Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The Degree of Difficulty Was Low

I must be in a nitpicky mood or something.

In a very good article on Russian battlefield deception (maskirovka), the author says that the Russian take-over of Crimea in early 2014 was a sign of Russian ability to match us on the battlefield:

As we have seen, Russian units have effectively married unconventional warfare, information operations, political influence and technological advances to gain an advantage against peer competitors. When less than 10,000 Russian Naval Infantry and Special Operations Forces defeat 16,000 conventional, defending Ukrainian Army forces without open warfare, it is time to acknowledge that Russia has closed many capability gaps against the west at the tactical level.

Ten thousand good quality Russian troops, with the advantage of a major base inside Crimea already, carried out a subliminal invasion of a region of a country convulsed in a revolution with lines of legitimate authority unclear to the Ukrainian troops--many from the region and potentially sympathetic to the Russians--who except for a battalion of marines were all rear echelon support troops.

How much resistance could they have carried out under the circumstances?

The Crimea take over was surely a superb special forces operation in taking the region with I think one Ukrainian soldier killed and no Russian deaths. But this was hardly a display of tactical battle prowess, in my opinion. Because, you know, there were no battles.

See the bloody stalemate in the Donbas for a contrast when Ukrainians at least accepted the government and troops are willing to fight and die for that government.

That battle is showing the power of Russian artillery, surveillance, and signals intelligence--as well as Russian skill in bold-face denial of their actions--but it is not a success of unconventional warfare, information operations, political influence and technological advance.

And neither theater is a demonstration of Russian skills against a peer competitor, unless you really want to downgrade Russia's power status.

Really, a Crimea-type operation against an established state with a loyal military would have seen police arresting "militias" with regular army forces crushing light special forces troops who have not yet gotten the heavier "cavalry" of mechanized forces to rescue them from the counter-attack.

It's not that I disagree with the thrust of the article. But the Crimean aside undermines an otherwise good article about Western weaknesses in the face of Russian deception skills.