Russia repeats Kyiv’s mistakes in the fighting in Donbass

Russian forces had some success in their attempts to occupy all of Donbass. On Tuesday, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Hajjaj said that Russian forces have occupied half of the Sevgerodonetsk region, the center of the region since the Russian invasion in 2014. But the fact that progress is so slow undermines the strength and morale of the forces, says a Pentagon source who claims that the strength of the Russian army has fallen by about 20 in cent since the start of the war.

After several disastrous weeks with Russian eyes, Putin appointed a new commander of the war under General Alexander Dvornikov. The “Butcher of Syria,” as he was called for his brutal advance there, began by trying to better coordinate the air and ground forces.

Speculation about who decides

The New York Times writes that the improvements have been bright with their absence for two weeks now. Instead, fighter pilots resumed their cautious tactics of cross-border attacks, then quickly returned to Russia rather than provide support to ground forces. The changes led to speculation about whether Dvornikov was still actually leading the fight.

The war is not far advanced in the East than it was in the West, because they have not been able to change the character of the Russian army, says Frederick W. Kagan, project lead on Critical Threats at the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute.

– There are shortcomings in the Russian army that they could not fix in a few weeks, even if they tried. The shortcomings are profound and fundamental, Kagan continues.

The shortcomings that he talks about are above all that the army is from top to bottom. Lower leaders do not have the leeway to make their own decisions according to the conditions on the ground. A legacy from the Soviet era where those in the lower ranks are not allowed to point out deficiencies in tactics or even make small changes.

He was put into battle very quickly

General Philip Breedlove, a former NATO military commander, said Dvornikov’s actions were initially the right thing to do – but that Russian forces forced to flee the attack on Kyiv returned to the fight very quickly.

“Even our army would have had difficulty recovering and reorganizing in just a couple of weeks, having been so battered,” says Breedlove, who assumes that the decision to redeploy the troops came directly from Moscow.

Evelyn Farkas, who was responsible for Ukraine and Russia at the Pentagon under Obama, among others, says Putin himself remains very involved in decision-making.

We continue to receive reports that Putin is becoming more and more involved. We know it’s a recipe for disaster when a president gets involved in too many operational military decisions, she says.

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