Russian Defense Ministry/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
- A New York Times investigation detailed Russia’s blunders as they launched an invasion of Ukraine.
- Russian troops were woefully unprepared for conflict, plagued by the lack of food and key supplies.
- “Never in its history has Russia made such stupid decisions,” a retired Russian general told The NYT.
From the start, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was riddled with strategic blunders, with a military force that was unprepared for the conflict and logistical issues that have hobbled the Kremlin.
In a New York Times investigation detailing Russia’s failures throughout the conflict, the story of Russia’s 155th Naval Infantry Brigade is one of the clearest examples of the poor decision-making that has defined the invasion.
While in combat, the troops in the naval brigade lacked sufficient food, maps, critical medical supplies, or walkie-talkies, and they were forced to use 1970s-era Kalashnikov rifles — with some members having to resort to using Wikipedia to locate instructions for using certain weapons — according to the report.
In interviews with The Times, several members of the brigade told the newspaper that some of the newly-enlisted military fighters had little experience with guns and spoke of having few bullets to use in combat.
The members were initially told by their commanders that they wouldn’t see combat, per the report. But once they witnessed their comrades being killed around them as Ukrainian forces were firing upon them, they realized that they weren’t told the truth about their role in the conflict.
A Russian solider named Mikhail — who in October witnessed many of his comrades dying near the Ukrainian town of Pavlivka — told The Times that of the 60 members of his platoon, 40 were killed and just eight members eluded serious injuries.
“This isn’t war,” Mikhail told the newspaper from a hospital near Moscow. “It’s the destruction of the Russian people by their own commanders.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin displayed a high degree of confidence in the country’s military when he launched the invasion of Ukraine in late February.
But nearly ten months later, Russia has been unable to defeat the Ukrainian military and has found itself shunned and isolated from the West.
According to The Times, Putin “spiraled into self-aggrandizement and anti-Western zeal,” which drove him to make the decision to invade Ukraine “in near total isolation.”
Per The Times report, Russia’s invasion plans showed that the military expected troops to march across Ukraine and swiftly take control of the country, with officers being instructed to bring along their dress uniforms and medals for military parades in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
The Russian military, which was seen as a formidable force before the conflict, in actuality had been “severely compromised” by longstanding corruption, per the report.
Russian troops on the ground in Ukraine relied on old maps — some from the 1960s — to navigate their way across the country, and many used their cellphones to call numbers in Russia, which allowed Ukrainian forces to locate and attack them. The Times report also detailed how some Russian pilots flew their planes as though they weren’t in peril.
In January, the retired Russian Gen. Leonid Ivashov, having seen reports about the impending conflict, wrote an open letter stating that a full-scale war with Ukraine would jeopardize “the very existence of Russia as a state.”
“Never in its history has Russia made such stupid decisions,” Ivashov told The Times during a recent phone interview. “Alas, today stupidity has triumphed — stupidity, greed, a kind of vengefulness and even a kind of malice.”
Dmitri S. Peskov, a spokesman for Putin, pointed to intervention by the West in assessing Russia’s numerous setbacks throughout the conflict.
“This is a big burden for us,” he said, referencing the strong NATO support for Ukraine. “It was just very hard to believe in such cynicism and in such bloodthirstiness on the part of the collective West.”
Since the conflict began, the Biden administration has continued to send advanced weaponry to Ukraine, including high-speed, anti-radiation missiles.
As of November, the United States has committed $66 billion in aid to Ukraine.