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I’m A Former Member of US Army Special Forces: Russia’s War in Ukraine Could Be Falling Apart

Putin’s war in Ukraine is not going well no matter how you look at it. We asked a former member of U.S. special forces to explain and analyze what is happening right now.

Ukraine AT-4
Spc. Chengjie Liu (right), fires an AT-4 anti-tank weapon as Sgt. Jacob Saccameno, both infantrymen assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, supervises and assists during an anti-tank and air defense artillery range, April 23, at Adazi Military Base, Latvia. American and Latvian soldiers trained using a variety of weapons, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, Carl Gustav recoilless anti-tank rifles and the RBS-70 Short-range air defense laser guided missile system. Soldiers from five North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations, including Canada, Germany and Lithuania, have been conducting a variety of training together during Summer Shield XIII, an annual two-week long interoperability training event in Latvia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Paige Behringer)

Ukrainian Attacks In Crimea Having Profound Impact On Russia – The war in Ukraine has reached the point of being a stalemate with very little movement on either side in terms of taking or retaking territory. But recent events have already changed Russia’s actions and, as Western military officials told media members, are having a profound psychological impact.

Attacks in Crimea by Ukrainian forces have expanded the fighting zone deep into Russian-occupied Crimea, where they have previously operated with impunity. Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014 and has been used to stage the invasion of southern Ukraine in its attempts to seize all of Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea.

Ukraine’s head of the national security council, Oleksiy Danilov, said on Friday that Kyiv would continue to target sites in Crimea as part of a “step-by-step demilitarization of the peninsula with its subsequent de-occupation.”

Ukraine Latest: Black Sea Fleet Reduced to Coastal Defense: 

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has suffered setbacks throughout the invasion campaign.

In April, the flagship of the fleet, the cruiser Moskva, was sunk after being hit by anti-ship missiles causing the ammunition to explode. The Russians attempted to tow the cruiser to Sevastopol, but she rolled over and sank during the journey. 

Later in June, the Russians were forced to withdraw from the small but strategic outpost of Snake Island, off the southern coast of Ukraine. Russian troops seized the island during the early hours of the war, where a Ukrainian radio operator, after receiving the Moskva’s demand for surrender, responded with, “Russian warship, Go F**k Yourself! The Russian defense ministry framed the withdrawal of the island as a “Goodwill gesture.”

Last month, Russia’s Navy Day parade in Crimea was canceled after a small, homemade drone landed in Russia’s Black Sea headquarters courtyard. Damage was slight, but it had a significant impact. Then came the attack on the Russian airbase at Saki that destroyed eight aircraft and damaged others. It effectively took out half of Russia’s Black Sea aviation assets. 

On Monday, Ukrainian partisans acting with Special Forces personnel blew up a large ammunition depot near the coast. On Friday night, explosions were heard near another Russian airbase, and the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters was hit with another explosion.


“Moskva” (“Moscow”) (ex-“Slava”, which means “Glory”) is the lead ship of the Project 1164 Atlant class of guided missile cruisers in the Russian Navy. This warship was used in the 2008 Russia-Georgia War. The Black Sea. Sevastopol bay. This photo was taken from a boat.

Thousands of Russian Citizens on the Black Sea Flee After Attack

The attack on the ammunition depot this week was seen by thousands of Russian citizens on the Black Sea coast, a favorite vacation spot. But the attack profoundly affected those vacationers, as satellite imagery showed a long queue of vehicles leaving Crimea for Russia just after the attack.  

For a country that has carefully orchestrated what news is available to Russian citizens and any negative reporting on the invasion can result in long jail terms, this development is important. 

Russia thought that this area of the Black Sea was immune from any Ukrainian attacks. The attack has struck home both with the citizens fleeing and the government in Moscow. There seemed to be genuine panic among the civilians, and any government spin can’t hide the fact or stop those fleeing from relaying what happened.

Putin’s Ukraine Problems: Black Sea Fleet Commander Fired

Russia’s Black Sea fleet commander, Igor Osipov, has been replaced after several setbacks by his command were suffered, and its power projection was severely impacted. 

Osipov was replaced by Vice Admiral Viktor Sokolov, who vowed that the defensive posture would soon be replaced with further operations that would see control of the entire Black Sea. Russian government-controlled news TASS quoted him as saying that the fleet has been “successfully completing all the tasks set for it” during the “special military operation.”


Service members of pro-Russian troops fire from a tank during fighting in Ukraine-Russia conflict near the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine May 5, 2022. Picture taken May 5, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Sokolov told a group of young officers that he’d been appointed as the acting commander of the Black Sea Fleet, and the fleet will receive 12 new vessels and additional aviation and land-based vehicles later this year. Sokolov had previously been the head of the Admiral Kuznetsov Naval Academy, a post he held since 2020.

Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer, mainly in the 7th SFG. In addition to writing for and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.

Written By

Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 1945, he covers the NFL for and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.



  1. John Lewis

    August 20, 2022 at 12:18 pm

    Honestly, I am shocked with the unprofessional conduct of the Russian soldiers and their operational tactics. The Russian soldiers despite having numerical advantage in weaponry and manpower do not show any tactical operational competence over the Ukrainians. They seem to be poorly trained, no structural command and control and their war doctrine is based on outdated second world war tactics. Ukraine war has exposed Russia’s armed forces as incompetent fighting force led by incompetent Generals, who are not conversant with modern warfare. I did not see the possibility of Russia getting victory over Ukraine.

  2. Jacksonian Libertarian

    August 20, 2022 at 3:11 pm

    The famous strategist Clausewitz spoke of the “Culminating Point” which occurs when an offensive loses momentum, and results in a rout as the attacker is forced back to where his logistics can support a defense.

  3. Michael David Rubin

    August 21, 2022 at 12:07 am

    Steve – as a former Navy intell analyst, your views seem to me consistent with current reality, & with long-established patterns of Russian expansionism.
    2 questions:
    1. Do you see a specific point in time – or set of conditions within Russia – when the Russian public can no longer be kept from the facts about the Ukrainian invasion?
    2. Is the U.S. State Dept. facilitating or slow-walking actual delivery of weapons promised by the current WH?
    re 2. We note that 1945 has a “Senior Editor” who keeps promoting what sound like WH talking points about the promised Ukrainian aid (along with miscellaneous political/NeverTrumpish snide asides, buried in supposed “reports”).
    Any thoughts?
    Go Pats,

  4. Froike

    August 21, 2022 at 11:14 am

    US “Strategy” is not for Ukraine to win, but to prolong this conflict.
    If Lend Lease is active, why not sell The Ukrainians what they need to win? Chances of Russia using a Nuke in Ukraine is next to nil.
    Sell them what they need to take out Putins Hordes: Good Missile Defense, More HIMARS with precision Rockets, M109’s, and why not Abrams and Bradleys? F-16’s wouldn’t hurt either.

  5. Yrral

    August 21, 2022 at 12:06 pm

    Ukrainain Collaborators are Putin secrets weapon,their are thousands of Russian agents in the Ukrainian government, probably have Intel shared, between Ukrainain and Russian,this war will climax near ,with a stalemate by Christmas,all the aid will be down the rat hole

  6. James Smith

    August 21, 2022 at 1:34 pm

    Why is the general sentiment that the war is going to change with them much vaunted “counter offensive” that the world has been expecting for the last two months.

    Also applying simple logic, if everthing is going well for the Ukranian military why is President announcing almost a billion dollars of military assistance every week?

    HIMARS the frequently called a game-changer has not had any impact. How come there is any evidence of these game changers making a difference. There are reports from Ukraine of problems with the Javelin, the French and German mobile Howitzers to the point of being unusable.

    Is there a MAP showing any territory that has been taken back from Russian Forces?

  7. mcswell

    August 21, 2022 at 10:38 pm

    @James Smith, you asked “if everthing is going well for the Ukranian military why is President announcing almost a billion dollars of military assistance every week?” That’s a trick question, right? Because the obvious answer is to ensure that everything *keeps* going well for Ukraine. Duh.

  8. Michael David Rubin

    August 21, 2022 at 11:41 pm

    Re 3 previous comments:
    These seem to be making my point about U.S. “promises” of serious military aid – DELIVERED – to Ukraine.
    As to the immediate effectiveness of whatever is or isn’t there, like that of Europe’s, that devil is probably in the details of training/learning curve(s); transport/logistics issues i.e. getting the right weapons & support gear to the crucial locations timely; & backup support i.e. spare parts & ordnance replacement – again, timely.
    As to the waste of war, “rat holes,” etc. – the simple creating of a Ukrainian quagmire for Russian aggression has already served an important international purpose:
    Exposing Putin as not just a tyrant, but a commander-in-chief of an incompetent military.
    Of course, it is deplorable that another ill-advised & unnecessary invasion, & its killing, had to bring this obvious fact to the world’s attention.
    Russian training & morale are, apparently, substandard.
    His order of battle includes substantial components of obsolete, or not-yet-ready, weapons systems, & especially, their fire control capabilities.
    All of this reflects similar patterns that prevailed under Soviet rule, despite many welcome advances within Russian society, & (some) economic development outside of petroleum.
    An obscure Russian man was quoted in ~1991, saying, “…we were lied to for 73 years.”
    How long, this time?

  9. Steven

    August 22, 2022 at 12:39 pm

    I beat the Russians in Civ 3!

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