesson from Afghanistan Putin seems to have forgotten, and not even the reminder WE gave him in Bush 43’s misguided war of choice seems to have caused him to remember. (I wonder how many Russian conscripts who fought and suffered in Afghanistan are aghast at what’s happening now, knowing their grandkids or other kids they have known have been thrown into this war? Unlike the disgusted old man in the beer garden in Cabaret as the brown shirt sings Tomorrow Belongs To Me I’d imagine they are speaking up in their communities)

            I still believe the odds are decent that in the next week Russia can manage to accomplish the strategy of cutting Ukraine in two and taking Kyiv. Maybe even capturing and killing Zelinsky (and his family) if he continues to stay there. However, if that happens I don’t think an insurgency will last years, but rather months. In theory Russia can reinforce but what would be a tough task in normal circumstances will be exceptionally challenging for a regime that has so far proven unable to carry out its plans effectively. On the other hand, there is a wide front on which weapons and supplies can be fed into western Ukraine and moved forward. If Russia tries to interdict within fifty (perhaps more) of the border they will be stunned by the losses of aircraft and tanks and the deeper supplies move into Ukraine and can be split into smaller loads the more difficult it will be to stop it from happening.

            I know I’m not supposed to say such a thing and Ursula might give me the internet version of a slap upside the head but the best thing that could happen right now is for one of Putin’s inner circle oligarchs to “go Brutus” on him. That would shake things up enough for a legitimate cease fire and negotiations to put an end to all this.

    • Tanks lose a lot of their effectiveness in an urban environment. The Russians may be able to surround kiev, but getting inside will be much more difficult.

  3. When I saw that out-of-gas tank video (as opposed to the tank operators who committed a war crime by running over a civilian car; and really, the entire invasion is a war crime by Putin if not the soldiers “just following orders”), it really struck me that the Russian soldiers were kibbitzing with the Ukrainians, not opening fire on the supposed enemy. (Not to mention the bravery of the Ukrainians to stop and chat up the soldiers.) It’s just surreal. but it points to Putin’s underlying problem – nobody believes in this war but him. And the more stingers and other weapons that pour into Ukraine from Germany, the US, and other allies, the more Russia suffers casualties, is shown to have an aging, ill-prepared, unwilling military (did you see the video inside one of Russia’s tanks? It looks like it hasn’t been maintained in 100 years), and the worse it gets for L’il Putin.

    • Ah, c’mon T-55s and T-72s aren’t THAT old. Couldn’t have had more than 40 years of neglect on them (to paraphrase Blazing Saddles’ opening joke)!

  4. Battle of the Bulge, December 1944. Germans didn’t manage to get a big Allied fuel depot and ran out of fuel, first week had bad weather that grounded Allied planes, Germans advanced rapidly, weather cleared, they got trounced by air. Logistics, logistics, logistics. Not much has changed in ground warfare basics 101.
    Here’s hoping the Ukrainians can hold out.


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