Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was doomed to fail before it began. Military experts say huge mistakes were made during what has become a “debacle” for Vladimir Putin.
As Russian tanks, troops, attack helicopters and fighter planes lined up at strategic positions in Belarus and Crimea, the world watched and waited.
It was an ominous warning from President Vladimir Putin that not only was he willing to invade Ukraine but he was capable of inflicting untold misery.
Russia did invade, but the assumptions by many in the West – and indeed in Russia – that a short, sharp, decisive military victory would follow, have not been realised.
A big part of that is credited to the resilience and readiness of Ukrainians, both in the military and among its citizens.
Despite being significantly undersized compared to invading forces, Ukraine’s military has not been overpowered.
Retired US army General Ben Hodges told MSNBC that Mr Putin has just 10 days left to overcome Ukraine’s defences before he will have to order a retreat.
“They don’t have the time, they don’t have the manpower, and I don’t think they have the ammunition,” he said.
“So, in about 10 days, in my assessment – and this is assuming that we, the West, not only continue but accelerate the delivery of the capabilities Ukrainians need to destroy Russian long-range artillery and rocket launchers and missile sites – assuming we do that, then I think within the next 10 days, Russia is going to culminate.
“That means they won’t be able to continue the attack. So it’s kind of a race, actually. If we give the Ukrainians enough, where they can outlast Russia until Russia culminates, then in my assessment, unless something dramatically different happens, it’s about 10 days.”
Michael Kofman is the director of Russia studies at the Center for Naval Analyses. He is one of the world’s foremost experts when it comes to assessing and understanding the Russian military – including its might and its shortcomings.
“I always tell people that military defense analysts focus on capabilities, but military strategy and the operational concepts really matter,” he told The New Yorker.
“It’s the force employment that really matters. The initial Russian campaign represents completely irrational force employment and, in many cases, frankly, nonemployment.
“A host of capabilities sat on the sidelines. We started off talking about the missing case of the Russian air force, right? Where were they? And a host of other capabilities that simply weren’t being introduced until about a week into the war.
“The reasons for that are clear. First, they didn’t actually organise and prepare for war with Ukraine.”
He said Mr Putin misled his own soldiers and made the grave mistake of underestimating his enemy.
“They lied to the troops about the fact that they were sending them to war and about the nature of the war,” he said.
“They didn’t psychologically or materially prepare them for a conflict with a pretty significant conventional force. They were deeply optimistic about their ability to quickly get into the capital and force Zelensky to either flee or surrender.”
He called the initial operation a “complete debacle”.
Russia, working against the clock, unleashed a barrage of air strikes on Monday on cities across Ukraine.
Some are in Russian control but others are harder to get into. Still, the cost of war has been significant for those whose peaceful lives have been up-ended.
The United Nations estimates almost 2.8 million people have fled Ukraine since Mr Putin launched a full-scale land and air assault on February 24.
It has recorded more than 600 civilian deaths, including dozens of children, though the true toll could be far higher.
Mr Putin’s effort to control the narrative over the deadly conflict suffered a blow on Monday when a dissenting employee entered the studio during Russia’s most-watched evening news broadcast, holding up a poster saying “Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda.”
An opposition protest monitor says the woman, an editor at the tightly-controlled state broadcaster Channel One, was detained following the highly unusual breach of security.
And on the opposing side of the information war, congressional leaders in Washington announced that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky would deliver a high-profile virtual address to both chambers on Wednesday – as US politicians seek to ratchet up pressure on the White House to take a tougher line over Russia’s invasion.
Mr Zelensky has proven himself an adversary worthy of the praise being heaped upon him. Mr Putin never saw that coming.
It is just one more thing the Russian leader was not prepared for.
– With AFP