Welcome to the third installment of the Russian invasion of Ukraine series. Since Napoleon stated that the moral is to the physical what ten is to one. After the situation map (below) we are going to start the post with a look at the moral dimensions of the current fighting. Follow it with my impressions of the current fighting. Then close with a counterfactual of the Ukraine-Russian fighting based on the works of Trevor Dupuy.
I have posted on twitter about the Russian Army columns North of Kyiv decaying into immobile blobs due to the Rasputitsa, poorly maintained Chinese truck tires and shear “follow the plan” Russian incompetence.
The head and first dozen or so kilometers of the southernmost column north of Kiev have been stuck there for EIGHT DAYS. The Russians have since rammed more and more vehicles into this monster traffic jam (idiotically “following the plan” Soviet-style) so the whole thing is now 65-70 kilometers long (almost 40 miles).
And, because the trucks can’t go off-road due to the Rasputitsa mud and tire problems, they’re stuck on the roads and the roads’ shoulders three vehicles wide for the whole @40 miles. That means fuel and resupply trucks can’t move on or off road to deliver anything to anybody.
So all the columns’ heads are now out of fuel and battery power. They can’t move north, south or sideways, and everything behind them is stuck because of the mud, and rapidly running out of fuel and vehicle battery charge too (assuming they haven’t already). Nor can any of those columns defend themselves because they’re too densely packed. They’re just targets waiting for the Ukrainians to destroy them.
Only the Ukrainians had something better to do. They opened the floodgates of reservoirs around those columns to flood them and turn the surrounding areas into impassable quagmires for months – probably until July or August. (See photo below) Probably several thousand Russian vehicles in those columns will be irrecoverable losses. Hundreds of Russian soldiers might have drowned.
This was not just a debacle, but an EPIC one. About 1/5th of the Russian force in Ukraine is now flooded or trapped, and are definitely out of the war for good.
Now to the moral dimension. The 1242 Battle of the Neva, where the Teutonic Knights fought Alexander Nevsky, is one of the founding myths of Russia.
The Battle on the Ice, 1242 – Teutonic Knights vs. Alexander Nevsky
President Zelensky’s drowning of Putin’s minions in the Battle of the Kyiv reservoir may be as central to modern Ukraine’s founding national identity going forward, for similar reasons, possibly with Zelensky as modern Ukraine’s Alexander Nevsky.
Reddit and other Meme generating sites are going to have a glorious time redoing Stalin’s Alexander Nevsky movie by putting Zelensky’s face on the actor playing Nevsky.
Next, my current impressions of the war:
To start with, the Russian Army’s logistics are just hosed. The Ukrainians destroyed or still have possession of (in their cities) all the Russian/Ukrainian railheads, save for Kherson and Berdyansk, since the first day of the war. So Russian rail logistics are not possible into Ukraine without either/both a major battlefield success and a major rail engineering effort the Russians did not think was necessary.
The Ukrainians have been slamming every fuel truck they can find with every method available to them, which is big trouble for the Russians as they didn’t have many of those to begin with, and brought only the ammunition & food for a three-day operation.
The Russians have ditched their original 3-day “special operation” plan and have definitely shifted to “set-piece” battles requiring significant preparation, as those are better suited to their poorly trained troops.
The weak link is in doing that is the Russians plain lack the force density in the Ukraine to defend their rear areas, and in particular the bridges over the Ukraine’s many rivers and streams.
The Russian inability to suppress Ukrainian’s integrated air defense system stems in part due to the pathetically poor planning of missile launches which have mostly expended their pre-war inventory of Iskander & Kaliber Ground/Sea/Air launched cruise missiles plus the 500km ranged Iskander ballistic missiles for limited results.
It is also due to the (unknowable before combat) collapse of Russian emitter locating systems for hunting SAMs, intensely used by the Soviets, and Support Jamming capability, also heavily used by the Soviets.
And finally, the tenth day of combat has been showing the vast under-performance of radar threat warning receivers, defensive jammers and infrared missile warning systems on the latest Russian jets. All these deficiencies were visible before this campaign (since 2015) but their severity was difficult to assess before combat operations started over Ukraine.
Planning for RuAF suppression of air Ukrainian defense was keyed to human agents with cell phones and visual/radio beacons to locate UAF mobile SAM batteries pre-war for attack. A few batteries were hit but most seem to have survived. Ukrainian ground forces know of this trick now and it will not be repeated.
The slowness with which the Russian Air Force (RuAF) are showing in deconflicting their aircraft and their mobile integrated air defense system, after losing by capture several intact (with their codes and IFF) Pantsir-S1 and Tor short range missile complexes means the Russians lack air reconnaissance coverage of their rear areas in the Ukraine west of the Dnieper.
This means the Ukrainians can slip company-sized mobile raiding forces into the Russians’ rear areas and take out the bridges required to supply the Russian set-piece attacks being prepared. And they are doing so.
This doesn’t stop Russian set-piece attacks, but it increases their preparation time and, in particular, upsets their timing so the set-piece attacks cannot be coordinated for mutual support. Each will be a one-off.
I.e., the Russian advance has been slowed down in a major way. This buys the Ukrainians time to do other things to defeat the Russians. The most important thing the Ukrainians need is time. They have to take it from the Russians with ground operations & airstrikes.
For various reasons, I have the distinct impression that the Russians are now operating on a three-day decision-reaction cycle. If a major attack being planned is suddenly down to one key bridge connecting its assembly area to supply bases in Russia. It takes three days for the Russians to send a ground combat battalion to defend that bridge.
That is more than enough time for the Ukrainians to move one of their raiding companies there to destroy the bridge. I.e., the Ukrainians are clearly operating inside the Russians’ Observe, Orient, Decide, Act [OODA loop] a la USAF air strategist John Boyd. [More on this when I get to the counter factuals.]
The RuAF simply no longer has, for whatever reason, the air superiority it needed and had to stop Ukrainian mobile forces from counter attacking in the 1st three days of the war.
There seem to be no rear area security forces behind lead Russian columns anywhere save close to Crimea in the south. But even there the lead Russian columns heading for Odessa just got annihilated in a kettle battle. Mykolaiv was reported cleared of remaining Russian troops, with a large haul of captured Russian equipment trophied at Kubalkino AB near the city.
Elsewhere in the Russian occupied Kherson and Berdyansk cities, we saw major public protests with flags and Ukrainian anthem being sung, ruining Russian planned propaganda spectacles. The sieges of Mariupol and Volnovakha continue with Russians violating agreed ceasefires by moving ammo in ambulances.
Intensive combat was reported both NE and NW of Kyiv as the forces going around the two Russian armored column “Schwerpunkts” attempt breakthroughs, with engagements reported at Irpen as ongoing, and a defeat of the Russians in Chernihiv to the NE.
An attempted Eastern thrust from occupied Luhansk to envelop Kharkiv was reported to have failed today.
The 2nd Russian strategic echelon and the Belarusian Army cannot come from the north and Russia doesn’t have either rails or the truck park in the west or south to sustain anything trying to reach the out-of-supply forward columns because Ukraine owns the skies west of the Dnieper.
We are in an attrition phase, the outcome is still in doubt, and Russia still has an eight times bigger army.
Examining the Counterfactuals
I am seeing a number of people I formally trusted as military experts go sideways, hard, in Ukraine.
Bluntly, these “Experts” simply cannot get their group mind around the implications of the rotted tires of the Russian army’s truck fleet nor the fact that the Russians only control the ground they are actually standing on. These facts are utterly decisive for mechanized combat in Ukraine.
The key thing about the Russian truck fleet’s ill-maintained Chinese manufactured tires is they are not on Ukrainian trucks.
Short form counterfactual: Ukrainian logistics have superior mobility during the Raputitsa (Mud Season) because their tires will not disintegrate in the mud!
This is a huge Ukrainian advantage in mechanized combat that stacks quite nicely with the second counterfactual.
When you look up the relevant data about how ground combat power degrades from casualties in places like Trevor N. Dupuy’s books “Numbers, Predictions, and War: Using History to Evaluate Combat Factors and Predict the Outcome of Battles”, you find that the vast majority of mechanized ground forces’ fighting power disappears with the vehicles and not the people.
Vehicles are combat power in mechanized war.
Those who suffer less vehicle force attrition than their enemy win battles, and win wars, despite being smaller.
There are safe rear areas for the Ukrainians in Ukraine while there none for the Russian.
The Ukrainians are only losing vehicles to combat and capture. Their operational losses are being repaired and returned to them.
Meanwhile all Russian operational losses wind up either permanent losses to Ukrainian Territorial “Road Burning Details” OR AS CAPTURED UKRAINIAN MECHANIZED POWER.
Ukraine is winning the war of mechanized ground vehicle attrition with Russia inside Ukraine.
And who the h–l would have thought that!