Putin’s Long-Tabling of the Russian People. And of the Russian Army.

“We wanted the best, but it turned out like always.”

Russia’s offensive on Ukraine achieved a measure of operational surprise. It caught the Ukrainian military less than fully prepared to meet it.

Just days before February 24 Kiev was still saying that Russians “still hadn’t formed a battlegroup” and were still at least 2-3 weeks from being in a position to launch. They were wrong.

As a consequence, Zelensky missed out on calling up the reserves in time. The order to stand up reserve formations (which takes days and weeks) went out less than 24 hours before Z-day, and mobilization wasn’t proclaimed until after the Russian attack.

Despite having achieved this surprise — and having sacrificed a lot to achieve it — Russia did surprisingly little with it.

Some may look at the first week of the Russian campaign in Ukraine and see evidence of it being brilliantly planned and skillfully executed. I do not see such evidence.

What I see is evidence of muddling through. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8…)

The Russian military is powerful, well-structured, advanced in its thinking, and relatively professional (once Russia’s fiduciary limitations are accounted for). Thus there is only so far you can screw up a Russian military operation.

It can accomplish a lot even when you throw it out there half-prepared, and that is exactly what I see.

I see an operation that was perhaps well planned (or not), but certainly wasn’t well prepared for.

One explanation for that could be that war came as much of a surprise to the Russian military as to the Ukrainian one.

Sure the top generals were told in advance, but the vast majority of its officer corps including likely its divisional and brigade commanders were not.

I’m no expert on military culture and organization but I suspect that in any bureaucracy when management up to the level of divisional command doesn’t know for certain they will be assigned a certain task, the bureaucracy fails to fully prepare for it.

Readying an invasion force isn’t just about lining up the men, the supplies, and the gear. There is preparatory work that has to go in at the regimental level that has to be done full-heartedly.

Perhaps that would help explain why the Russian air force just about sat out the first week of the war, and why 96 hours into it just a third of the assembled maneuver force had been committed.

Such a leisurely pace is certainly not how Soviet Russia waged its most successful operations like Manchuria, Oder-Vistula, Bagration and would have left the men who carried out the invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan scratching their heads.

You could argue that having front-row seats to Russian military movements pre-war ought to have clued the military that — despite official denials — war was coming, but is that really so? The taboo on inter-Slav warfare was a strong one and the official line from Moscow was that its hands were bound by it.

Over eight years Russians could hear plenty of bad things about Ukraine on their state TV but this was never followed by “and therefore we ought to escalate”. And the line repeated time and again over the last three months was explicitly that “Ukraine is run by horrible baddies and yet war between us is unthinkable and beyond the pale.”

The war certainly came as a deep shock to many online commentators* (including Russian ones) who are probably more plugged into politics and geopolitics than the average Russian career soldier, who is after all a specialist and often no more political than any ordinary person.

And albeit they have now dutifully lined up behind the national effort, the war certainly came as a surprise to the Russian people from whom the officers and soldiers are drawn.

During the buildup I wrote that you can’t take Putin’s word when he says a military campaign is not on the table, because if he was considering one he certainly wouldn’t tell us. The element of surprise is an important one in warfare and particularly to Russians who are forever mournful and traumatized by the fact they didn’t see Barbarossa 1941 coming.

However when I said that I also expected that the Russians would do more with the surprise they attained and that it wouldn’t be squandered on a halfway opening. I was expecting another Oder-Vistula not…whatever that was.

So then the Russians paid the price to achieve a surprise but then didn’t do much with it. What was that price?

The price was to skip the debate on the merits of the war (or was that a feature?), and to leave the populace and the troops without ideological preparation for the conflict they are now in.

When the series of FSB fabrications hit Russian airwaves in the week leading up to the war I said they were cringe. But my larger point was always why was Kremlin relying on such unconvincing fakery instead of leveling with the people and giving them the ideological justification for the campaign ahead?

Putin finally did so in his February 21st speech in which he rehashed the points made in his July article on “the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians”. (Intermixed with propaganda points of the day.)

That was great, but that isn’t how the human mind works.

You can’t give one speech and have it erase months and even years of opposite messaging. Putin should have been giving such a candid speech every single week from July onwards.

The homefront has it easy. It can avert its gaze from the most gruesome aspects of the war and concentrate on “supporting the troops”. But what of the troops asked to do the distasteful work of engaging in war against their misguided kin in person? That’s where the lack of proper ideological preparation really starts to bite. There is some evidence that Russian troops are broadly uneasy and unenthusiastic about what they’re being asked to do.

(The difference between a soldier that has ideological preparation and one that does not.)

And yet a grim justification for this distasteful and grizzly business exists. It could go something like this:

The West wants us only as self-flagellating and prostrate satraps which we for reasons of dignity decline. This means that sooner or later and bit by bit the West will lower an iron curtain to enclose us with and isolate us within.

As things stand this iron curtain will cut through the middle of the East Slav world. It is not within our power to prevent this curtain from being dropped, but it is within our power — if we move now — to make sure this curtain descends on the Polish border rather than between Kharkov and Belgorod cutting us off from our ancient capital and the lands which for a thousand years before Bolshevik social engineering were settled by people who considered themselves to be one and the same with our ancestors in Muscovy.

Or succinctly:

If the West insists on making us into a North Korea it is better to be a North Korea of 200 million than of 150.

Shockingly, official Russia is for the most part even now not leveling with the people and not giving them the true, ideological rationale for the war. It continues to insist the war goals are to “demilitarize and denazify” Ukraine which is absurd.

Meanwhile, laws have been passed that criminalize antiwar dissent. This while Kremlin insists it isn’t even waging a war but a “special military operation”. That’s post-Orwellian.

Is it possible that some antiwar Russians are animated by virtue signaling? Sure. Is it possible that some of them are animated by auto-chauvinism where they experience Russian wars as uniquely sinister? Sure.

But is it the case that they’re saying something that is fundamentally untrue? No, it is not the case. They are right. This is a very distasteful war. That is a fact.

That the government doesn’t have a ready explanation for why albeit distasteful the war is nonetheless necessary isn’t a failing of the antiwar people, it’s a failing of the government.

And that Russia has not just people who understand the stakes involved and that for better or worse there is no going back but also antiwar people willing to call out the ugly side of it is to its credit. Whether these antiwar people are perfect human beings or not.

But that it has a government incapable of leveling with its people is, on the other hand, not to its credit.



Some of that legal cover for criminalizing dissent:

For false fakes about the special operation
, a fine of 700 thousand to 1.5 million rubles or up to 3 years in prison is provided.

For calls to prevent the use of Russian troops to protect the interests of Russia, maintain peace and security (if earlier during the year the violator was brought to administrative responsibility for this) – a fine from 100 thousand to 300 thousand rubles or up to 3 years in prison.

The Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation said that extremist organizations are calling on Russians to participate in anti-war rallies. Those who join the actions may face criminal punishment under the article on extremism, according to a commentary published on March 3 on the regulator’s website.


*I myself, albeit warning that evidence was increasingly pointing to a large military campaign still had mornings where I was questioning my own sanity for thinking it was possible. — Such was the strength of the taboo on inter-East Slav warfare and Moscow’s assertions of its adherence to it.

  1. Rhetorius says

    Muddling through….yeah, arm-chair general. You seem to have all the evidence even though the fog of war is still very thick.

    1. David Bedford says

      You get paid to put these annoying comments on every story, but nothing near the amount you are talking about.

  2. EstibenDelMar says

    I remember the world criticized harshly the Red Army when it took Finland (its neighbour) after 3 months of war. Most of the people used it as an example of how ill prepared the Red Army was for war. But what a surprise it was for Hitler and the germans a year later.

    1. guest says

      >>>”when it took Finland”
      You mean when it liberated, demilitarized, and denazified Finland; and joined that ancient Slav land to the Mother of all Russias

    2. SteveK9 says

      ? Russian losses were devastating in territory and personnel at the beginning of Barbarossa. The Germans were at the gates of Moscow on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Russians finally halted their advance. They were ill-prepared, and it cost Russia dearly.

      1. Hungary Guy says

        Yep, Stalin trusted the West it would honor its written Agreement.
        Hopefully, Putin knows better

  3. Peter says

    There comes a time, and everyone will show ones true face. People make decisions. The one thing that Screwtape hated, people brought out of their slumber. Sad to see Marko and Slavsquat scurrying in dark.

    1. Cooky says

      Russia is trying to keep civilian casualties low maybe too low. Anyhow Russia also does not want to show the west everything and may well be doing a purposeful show so that a larger confrontation would be – surprisingly devastating. There’s a lot of angles here. I just am glad Putin decided enough was enough. The west has gone completely insane.

      1. Juan says

        If they deplete their arsenals and manpower, the evil yanks will arrive to pick up the pieces as ever.

        1. Geraldo says

          Truly this is the American way

      2. Geraldo says

        this facet of the war has been very interesting, basically the west has nothing, nothing at all, apart from a complete informational wall of propaganda followed by demi banning the oppositions news outlets (but we can still all watch it online) If Russia was ill prepared for this war then the west still hasn’t got out of bed … and now it’s too late. Very interesting to see this all and plan ahead for any eventual bigger conflict.
        The other thing that has really been brought to a clarity for me is just how small and isolated the West is. 12% of the global population and how much that other 6.5 billion really don’t care that much for them – 6 billion people didnt approve of western sanctions against Russia, 6 billion people refused to sanction Russia – the world has truly changed in a massive way in this century. That 88% do not trust America or maybe the whole west, they dont want to be tied to the west with its risk of sanctions and having your central banks FX or gold supplies dissapear into ether, plus the US are unreliable as military partners, they will cut and run if confronted with a peer (or near peer) So we have the delusional 12% living on former glories of exploitation with a rising 88% looking to a future without the west interfering and genociding its way through their backyard.

        This whole Eurasian integration thing is seemingly working along with the global south, Putin and Xis Joint Decleration of 4th February really does lay out a better way .. maybe?

    2. guest says

      If the news is correct, Slavsquat is now in danger of getting 15 years in some Gulag, just for saying that there is a war in Ukraine. (he could end up doing time along some Ukranian national socialist workers).

      The title of this website is “Anti Empire.” Marko & Slavsquat seems to be somewhat opposed to empires. A number of imperialists visit this site and complain that they are not supporting (one of) the Empire enough.

  4. guest says

    >>>”a soldier that has ideological preparation”
    You just described an American soldier. A brainwashed, mindless killer, carrying out orders.  All them Chechen soldiers also qualify.

    This “Mother Russia” and “Slav Brotherhood” is something that Vladimir came up with. Vladimir Putin has been preparing for this invasion since (at least) 2014, but this is the best he could come up with.

    “Comrades! Citizens! Brothers and sisters! Men of our army and navy! I am addressing you, my friends! ”

    “Above all, it is essential that our people, the Soviet people, should understand the full immensity of the danger that threatens our country and should abandon all complacency, all heedlessness, all those moods of peaceful constructive work which were so natural before the war, but which are fatal today when war has fundamentally changed everything. ”

    “The enemy is cruel and implacable. He is out to seize our lands, watered with our sweat, to seize our grain and oil secured by our labor. He is out to restore the rule of landlords, to restore Tsarism, to destroy national culture and the national state existence of the Russians, Ukrainians, Byelo-Russians, Lithuanians, Letts, Esthonians, Uzbeks, Tatars, Moldavians, Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaidzhanians and the other free people of the Soviet Union”

    1. anon says

      Well… there is a problem with ideologies and inconvenient historical facts… because it’s true that under communist rule millions and millions of Ukranians were slaughtered (and they weren’t ‘nazis’… well not yet)… and ethnicities are somewhat mixed in ukraine..

      So it rings a bit hollow when you masque strategic imperatives in WW2 jingoism..(well at least from a certain Ukranian point of view)…

      Of course it would have been much better to approach the problem framed as ridding a sovereign nation from its ‘jewish’ oligarchical fascists dictators and the yankee miscreants that sleep with them…

      But old Vlad sleeps with his own fascist ‘jewish’ oligarchs… so truth being the first casualty of war it wasn’t going to happen…

      There are far too many criminal jews involved… as always with most things…

    2. Cooky says

      You might stop and think what a civilization is. It’s a bunch of people surviving together maybe thriving together and sometimes having to defend that civilization from some other civilization. At the end of the day the more moral civilization should be viewed better as it will be healthier and happier. I support healthy happy civilization- also hope warmongers all rot.

  5. aletho news says

    De-nazification is a very poor characterization to have selected, just as the other side’s choice of Nazi emblems. Both sides adhere to the emotive WWII calls to war rather than the real issues of contention.

    Russia must accept that many viewed the Nazis as liberators and/or protectors, it needs to dissociate itself from the crimes of Stalin. De-nazification crusade is not the way.

    1. Commenter says

      other side’s choice of Nazi emblems”? They didn’t merely decide that pattern on the yellow flag looked cool. The emblem represents their beliefs. They are nazis and they want the ethnic Russians out or dead. Plenty other reasons for Putin to go in, including perhaps the US biolabs, but removing nazi groups was the best one to use. They and NATO tension have been featured in the news.

      1. aletho news says

        Your contention is that Nazi identifying Ukrainians “want the ethnic Russians out or dead”, that may not be the sole potential endpoint though.

        A “de-nazification” campaign can never be a resolution that will bring co-existence.

        Sooner or later the Russians will have to live with Ukrainians that consider Nazi led forces as having liberated their people. “De-nazification” is a non-starter. Russia faces this problem with other nationalities also.

        Neutrality or “Finlandization” has a far greater likelihood for acceptance and success.

  6. Martillo says

    The Ukraine Variant is on the rampage
    Please ensure social distancing and wear your mask in the likely event of nuclear strikes

    Thank you


  7. Fred Wright says

    The Ukrainians said that “the Russians still hadn’t formed a battlegroup” and were still at least 2-3 weeks from being in a position to launch. They were wrong.”

    I think the simplest explanation is that they (the Ukrainians) were right.

  8. SteveK9 says

    There are not a lot of examples in History, of wars being fought perfectly. Usually the sides figure out what they are doing as things progress (and many men die). In the US Civil War Lincoln went through a half-dozen commanding generals, before he found Grant.

  9. ken says

    This is an incursion,,, not all out war. Russia is operating pretty much in the same manner as they are in Syria,,, attempting to minimize casualties and destruction. The West has a hard time understanding the philosophy as it operates the opposite. In the war between the states the US burned down and totally destroyed the CSA. Rape and pillage was the common denominator. Same in all wars since. The Americans only understand total destruction.

    The Soviets got pushed back by the Germans in Operation Barbarossa because the USSR was gearing up to attack Germany then Europe proper. They were not set up defensively. The Germans learned of this and attacked immediately and was stopped only by the worst winter in a hundred years.

    IMO Putin is after the 13 bio-labs the US and likely Israel have all over Ukraine. This will be a major loss.

    The fall of Ukraine will go slowly at first, then suddenly. He will not stay in Ukraine once a government is set up that is not hostile. The Ukrainians will be much better off then they are under US control which has turned the place into a ghetto.

    The Ukraine is a honey pot for US politicians like the Biden and his offspring who are bought off by the Kazarian Mafia which presently run the Biden administration and many of the US agencies including the military.

    Doubtful there will be much spread of the incursion unless the West does something really insane and stupid which unfortunately seems to be their forte in this time period.
    If the West tries to get involved you will see a much different Russian army. I don’t see this happening but one can never tell what stupid will do.

    1. Commenter says

      I don’t see the West going in directly either. I mentioned the US labs above, I think it’s a main focus in this besides the suppression of Azov. But that will not last long unless the reasons for extremism are addressed. That goes to the mass corruption in Eastern Europe. Both Ukraine and Russia need to address this. US interfering is up to corrupt Ukraine politicians and its people. Trump supposedly wanted intel on Biden in exchange for funding or arms for Ukraine and he initially withheld it?

  10. XSFRGR says

    Marko, the waiting that you’re whining about is known as the 4th Rule of Combat Operations: 1. Seek out the enemy. 2. Make, and sustain contact. 3 Establish a base of fire. 4. ALLOW THE SITUATION TO DEVELOP !! 5. Establish fire superiority. 6. Close with, and destroy. In order to fully deploy his assets the commander must know the disposition, and strength of enemy forces. Attaining that information takes time, and moving before having that information leads to defeat. As a company commander I knew everything I needed to know as soon as my battalion commander knew it. As a battalion commander I knew everything I needed to know as soon as my brigade commander knew it. I also knew the overall mission, and was prepared to execute it long before I was committed. The Russians are better at this than any other army I’m familiar with, and I think all of these “Putin wasn’t prepared” stories are BULLSHIT !!

    Marko, I’ve been reading your work for years, but I have words of advice, “Don’t let you alligator mouth of prejudice against Putin overload your hummingbird ass.”

  11. Tom says

    PUTIN IS TUTIN — And kicking ass while he’s at it

  12. Steve Ginn says

    More of Markos’ bullshit! Why the hell do we keep seeing his zionazi crap?!

    1. Commenter says

      not being either extreme one side or the other does not mean zio. Regardless of who says it, Russia has made mistakes in its approach. Both sides are subject to heavy propaganda. The tweet guy he quoted is some Russian scholar who calmly states that Russia has a huge change of winning. He fills his timeline with ridiculous childish memes and videos with little context, and claims they are signs of a smooth ride for Russians. He insults anyone who is not pro-Putin. As if many Russians inside Russia aren’t fed up with Putin but love their nation. Corruption is rampant in Russia and many live paycheck to paycheck even before the Donbass chaos in 2014. Markos’ may be wrong but it’s key to consider all facts and reality of situation. That means dropping any fan worship for either side.

  13. ken says

    In the land of the free Sputnik and RT are no longer available. It has been my experience that when government censors, it always censors truth.

  14. Kointel Killah says

    How does one tell the difference between truth and propaganda?


    If you believe it, it is truth. If you don’t, it is propaganda.


    1. Commenter says

      Excellent observation that describes denial of all sides. It’s the problem with all conflicts – people don’t want to see inconvenient facts. Take the Middle East and its hordes of non ME race defenders and its white shills. To them, nothing is fault of arabs. All ME problems is due to West. Blatant lie but doesn’t bother them. Comments on this site reflect that mindset. Twitter is even worse. Both Ukraine and Russia were supposedly winning since last week according to their loyal fans…

  15. Gaddafi's Ghost says

    This is an existential war for Putin and his government. He can’t pull back without getting the Gaddafi treatment. So expect whatever tactics or propaganda that are needed to win this war. Frankly, I will be surprised if the word “NATO puppet” isn’t in every Russian news report about Zelensky & his government from here on out.

    nb4. And if push comes to shove, what is to prevent Putin from dropping a nuke on Lviv or even Kiev? Again, he’s not going to want the Gaddafi treatment. And his top generals and government officials are in the same boat.

  16. John Charlton says

    I disagree with much of this commentary. The Russian soldiers are from the lowest and poorest classes in Russia. They see it as a job and they are not keen on being part of Putin’s massacre of innocent Ukrainian women and children. The Russian military is in poor mechanical repair and poorly trained. I pray that the evil Putin will be deposed.

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