However the conflict in Ukraine shakes out, Russia’s military deterrence has suffered a severe blow.
While Americans tend to be surprised by Russia’s military incompetence, Putin just adopted the familiar stage of czars and Communist dictators of trying to win a war by throwing a whole lot of bodies and firepower at it. The track record of this particular strategy has been mixed, but there’s nothing new about it.
A great-uncle of mine who could hardly see was handed a rifle that didn’t fire and sent into a WWII battle. Unsurprisingly he never returned. Neither did many of the men who were sent into these ‘cookpots’ as they were called.
But Stalin came out of the war with a lot more territory so the bodies didn’t matter. Everything after that didn’t go so well.
Basic logistical failures of the kind we’re seeing in Ukraine are endemic to the Russian administrative system. The combination of massive corruption, political appointees, and lack of experience does not make for a good military. (That’s something we might want to consider at home before we next go to war.)
While Putin touted high-end weapons systems, the basic functions of his military were not. Functioning that is.
(Again, a lesson our leaders might consider learning from. We’ve seen similar results in Iraq. Defense contractors make billions on high-end weapons systems that won’t see action, meanwhile the troops are dying because no one has bothered with basic necessities.)
The Russians lately keep talking about nukes, not because they intend to use them (during the Cold War, it was estimated that between 25% to 30% of Russian nukes would explode, rather than fire, the numbers probably aren’t any better now) but because conventional military deterrence isn’t so good.
What they have is probably going to be enough to eventually roll over the Ukrainians, if this war keeps going, but the clown show is not a deterrent to even the Europeans, let alone the United States. That’s why we’ve got all the NBC, nuclear, biological, chemical talk, because that is justifiably scary in the way that all the creaky Russian armor isn’t anymore.