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Video Above: Would a "No-Fly" Zone Create Massive World War III with Russia?

*Editor Note: Republishing article due to viewer interest

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

Pentagon assessments and news reports from the warzone suggest that attacking Russian forces may be experiencing a serious and widespread “morale” problem, a factor quite likely to slow down, impair or simply remove their will to fight. They are not fighting for their homeland but instead being ordered into their potential death for reasons unlikely to be of crucial importance to them.

Russia’s Military Capabilities

Recognizing this morale deficit, and its expected impact upon performance, some might still raise what seems to be a fair and relevant question. Has the world overestimated Russia’s military capabilities?

Russia’s massive convoy headed toward Kyiv continues to be “stalled,” the military is reportedly suffering from substantial logistics and sustainment setbacks, and their force protection mechanisms seem quite challenged given the extent to which Ukrainian ambushes have decimated Russian combat vehicles at key “choke points.” 

A column of Russian military vehicles is seen near the village of Oktyabrsky, Belgorod Region, near the Russian-Ukrainian border

A column of Russian military vehicles is seen near the village of Oktyabrsky, Belgorod Region, near the Russian-Ukrainian border

Certainly many are likely to have underestimated the tenacity, resolve, combat prowess and sheer intensity of the Ukrainian military, yet a more surprising observation seems to be that Russia's military prowess may have been greatly overestimated.

“Ukrainian armed forces are over performing and Russian armed forces are underperforming,” Gen. Ben Hodges (Ret), former Commander of US Army Europe, told The National Interest in an interview.

The Pentagon says the much-observed Russian convoy is likely stalled for a number of interwoven reasons. Senior DoD officials say the Russian problem appear to be due to logistical challenges such as fuel and food shortages, low morale and successful Ukrainian ambush tactics Hodges said the apparent lack of coordination and warfare preparation on the part of the Russian force seems somewhat surprising.

“The logistics are turning out to be a real vulnerability for the Russians. You would think they would be much better prepared in terms of fuel and ammunition. They grossly overestimated how fast they have been able to move and now this big convoy is roadbound because the road is so soft and the Ukrainians are having an effect,” Hodges told Warrior in an interview.

More specifically, when asked why the Russians have not established air supremacy given that they have hundreds more aircraft than Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said candidly that Russian air-ground coordination has not been particularly effective. Sure enough, the Ukrainian skies are still “contested” and Kirby was clear the Ukraine’s air defense systems are proving effective and functional.

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Is Russia a Paper Tiger?

When it comes to actual functional military power, is Russia a paper Tiger?

Certainly Putin has made a public spectacle of what he claims are his country’s now operational hypersonic weapons, and state-owned Russian media reports consistently tout new military technologies, tests and progress with drones, bombers, ships and submarines. Russia’s stealthy 5th-generation Su-57 fighter jets are often in the news, and the new T-14 Armata tank has been hyped for many years. 

Russian Tanks

Regardless of the relative sophistication or potential superiority of these systems, there is a simple “numbers” equation to consider. Russian media reports are clear that their military operates about 12 Su-57s and a small number of T-14s. 

Therefore, assuming they are as capable as claimed by Russian press reports, and there is little to no verification that they are, they would simply be massively outnumbered by upgraded NATO-allied tanks in any major engagement. 

Furthermore, there is no reason to assume a T-14 would prevail in an engagement against the latest M1A2 SEP v3 variant of the Abrams tank. By extension, there is very little reason to immediately assume an Su-57 would in any way rival an F-35. Not only that, the US alone operates hundreds of F-35s and the international community of F-35 partner countries across Europe is growing larger and more powerful by the day.

It may be widely known that the Russian Navy is smaller, less capable and massively outgunned when compared with the US Navy, and Russia simply does not have anywhere close to the amount of 5th-generation air power as NATO, so their principal military strength has long been thought to reside in their ground war ability. However, is this invasion of Ukraine revealing that perhaps their integrated ground combat abilities, long thought to be exemplary, have been massively overestimated?

Russia is reported by Global Firepower to operate as many as 12,000 tanks, however that might be of less consequence if the majority of the tanks are Cold War era systems lacking the thermal sights, weapons and command and control systems to successfully see, engage and destroy US or NATO tanks with longer-range, high-fidelity targeting sensors able to see and destroy Russian vehicles at safer stand-off distances.

Video Above: Scott Rutter, Expert of Russian Tactics and Doctrine Discusses the Russia Ukraine Conflict

However, upon examining their apparent combat performance, many are likely to observe significant deficiencies in many respects.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall seems to indeed think that Russia’s military may have been greatly overestimated.

“In my view President Putin made a very, very, serious miscalculation. He severely underestimated the global reaction the invasion of Ukraine would provoke, he severely underestimated the will and courage of the Ukrainian people, and he overestimated the capability of his own military,” Kendall said in a public speech at the Air Force Association Symposium in Orlando, Fla.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President, Center for Military Modernization