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Jun
27

Wildly off topic #6…Strategy, not tactics

After what was a really awful/crappy/despair-inducing week, we divert into the most important story of the year – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Because the news there is actually kinda good. The dominant story line in the popular press is Ukraine is getting hammered, Russia is taking territory, and Ukraine’s allies aren’t doing enough.

Well…yes and no.

Briefly…

Ukraine is getting hammered – but Russia is expending huge quantities of munitions and soldiers which it cannot replace.

Russia is taking tiny bits of territory – at huge ^ cost.

Ukraine’s allies are doing waaaaay more than the popular press would have you think. Examples…

  • monitoring Russian naval activity in the Black Sea (south of Ukraine) (the picture below shows an airborne surveillance plane circling just south of Ukraine)
  • those fancy artillery and rocket systems we are sending are having an impact – which will only increase.  Russian generals 40 mile behind the front lines are waking up dead, surrounded by destroyed equipment, fuel, and supplies.
  • Thanks to the Dutch and (FINALLY!) the Germans for their support
  • The super-capable and highly advanced rocket systems the US has provided are taking out critical Russian ammo dumps.
  • And other prime targets…

As a result, the Russians are facing a huge logistical problem – they’ve used up millions of artillery rounds/missiles/bombs, some of their remaining supplies are being destroyed, they can’t get what’s left from storage depots to the front lines, and they can’t set up storage depots far enough away from those front lines to avoid the missiles and advanced artillery rounds we are supplying (HIMARS).

More important – yet rarely reported – is the strategy behind combatants’ tactics. Think of strategy as the long game – what the combatants want to achieve at the end of the war; tactics are supposed to be (but often aren’t) the moves you make to achieve your strategic goals.

Example – Russia is using its vaunted artillery (cannons and rockets and missiles plus bombs) to pulverize Ukrainian positions, forcing Ukrainian troops to retreat or be destroyed. That’s “working”; Ukraine recently evacuated its troops from Severodonetsk allowing Putin to claim a “victory”…

“The loss of Severodonetsk is a loss for Ukraine in the sense that any terrain captured by Russian forces is a loss — but the battle of Severodonetsk will not be a decisive Russian victory,” said the Institute for War.

In fact, the Ukrainians forced the Russians to expend huge quantities of shells, missiles, rockets and bombs – and likely incur thousands of casualties – to capture what is now a bunch of rubble.

Reports indicate Russian morale is awful, drunkenness among troops is widespread, medical care is non-existent and food scarce,

History is replete with tactical decisions that cost a strategic victory; Napoleon’s invasion of Russia is a prime example.  In 1812, Napoleon marched his half a million-strong Grand Armee’ to Moscow, trying to force Russia to stand and fight. Russia refused battle and Napoleon had to march back through the Russian winter, in the process losing 9 out of every 10 soldiers.

Russia’s strategic goal was to increase Russian power and weaken the West (that’s us and Europe). Putin figured his invasion would:

  • divide the West,
  • disrupt and weaken NATO,
  • capture territory including really valuable energy and agricultural assets; and
  • make Ukraine a Russian territory.

What does this mean?

Despite murdering tens of thousands of kids, grandparents, moms and dads, Putin’s idiotic war has been an abject strategic failure. And that isn’t going to change.

Russia is:

  • much weaker than it was before the invasion,
  • its economy is in a shambles,
  • the territory it has “captured” is a hellscape of rubble from which Ukrainian guerrillas pop up to shoot Russian generals, destroy supplies and vehicles, and
  • the West is united as never before.

While Putin’s tactics are just stupid, his strategy was even dumber.


4 thoughts on “Wildly off topic #6…Strategy, not tactics”

  1. He didnt want NATO at his border and soon NATO will be all along his border. He should have stayed home.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates

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