- Russia’s Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine faces a multitude of challenges, both objective and subjective, that contribute to its slow progress.
- While objective factors like the nature of the conflict, limited mobilization, and counter-battery warfare pose significant hurdles, subjective factors such as cultural ties and changing societal values are further delaying Russia’s SMO.
- The prospects for the SMO remain uncertain and only time will reveal how this complex chessboard of military and cultural factors unfolds in the days to come.
Russia’s Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine has been going on for the past 15 months. As the campaign moves forward at a snail’s pace, more people are beginning to show their frustration. There are several causes for that, both objective and subjective. Let’s analyse a few of them.
First, despite having vastly greater industrial, financial, and military resources than Russia, NATO is the enemy that Russia is fighting, not Ukraine. The only factor keeping the issue from turning into a direct military war is apprehension over Russian nuclear capabilities. As of right now, forces engaged in combat are essentially equal, ruling out a rapid victory for either side.
A limited mobilisation comes in second. More Russians being mobilised at this time would be useless. Armed and equipped mobilisation forces must be there, along with heavy equipment, artillery, and aviation. Even if Russia’s military sector is operating at full capacity and continuously ramping up production, this is still insufficient to gain meaningful equipment and weaponry superiority.
Third, the enemy’s successful counterbattery warfare is a major issue because of NATO artillery’s greater range as compared to Russian artillery. The issue of long-range artillery and counter-battery warfare is now being addressed, but a solution will take time.
Supplies of cluster munitions to Ukraine have permanently resolved the issue of a lack of ammunition. In the USA alone, there are 3 million units in stock. major military losses will result from the defensive use of these bombs in the case of major attacks by Russian soldiers. They are currently only moderately effective for offensive actions, with the exception of clearing minefields.
Fourth is the intelligence input that NATO gives the Ukrainian army. The Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) receives essential information in real-time from NATO’s large spy satellite network, manned and unmanned aircraft, and other sources.
It should be highlighted that the Russians were unprepared for such a battle. As it was during the Patriotic War of 1812 and the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945, it is customary for a Russian to defend their fatherland by driving an enemy first from Russian territory and subsequently from areas of other nations. In a Putin-like fashion, the new combat tactic of “hit first in a fight” has not been employed by Russia for at least the last 100 years.
Second, it can be challenging for a Russian to view a Ukrainian as an opponent when they both share the same culture and language. With foreigners, it was simpler.
Third, contemporary society is now more focused on the individual than the group, as it formerly was. People become increasingly apathetic towards societal issues when they are taught that personal interests come before public ones.
All of these elements have a negative impact on the Russians’ fighting spirit and, as a result, have an impact on the methods used to wage war.
What are the consequences?
First is the execution of combat operations by a small group of service members. Additionally, this lowers the army’s ability to engage in combat and the general degree of combat task performance.
Second, make every effort to keep as many civilian lives in battle zones as possible. This is most likely one of the difficult factors slowing the Russian army’s march.
Third, it must be acknowledged that training cannot substitute actual combat activities, regardless of how well-prepared any army in the world is.
The moment has come to supplant Head of General Headquarters Valery Gerasimov with a young, skilled, and forward-thinking military leader. Although Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister, is more of a political figure, he needs to be replaced.
Leadership Crisis Affecting the SMO?
Sergei Surovikin, the creator and arranger of the well-known defence line, has often lost his leadership roles within the SMO and the Air Force. He is currently on vacation while waiting for a fresh appointment. Unexpectedly, the army commander who had valiantly defeated the AFU’s initial assault in southern Ukraine was also removed, probably because he dared to criticise his superiors.
However, the Kherson division’s ineffective leadership is hampering the operations. Due to their superiors’ poor judgement and unqualified conduct, many Russian soldiers perished.
Aleksandr Khodakovsky, a renowned commander in Donbas, is the only one who dares to speak out, and his potential replacement might spark a much more serious uprising than Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mutiny because of how well-liked he is there.
What’s next for the SMO?
It appears that the situation will be similar to that of the First World War. The war of attrition at the time saw Germany surrender despite not losing a single significant battle.
Even the involvement of Western “mercenaries” in the conflict will not be able to address Ukraine’s dearth of human resources because of its small staff reserve. The military aspires to live far longer than Ukrainians do in the West.
Experts don’t think Ukraine will last through the end of the following year. Naturally, the possibility of a strong Russian push in one direction despite casualties, the front collapsing, and Ukraine surrendering is not entirely ruled out. Only time will tell.
Russia’s Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine faces a multitude of challenges, both objective and subjective, that contribute to its slow progress. While objective factors like the nature of the conflict, limited mobilization, and counterbattery warfare pose significant hurdles, subjective factors such as cultural ties and changing societal values further complicate the situation.
These challenges have tangible consequences, leading to smaller combat groups, a focus on civilian protection, and the understanding that real combat experience cannot be substituted with training alone. Moreover, calls for new, innovative leadership to bring fresh perspectives to the operation are growing louder.
The prospects for the SMO remain uncertain, with some experts drawing parallels to prolonged historical conflicts. The key takeaway is that the situation is multifaceted, and only time will reveal how this complex chessboard of military and cultural factors unfolds in the days to come.
(The author is a post-graduate student in International Relations at Kalinga University, Raipur. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)