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We Think We Know Why Russia’s Military Did So Poorly in Ukraine

Russian T-72 tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Russian T-72 tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Almost three months into the invasion of Ukraine, and the Russian military has failed spectacularly. Its greatest success is the capture of Mariupol, which was only on Monday, May 17, 82 days after the start of the war.

There have been a lot of explanations as to why the Russian forces have fared so poorly, ranging from morale to logistics to corruption, among other reasons.

Last week, the British Ministry of Defense came out with four possible explanations for the lackluster Russian military performance in Ukraine.

The Four Reasons

Speaking on the anniversary of Victory Day, British Minister of Defense Ben Wallace identified four primary reasons that are likely behind the Russian failures.

The British official stated that bad battle preparation, poor operational planning, inadequate equipment and support, and corruption and the moral component have been the bane of the Russian invasion.

Bad battle preparation set up the Russian military for failure.

“Russian forces were not told what their mission was until they crossed the border into Ukraine, so they weren’t even given the opportunity to prepare. There were even reports of Russian troops in Belarus selling the fuel for their vehicles the week before the invasion because they had repeatedly been told it was all just an exercise,” Wallace said.

Partly because of that, the Russian logistical system collapsed. Contrary to the U.S. military, which always aims for a good balance between combat troops and their logistics that move and feed them, the Russian military favors the former to the apparent disadvantage of both. As a result, the Russian forces went to war unprepared.

“Russian special forces, who have made and promoted their own macho videos openly mocking western armies for being inclusive of minorities and women, were resoundingly defeated by Ukrainian militia forces, often incorporating minorities and women. The farce of their commanders’ failures has led to certain VDV and Marine units reportedly suffered up to 80% casualties against those non-regular Ukrainian forces,” the British Minister of Defense said.

The second reason is poor operational planning. Influenced by the lack of battle preparation, the Russian commanders didn’t do any thorough planning.

“Throughout the Russian Forces’ operation and across all domains their commanders’ failures to conduct appropriate operational planning has been nothing but a betrayal of their soldiers and airmen who have paid the price with their lives,” Wallace added.

As Ukrainian resistance became stiffer, bolstered by U.S. and NATO weapons, any Russian plan that was working was derailed.

Equipment and Morale Problems in Ukraine

The third reason was inadequate equipment and support.

A common theme throughout the war has been Russian military vehicles breaking down constantly in the first weeks of the war that was more pronounced. Ukrainian forces would find abandoned Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, and other miscellaneous vehicles all the time.


Russian tank firing main gun. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

“Russian vehicles had not been maintained properly and immobilised many logistics vehicles, leading to cheap tyres being blown out and truck axle hub failures, all due to poor maintenance or the money for that maintenance being taken elsewhere. . .Almost none of their vehicles contain situational awareness and digital battle management. Vehicles are frequently found with 1980s paper maps of Ukraine in them,” the British Minister of Defense said.

And finally, the average Russian soldier doesn’t want to be in Ukraine, especially unsupported and underfed.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.