Long thread about how I think the first 96 hours have gone, still very early/incomplete impressions. The initial Russian operation was premised on terrible assumptions about Ukraine’s ability & will to fight, and an unworkable concept of operations. Moscow badly miscalculated. 1/
The Russian operation was focused on getting to Kyiv quickly, forcing a surrender, and pushing a small number of units forward quickly in a way that avoided large engagements with UKR forces. They’ve been skirting major cities, going for key road junctions/smaller towns, etc. 2/
Why did Moscow choose this course of action? A few theories: they didn’t take Ukraine & its military seriously. They wanted to avoid attrition & devastation because of consequences for pol goals in Ukraine, costs of casualties, and they want to hide the costs from the public. 3/
It is also possible that Russian military planners genuinely wanted to avoid inflicting high levels of destruction given how unpopular this war was going to be at home. Most Russian soldiers are young & have little interest in fighting Ukrainians as an opponent. 4/
What I’ve seen so far suggests that Russian troops were unaware they would be ordered to invade, and appear reluctant to prosecute this war. They don't see Ukrainians as adversaries and the military didn’t prepare them for this campaign. Outside of Chechens, morale seems low. 5/
This is an unworkable concept of operations. It seems they tried to win quickly and cheaply via 'thunder runs,' hoping to avoid the worst of sanctions & Western outrage. They’ve ended up in the worst of all worlds, trickling more resources into a failed strategy. 6/
However, this is barely a few days into the war. Ukraine has done remarkably well, but no analysts (except maybe in Moscow) expected Russia to defeat the largest country in Europe within 4 days, especially given UKR military capability. 7/
On the shambolic effort - Russian units are not really fighting as BTGs. They’re driving down roads in small detachments, pushing recon & VDV units forward. Tanks often by themselves and vice versa. Fires & enablers not used decisively, and often not used at all. 8/
Outside of the fighting NW of Kyiv we have a lot of smaller detachments, tanks, IFVs, often recon or VDV units pressing down roads & into cities. Small formations regularly outrunning logistics, without support, or letting support & artillery get ambushed behind them. 9/
Beyond large numbers of units strewn out in small detachments & checkpoints, we have the inverse situation as well. Long trains of Russian vehicles stuck in their own traffic jams, entering across the border. Air defenses not covering them, but stuck on the road with them. 10/
As companies & platoons run ahead to seize points, logistics can’t keep up, and they’re not being effectively covered by support. Most of the fights I've seen are small skirmishes, especially on the outskirts of major cities. These may be intense, but not major battles. 11/
The Russian failure is driven by the fact that they’re attempting to conduct a full-scale invasion without the mil operation that it would require, thinking they can avoid most of the fighting. This has led to not only unworkable force employment, but lack of employment. /12
The truth is that large parts of the Russian military have yet to enter this war, with many of the capabilities still unused. Not to take away from UKR great mil performance, and resilience, but I see a lot of early judgments & conclusions that need moderation. 13/
In the first 4 days, Russian tactical aviation, except for some Su-25s, largely sat on the sidelines. So have most combat helicopters. They have hundreds of both deployed in the area. Russia's air force is missing in action, and largely unused. 14/
The Russian military sought to use cruise/ballistic missiles to destroy/suppress UKR air defense and target air bases. However, they're not flying CAPs, or offensive counter air, and only today have I spotted the first Su-34 bomber conducting strikes. /15
Except for heavy shelling around Kharkiv, use of fires have been limited compared to how the Russian mil typically operates. Sadly, I think this will change. Russian mil is an artillery army first, and it has used a fraction of its available fires in this war thus far. /16
The bulk of the Russian military has yet to enter the fight. Outside Kharkiv, most of the 1st Guards Tank Army, and 20th Army, are just sitting there. They pushed a few BTGs a considerable distance past Sumy, but I think a lot of Russia's forces are still on the sidelines. /17
Another point, Russian losses are significant, and they have had a number of troops captured, but they have been advancing along some axes. In general, Ukrainians are posting evidence of their combat successes, but the opposite is less true, distorting the overall picture. 18/
Hence my next thought. In a desperate effort to keep the war hidden from the Russian public, framing this as a Donbas operation, Moscow has completely ceded the information environment to Ukraine, which has galvanized morale and support behind Kyiv. Another miscalculation. /19
I won't comment on the host of official claims made in this war so far, except that I think Kyiv is doing a great job shaping perceptions & the information environment. That said, folks should approach official claims critically in a time of war. /20
Looking at the military effort, I think Russian forces are getting some basics really wrong, but we're also learning things that are probably not true about the Russian military as well. They're not really fighting the way they train and organize for a major conventional war. /21
The assumptions have Grozny 1994 vibes, while some of the operations remind me of classic mil org driven blunders. Sending airborne air assault brigades or naval infantry in early on to 'do their thing,' even though it is unnecessary, risky, or impractical. /22
What's next? Russia's political leadership is still not conceding their plan's failure, trying to take Kyiv quickly. But we're seeing them open up greater use of fires, strikes, and air power. Sadly, I expect the worst is yet ahead, and this war could get a lot more ugly. /23
I was going to add, that I've seen and read other explainer threads out there about the Russian military failure. I differ with some of those explanations, they're generally not coming from Russia mil experts, and 4 days into a war might be a bit early for conclusive statements.
Also, looking at day 5, seeing major adjustments. Russian military is suspending unsupported thunder runs, resupplying, and reorganizing. Ukraine's military has performed rly well, but I think we're going to see a different Russian approach moving forward.
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