Ukrainians have been slowing down the Russia invasion of their country through a combination of grit, courage and improvisation in the face of Russian fire power. Russia’s standing army is #5 in the world with 900,000 active-duty soldiers plus 2 million reservists versus Ukraine’s 196,000 active plus 900,000 reservists. Russia’s military expenditure in 2020 was $62 billion. It claims to have the largest tank fleet and the second most powerful aerial and naval forces in the world. And yet…
Ukraine’s use of guerilla tactics and improvised weapons has turned what was meant to be a rout into a war of attrition to wear down the assault and buy time. The Ukrainian military knows it can’t compete with the Russian weaponry so it’s conserving its smaller arsenal and not wasting it on counteroffensives. Small, agile units are making things as difficult as possible for the enemy. Anti-tank mines and tank obstacles have been placed to further thwart movement into their cities. Every effort to sabotage is taken.
The invaders' lack of an intimate knowledge of the terrain has proved a huge disadvantage. Changing and eliminating street and directional signs on the ground has made it harder for Russian troops to navigate. Many tanks have taken wrong turns or ended up on narrow streets exposed to ambush. Locals are fully supporting the effort by any means.
The Pravda brewery in L’viv was converted into making Molotov cocktail bottles whose labels read “Putin is a D*#khead” while military instructors teach civilians how to make and throw Molotov cocktails and grenades.
Volunteers are organized to collect and distribute weapons to the thousands who are volunteering for Territorial Defense Units. The Ukrainian Army began weekend training for those units back in 2020; given the historic and continuing Russian threat, the Ukrainian strategic defense plan has long been based on fostering civilian resistance.
Drones too have been playing an important role in Ukraine’s defense effort. Although the Bayraktar TB2 is a slow moving (150HP) small device, drones have made a real contribution to Ukraine’s defense. These small Turkish made drones were used successfully by Azerbaijan against the Armenian military in 2020. They also proved themselves in battles in Libya and Syria against Russian equipment. And yet the drone success is odd given that the Russian military should be able to easily knock out these drones or, disable them with their advanced electronic jamming capabilities.
Historically, popular resistance and guerrilla tactics won the day in conflicts across the globe to include Vietnam, Cuba, Chechnya, Colombia, Yemen and Afghanistan. One hopes that Ukrainian resistance will bring an end to the attack, the sooner the better.
Clearly, Russian military leadership underestimated Ukraine. They arrived unprepared for unconventional tactics let alone all out resistance. Even logistics both in terms of food for their soldiers and fuel for their tanks are failing to consistently sustain the effort.
Given that Russia seems to have miscalculated in so many ways, one wonders what we don’t know and how a superpower of its size can have at least so far, failed so miserably to meet its goals?