The very recent made live in this newspaper on the occasion of the anniversary of the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it has unleashed a flurry of controversies – some sensible, some less so – on the pro-Atlantist slant attributed to the treatment of the topics presented. He will try to relieve the overflowing anger of the pro-Putinians, trying to unravel the skein of facts through a common thread that deviates from opinions.
A little less than a year ago, precisely on April 11, 2022, in one of mine article published on DEFENSE Online1 I highlighted the strategic mistake made by Vladimir Putin right from the start, i.e. the choice to attribute a role of absolute subordination, even on the executive level, to his closest military collaborators: Defense Minister Sergej Šojgu and the head of Defense Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov.
We all remember the “Marquis del Grillo” approach taken by the Russian president towards his own inner circle (including the director of the SVR Sergei Naryshkin), with his attitude to surround himself with yes men, therefore not of trusted and enlightened advisors, but of elements ready to support his ideas and desires without questioning them.
At this point I do one first consideration, addressing in particular those who, moreover with little elegance and with a cabaret attitude, believe that I tend to consider the Russian army a mass of incompetents, perhaps even with "bad breath" (...but this was information covered by a high level of ranking, related to the “secret weapon". How did he get it?!?). I too, you see, am a fan of “Zelig”… Let's put nonsense aside and let me tell you that there is nothing more wrong.
I reiterate that the problem for the Russians is not in the military structure, but in the political-strategic direction undertaken. If the order to carry out an invasion is given, the planning and the execution modalities must be left to the military and not taken over by you when you do not have the necessary skills.
Hitler made the same mistake from Stalingrad onwards, pretending to have a vision of theater operations from Berlin and becoming hysterical because the war was no longer proceeding according to his plan. In short, with reversed roles, Putin and Hitler have been "strategists" without being.
The substantial and no small difference is that Hitler had already accumulated a series of significant victories, while Putin was wrong right away. On the other hand the contemporary Russian army is neither the Red Army it had the moral boost to fight the invading Germans ruthlessly - just like the Ukrainians against the Russians today - nor the Wehrmacht, which from a tactical point of view was definitely at the forefront, thanks to an extremely topical approach in modern armies and of which the Russians are absolutely lacking: the mission commander. It concerns the responsibility up to the lowest ordering levels (company, platoon, in some cases even squad) for the execution of the orders given. In simpler words: I tell you what is the goal to be achieved (mission), I tell you what your task is, I leave the choice of how to fulfill it to you.
In the Russian military this is impossible, especially with Putin. Everyone is waiting for detailed orders and the apparent lack of command, control and coordination have generated the "war of position" hysteresis we are all witnessing.
And we come to one second consideration. The war of position consolidated on the front of over 600 km which sees the two armies deployed is also the result of the friction developed by the Ukrainian resistance against the Russian progression, forcing the Kremlin troops to an extremely exhausting setback of their own resources human and equipment.
Although trained by one spirit of sacrifice and a spirit of service and affection for the country2 which we Westerners, to a large extent, have long disregarded, even for the Russians the losses in the field with rather poor or, at least, late results, compared to theend-state prefixed the refoundation of a Novorossia, have imposed questionable choices.
Too many fallen among the conscripts called to carry out their year-long service or among the kontratkniki to prolonged stoppage and yet in possession of an inadequate level of training. Here then the figures of the "orcs" imagined by Tolkien emerge in the foreground (I let you imagine what breath they can have!) among the first divisional ranks of the Russian forces. Here, the members of the pro-Russian paramilitary formations reorganized into the 1st Donetsk Army Corps and the 2nd Luhansk Army Corps, classified in the 8th CAA of the Southern Military District, rise to the role of front-line fighters ; the members of the various PMCs active in the theater of operations, "Wagner" (in primis); the volunteers of the "National Combat Forces Reserve" (Boyevoy Armeyskiy Rezerv Strany – BARS), all determined, prepared and motivated fighters. They are more "expendable" on the ground, but they too die, many die because the Russian technical-tactical procedures, allow me to emphasize this, focus on "quantity" not on "quality".
The doctrinal ratio of three/four to one as an essential condition for the attacker however leads to unacceptable figures among the fallen if one fails to manoeuvre, definitively eliminate the adversary and proceed to occupy the assigned area of responsibility. All of these observations are facts.
Two important situations occurred, two other facts. The first sees the tension between Prigožin, head of the PMC "Wagner" and the leadership of the Kremlin for the huge losses suffered without receiving adequate support and reinforcement in the field from the regular forces. Thus, on February 25, Moscow obscured Prigozhin's "critical" interventions in the country's media.
The second is the massive use of prisoners in Russian prisons first and, subsequently, in the Ukrainian ones, to send them to fight on the front lines in exchange for amnesties and releases. It is obvious that the prisoners sentenced to the most severe sentences are those who adhere most immediately to the proposal and who, being sentenced to the longest periods of imprisonment, are "ugly, dirty, bad", unscrupulous and sufficiently determined not to need a extended training. Like the other reservists and mobilized, after two weeks of training they are thrown into the fray.
This is the reality of the facts. Let everyone draw their own conclusions on how to fight in the hot spots of the front.
On the logic of the use of convicts sent to the front to redeem themselves from their misdeeds there are illuminating pages, even if fictionalized, written by Nikolai Lilin ("Free Fall"), relating to the Russian campaign in the 2nd War with Chechnya and by Sven Hassel (I quote only "Assault Battalion") on the war waged by the Germans in Russia during the 2nd World War.
An third consideration it is that, at a certain point, in the presence of the approximation in the conduct of operations of his own units, Putin resolved to let General Gerasimov re-emerge, until now well beyond the background.
The chief of the defense staff, therefore, was called by the supreme commander of the military forces (Putin) to deal personally with the coordination and distribution of orders to the fighting forces. Obviously, at this point, the prestige of General Gerasimov is at stake, who can boast a crystal clear career, apparently without "skeletons in the closet".
Studying his profile, the figure of a Commander worthy of esteem and treated like a pawn by his direct superior emerges. Gerasimov, therefore, is exposed to judgment from above by Putin and the oligarchs/siloviki ofinner circle Putinians and from below to that of the soldiers fighting at the front. And so here is Prigozhin claiming the right to field assistance from Moscow, currently non-existent, because if it is true that mercenaries fight for money it is also true that when they are dead they cannot spend that money and, in this war, so far his men remember Hungarian verses more than others “It is / like in autumn / on the trees / the leaves”. It's a fact. They are also those who, unlike regular troops, can act with the criterion of mission command stated above, therefore with a greater margin of autonomy. And precisely for this reason it is necessary that they are brought back into the fold of procedures standard of the other forces, as a dissonant element because it tends to get out of control. And then Gerasimov comes into play who has to rein in these loose horses which, paradoxically, have embodied and still embody the quintessence of the hybrid dimension of war which he so brilliantly expressed in the theory that, again by him - wrongly or reason - named after.
We stay on the contact units along the front line and proceed to a fourth consideration. To those who object to the presence or absence of a pile of units along those 600 km, I can only say that, if one carefully observes the maps, the level and type of units also corresponds to a certain level of operational efficiency, largely reduced below 50%. I don't waste time dwelling on what this means in terms of relative weight in terms of men and means. I'm just saying that what appears as brigades or divisions on both sides are now regiments or battalions, often replaced by others who, from time to time, are also worn out by the continuation of the fighting. It's a fact.
Fifth and final consideration, concerning the “Ukrainian Nazis”. Let's go back to the size of the hybrid war, own of Doctrine Gerasimov, especially to Russian propaganda fiction. Incidentally, also Ukraine uses slogans and images in the framework of the infowar in place, but now I just want to point out that in front of the Ukrainian "Azov" regiment and the "Kraken" battalion of pro-Nazi sympathies, there are several of the extreme right who gravitate to the Russian orbit. Let's remember them, for level playing field, regarding the de-Nazifying action of Ukraine propagated by the Kremlin. The first is theVolunteer Unit ofRussian National Union (UNR- Russkoe Nacionàl'noe Dzhedistvo), neo-Nazi political party, founded by Russian ultra-nationalist Alexander Barkashov. The paramilitary organization, based in Russia, was created to operate in areas predominantly occupied by ethnic Russian populations, to drive out non-Russian residents and promote the spread of the creed of the Russian Orthodox Church. In addition to volunteers fromRussian National Union it also includes elements of other neo-Nazi-inspired Russian organizations, such as the “Black Hundreds” by Anton Raevsky. Raevsky, who denies being a Nazi, although he sports a conspicuous portrait of Adolf Hitler tattooed on his arm, promotes ideas that aspire to the rule of a monarchy, an empire and the Eastern Orthodox church.
The organization, notably pro-tsarist, is based on ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic principles and oriented towards pre-Stalinist Russia. Then there is the "Varjag" battalion, department that takes its name from Varangian Guard (or dei Vareghi), established in January 989. It was the royal guard of the Byzantine emperor, made up of mercenary elements, initially mainly Swedish and eastern Norwegians and, later, mainly Russians. It is a volunteer department under the command of Aleksandr Matjušin, active in the Donetsk area. Matjušin argues that the Ukrainians are not a population of Slavic blood and does not hide his neo-Nazi sympathies.3
Even the men of the battalion "Somalia" they don't disdain to wear Nazi symbols on their uniforms (opening photo).
Finally, the now well-known LMC "Wagner", whose field commander, the former lieutenant colonel of the spetsnaz Dmitry Utkin would have baptized the unit with this name, precisely in relation to his gaze towards Nazism. And here I stop.
I am sure that this is my dwell on the data and not on the gossip which is more usable and tickles the baser instincts of the reader/hearer with little interest in the information, has bored more than someone. On the other hand, as Prof. Parsi: "The scarce investments of recent years in education and culture in general have meant that the taste for the complexity of reasoning has been lost". Yes, he is clearly an "Atlantist" and I'm sorry if I fully share the assertion. And then, if you think about it, we don't exactly live in St. Petersburg or Kamchatka, so being "atlantists" is more normal than not.
Finally, the "living room generals", as defined by those who belong to the ranks of "Sunday fighters" who exalt themselves with ambushes from airsoft because the real ones can be quite dangerous (we're still in Italy, aren't we?), they are at least able to talk (almost always) about the war competently. At least on a theoretical level. Furthermore, they still possess those values that we envy the Russians so much, relating to love of country.
War is a serious matter and deserves to be talked about with respect and seriousness, not with the sterile controversy of factional fans or the exchange of heated jokes at the bar, arguing without having any knowledge of the facts of what we are talking about, because the opposite would be too boring.