Invasion of Ukraine: Putin’s Mistakes | news.com.au — Australia’s leading news site

Two months into the war in Ukraine, military experts say they are shocked by Russia’s lack of preparedness in its invasion of its pro-Western neighbor.

Two months into the war in Ukraine, military experts say they are shocked by Russia’s lack of preparedness in its invasion of its pro-Western neighbor.

Despite an initial multi-pronged offensive, Moscow failed to gain the upper hand in the air, sent in columns of tanks without cover or coordination and grossly underestimated the strength of Ukrainian resistance, experts say.

The unanimous opinion among Western military staffs is that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initial goal was to decapitate Ukrainian forces in a blitz operation.

But Moscow failed to calibrate its firepower to deal with a level of resistance that the intelligence services had absolutely not anticipated.

“Russian political leaders have imposed on the military command a completely absurd scenario where everything will happen like in the annexation of Crimea in 2014,” Russian military expert Alexander Khramchikhin said.

“They thought that the Russian army would be welcomed as the liberator of all of Ukraine, except for the western territories. It is clear that the Russian military command was not prepared for such resistance from the Ukrainians,” he said.

Vincent Tourret, research fellow at the Foundation for Strategic Research, agrees.

“The Russians completely underestimated the balance of power,” he said. “The only part of the operation that was considered a war operation was the raid on Hostomel airport (on the outskirts of kyiv) and the attempt to decapitate Ukrainian power,” the expert continued.

“The other Russian troops entered the country as if they were going to take possession of it, and with too many objectives, they were completely dispersed throughout the territory,” he said.

On February 24, Russia launched its offensive on three fronts simultaneously, which meant that its 150,000 men were spread over several different axes: north towards kyiv, east and south.

101: air supremacy

But experts say Russia made a major mistake by deploying its forces on the ground without gaining control of the skies first, despite mobilizing 500 planes.

“Winning air supremacy is the 101 that shapes everything else in modern conflict,” said a French pilot, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“They should have knocked out Ukrainian fighter jets, radars, ground-to-air systems, airstrips,” the pilot said.

On the ground, the maneuvers are muddled, revealing failures in the chain of command and gaps in training, experts say.

Elite units parachuted into Hostomel airport without air support, while long columns of Russian tanks advanced, sometimes without cover, vulnerable to Ukrainian air and ground strikes aided by Turkish Bayraktar tactical drones.

In two months, the Russians have lost more than 500 tanks and more than 300 armored vehicles, according to the specialized blog Oryx, which lists material losses in Ukraine based on photos or videos collected on the battlefield.

“This is not the end of the tank age,” said William Alberque, director of strategy, technology and arms control at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

“Armored vehicles work well when combined with artillery, infantry and air support” and that’s what was lacking in the first phase of the war in Ukraine, he said.

“Battle of the Roads”

For all the strikes the Russians send, they lack precision. According to the US government, only 50% of cruise missile strikes reach their target.

On the other hand, “the Ukrainians are remarkably well prepared,” said a European military source.

“They mounted a real diversionary operation” by not trying to defend their borders within range of artillery fire, by diluting their ground-air assets and their aviation and by regrouping in the cities to complicate the Russian offensive, the source said.

After about a month, having failed to encircle and bring down kyiv, Moscow decided to change strategy and focus on conquering the Donbass region in the east, on the border with Russia.

Since then, “we’ve seen some consolidation,” said Alberque of the IISS. “We finally see a unified command and a more unified goal,” the expert said, but predicted a “fierce battle in difficult terrain dotted with rivers and forests.”

“The Ukrainians have the advantage in this area,” said a senior French officer.

“They will wage a road battle to complicate Russian maneuvers and supplies.” However, kyiv’s supply lines are also very strained, as arms supplied by the United States and Europe arrive in the west of the country.

Amanda J. Marsh