Video Above: Russian Convoy "Bogged Down," Hit With Ukrainian Ambushes, Fuel & Food Shortages, Morale Problems
The visible and somewhat obvious morale problem among Russian troops cited in the earliest days of the country's invasion of Ukraine, seems to be persisting in a substantial and heavily influential fashion.
Russian Morale Problems
While many specifics, exact numbers and details related to Russian morale problems have not be avail for security reasons or simply inability to verify, Pentagon officials are clear that these problems are not going away.
“We have continued to see unit cohesion issues, command-and-control problems, problems of faulty leadership. And certainly we have continued to see, again, anecdotal evidence of poor morale and poor performance by troops on the battlefield. But, as I've said before, it's anecdotal. We can't say with certainty that it's uniformly across all the forces that they have in Ukraine,” a Senior Pentagon official told reporters March 31, according to a DoD transcript.
Morale can of course greatly impact combat performance, something which has struck many observers as somewhat surprisingly poor. Not only did Russia seem unprepared and ill equipped for the kind of mission they were embarking upon, but there have been many anecdotal reports that Russian soldiers simply may not want to fight, and instead actually have no interest in killing Ukrainians. Pentagon officials have also observed significant tactical errors on the part of the Russian forces.
“This is an operation, an armed conflict on the scale that the Russians have not attempted in a very, very, very long time, on multiple lines of axis, with poor coordination between elements in subordinate commands, poor planning for logistics and sustainment,” the senior Pentagon official said.
Other Russian tactical problems pointed out by Pentagon observers include ineffective command and control and little to no air-ground attack coordination or synergy. A lot of this can perhaps be understood in terms of a key warfare dynamic explained to Warrior by former Commander, US Army Europe, retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges. Hodges said wars are won by the force which better “adapts” to unanticipated changes and developments in war as they emerge.
Yet another potential explanation of this may simply be that the Russian soldiers ordered into Ukraine were not actual trained soldiers, but instead conscripts ordered to conduct a mission they had no prior awareness of and no preparation for.
“The official also explained that there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that the Russian leadership hasn’t even been honest with their troops about what it is that they were about to do, and they are largely depending on conscripts to fight it -- so not career soldiers,” the official explained.
Russian armored vehicles are being incinerated and destroyed by determined Ukrainian fighters, the much discussed Russian “convoy” has been bogged down for months with fuel and supply problems and many question the fundamental ability of the Russian military to conduct a Combined Arms Maneuver land-war operation.
Lack of Fight
Alongside all of these factors, perhaps Russian soldiers just don’t want to fight? What are they fighting for? Do they have a “will” or actual “desire” to occupy Ukraine and kill and subjugate its people, many of whom share a common ethnic history. “
While stopping short of offering large amounts of detail and instead referring to the numerous “anecdotal” reports regarding Russian soldiers, Pentagon officials specifically say the Russians are having “morale problems.”
“They are having morale problems. They are having supply problems. They are having fuel problems. They're having food problems. They are meeting a very stiff and determined Ukrainian resistance,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters, according to a DoD transcript.
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Some of the many anecdotal reports have suggested that perhaps Russian soldiers are controlled by fear of consequences should they speak out. It is certainly possible that of them are quite likely to quietly or privately “disagree” with or at least question Putin’s war effort.
One must hope for some measure of humanity, when blind obedience to a dictator instructs or tries to force soldiers into murdering children. Do Russian soldiers firing 300 mile missiles from mobile launchers into civilian areas believe in their mission?
Will to fight seems to be one of those somewhat “ineffable” yet highly impactful variables likely to influence, if not determine outcome in war.
Part of this, Kirby explained, may simply be that many Russian soldiers had no idea what they would be ordered to do. Isn’t there a yearning for “purpose” woven into the soul of man? Surely there may be some kind of innate sense or human attribute aligned with an identifying, compassionate sensibility.“It is not clear to us that all of the soldiers that Russia has put into Ukraine, realize that that's what they were doing. That they were actually going to invade Ukraine. It's not clear to us that they had full visibility on the mission that they were being assigned,” Kirby said.
This apparent lack of resolve on the part of the invading Russian forces may be why the Russian military has resorted to massive, long-range attacks on civilian neighborhoods.
Do some Russian troops simply oppose the invasion? Are they being threatened and forced into fighting? Some anecdotal reports have suggested this possibility, and there is also the chance that some Russian conscripts simply do not want to kill Ukrainians.
Famous French Philosopher Jean Jaques Rousseau spoke at great length about what he called “natural pity,” a human characteristic borne of a deeply innate, instinctive altruistic tendency. Rousseau, in his discussion of what he called man’s fundamental disposition in a “state of nature,” used the term “noble savage” to describe this inclination woven into the essence of man. Rousseau's “Discourse on the Origin of Inequality” even extended this concept of natural “man” as an altruistic “noble savage” to include animals, saying many living creatures exhibit instinctive “natural pity.”
All of this discussion takes place within the broader context of Rousseau’s discussion of human nature as it pertains to conceiving of an optimal civil society consistent with man’s nature. Rousseau’’s point, famous now for centuries, is also discussed within the conceptual framework that man is of course “self-interested,” yet also capable of exhibiting this organic “altruistic” sensibility.
Video Above: Russia Has Precision Weapons & Could Avoid Attacking Children & Civilians
Could this sentiment be emerging within some Russian soldiers aware that their actions are killing children? That is certainly the hope of many, yet there are definitely zealots and true believers among the ranks of the Russian military as well.
This support for the invasion may be being heavily influenced by a large-scale propaganda effort within Russia to distort the truth about events in Ukraine and marshal support for the Russian military invasion among the greater population. Multiple media reports on CNN show a “Z” symbol as indicative of support for the Russian invasion.
Media reports also say the free flow of information within Russia continues to be massively curtailed as the country’s government seeks to present a distorted picture of what is happening in Ukraine. This is part of why there is likely a large scale effort among many to get volumes of accurate information about Ukraine into Russia.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.