5 thoughts on “Tannenberg Revisited”

  1. “It was tangible evidence as well of the faulty judgement of the aforementioned Western observers, many of whom lay a claim to military expertise. In the six months since the Russian Army’s defeat in the battle of Kiev became obvious, that evidence has continued to pile up. ”

    Rational people require evidence while others rely on emotion. The author was far more uncertain in his assessment earlier this year but he had the same strong emotional response. Everyone is an expert with 20/20 hindsight.

    He does lay out some similarities between this war and the example battle. A good one was the mismatch on troop strength that eliminated any numerical superiority. However, there doesn’t seem to be a shell shortage according to the Ukrainians who captured vast stocks of ammunition. This could be a case of confirmation bias because that was a common theme among cheerleaders. There could be some truth to it because it is rational to expect pressuring supply lines to have some impact. But in the area of Ukraine’s counter offensive, Russia had no shortage of ammo and the Russian collapse was due to other reasons.

    There are a lot of those other reasons. Russia has been slow to adapt and change while Ukraine is quite innovative. Aside from all of their structural and cultural problems, vision is an area where they perform poorly and Ukraine does well. We don’t hear a lot about it because losing a tiny drone isn’t as flashy as a tank, so even though Russia might be taking out a lot of these quadcopters, they need a better way to deal with them and a way to provide a similar capability for their own soldiers. These drones aren’t just for making amazing propaganda videos.

    1. It didn’t take any genius to predict Russian failure in Ukraine. Where Russia has been effectively resisted these past two decades, it makes little or no headway. Russia lost the first Chechen War and took a decade to “win” the second even though Chechnya had no significant aid from outside. Crimea might not have been lost in 2014 had Ukraine resisted as it did in the Donbass.

      I have no military background or experience beyond a dilletante’s grasp of military history, but it’s been obvious for years that the Russian military-industrial complex has, in the wake of the Soviet collapse, almost completely lost the ability to build much of anything. New missiles, tanks, aircraft and submarines take forever to design and prototype and then fail to ever be put into significant production. This was a very old story well before Russia’s disastrous decision to invade Ukraine was taken.

      I was initially dubious Putin would even do so. That was mostly because I didn’t really understand what the Russian motivation was – other than sheer bloody-mindedness. The analysis of Peter Zeihan put me straight on that matter once I encountered it in the wake of the actual invasion. But even before the invasion, I commented many times – mostly on Doug Messier’s Parabolic Arc news site – that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would look a lot more like the Winter War in Finland than anything else. That has been borne out in spades, though it was not a common opinion at the time.

      1. “It didn’t take any genius to predict Russian failure in Ukraine.”

        When I looked through the author’s substack, I didn’t see any predictions early on. Many of the problems Russia has were well known to people who aren’t deletants, as the author noted in his op-ed, and they had differing predictions. The opening gambit was a close call, there was nothing fated there.

        Some of Russia’s critical failures weren’t things people were chattering about. They only became apparent to the public as things unfolded. The same is true for Ukraine’s successes.

        I think for a lot of people who chose one side or the other, day to day performance had little impact on who they thought was winning at the moment or would win. There were times when Ukraine wasn’t doing so great and people were saying they were and even more times when Russia wasn’t doing so great and people were saying they were. It could just be optimism or that feeling of contributing like when cheering a favorite sports team.

        Even now the future is uncertain but people act with certainty. Having a preferred outcome or thinking one outcome is the most likely out of many doesn’t necessarily mean this will turn out that way.

        Watching how spectators have acted throughout this has been interesting. What I am taken aback by is how Americans never cheered on their own country with this fervor but maybe the media has a lot to do with that as well.

        1. I thought you might find it amusing how I managed to not see the obvious before Russia invaded, and thus got it all wrong.

          In the late leadup in early February, I was convinced that Russia would invade, and further that its intent was to conquer all of Ukraine.I even got the timing right (last week of February).

          Then, I saw the maps showing the Russian deployment areas around Ukraine. I could see in an instant (as could anyone) that they made no sense at all; the Russians were deploying as if they intended to attack along the entire perimeter, including into fortified lines in the Donbas that the Ukrainians had been developing fir 8 years. The Russians had used a very similar plan against Czechoslovakia in 1968, but then they’d been facing a dis-unified Czech army, plus the geography is far different, and Russia, then, had a numerically vastly superior force. To try that kind of campaign in Ukraine made no sense at all.

          So, what did I do? Bungled it. I figured that the media had the info wrong, had to, because no way, no how, could the Russians bungle it so badly that they’d fail to see that their own battle plan could not work. So, I got it wrong, because of bad assumptions on my part.

          What would have IMHO made sense for the Russians to do would have been concentrate on two main axes of advance; Kyev in the north, and Kherson north to Kyev in the south. They could have cut Ukraine in two, plus taken the capital.

          Instead, they attacked everywhere (at least 7 main axes of advance.. and for comparison, Germany’s Operation Barbarossa had 3) against a roughly equal force that has interior lines of communication. It made no sense, so I looked for other explanations, and got it dead wrong.

          1. My take is that the Russian plan was to pressure the Ukraine borders at once – which would both reduce the number of troops that Ukraine could move around to reinforce other areas and exploit any weaknesses that developed. I guess like a dike – find the leaks and flow through them.

            If they had picked this plan over one with fewer axes of advance, it may be because they weren’t confident that they could push through on a few axes. Maybe a concern that the military couldn’t support such a plan or maybe they thought it too much of a gamble, should one or both of the advances be delayed, then a defeat in detail be possible.

            But it could be the noob mistake: the more you do, the more win you surely get.

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