Putin’s Political Kid Gloves Are Costing the Russian Grunt

A Russian without his artillery is like an American without his airstrikes

Yesterday (Feb 27) a VDV column moved into the Kiev suburb of Bucha, but then retreated after being hit by a Ukrainian (rocket) artillery strike, leaving behind damaged vehicles and some dead.

This marks the first documented case of Ukrainians firing artillery into a built-up area.

This is ironic because so far the Russians have been extremely reluctant to use artillery against urban areas.

Actually, I hadn’t seen definitive evidence of a Russian artillery barrage on a built-up area before this. (Which doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.)

But today (Feb 28) there is already footage of Russians using rocket artillery in Kharkov, albeit it is alleged that Ukrainians are doing it too.

The Ukrainians have definitely adopted the strategy of withdrawing into cities, which also means they have positioned their artillery there, which they’re using to fire at the Russians on the outskirts.

As you may imagine this leaves Ukrainian civilians in an unenviable position:

It also leaves the Russians in a position where if they persist in their shunning of artillery then they’re in a contest where the other side has big gun support, and they don’t — even though it is actually they who have far more and far more capable artillery.

This artillery taboo, demonstrated in the first days of the war, is asking a lot of the Russian troops. It’s the equivalent of asking US troops to fight without air support. It isn’t what they train for, or what they are equipped and organized for. It’s taking *the thing* that their way of war is organized around away from them.

It is safe to say that in taking on the artillery taboo Russia has accepted to sustain greater losses to its military in order to spare more civilians.

Another way in which a lot is being asked of the Russian troops is that small units are being sent on “thunder runs” down roads deep ahead of the main force (the main force which in many sectors is still in Russia). We’re not even talking battalion tactical groups (which are a well-rounded combined arms formation). We’re often talking mere companies. Sometimes tanks alone without infantry, or infantry without tanks.

This has meant significant losses when they run into even weak resistance. Or when they establish weak perimeters (I’ve seen junctions guarded by just a few men or tanks) and are opportunistically hit by small counter-attacks that would normally be no threat to the Russians.

Or when their support elements left far behind but racing to catch up get annihilated in an ambush.

Put differently, the Russian military is designed to— and is very good at — fighting as a combined-arms mass. Yet it has been throwing this advantage away in order to send small units to race ahead and engage in small-scale fights decided by the luck of the draw.

It is very difficult to understand why this is so because this is not Russian doctrine. It has definitely led to hundreds of unnecessary losses

It has served to give Ukrainians heart, and to convince some of their more delusional Western backers that the Ukrainians are somehow “winning”.

On the other hand, this morning (Feb 27) it was reported that a five-kilometer (!) column was on its way from the Belarusian border to Kiev. So perhaps the days of Russian troops being asked to fight in formations smaller than BTGs that can’t even reliably do force protection are over.

At the same time, it is important to keep perspective. Even with questionable tactics and the artillery taboo, the Russians have had significant success. It is the Ukrainians who are on the backfoot and who have undoubtedly sustained greater losses.

You have to understand the information environment in which we find ourselves. The Russians are trying to keep the attention away from casualties, Russian and Ukrainian alike, as much as possible. They are not filming anything. (Except Ukrainian POWs, they love to film those.)

The Ukrainians meanwhile are filming all the Russian wreckages and the dead that they can find. But they are much more reluctant to film their own losses.

This creates the impression for someone scrolling through war videos on Twitter or Telegram that Russians are already in a bloody stalemate. That isn’t correct.

The map tells a story of its own. So do the facts that Ukrainians are blowing up bridges, pleading for talks, distributing weapons to civilians, and abandoning the countryside for cities.

And that’s with the Russians having committed under half of their forces. They still have a lot in the tank. If there isn’t a Gomel peace the map is going to look much different in a week. (Which may come as a shock to some people drawing too many conclusions from Ukrainian footage.)

I’ll say another thing. I am on the record as being against the war on account of the human cost. I said a victory for Russia would take thousands of Russian and tens of thousands of Ukrainian lives.

It is now clear that lives that would be lost weighed on Putin as well. Not just Russian lives, but primarily Ukrainian ones and especially civilians.

But it is also clear that Putin thought that war could be waged and won in kid gloves, without the use of artillery or airstrikes (or ballistic missiles against Ukrainian army barracks in the opening night). Or at least that it was worth a shot.

And that is how he went into the war — asking of the military to fight with one arm tied behind its back and to accept greater losses to its own men in order to spare Ukrainians.

I think this has shown itself as unworkable and costly. It has led to greater losses and prevented the Russians from being able to take or blockade even smaller cities like Chernigov to say nothing of the sprawling Kharkov.

I think the artillery taboo will be gradually softened over the coming days.


An important junction on the flank (north of Kiev) in a wooded area is left guarded only by a pair of tanks. The price is paid when Ukies return for a counter-attack with a small combined-arms unit:

Rosgvardia (light garrison infantry) inexplicably sent to drive around hot territory on its own, and the price is paid to rocket artillery strike:

Tiny infantry unit sent to penetrate deep into a hostile city with no flank or heavy support, and the price is paid when enemy, which is left to maneuver freely, ambushes it from behind:


Too much, too fast, with too little:

Too much, too fast, with too little:

Too much, too fast, with too little:

Four days of war before the first Su-34 is seen. Up until then, only the rare Russian Su-25 had made an appearance:

  1. SteveK9 says

    Last 2 paragraphs sound very reasonable. Perhaps the test was to see if most of the Ukrainian Army would surrender without a fight.

  2. SteveK9 says

    A further comment is that sadly this has happened very many times before. Politics matter as well, unfortunately.

  3. DannyWhite says

    Yep the old “Peace Keeper Trap”
    You cant win a war if you dont fight a war.
    I dont understand how Putin got suckered into a peace keeper trap.
    As I said long before this started.
    The only way for Russia to Fight a war in the Ukrain is for Russia to nuke every city on the USA mainland.

  4. Gregory says

    As a former American Grunt, a whole lot of us would have rather taken more casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan then level the city like we did.

    1. Maiasta says

      These are bad choices either way. The fundamental problem with invasions, Russian or American or any other, is that you’re occupiers, and you’ll always be seen as such by the larger part of the native population.

      A more sensible way to deal with his “Ukraine problem” would have been for Putin to look for local allies and assist them in staging a coup d’etat. It might have gotten messy too, but nowhere near as much this invasion strategy.

    2. DannyWhite says

      Really .. That’s interesting
      Whats your logic
      I would rather just have killed everything. Men women, children and then their goats
      Burnt their houses to the ground then bulldozed the rubble and made road base.
      But I am interested in why you would rather not do that.

      1. Gregory says

        Right Either we are there to protect the civilian population and willing to lay down our lives to do so or we are there to kill them all there is no middle ground. Pretending we were their friends while acting like their enemy did not work out very well.

  5. ken says

    Boy, this is a heck of a war,,, a war with little to no fighting. Oh, yeah,,, I see a few burnt vehicles and far away explosions but where’s the fighting? There should be platoons of soldiers clearing the snipers etc. I see some blown out buildings but how do I know it’s not from 10 years ago and maybe a different city?

    I don’t know guy’s. As a ex-combat veteran this is some strange war….. If they can fake a moon landing……..

  6. peterinanz says

    “It is very difficult to understand why this is so”.
    Kremlin politicking. A mistake.
    Having said that there was plenty of artillery and air support in LPR and DPR regions, and still going strong.
    Lack of it was along other axis of advance.

    “I think the artillery taboo will be gradually softened over the coming days.”
    Agree. With much more C.A.S as well.

    Kharkov region as the first recipient, most likely.

  7. Jonathan says

    Russia tricked Ukraine into thinking it was about to hit and send troops into Kiev on the 27th.

    Zelensky then released violent offenders from prison, and armed those ‘willing to fight for Ukraine’, knowing what they would do. Then they were to blame it on the Russian invasion of Kiev.

    Instead, now we see them running around, robbing stores, murdering, raping, and settling old scores. Major crime wave his hit Kiev. Hundreds dead. Police overwhelmed.

    This was supposed to set the stage for some White Helmets (Soros) drama, like in Syria.

    But the Russian troops never materialized.

    There’s a precedent for this in Syria.

    Russia announced it would commence an aerial campaign onto ISIS sites in Syria about two weeks before it actually did.

    Erdogan coordinated with Merkel at the behest of the Deep State. They told refugees who had long left Syria and had been living in Turkey that now Germany would give them residency, cash, and welfare if they could arrive in Germany with a Syrian passport.

    Soros NGO’s organized a human caravan. It was called the refugee crisis caravan, like the one he did out of Honduras through Mexico and through the Gulf of Mexico.

    Suddenly about ONE MILLION already re-settled refugees from Syria who were then living in Turkey embark for Germany.

    The media campaign was hilarious, because the script was supposed to refer to this being caused by the Russian bombing.

    The problem is that Russia didn’t bomb. And they wouldn’t bomb for several more weeks.

    Now of course in some sort of pseudo-Mandela effect fashion, the English langauge mainstream internet by now has probably re-inserted this big lie and scrubbed the Internet of the actual time-lines.

    The aim was to get a UN Security Resolution going against Russia. Of course, as a member of that council, Russia would veto. But the PR damage would be done. The justification for more sanctions done., etc.

    The entire Sorosian ploy was a failure. When the Russian campaign started, the ‘refugees’ were already safely in Germany or stuck at the border of Croatia or Hungary.

    Now, they wouldn’t have been near any targets had they not left yet, because they had already been living in Turkey for a few years. But the whole thing was a hilarious mess when it went down.

    Then the Russian campaign started, and Kerry had to reach out to Lavrov for ‘deconfliction talks’. This is because the more serious ISIS units with anti-air capacity, i.e. the first targets of the Russian campaign, were actually Blackwater/Greystone/Xe mercenaries. The ISIS guys didn’t have the training to operate these SAM systems.

    Anyway, there’s some history for you on how this stuff works.

    I believe we should expect more false flags. Russia just avoided a big one.

  8. GMC says

    It hasn’t even been a week and 20,000+ Ukies and Nazis are surrounded near Mariupol – that’s pretty good. Kharkov has been a pain in the ass, but Crimea has busted out – that;s pretty good. We still don’t know how many places are wired for surprises and that would make me go a bit slower.
    I’m surprised they went to Kiev before securing the East , I would have just set up a no fly zone and focused on the Crimea to East Ukraine, then go after Kiev when the East was wrapped up. I thought that the first priority was to save Donbas/Lugansk region. I must have read part – wrong.

  9. Ilya G Poimandres says

    You can conquer with carrot or stick. I am glad Putin believes in carrot over stick.

  10. Mr Reynard says

    Ukrainian Army, trained by the “Most Moral Army” in the world, using women & children as a shield ….

  11. XSFRGR says

    THIS IS NOT RUSSIAN EQUIPMENT !! I’m very familiar with the Russia order of battle, and Russian tactics. Russia has total air superiority, and does not move without massive tactical air support. These vehicles do not have Russia tactical identifiers to differentiate them from Ukie vehicles. There is very minimal battle damage on the majority of the vehicles. Most of this looks like Ukie equipment that was caught by Russian air, and/or artillery OR SIMPLY ABANDONED. Russians very seldom operate in small units, and when they do the small units have massive assets in direct support. THIS IS BULL SHIT !!

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