That Bad and Worse

Falling through the universe at the speed of life

By David Glenn Cox

How bad could it be? Don’t ask. Vladimir Putin is calling for a partial mobilization, after he promised the Russian people that he wouldn’t do that. Only professional soldiers and contract soldiers would fight in Ukraine. But after invading and annexing the Crimea, Putin had promised that he had no further territorial ambitions in Ukraine. He said that Russia was only trying to help those breakaway Republics find their freedom, later admitting it was Russian soldiers and equipment behind it all along.

Putin mobilizing and calling it a “partial” mobilization is a joke. This isn’t a job for tweezers; this is a job for butterfly nets. They’ll take any butterfly they can catch, 16 to 60 blind, crippled, or crazy. Images of older men with graying hair being loaded into trucks. Images of lines of young men at the border as far as the eye can see. But what you can’t see are the young men hiding at grandmother’s house fifty miles away from home. Staying inside and not showing himself around town.

There is a Laurel and Hardy film where the two are sitting on a park bench. As an army recruiter is combing the park with a fife drum player, looking for a few good men. Ollie leans over casually and says to Stan, “Let me handle this.” But when he looks Stan is gone, been gone, like disappeared yesterday, as in took a powder. Who was smart and who was dumb here? Some things you don’t think about, you just do instinctively.

One of the problems with state-controlled media is few believe it whole-heartedly. They listen for the bait and look for the hook. No one had to explain Special Military Operation to the Russian population. Just as no one needs to explain “Partial Mobilization” to them. No need to explain why the Special Military Operation is still rocking on into its seventh month or why Daddy Warbucks just called for a partial mobilization. Oooh, I heard it through the grapevine.

Putin has replaced or relived thirteen generals and eight others have been killed. That’s a serious brain drain, not easily replaced when everyone is new on the job. The chances that twenty-one new guys are all going to work out is statistically impossible. Especially, after what we’ve seen from the performance of the first team.

There are reports the war’s cost is cutting into Russian army graft. “So what? The paper says we have twenty attack helicopters, and we only have eighteen. So what? Two helicopters and two large shipping containers are missing. It was like that when I got here. What are you trying to say?”  

The Russian victory at Stalingrad wasn’t in the taking of the town. It was the taking of 91,000 prisoners and blowing a hole in the front a hundred miles wide. The Germans still had tanks and guns and airplanes, but not enough for offensive operations anymore.

The other day in a single day, the Ukrainians took territory from the Russians equivalent in size to half of Rhode Island. After just two weeks ago, taking an area the size of Delaware away from the Red Army. That’s not a planned retreat to the river, that’s open field Olympic sprinting tryouts. Abandoning irreplaceable weapons and stores.

Mathematics are irascible and stubborn, even if you start with a huge edge in men and equipment. Losing eight or ten vehicles a day means eventually that advantage is all gone. Half an army is no army; you can’t stick two halves of broken armies and glue them together. They are still two broken armies stuck together. Abandoned equipment will be replaced by inferior equipment and that will be replaced by none or by Yuri with a rusty rifle.

Clear signs of military collapse are in giving up that much land so freely. And this is agricultural land and so the road network is very limited.  The Ukrainians have pushed to within a few miles of cutting the main Russian supply road and if they do, the Russian troops will be cut off. Up shit creek without a paddle and winter’s coming. It’s getting colder at night. Another six weeks and it might start snowing again.

But the most immediate sign of Russian collapse is due Putin’s disappointment at the military’s poor performance and most of all, the General’s poor performance. Vladimir Putin has taken personal control and will now make battlefield decisions for his officers.

 “Here’s your sign.” Come on history buffs! Let’s count all the times the dictator took over control of the military and successfully turned things around! Ah….ah…ah. Let’s see, there was Napoleon, but even he was retired eventually.

Putin has lost all confidence in the military. The military has lost all confidence in Putin. Their goal now is to stop the losses as best they can. Multiple reports of Russian soldiers carjacking and clothes jacking from the Ukrainian citizens. What are Putin’s losses from desertion? These men have to be going someplace to need 300,000 replacements ASAP.

“I sent Yuri with the truck and some men to get us supplies. They should be back by now; it’s been three days.”

Giving up that much territory that quickly, means that pandemonium is in charge. “Grab your shit and get children! Make your own way as best you can.” So, the Russians call up the reserves to replace all those men and hi-tech equipment already lost. The chance for offensive is now over, this is the struggle to hold on to what they’ve got.

The conscripts aren’t being sent to school to learn how operate a radar or fix a jet plane. More like, “This is my rifle this is my gun, this one’s for fighting this one’s for fun!” I watched a video where a Russian officer was talking to the new conscripts.

“I don’t know where you are going, and I don’t know if I’m going with you. I might just take you there and drop you off and come back and get another group ready. I do know, you ship out October 30th. If you have any ideas about malingering, forget it. If you’re sick, forget it! If you’re mama’s sick, forget it!”

A truly inspiring message of leadership and hope. “I feel better now, knowing that things are so well in hand.” But the first of the conscripts has already fallen on the battlefields of Ukraine. Just that fast, wow, does that speak volumes. The Russians are using prisoners and forced conscriptions in the break away Republics to fill the ranks

To throw conscripts into battle just that fast smacks of desperation and military collapse. Air incursions into Finland and Sweden smack of desperation, of trying to get a rise out of somebody. Damaging his own pipeline to signal his promised vengeance.

Burning his ships, signaling there is no road home for these recruits. Putin mumbles about using nuclear weapons but even the weather is against him, as the prevailing wind would take the fallout almost immediately back over Mother Russia. Note to self: Mustn’t use nuclear weapons on the upwind neighbors.

How bad could it be? That bad and worse.

“Thus, we may know that there are five essentials for victory:
1 He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
2 He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
3 He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
4 He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
5 He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.”

― Sun Tzu

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