What kind of fighter would Vitali Klitschko, a professional boxer and Mayor of Kiev, be if he only fought amateur boxers from lower weight classes? He would be dominating in those fights. But what would happen if he had to fight a real pro like Tyson Fury? He might win but the outcome would be in doubt since he had never fought a fully trained professional (who just happens to be the current Heavy Weight champion).
This analogy describes the current state of the U.S. military. The American people love to say how great and powerful the U.S. military is without pausing to consider the problems those forces had in quelling insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Here is the reality–the U.S. military has not been in a battle with a legitimate military force since the Vietnam War. All U.S. military operations since 1990 have been unleashed on third world armies with no effective air power, air defense, artillery or maritime capability.
When U.S. troops got into trouble in Afghanistan or Iraq they could call on air strikes or cruise missiles that decimated the attackers. It is like Vitali Klitschko beating the life out of a 150 pound foe who had never taken a boxing lesson.
Which brings me to Russia. Russia has a first class air force, a formidable air defense capability, nuclear weapons, hyper sonic and sub sonic cruise missiles. In short, Russia has a professional military and is not saddled with social justice warrior baggage. Promotions in the Russian military are not dependent on being transgender friendly.
Let us compare the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 with the current Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to many retired U.S. military officers populating the punditry ranks on the cable channels, the Russian military is a joke and are bogged down in Ukraine. But the Russian performance in Ukraine is anything but pedestrian. Consider the following:
- Russia invaded Ukraine with 150,000 troops (according to western media) and seized territory comparable to the United Kingdom in one week. The Russians reached Kiev in three days and have been methodically surrounding the city in the ensuing 15 days.
- The United States invaded Iraq with 100,000 troops in March 2003. It took them two weeks to reach the outskirts of Baghdad and another week to “secure” it. The U.S. declared victory on May 1 (remember George W. Bush declaring “Mission Accomplished”?).
- Russia faced a well equipped Ukrainian Army with competent Air Force, air defense systems, armor and artillery. Russia quickly dismantled the air force and air defense systems and created major disruptions to the Ukrainian lines of communication.
- The United States confronted a disillusioned, disorganized Iraqi Army bereft of air cover, artillery and coherent armored units. The United States enjoyed air supremacy from the outset and was able to easily defeat any attempts by Iraqi units to thwart American advances.
- Ukraine, in terms of geography, is one third larger than Iraq and has more rivers that pose obstacles to the advance of mechanized units.
Russian forces continue to advance on multiple fronts and are in the process of isolating what is left of Ukrainian military units. Western military analysts have mistaken Russian caution in inflicting civilian casualties and destroying key infrastructure as weakness. It is nothing of the sort. The Russians are showing a remarkable maturity in carrying out the offensive to defeat the Ukrainian military and “de-Nazify” Ukraine. But this caution has a limit. If the Ukrainians rebuff repeated opportunities to surrender Russia is likely to step up its level of violence against the resistance.
The reality is this–Russia has occupied more territory in 19 days and defeated Ukrainian military forces that are far superior to anything the Iraqis fielded against the United States in 2003. It took the United States more than 26 days to achieve comparable results. I believe that Western military analysts who are busy disparaging the performance of the Russian military are making a grave error.
Speculation that Russia will use chemical weapons or mines as part of its campaign is delusional nonsense. Chemical weapons are employed by an army on the defense trying to slow the advance of an attacking force. That is how Iran and Iraq used that weapon during their war in the 1980s. Explosive mines also are a defensive measure. During the battle of Kursk in World War II the Russians used mines to thwart the Nazi offensive. An army on the offense does not have the time to stop and plant mines that would impede their advance. It is the Ukrainians planting mines on the roadways and fields in an effort (one I believe is futile) to slow the Russian offensive.
If chemical weapons make their appearance on the battlefield in Ukraine, it is highly likely that this is a last ditch measure by a beleaguered Ukrainian military. I believe the next ten days will mark the end of Ukraine’s army’s ability to pose an effective threat to Russia’s advance and de facto control of Ukraine.