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As Russia continues its assault on Ukraine and its major cities amid its chaotic military campaign, the struggles Moscow has faced in attempting to make progress have surprised some experts who predicted Kyiv would fall within a matter of days.
Two weeks into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, his forces have been met with a determined and unexpected Ukrainian resistance that has refused to roll over, evident of the Kremlin’s inability to establish air supremacy, despite a constant barrage of airstrikes. Its ability to over-perform against a larger and better equipped Russian military is in contrast to what many predicted.
Russia outnumbers Ukraine in weapons, troops and has a history of deploying its military to fight in a number of conflicts. Despite this, Ukrainian fighters have been able to launch counterattacks with regularity.
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Partly to blame is Russia’s ineffective planning to coordinate logistics and sustainment efforts and poor leadership, experts said.
“A lot of their problems are logistical and tactical in nature,” retired Green Beret, George Fraser, told Fox News. “It’s not that they have bad tanks or faulty bullets as much as a terrible logistics training and lack training or experience in executing battle tactics.”
Unlike the Ukrainians, who are fighting for their nation’s survival, Russian troops are risking their lives while the world continues to condemn their presence in a neighboring country without provocation.
Experts initially believed Russia’s ground combat forces would overwhelm Ukrainian fighters. However, its combined arms tactics – the integration of combat arms, infantry, armor and aircraft, working together – has left much to be desired, Fraser said.
As the conflict continues to escalate, images and videos posted to social media have given the world a glimpse into what’s happening. Many show successful attacks on the ground and air against Russian troops while others have captured abandoned enemy vehicles with depleted tires and equipment.
Armored vehicles have so far failed to march into Kyiv, the capital, and Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which sits a few miles from the border with Russia. A stalled military column of tanks and heavy weaponry spanning 40 miles long that was already moving at a snail’s pace has halted its advance just a few miles from the capital.
The stoppage has baffled military analysts.
Moscow’s military strategy contrasts with its 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, Liam Collins, a retired Army Special Forces officer who served as a defense advisor to Ukraine from 2016-18, told Fox News.
“Russia has definitely underperformed, but I don’t think it’s an indictment on their entire military or that we overestimated,” said Collins, the founding director of the Modern War Institute. “In 2014, they seemed to have a war plan for Crimea that they dusted off the shelf and executed to perfection and this time they had months buildup and appeared to have no war plan at all.”
Ukraine’s stiff resistance is the result of a number of factors, he said, including its 2016 effort to reform its military and millions of dollars in aid and military equipment. Another is the culture of military volunteerism among Ukrainians, as many have decided against fleeing to fight, be it with firearms or Molotov cocktails.
Amid its military struggles, Moscow has stepped up attacks on civilian targets, and in the process upending evacuation efforts.
“The Kremlin is bombing schools and hospitals, including maternity hospitals. Moscow does not protect anyone. It destroys,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Thursday.
In Mariupol, in Ukraine’s east, strikes targeted a maternity ward, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Wednesday.
“People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity!” he tweeted while also asking for a no-fly zone to be established over Ukrainian skies. “How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror?”
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Despite the missteps, Fraser warned that Russia still has many troops and that it was too early to dismiss their resolve in trying to conquer Ukraine.
“Their performance could lead you to say that you miscalculated how good the Russian army is, but I’d be cautious in that assessment as they have many units left in Russia that may be of higher caliber in reserve for the possibility of a confrontation with NATO were it to happen; but there a lot of things about how they are executing in Ukraine that are not adding up,” he said.
“I think it’s just miscalculations on everybody’s part about everything,” he added. “I don’t know anybody that’s got any prediction right about how this war has played out.”