Russian forces have committed a lot of war crimes in Ukraine. So how much of that is a reflection that the Russian army is a motley collection of mercenaries, criminals, Chechens, etc., and how much is systemic? It turns out that the spirit of Katyn Wood lives on in Russia, the fish is rotten at the head.
The Royal United Services Institute in the UK has just release a 67 page report on the preliminary lessons from the war in Ukraine. The report is well written and very well worth reading.
Based on captured plans early in the conflict, page 10 has this passage:
The Russian counterintelligence regime on the occupied territories had compiled lists that divided Ukrainians into four categories:
- Those to be physically liquidated.
- Those in need of suppression and intimidation.
- Those considered neutral who could be induced to collaborate.
- Those prepared to collaborate.
For those in the top category, the FSB had conducted wargames with detachments of the Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) to conduct kill-or-capture missions.
The Russians consider Ukrainians to be üntermenschen. The Ukrainians don’t want to be annihilated. So the war continues. Russia had 70 years of communism — but then another 30 years of the same people, effectively. It is going to take a lot of time to wash that out of the Russian psyche.
Admiral of the German Navy Joachim Rühle, on behalf of the Supreme Headquarters, made a statement about the Russian Federation:
Russia has refused to become part of the civilized world, and in the version in which it exists, the world will no longer accept it.
A centralized system with little individual initiative is easy to fool. On page 25:
The poor Russian battle damage assessment process made the Russian military highly vulnerable to deception, which has been consistent throughout the conflict. Early strikes on Ukrainian airfields, for example, destroyed many hangars. By photographing this damage and printing the resulting pattern on to sheets, it became possible to clear the rubble and erect covers for aircraft to return to the site, sheltering in positions that the Russians would confirm as destroyed. This led – somewhat amusingly – to the Russians debating whether Ukrainian fighter aircraft were operating from subterranean shelters at several sites.
Repeated strikes on dummy air-defence positions also saw a considerable wastage of ammunition, while Ukrainian troops could confirm that sites were destroyed over the radio even when they were still functioning, causing Russian aircraft to ignore air-defence systems in their mission planning.
The Royal United Services Institute also recently released a report on the air war in Ukraine, also very much worth reading.
UPDATE, page 51:
For senior Russian officers who spent their time as junior officers in the Soviet Union there is still a mindset of seeing people as an inexhaustible resource to be expended. But that is not Russia today. Russia has a finite number of available military personnel. This culture of not valuing individuals is a form of institutional fratricide.
Although it leads Russian troops to take a great deal of punishment without surrendering on the battlefield — there is an expectation and acceptance of suffering — it also leads to low morale, poor unit cohesion and troops who lack the team spirit to effectively conduct sub-tactical manoeuvre.