Tuesday, October 14, 2014

You Only Have to Be Better Than Your Enemy--If You Will Pay the Price

Russia has lost rather a lot of soldiers for a splendid little war to weaken Ukraine's hold on a fraction of the Donbas region in the east.

Strategypage writes of the cost of Russia's invasion of Ukraine:

The fighting in Ukraine has left about 3,500 dead so far. About 25 percent of the dead have been Ukrainian soldiers and militia. About 30 percent were rebels and nearly ten percent were Russian soldiers. The rest were civilians. The death of so many Russian troops, and the attempt by the Russian government to hide the fact that they died in Ukraine, has caused a growing number of anti-government demonstrations and protests. About ten percent of those deaths occurred after the September 5 th ceasefire agreement with Russia and the rebels continuing to attack. That agreement has been regularly violated by the rebels who seek to capture the airport outside rebel held Donetsk. Russia insists that the rebels are defying Russia with all these violations of the ceasefire. No one believes that, least of all NATO intelligence, which has been tracking the presence of Russian troops and special operations troops in Donbas and just across the border in Russia.

So that's over 850 Ukrainian troops and militia versus 1050 pro-Russian rebels and nearly 350 Russians killed in combat.

I assume that since the Russian count specifies "soldiers" that Russian mercenaries and civilian volunteers are part of the "rebel" count. Which makes sense since the rebels were heavily reinforced with outsiders to make the Russian invasion look more like an insurrection than an invasion.

And 1,250 civilians caught in the crossfire. I don't know if that counts the dead from the Malaysian airliner shot down by the rebels or just Ukrainians.

For Ukraine's military being in shambles at the outset of the war that began in Crimea in February, that's really a pretty credible showing for the Ukrainians to have killed the well-equipped enemy at such a favorable ratio.

And it demonstrates that for all the talk of Russia's rearmament effort that Russia's army is still not that good despite some pockets of excellence and just enough adequate troops to get the job done against second-rate opponents (sorry Ukraine, but your military was shot at the outset of the war--but imagine what you could do if you were ready. Get on it.)

Sadly for NATO, much of NATO itself consists of second-rate militaries:

The current mess began in 1991 with the end of the Cold War. Europe was, for the first time in nearly a century, truly at peace. There was no military threat. There were some Islamic terrorists, but that lot didn't have an army. They were considered a public safety, not a military, threat. It was a unique situation in European history, and European generals and politicians had a hard time trying to get their heads wrapped around it.

There were potential military threats, but nothing in the immediate future that required a large force. There was peacekeeping, and that's what the Europeans were trying to organize for. That, however, was found to cost a lot of money. The post-Cold War military budgets could not support the traditional type forces and the new peacekeeper ones as well. But the idea of disposing of ancient military traditions and organizations that created combat ready troops was, well, hard to accept. But that’s what happened.

And there lies Russia's opportunities. Russia doesn't have to have a good military. They just have to have one better than their enemy's.

The fact that the Europeans and the Russians have poorly trained armies doesn't mean that there won't be war. It just means that when armies of amateurs clash the casualties will be high.