Let’s peek into the fog of war, mostly on the Russian side. Who are the Russian troops invading Ukraine?
We know very little about them, and what we do know is often times obfuscated by propaganda.
Let’s start with the ordre de bataille right before Vladimir Putin rolled into Ukraine. There were almost 200,000 troops brought from all over the Russian Federation.
In the south, namely Crimea, the Russians deployed their 58th Army from Vladikavkaz, in the Caucasus. In the east, harking from Novocherkassk, the 8th Guards Army positioned itself along the border with the Donbas.
In the north east, against Kharkiv, the Russians dispatched their reinforced 1st Tank Guards Army from Moscow to Belgorod. The 6th Army came all the way from St. Petersburg to the environs of Kursk.
Further away of them, the 36th Army from Transbaikal’s Ulan-Ude and the 20th Guards Army from Voronezh were poised to attack Kiyv. A little behind them, in Yelnia, the 41st Army from Novosibirsk stopped as a strategic reserve force.
To the north, and on the territory of Belarus, the 35th Army from the Amur in Russian Federation’s Far East has now scattered its units between Pinsk and Brest, while the elements of 5th “Red Banner” Army from Ussuruisk, also in the Far East, have been placed around Mazyr.
The Russian armies have failed to reach their strategic objectives of taking the entire country in a swift sweep is an understatement. The Ukrainians have put up quite a show.
Now the Russians have regrouped to concentrate on eastern Ukraine. This is perhaps both a consolation price and a face saving device for Putin.
Apparently, there is a new Russian commander in chief of the forces in Ukraine: General Alexandr Drevnikov. He boasts of extensive combat experience in Syria, which shows. Collateral damage and even targeting civilians abound. Is it state policy?
When we hear about Russian generals in Ukraine, they usually tend to be dead heroes — killed in action, about 10 of them. Such high casualties among general officers suggest, first, that Putin’s fury sent them straight into combat; second, the generals believe that only their personal presence will remedy the situation at the front.
The Russian army has a very weak NCO corps and tends not to delegate tasks down the hierarchical ladder, forcing the brass to meddle and intervene constantly to get results.
What about the rank-and-file? It seems that most of the Russian troops are draftees. They have performed poorly, just like in the dress rehearsal in two Chechen wars in the '90s.
Putin supposedly has now relieved many draftees to avoid a backlash at home. Professional soldiers have replaced them as well as Chechen allies and Syrian mercenaries.
The only exception is the Donbas, where the Russians immediately instituted a universal draft. All men have been sent to fight on the Kremlin’s orders against the Ukrainian armed forces.
The Russian combat performance is lackluster. The troops are convinced they are fighting Nazis, though some Russian POWs claim that they were not told they were going to war against Ukraine.
Initially friendly, the Russian troops have turned increasingly sour toward the civilian population. There are serious allegations of atrocities in Bucha and elsewhere. That includes mass executions.
Reportedly, brutality increases with drunkenness. There have been rapes, including of children. At least one pedophile rapist filmed himself in action.
The troops lack provisions; the Russian army logistics are largely absent, and the supplies intended for the front get purloined back home. The crooks sell them via the Russian internet, including items plainly marked as military and “not for sale.”
So on the ground in Ukraine the Russian soldiers loot. This is not just robbing for survival. Ukrainian products and goods resurface in Belarus.
“They take the ‘trophies’ looted from Ukraine and offer to sell them to locals. Refrigerators, household appliances, tires, and whatever comes to hand.” The leftovers are shipped to Russia by the looters.
That is quite a tradition in the Russian armed forces, last seen on a massive scale during the invasion of Georgia in 2008.
An unknown number of Russian troops have deserted to the Ukrainians, including with heavy equipment. There is apparently a “Freedom of Russia” legion being set up to fight against Putin.
Fog of war today is information overload, in particular on social media, as anyone who follows the war in Ukraine can plainly see. Or can he?
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.