Russian Army performance in the Ukraine War

Chuck Roberts
Posted 3/22/22

The Russian invasion of Ukraine brings to light the horrors of large scale military conflict.

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Russian Army performance in the Ukraine War


The Russian invasion of Ukraine brings to light the horrors of large scale military conflict. The assessment of the Russian performance in attempting to defeat the Ukraine military has been slightly less than favorable (to the Russians). Many analysts opined that the Russian Army would defeat the Ukrainian Army in a matter of days. So far this has not happened and for several reasons.

Firstly, the Russian Army is made up of conscripts (draftees) which, unlike the volunteer American Army, are known to have poor morale. The Russian command structure is highly centralized, requiring approval of virtually all military movement from above.

The American Army encourages flexibility amongst subordinate commanders where discretion is allowed when making tactical decisions at lower levels, taking advantage of fluid situations. The use of the American-made, shoulder-fired (like a bazooka) Javelin Anti-Tank missile system has been highly effective at knocking out Russian tanks. The Javelin is a fire and forget weapon, meaning that after a target is acquired, the operator pulls the trigger, launching the infrared guided missile. The Javelin gains altitude, tracks the target and dives at the vulnerable top of the tank (top attack) causing compete destruction of the vehicle. 

The Javelin is relatively easy to use. If a command tank is destroyed by a Javelin, it takes time for the Russian command structure to reestablish, delaying advances. It appears that the Russians are short of infantry soldiers which are necessary to counter the effect of the Javelin.

Typically, tank units have infantry support personnel alongside to take out the individual soldier operators of anti-tank weapons. Without this support, a tank unit can become bogged down as a result of unrelenting anti-tank weapon attacks.

Logistics such as fuel and food are also a problem. A typical tank division may require 500,000 gallons of fuel per day. As the Russian Army advances deeper into Ukraine, the supply lines become longer and more difficult to maintain. If severe economic sanctions are imposed on an attacking army, it may not be possible to purchase food and fuel from nearby countries. 

The invading army also becomes vulnerable to attacks by small opposing units. If tanks enter a city (urban warfare), they are susceptible to attacks by people throwing Molotov cocktails out the window which can immobilize a vehicle. A Molotov cocktail is a glass bottle filled with gasoline and a small burning piece of cloth that acts as an igniter. When striking a vehicle, the glass shatters, releasing the gasoline over a wide area and is ignited by the piece of burning cloth. The burning gasoline seeps into vehicle crevices damaging sensitive components such as wiring and can stall the engine if injected into the air intake.

Spring is approaching and the roads have become very muddy. Despite having tracks, a tank can become bogged down in mud and be inoperative without a tank retriever.

Finally, maximum credit should be given to the patriotic people of Ukraine who have stepped up to defend their country. These are some of the reasons that have slowed the Russian advance. There is a possibility that the defense of Ukraine could be successful, but only time will tell.