It’s not going as planned.
Vladimir Putin’s blitzkrieg of Ukraine is running up against strong resistance — more than many military analysts expected.
Is this unusual? No, it’s not. In war, it never goes as planned.
You can do everything right in war and still lose or find yourself and your troops in a bad way.
According to esteemed military author Gwynne Dyer, “the secret about military strategy, is that there are no secrets about military strategy.
“Tactics and strategy must be learned, but simply knowing the rules doesn’t mean you win the game.”
No soldier can tell you how the battle will actually come out, making the plans is easy enough, making them work is quite another thing, he said in a documentary TV series on War.
“There are so many variables in combat. A commander cannot control so many things. He simply does not know. It happens to everybody in war.”
On the second day of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Syrians broke completely through the Israeli defenses on the southern half of the Golan Heights.
There were no Israeli troops at all in front of them. Another two hours, and they’d be down off the Golan on the Jordan river, ready to strike northern Israel itself.
But they stopped.
Why? According to the Syrian major, who was later captured and interrogated, it looked like an obvious place for an Israeli defense.
The Syrians couldn’t see any Israelis, but of course they were here somewhere waiting in ambush, said Dyer. So the Syrians had decided to wait for reinforcements.
“It was a mistake and it cost Syria a whole battle,” said Dyer. “If the Syrian commander had taken a chance and pushed on right away, and the Israelis had been waiting in ambush, he would’ve been wrong too.
“You can do everything right in combat and still fail. Combat is a high wire act. If you don’t move you risk falling off. If you make the wrong move, the risk is equally great. And there’s no way of being certain what the right move is.”
The Russians are finding themselves in exactly this position, as war rages across Ukraine.
What is it like for a tank to get hit by a Stinger or Javelin anti-tank missile?
During that 1973 conflict, commander Yossi Ben Hanan was leading the 7th Armored tank brigade on the southern half of the Golan Heights.
Down to just eight tanks after fierce fighting, somehow he managed to get behind the Syrian front lines, and took an exposed position.
“For about 20 minutes, we destroyed whoever we could see because we were in a great position there,” he said.
“I decided to charge … but I had to leave some tanks for cover. I charged with six tanks, and they (the Syrians) opened fire from the flank with anti-tank missiles.
“In a matter of seconds, three out of six tanks were blown up. There was a big explosion in my tank. I was left there, for a couple of hours, and, also the whole attack …was a mistake,” he said.
“It’s a very big explosion. And the penetration is … an immediate penetration and a big explosion inside.”
He would be rescued from behind enemy lines by Yonatan Netanyahu, a member of the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal and brother of future Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He would receive the Medal of Courage for his part in the battles of the Yom Kippur War.
“He took a chance and he was wrong,” Dyer said.
“What makes the job of the officer in combat unique, is the constant pressure of having to do something and risk the lives of his men. And also as far as possible, keep himself alive to go on leading them.”
The Ukraine resistance proved to be much stronger than anticipated. Then again, it’s one thing to invade another country, quite another, when you are defending your native land.
Ukrainian soldiers kissed their families goodbye, knowing they probably would not return — a fight to the death.
To quote Vietnamese revolutionary and politician, Ho Chi Minh:
“You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and I will win.”
And they did win.
Russian troops were generally considered by analysts to be top-notch, but perhaps they are not so good, after all.
Perhaps they are not motivated to kill their Ukrainian brothers. Perhaps their training is not as good as advertised. And perhaps they also lack real battle experience.
Former CIA director Robert Gates, speaking in an interview on Sunday, said Putin made two terrible miscalculations in launching this war and is now paying for it.
“One, the resistance of the Ukrainian people … the other, he didn’t expect the kind of united response from the West. Not just from NATO and the US, but from others that are not part of NATO,” said Gates.
“And he’s ended with Russia being completely isolated “
As for putting his nuclear forces on alert to threaten the world, Gates said, “He’s gone off the rails. Maybe it’s two years of isolation at his Dacha outside of Moscow … maybe it’s the fact he is only talking to his hardest line people from his intelligence past.
“But this behaviour is different and very worrisome. He has made a gigantic miscalculation, regardless of how the war turns out.”
Gates also said that Putin has gotten the exact opposite of what he wanted. He thought NATO was fractured, and that he would take advantage of it.
Instead, “he has given NATO a new sense of purpose, a new sense of unity. He’s going to end up with more NATO forces on his border, and the Baltic states.”
Germany, too, has announced a major expenditure on defense, US$113B worth. Vlad isn’t going to like that.
As one of my intelligence sources said, the one thing everyone is terrified to talk about is if Putin is just crazy enough to go nuclear, rather than lose to the West.
“This is not a man that will go down, without taking out everyone around him,” he said.
Let’s hope, and pray, that is not the case.
Is there still hope for a diplomatic “off-ramp” solution?
Yes, but not for the reasons we think.
According to media reports, the war is costing Putin £12 billion a day, and if this goes past ten days, the Russians will be potentially skint.
Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor.