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Wildly off topic…why Ukraine is winning

As the son of two parents in the CIA who grew up on military bases all over the world, I’ve had a special fascination with the minutiae…the (seemingly) minor and (seemingly) random things that cascade into defeat or victory.

After hours in the TwitterSphere, here’s my totally amateur take on why the Russians are losing despite an overwhelming advantage in military technology and hardware and personnel and the West’s absolutely correct decision to NOT intervene militarily.

stick with me here…the journey is worth it.

You’ve seen lots of photos and video of that gigantic convoy sitting on the road north of Kyiv…one that will ensure the total destruction of the capital and pretty much everyone in it.

Except that column hasn’t moved in three days. Two reasons…tires and rasputitsa.


If you don’t keep tires inflated, move vehicles around, and minimize exposure to sunlight, they rot.

If tires fail, what was a HUGE asset – mobility, and a logistics train (supplies of fuel, food, water, ammunition, medical supplies, spare parts) – becomes a HUGE liability…modern armies consume gigantic quantities of everything, and when that runs out, they stop moving, shooting, and surviving.

A military tire expert(!) posted this…

If that column had been able to move quickly, Kyiv and Ukraine would be flying the Russian flag…sure the Ukrainians have done everything humanly possible to slow/stop it, but AK-47s and molotov cocktails are no match for masses of T-90s.

Okay, but it’s just tires, you say?


Rasputitsa is the Russian word for mud, which in the steppe country is bottomless. The incredibly fertile and deep soils of eastern Ukraines turn to mud when the spring thaw hits.  Reports indicate Putin bowed to China’s demand that Russia not invade Ukraine until after the Olympics…after the weather had turned just a bit warmer.

The Ukrainian defense, coupled with lousy Russian vehicle maintenance, likely caused breakdowns at the head of the column. So, the Russians had to get off the road to make any progress.


Tires that work really well on roads have to be de-pressurized to get through mud, and when you lower the pressure, sidewalls flex, crack, and fail, and gazillion-rouble mobile air-defense vehicles, troop carriers, and fuel trucks get stuck.

Which allows very mobile, incredibly brave, and highly motivated Ukrainians to either fix and then use them to fight Russians or destroy them.

So, the rest of the convoy is stuck on the roads, where it runs out of fuel, food, water, and esprit de corps.


Well…Russia’s still got a huge and deadly air force…right?

Good question.

If the Russians didn’t take care of tires, what else did they ignore? Modern military equipment is incredibly maintenance-intensive. US fighter jets need more than 30 hours of maintenance per flight hour. 

The Russian air force has 4 times more planes than the Ukrainians, yet hasn’t achieved air dominance over Ukraine – a situation that has puzzled every “expert” pundit.

While I haven’t seen any current insights into Russian air force maintenance practices, there have been a LOT of problems of late, problems due to crappy maintenance, inexperienced crews, and a lack of training.

Net is, there’s a lot more to fighting and winning than lots of troops and fancy equipment.

Back story

There’s a LOT more to this, as in why the Russian military is so poorly maintained, trained and led (hint – Putin’s buddies are oligarchs that get huge contracts to provide tires to the military, contracts they fill by using cheap, crappy Chinese knock-offs so they can spend the rest on superyachts and apartments in London).

What does this mean?

Support Ukraine. 

Please consider a contribution to Care. Care is a very reputable and highly effective NGO with a rich history of successfully mitigating disasters and helping people.

Screenshot your contribution and put it in comments. I’ll post it – and my ever-lasting thanks.

26 thoughts on “Wildly off topic…why Ukraine is winning”

  1. Thanks Joe. Very interesting article. I made a nice donation, and my employer will send twice the amount I contributed. It is so hard to watch what is happening in Ukraine. It’s obvious some of the Russian soldiers don’t want to engage in this war. Maybe there ultimately is hope. Prayers for a swift resolution.

    1. Tom much appreciate your generosity and that of your employer.

      It is deeply unfortunate, but my sense is the Ukrainian people are suffering so the rest of Europe can rid itself of the monster that is Putin and hoepfully the culture that is the Russian kleptocracy.

      I respect you – Joe

  2. Great read Joe and thank you for bringing awareness around CARE. I made a donation yesterday as a result of your other blog post. This is a full-blown humanitarian crisis and every contribution helps. It is quite a sight to see every day Ukrainians taking up arms, defending their country and not running. Unbelievable and inspiring.

    1. thank you, thank you, thank you Brad. Really appreciate the note and your thoughtfulness!

      best joe

  3. Thank you for your very thoughtful piece! Contributed to the “Care” link you provided! From here, may god speed and all other universal forces be with the Ukrainian people!????

    1. Jennifer – thanks VERY much for your generosity – it’s support like this that brings us all together.

      be well Joe

  4. Thank you for this, it is absolutely my favorite post of yours! Donation made, grateful you shared CARE.

    1. great paraphrase Mike…if I recall correctly, this was associated with Napoleon’s dithering before Waterloo, when he took forever to waken, dine, and issue oreers.

      best to you and the ladies -= Joe

  5. Joe, thank you for the interesting vantage on what’s happening in Ukraine, god speed to its people and defeat of Putin. Donation made, glad to give to a recognized organization helping with relief.

  6. Joe, thank you for posting the link to Care. Donation made thanks to your recent posts.

    1. Jill – really appreciate your note and support for the Ukrainian people – THANK YOU!

      best – Joe

  7. Thank you for this post! It does explain the crawl of the Russian troops which we are all grateful for! I follow social media of some Ukrainians much prior to the recent week and so many have friends in Russia orders have now been given any protesters will be imprisoned for 15 years all access to international news have been ? cut off only their one propaganda station so many don’t believe the lies yet some are too afraid not to! It is a sad time for this country we all need to contribute no dictator will ever be able to crush the Ukrainian spirit ??

    1. Thanks for the note Sherry, and all of us hope your Ukrainian and Russian friends are well.

      be well – Joe

  8. That certainly was a departure from the usual subject but very informative. Let’s hear it for the mud and lack of maintenance. Thank you for encouraging aid to the Ukrainian people. They are such a lovely people and are determined to remain free no matter the cost. СЛАВА УКРАЇНІ !

  9. Done! Thanks for sharing, Joe. My heart breaks for the Ukrainian people.

    1. thanks very much Morgan – your support shows the Ukrainians they are not alone.

      be well Joe

  10. Thanks for that wonderful insight Joe – especially highlighting the greed of the oligarchy at the expense of their military. Glad to donate to CARE and appreciate your encouragement to donate. Love to see and read of others support for Ukraine, but very frustrated at the lack of full support by our government. They should be doing so much more than they are.

    1. thanks for the kind words and support Terry…the good news is more help is on the way in terms of more capable anti-air assets and anti-armor weapons.

      best Joe

Comments are closed.

Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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