Clearly, Russia has made several important tactical errors during the invasion of Ukraine. That explains why their timetable has been severely disrupted especially in the north, where they have been virtually stuck in the same positions since early in the week.
They have severely under-estimated their logistics requirements and many vehicles have run out of fuel and have been abandoned, and the long convoy of vehicles moving on Kyiv has stalled. Their air assets haven’t been completely brought to bear and the Ukrainian Air Force which was thought to be swept from the sky in the first few days is still a viable if small force.
Russia’s Mistake: Underestimating Ukraine’s Armed Forces
But the biggest miscalculation has been that the Russians have been surprised by the amount of resistance they’ve faced in Ukraine. The Russians expected Ukraine to capitulate and many Russian conscripts that have been captured said that they expected that the Ukrainians would welcome them with open arms.
While the Russian military may eventually prevail due to having numerically superior numbers in men, armor, artillery, and aircraft, the Ukrainian military strategy, helped along with amateurs, local townspeople with rudimentary, if any military training, have exacted a toll on the Russian troops. It has been a true example of an old adage from World War II, “rifle behind every blade of grass.”
How Ukraine Learned to Fight Russia
But the Ukrainian strategy probably takes much of its tactics from the joint US/Ukrainian Special Operations Forces (SOF) training that has been conducted for several years at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center near Lviv in western Ukraine. The Ukrainians have learned some tough lessons from the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, and have been preparing for this eventuality.
The Ukrainians created their own Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in 2015 shortly after the Crimea situation. Their command consists of four regiments, with four army units, three naval units, along with two training locations. Its stated strength is reported to be 2,000 troops.
Although mentions of Ukrainian SOF have been virtually non-existent in the news, their fingerprints are all over the resistance that has been seen in the country. Because those Ukrainian troops trained by US SOF then were sent to select regular units to share their expertise on what they’ve learned and what the strategy is.
The US Green Berets trained with their Ukrainian counterparts and developed a modern force with equipment and practices aligned with NATO SOF elements. Even more so, Ukraine signed a Letter of Intent that was to bring Ukrainian SOF in line with NATO SOF, so that its special operations troops would be certified and become part of NATO’s Response Force as they sought membership in the alliance. They dress alike and are equipped very similarly to their NATO counterparts.
Ukraine Will Resist Russia
While the Ukrainians haven’t published their resistance plans, one can absolutely expect their resistance efforts will not just continue but step up in the event of a Russian takeover.
An excellent piece in Business Insider by 1945 National Security Columnist Stavros Atlamazoglou earlier this week highlighted what the plan of the Ukrainian resistance may be in the coming weeks. I was asked to provide a small amount of information on what plans the SOF personnel may implement. And it seems like much of it is already happening.
Keep the Arms Flowing and Win the News Cycle
As with any resistance movement, they need a friendly border where they can receive arms, ammunition, and equipment. And those borders are plentiful in Ukraine’s west with Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary to the west where NATO forces can keep them not only resupplied but offer sanctuary for guerrilla units fighting the Russian occupation.
The information war will be important. Russia is cracking down on non-state-approved news, but the disinformation they are spreading can be controlled by reports coming out of Ukrainian resistance elements.
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.