A Super-Short Guide to Why Ukraine is Kicking Russia’s Ass in Putin’s Ukraine War

A quick-and-dirty brief on why Zelenskys Ukraine is winning so handily and Putins Russia losing so badly on the battlefield

(Russian/Русский переводBy Brian E. Frydenborg, April 30, 2022 (Twitter @bfry1981, LinkedInFacebook); excerpted from Brian’s other recent April 24 article, How Ukraine Can Take Back Crimea from Putin’s Reeling Russian Military, itself discussed in an SOF News update for April 25; a different version with a bit more content published by Small Wars Journal on April 26, titled Why and How Russian-Occupied Crimea Can Fall to Ukraine; see Brian’s related article from April 10, Ukraine Will Easily Destroy or Sideline Russia’s Navy with Game-Changing Anti-Ship Missiles, and all of Brian’s coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine here.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky examines NATO-supplied weapons, including UK NLAW and U.S. Javelin anti-tank missiles, as he attends tactical military exercises held by the country's armed forces at a training ground in the Rivne Region, Ukraine February 16, 2022.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky examines NATO-supplied weapons, including UK NLAW and U.S. Javelin anti-tank missiles, as he attends tactical military exercises held by the country’s armed forces at a training ground in the Rivne Region, Ukraine February 16, 2022, before Russia’s wider invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

SILVER SPRING—Below is a breakdown of some of the major aspects of why Ukrainian military forces are performing so much better on the battlefield than Russian military forces.

The Ukrainian Military’s Clear Advantages Over the Russian Military

Versus their Russian foes, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are in a much better overall position and of a much higher quality even though Russia has more and heavier weapons platforms such as tanks, artillery, planes, helicopters, and naval ships (I have explained away that last one already).

Ukraine actually has more troopsFar more.  There is no shortage of Ukrainians willing to fight for Ukraine; at some points, there have been more volunteers than Ukraine has been able to accommodate, and large numbers of Ukrainians living abroad have been returning home to fight.  So Russia is trying to carry out an offensive against what is actually a numerically superior force.  Not a good strategy at all.

Ukraine’s individual troops are by far better equipped and supplied. They often have weapons that can easily knock out any Russian vehicles (and even, sometimes, Russian aircraft), more body armor, more night-vision goggles.  No wonder the Russians are constantly getting beat when they engage in firefights.

Ukrainian forces have far higher morale.  I have discussed how insanely poorly led, ill-equipped, ill-supplied, ill-trained, and ill-informed Russian soldiers in this war generally are.  They are losing or stagnating everywhere they are fighting.  And many of them have died, many more seeing their comrades die.  Instead of “leaving no man behind,” the Russians frequently abandon their dead and wounded, so disorderly are many of their retreats.  In contrast, it seems Ukraine has suffered far fewer losses, but while the Russians have died for just about nothing, Ukrainians are sacrificing for a very successful effort thus far.  Their morale is high and they are passionately willing to freely defend their homes and families and fellow Ukrainians, which cannot be said to be the same for the Russians.

Ukrainians are fighting on home turf.  Often, units in a particular area are from that area.  They often know the terrain intimately, whereas the Russians do not.  The advantages that play out on the battlefield from this are numerous, resulting in better intelligence and fewer losses for Ukrainians, more losses for Russians, more efficient operations for Ukrainians, slower operations for Russians. 

Ukraine’s logistics and far better and far simpler.  Unlike Russia, which has terrible logistics and needs to resupply or reinforce from Russia or the parts of Ukraine it occupied before February 24, Ukrainians are fighting often where they can easily bring in fresh supplies, new equipment and weapons coming in from the West, and their own reinforcements and new recruits.  As they are often supplying themselves with interior lines, their supplies and troops need to traverse far smaller distances than Russian supplies and troops.  In part as a result of that, those Russian supplies and troops are exposed to Ukrainian units that know their own home turf, resulting in those Russian supplies and convoys often being destroyed or ambushed before they can reach their final destination.  And the next point greatly enhances this point…

Ukraine has a lot of help coming in, increasing help, from the rest of the world (Russia does not).  Recently, this has included MiG aircraft parts that are significantly increasing the number of planes Ukraine can get into the sky.  But it is also increasingly including heavy weapons like tanks (better than what the Russians have) and artillery (also better than what the Russians have), so much so that U.S. defense officials at the Pentagon now estimate Ukrainians actually have more operable tanks in Ukraine than the Russians, and these newest heavy weapons are already having an impact.

Gen. Hertling map Ukraine

© 2022 Brian E. Frydenborg all rights reserved, permission required for republication, attributed quotations welcome

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