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An academic take on the Russian way of war

by | Apr 15, 2022 | Philosophy | 6 comments

[Note: I posted this earlier to my Telegram channel, in shortened form. Join if you haven’t already.] Here is a very interesting broadcast from the Modern War Institute, featuring Dr. Phillip Karber, about the lessons to be learned from the Russian offensive in 2014-15 against the Ukrainians, pushing them back and establishing the stalemate that then persisted between the LDNR regions and the Ukies for 8 years.

You kind of have to wait until the 27min mark to get to the good stuff, but the basic point that he makes is that the US military, and in particular the Army, has forgotten how to fight against a near-peer enemy – and Russia is rather more than just a “near-peer” at this stage.

Background and Context

Dr. Karber starts off with a very pro-Ukrainian point of view – that much is quite obvious. He views the LDNR as “separatists” and “breakaway regions” of Ukraine – but, in reality, the people of Lugansk and Donetsk have been trying to get the Ukies to recognise their rights as Russian-speakers and ethnic Russians for the better part of thirty years, at this point. The first 25 minutes or so of the actual talk consists of Dr. Karber telling his audience how great and brave and tough the Ukies are.

Let’s give the Ukrainians their due and the respect that they deserve as fighters. They are tough, brave, strong, skilled, resolute, and capable. Indeed, based on the data that we now have seen with respect to Ukrainian equipment and force strengths, it is fair to say that the Ukies were better armed than any NATO military on continental Europe, and some of their battalions and brigades had more weapons and fighting vehicles than some of their American counterparts.

Despite that, the Russians in the Banderastan War have comprehensively outgunned, outmanoeuvred, outflanked, out-thought, out-cycled, and outfought their adversaries. And this is despite having AT LEAST a 3-to-1, and more likely up to a 10-to-1, disadvantage in terms of boots on the ground.

The Russians learned very clearly from the lessons of their (quite brutal, and quite under-reported) fights against the Banderastanis in 2014-15. After failing to win some of the initial engagements, and after the rather canny Ukrainian Major General Mikhail Zobrodsky conducted the largest and longest armoured raid in history behind Russian lines and threw them off their game, the Russians considered, learned, and then encircled up to 8,000 Ukrainians in the Battle of Debal’tsevo (that’s the transliteration of the Russian spelling, Дебальцево) and very nearly wiped them out to the last man.

It was such a bad situation that apparently, the German Chancellor of the time, Angela Merkel, flew to Moscow for a secret meeting with the Neo-Tsar to negotiate with him to permit the Ukrainians to withdraw.

Fast forward 7 years or so, and look at what Russia is doing now in the Donbas Cauldron. They have anywhere between 60K and 100K troops, depending on whom you ask – so between 8 and 12 times the number of troops they trapped in Debal’tsevo – and they are now fully capable of grinding those troops down to nothing.

Breaking Down Russia’s Fighting Strengths

So how, exactly, can the Russians do this? Here’s how The Saker summarised it:

  • Russia has the most advanced and dense, data-linked air defense on earth
  • In a war against Russia, U.S. army cannot expect much air assistance for at least the first several weeks. Even stealth aircraft will not be of much use for various reasons he explains
  • Russian EW (electronic warfare) is much more advanced and more ‘combat-ized’ than in the U.S. RF utilizes it in combat squads whereas U.S. barely has any and only at the divisional level
  • Russian EW shuts down all communications in huge areas along the front, no cellphones, military radios etc. They break GPS links with drones, making them useless and can even fry the fuses on artillery shells midflight.
  • U.S. army produces 10x the frequency emissions of a Ukrainian brigade, which would make it extremely visible to all sorts of Russian EW, drones, advanced weapons
    Russia has far more artillery than U.S. and far greater variety of munition types

Keep in mind that, when you listen to his lecture, that everything Dr. Karber says is 7 years old at this point. And every single point that he states in Russia’s favour, has been proven on the battlefield – while every single one of the legitimate weaknesses that he points out, have already been addressed, and in some cases these weaknesses have been fully rectified.

Learning from History

If you watch this, particularly at the 18min mark, or thereabouts, you will see just how closely the events of 2022 follow what we saw in 2014-15, in terms of the Russian battle plan. Except, this time, the Russians learned VERY THOROUGHLY from the bloody lessons that they received back then.

That is why the Russians worked assiduously to destroy Ukie C&C centres in the first 48hrs of the war, and reduced it down to essentially battalion-level fighting forces, cut off from substantial support and logistical capabilities. The Russians learned to be patient, methodical, precise, and lethal in their applications of what they call “New Generation Warfare”.

Furthermore, as you can see from Dr. Karber’s presentation, he is very much on the Western/Banderastani side of things when it comes to interpreting the events of the Donbas rebellion in 2014-15. He views Lugansk and Donetsk as “separatist” regions – never mind that they have been trying to get the government of Ukraine to recognise their legitimate concerns and interests for thirty years by now.

We can legitimately criticise specific aspects of the Russian campaign. They did make mistakes. They continue to make mistakes. But NO ONE can argue with a straight face that the Russians do not learn from their mistakes, or that they are still a second-rate fighting force. In the space of 6 weeks, they have turned essentially the largest and most well-equipped military on continental Europe, into a pile of junk, and they are now in a position to slaughter up to 100,000 young men trapped in pockets in the Donbas.

This is not the work of an incompetent or useless military, led by idiots. This is the work of a professional, well-trained, well-equipped, well-led force that fully understands the mission and is “up” with it.

Ending the Killing

Loukianenko - Il faut une partition de l'Ukraine comme en ...

How will this war end? Well, we already know. It ends with the partition of Ukraine into constituent pieces. And the great tragedy of all of this is that the Ukrainian people, once again, are the pawns of Great Power games. The map above shows what will likely result from this war. The original “Novorossiya Project”, which looked to establish a series of Russian satellite states from Kharkov to Odessa to Izmail, died in 2015 due to the Minsk II Agreements. But those agreements are themselves dead, and the Russian people are in absolutely no mood to entertain a possible Minsk III.

This means that Novorossiya may well come to pass after all, though in heavily modified form. The Russians will establish the LNR and DNR as buffer states, then a separate Kherson-Odessa-Nikolaev-Izmail territory to lock up the Black Sea. All that will be left is a rump state of Banderastan. I suspect the Poles will probably stop by from the west to reclaim Galicia, on the pretext of stopping a Russian invasion.

All of this horror and pain could have been avoided. All of this tragedy could have been averted. And the now absolutely inevitable clash between NATO and Russia could have been, at the very least, de-escalated, if only the USSA and its GloboHomoPaedocracy in charge had the good sense to recognise that the Russians can and do learn from their mistakes.

Their military is far from perfect. They do appear to have substantial issues with their conscripts, for instance, and they do seem to have a lot of trouble deploying their best troops from around the country to the front lines in the west.

But they do have substantially more advanced capabilities in a number of areas than their NATO counterparts. They fight smarter with what they have – and they build weapons designed specifically to work in the field, not just to make weapons contractors rich.

The Empire of Lies may well prevail in its war against Russia on European soil, simply based on sheer numbers. The Russians don’t have anything like the number of troops required to invade the rest of Europe, and have no interest in doing so. But the Empire would also be well advised to take Russian capabilities really seriously, and stop drinking the Banderastani Kool-Aid with respect to how they are just days away from marching on Moscow itself.

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  1. Tom Kratman

    The map; not exactly.

    I am either contaminated or wise, take your pick, in terms of what might be called “notional sovereignty” by virtue of two tours in the Panama Canal Zone and one in Guantanamo. I expect, at this point, having bled so much, that the Russian goal will not be actual annexation of that portion of the Ukraine east of the Dnepr shown on the map, above, but occupation of all or it, less Kiev, with 2-3 bridgeheads over the river, similar occupation, though perhaps more hidden, in the vicinity of Odessa and Nikolaev, and de facto control of all of it, while both it and the Ukraine agree that the Ukraine is “sovereign.” This will mean that the Ukrainian flag will fly next to the Russian flag, both national anthems will be played daily, and it will mean absolutely nothing but that, with Russia either appointing all civil magistrates or, at a bare minimum, exercising a veto over them.

    • Didact

      Judging by what the Russkies have done in Kherson and now Energodar, I am not so sure. In Kherson, they have taken down Ukie flags, raised Russian ones, and instituted economic transactions in rubles. They are also aiming to hold a “referendum” to allow the people of Kherson to vote to secede and create a “Kherson People’s Republic”, similar to the LNR and DNR.

      We pretty much know how that “election” will turn out, of course. And I expect the Russians will do the same when – not if – they take Odessa and Nikolaev, thereby locking up the entirety of the Black Sea. I do not believe that they will permit joint administration of these territories – they want the entire Black Sea coast, and will not stop until they get it as a true buffer state between Europe and Russia.

      • Tom Kratman

        Ah, but they haven’t settled on a peace treaty yet, have they?

        • Didact

          Indeed not. But what difference would a peace treaty make? Given that the Russians are already drawing up plans to implement Russian school curricula in Kharkov (even though they haven’t captured it yet) and the Donbas, and given their actions to break Kherson away from Ukraine, I think it very unlikely that the Russians will permit any sort of Ukrainian sovereignty over those regions that it has captured. The same will be true of Odessa, Nikolaev, and probably even Zaporozhye, all of which the Russians appear to be willing and able to take once they clean out Donbas.

          I just don’t see any scenario in which the Russians would agree to joint rule with Ukraine, especially given that the Ukies themselves have ruled out any further negotiations and are apparently willing to die right down to the last Ukrainian.

  2. Josh

    The comment about Russian equipment designed to work in the field reminded me of chewing the fat in the car when heading for a day’s skiing with a friend (who is an economist working in strategic analysis of capabilities) but also looked at equipment used by various countries’ militaries. He observed how over-designed the US built aircraft were and needed sterile environments whereas Russian planes were not troubled to operate from airfields in contaminated eenvironments. He put this down to American aircraft being designed to highly thought out intellectual paradigms involving many different partied working to achieve technical
    excellence whereas the Russian aerospace approach was centred on people and especially a core group of architects who functioned as craftsman who had a feeling for what they wanted to bring into existence like artisans and the tradition would be passed down to sons sometimes too. Something of the Russian folk soul must be expressing itself there.

    • Didact

      Your friend is quite right. I first ran into this observation when reading Ben Rich’s book, Skunk Works – absolutely phenomenal book, I highly recommend it, and have read it many times. In it, Mr. Rich quoted at least one Russian engineer about how Americans build their weapons like Rolex watches – beautifully designed, amazing to look at, but the moment you subject them to the slightest hard use, they break and never work again. Russians, by contrast, design their aircraft and weapons for very hard use.

      A friend of mine has told me several times about how Russian Mi-8 and Mi-26 helicopters have to replace their prop shafts much more frequently than their American equivalents, and how the Russians did this entirely deliberately. Compared to a Black Hawk or Sea Hawk, the prop shafts and rotors have much shorter life-spans – but the replacement process is vastly simpler and can be done in the field in under an hour without any real specialised skills. By contrast, replacing the rotors and shafts for a UH-60 is a horribly complex process that has to be tracked and filed from start to finish, and requires highly specialised engineers to manage the actual changes.

      This is because the Russian equipment is designed to be used, HARD. They sell them to Indians, who are some of the worst pilots IN THE WORLD when it comes to handling their equipment. And even the Indians don’t lose whirlybirds due to mechanical failures, even though they beat up their helos really badly.

      That philosophy extends to Russian airfields as well. It is not uncommon to see Russian forward airbases with grass around the runway and bits of junk on the actual concrete. Yet their jets take off and land just fine. American airfields, by contrast, have to be kept spotlessly and immaculately clean at all times, because if so much as a stray bolt or pin gets sucked into an F-35 turbine, the engine could easily be turned into scrap metal.

      I agree that this is an expression of the Russian soul – which believes in practical solutions to difficult problems, and has no problem with something that is “good enough” instead of absolutely perfect. They also have a very strong preference for rugged, dependable lethality, as opposed to extreme precision at the cost of durability – that explains the AK-47’s longevity and ability to operate in some of the harshest environments in the world.


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