You know, being the spokesman for a country’s military, or any other large government agency is really not much different than being a politician. You craft your words to shine and highlight your positions and accomplishments, hopefully without letting any of the weaknesses or warts show through.

In that vein, the Russian military spokesman actually made me laugh out loud today. The Ukrainians announced that over the last several days, Ukraine had reclaimed more than 2000 km of Russian held territory, and that they were in the process of expelling the Russian army from Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine.

Not only did the Russian military not dispute the Ukrainian claims, but their statement was a 5 star thigh slapper for anybody who actually knows and understands the lingo. The Russian military flack simply stated that the Russian units in Kharkiv were retiring in order to reform. This is the kind of drivel that you get from a campaign spokesman when his candidate is 27 points down 3 days before the election.

Just a brief explanation for clarity’s sake, and I promise it will be brief. In military terms, whether you’re talking about a corps, a division, a brigade, or a battalion, what you’re talking about is a series of cohesive units that function as a larger group. These units live together, eat together, drink together, train together, work together, and shit together. The object is the military version of the Bolshoi ballet.

When a unit is coherent and functional, it doesn’t stop. It refuels on the fly, rearms on the fly, and resupplies on the fly. New units of manpower are moved forward to fill the holes caused by casualties, and the dance continues in perfect harmony.

This is what made the Russian communique so hilarious. According to the statement, Russian units in Kharkiv were retiring from Kharkiv in order to reform. OK everybody, let’s all grab out secret decoder rings, and decipher this.

Let’s start with the middle italicized word, retiring. In military parlance, the word retiring can be summed up in to simple English words, RUN AWAY! A coherent, functioning unit can rearm, reequip, resupply and reman while continuing to do what they’re already doing. A unit that is retiring is no longer a functional cohesive unit. What it is is a bunch individual groups functioning without a coherent purpose or command structure. The uncomplimentary military word for it is a rout.

And now the last word, reforming. As I’ve already stated, a cohesive, functioning unit doesn’t need reforming! It’s chugging along doing its thing. In plain English, if you’re reforming units, that basically means that you’re fucked. What you’re doing is taking a bunch of groups of survivors, and trying to reach the numerical manpower equivalent of the unit. But there’s no cohesion, coordination, or recognizable command structure. You’re throwing together a bunch of crumbs, adding water, and calling the remaining mess cake.

There you have it. I wrote this to clue you in as to what to look for in the future. If Russia talks about retiring units in order to reform, they’re talking about trying to turn raw numbers into cohesive fighting units, and it don’t work that way. But I get the feeling that the Russians may be saying that a lot in the near future. Putin may not last In Ukraine until Christmas.


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  1. It reminds me of the scene in Monty pythons’ King Arthur & the Holy Grail where they encounter Tim,(John Cleese), who leads them to the lair of a terrible monster. The entrance is littered with bones. Finally a little white bunny comes hopping out & Tim screams there! There it is! King Arthur keeps asking where? Behind the rabbit? Tim replies it is the rabbit & warns the king & knights again. The first knight stolls out laughing. One rabbit stew coming up! When he gets close, the bunny flies at him and rips his throat out. They try rushing it but it kills several before they shout run away! Run away! In the end they bring out the holy hand grenade to blow it up. Putin & his army thought the Ukrainian rabbit would be in the stew pot by now. They are running away. Wonder if the Russian orthodox church has a holy hand grenade?

  2. Reforming with what exactly? Russian propaganda can push any line it likes, but video footage doesn’t lie. Russian troops are fleeing for their lives and leaving all of their equipment behind. Tanks, artillery, ammunition, small arms, everything is being left wherever the Russians dropped it when they fled. And all of it is now being put to use by Ukraine. You don’t just replace losses like that overnight. There is very little for Russia to reform with at this point.


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