July 24, 2024

Athens News

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Operation "Pink glasses". Who convinced the Ukrainians of the weakness of the Russian army?

Since the failure of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ offensive last summer, accusations have often been made against the Ukrainian authorities that they created inflated expectations of a quick victory in the war and forced them to look at the situation through “rose-colored glasses,” which then led to disappointment in society.

However, in fairness, it is worth saying that the contribution of the authorities and the telethon to creating high expectations among Ukrainians cannot be compared with the role played in this by a whole galaxy of Russian figures who, since 2022, have been dispersing waves of “zrada” regarding the state of the army RF.

Evgeny Prigozhin, as well as the network of telegram channels he managed, especially stood out against this background. They, on the one hand, exalted the Wagner PMC, on the other hand, they systematically “wetted” the Russian army, painted it as a bunch of cowardly half-homeless people under the command of extremely stupid generals, “stripes,” and also predicted its imminent defeat.

One of the most striking statements Prigozhin made a statement on this topic on June 21, 2023, just before the uprising. He told how the Ukrainian army was crushing the Russians on the southern front, was already reaching the outskirts of Tokmak, landing at Golaya Pristan and moving towards the Milk Estuary to cut the land corridor to Crimea. None of this is known to have happened either then or subsequently. Ukrainian troops never reached Tokmak, or, moreover, the Molochny Estuary; the offensive was stopped.
Prigozhin, Utkin and the Wagner commanders  were among the passengers on the crashed plane

Evgeny Prigozhin

However, this and similar speeches by Prigozhin and other Russian “messengers of zrada” gave Ukrainians faith in a quick and easy victory over the “army of chmons, homeless people and drunks.”

If we didn’t know how it all ended (the rebellion and the death of Prigozhin), this could be considered a cunning plan of the Russian command to create a mischievous mood among the enemy in order to encourage them to make erroneous decisions.

But in reality, of course, this was not any cunning plan. Prigozhin tried in this way to first bring down Shoigu and Gerasimov by taking control of the Russian army, and after this did not work out, he began to prepare a rebellion, creating the ground for it by dispersing the “zrada”.

One way or another, it is obvious that the ideas about the weakness of the Russian army, which is about to flee under the attacks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, turned out to be false. The Russian Army not only repulsed the Ukrainian offensive, but also seized the initiative at the front after that and still holds it, advancing in many directions.

At the same time, it is also obvious that such ideas did not arise out of nowhere, but were generated by the failures of the Russian army in Ukraine in 2022.

However, these failures largely stemmed from the total lack of resources and the conceptual unpreparedness of the Russian army for a long and large-scale land war.

After the reforms launched in 2008-2009, Russian military doctrine proceeded from the fact that, possessing a nuclear arsenal, the Russian Federation does not have to fear a large-scale land invasion. Therefore, the main emphasis was on strengthening nuclear forces and their delivery systems. And the size of the ground army was maintained at a relatively small size, sufficient to carry out targeted tasks in different regions of the world (as, for example, in Syria). The Russian Federation was not preparing for a major land war.

She was not preparing for it in Ukraine in 2022, as evidenced by the small number of invasion forces – according to various sources, from 150 to 200 thousand people. This was comparable to the size of the Ukrainian ground army at that time (if you count both the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the National Guard). Obviously, the Russians did not expect serious resistance, but wanted to repeat something like Operation Danube in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Why they thought so is a separate question (if the size of the active Russian army were the same as it is now – 600-700 thousand people, the situation for Ukraine would be radically worse).


But it quickly became clear that the calculation was not justified. And Russia found itself drawn into a large-scale war, for which it had not prepared and for which, at that time, it did not have enough resources.

At the same time, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, having an operational reserve system (OR-1 and OR-2 – people who served and fought, for whom the TCC kept clear records), was able to quickly call up reservists. Plus a large number of volunteers. All this replenished the Ukrainian army by hundreds of thousands of people and already in the summer provided a very significant numerical superiority, which was realized during the offensive in the Kharkov and Kherson regions. The Russian leadership hesitated for a long time about announcing mobilization and decided on it only in September 2022.

Mobilization helped correct the balance in favor of the Russian Army, and the Russian command worked on mistakes and improved troop control and combat methods. The Russian state apparatus was able to organize the production of weapons. And by the beginning of the offensive of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in June 2023, it was already a completely different army than in February 2022.

The second major problem for the Russian army stemmed from, to put it mildly, the lack of obviousness of the goals and reasons for the war, which affected the motivation of personnel. Of course, there are many motivated and ideological soldiers in the Russian army. Their percentage is especially high among residents of Donbass and Crimea. Their motivation is similar to that of the Ukrainian military. If the Ukrainian Armed Forces fighters are fighting so that Russia and the “Russian world” do not come to their home, then the pro-Russian Donetsk and Crimean residents are fighting so that Ukraine does not come to their home. There are also motivated soldiers among the Russians themselves, but for many, the goals of the war, for the sake of which they must sit in the trenches in a neighboring country, are not very clear.

This is also influenced by the way in which the Russian army is now being replenished. Recruited criminals, contract soldiers (many of whom are ordinary “laborers” who go to serve for a “long ruble”) – it is difficult to make good soldiers out of such a contingent and maintain discipline among them, which is confirmed by regular incidents with showdowns within units, drunkenness, desertion, looting, murders and violence against civilians, etc.

However, despite all the problems with the motivation and quality of personnel, the Russian military machine currently manages to maintain combat effectiveness and controllability in the army. By what methods is this achieved – by detachments, executions on the spot of the “Szchshniks”, their sending to penal battalions – “Storms Z”, or by the patriotic and educational work of commanders, prayers and sessions of collective reading of Putin's article on the “unity of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples”, the second question. The main thing is that the Russian army has a degree of combat capability that allows it to maintain the initiative at the front.

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There are still many problems in the Russian army (corruption, fraud, slow response to challenges and changes on the battlefield). But these problems are inevitable to one degree or another in any large army.

In general, a powerful military machine is operating against Ukraine, which, by now, after the “work on mistakes” has been carried out, no longer resembles stories about a gathering of “chmoboks, homeless people and drunks.” What admit and Ukrainian military.

However, a long war will be a serious test for this machine in any case. And the longer it lasts, the more victims there are, the more acute all the problems described above will manifest themselves. Especially if the success streak of the Russian army is interrupted, contrary to the high expectations of great victories now being created in the Russian Federation after Putin’s statement demanding the transfer of Kherson and Zaporozhye to Russia. This could cause a new round of showdowns within the command and military-political leadership of Russia (as it already happened in 2022), especially since these showdowns do not stop now (and the same telegram channels from Prigozhin’s network are involved in them). Which, accordingly, can affect the controllability and combat effectiveness of the Russian army.

However, problems with motivation, combat effectiveness and quality of personnel are growing in the Armed Forces of Ukraine against the backdrop of forced mobilization and a reduction in the influx of volunteers. A long war is a very big test for any army. And the key role will be played by whose military machine turns out to be stronger and more stable.

The opinion of the author may not coincide with the opinion of the editors

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