Russia’s military is supposed to be one the best on Earth. But it can’t beat Ukraine? In a released statement on the Ukrainian Parliament’s official Telegram account, the government said a Ukrainian delegation included Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, Presidential Office Advisor Mykhailo Podoliak, and Deputy Foreign Minister Mykola Tochytsky had arrived in Belarus for talks with Russia, which have already begun.
“The main subject of the negotiations is an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine,” the statement said. However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has stated that he doesn’t expect that this meeting will bear any fruit in stopping the hostilities, as the Russians show no sign of slowing their offensive.
But the meeting may offer Russian President Vladimir Putin a potential face-saving exit from an already bloody conflict that hasn’t gone the way that they expected. Ukrainian military forces have fought the numerically superior Russian forces to a standstill.
Banking Sanctions Cripple Russian Ruble, Some Banks Are Failing:
The stiff sanctions that the West has put in place on Russia’s banks are already having an effect, as the value of the Russian ruble has plummeted by 30 percent. Russian citizens were rushing to withdraw their cash from banks and ATMs as fears of bank failures were presenting a very real scenario.
The Central Bank of Russia announced Monday that it would raise its key interest rate to 20 percent, up from 9.5 percent, as the ruble hit a record low against the dollar and a drop of 30 percent.
The rate hike “is designed to offset the increased risk of ruble depreciation and inflation,” the central bank said. The Russian Central Bank has also ordered the Moscow stock exchange to remain closed all day, citing “the developing situation.”
The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said to the news media, “The economic reality has, of course, changed,” adding that Putin has called for an emergency meeting with his top finance officials.
Russia’s Military Reforms Has Borne Little Fruit, Struggles Continue:
Most analysts, and no doubt the Russian Defense Ministry, believed that the war in Ukraine would have been over by now. They were expected to roll over the Ukrainian military in short order. While they still may wear down the much smaller Ukrainian forces, it has been a costly invasion, in both casualties and reputation.
One unit of Chechen special operations consisting of 56 armored vehicles was reportedly wiped out in an ambush by Ukrainian forces in a statement from the Ukrainian President’s Office. The commander of the Chechen 141 Motorized Regiment, General Magomed Tushayev was reportedly killed in the fighting in the outskirts of Kyiv. But that claim has not been confirmed.
The Russian battalion tactical appear to be, at least from the limited look we’re seeing coming out of Ukraine, ill-prepared for urban warfare. They are leaving themselves open to ambush with their long columns being hit from the flanks. The weather may be playing a factor here. With the warmer than usual weather, the ground is softer than usual and isn’t allowing many of their tactical units to deploy as they normally would. Being road-bound takes away a lot of their advantage in numbers. The normal spring thaw (mid-March) would turn the fields into muddy quagmires, which may come early.
But the much stiffer Ukrainian resistance is also having an effect. Russia does not yet have control of the air and air defense units are taking a toll on Russian aircraft. Territorial Defense Units comprised of civilians, while nominally or not trained at all, still present a difficulty at every turn.Russia and Its Conscript Forces
But as an intriguing piece in National Review points out, the Russian military is still heavily laden with a conscript force where the term of service is just 12 months, hardly long enough to become tactically and technically proficient.
The NCO corps is the backbone of the military, and despite Russia’s attempts to modernize and professionalize its NCO corps, it is still lacking. And that dearth of leadership at the tactical level is proving very costly.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for more than 10 years and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.