At some point, when the Ukrainian people return to rebuild their country – with tremendous international assistance – experts, from military strategists, historians, and even sociologists, are going to study what happened in the opening two weeks of the Russian-Ukrainian war. Though the news has been both heartbreaking and breathtaking (in that the Ukrainians have held the Russians off this long) and there seems to be positive news from a purely tactical standpoint, Ukraine is still out-gunned, or at least with respect to helicopter, tank, and in air power. Russia could, in theory, reorganize and still obtain some kind of objective.

Morning Joe asked Barry McCaffery this morning to address – in real-time, not looking back – how this could happen and what awaits the generals who have led this war. (Two generals have already been killed in combat.)

You know, this entire Ukrainian intervention has called into question the capabilities of the Russian armed forces, which I do not underestimate. They’re still a large, reasonably well-equipped fighting force. They took on an operation they didn’t understand, they had bad assumptions, their command and control has broken down but they’re still a threat.”

There have been reports that departing Russian soldiers didn’t even know they were going to war, only “exercises.” McCaffery then explained that the situation is now dire for the Russian military:

“These people are over a barrel. Putin is a truck with ten forward gears and no reverse gear; he can’t back out of this thing, so the danger deepens.”

A desperate man with access to nuclear weapons is extremely dangerous to everyone. McCaffery explained the failure at the most basic levels:

“Well, I think the generals have lost control of this massive formation. This is bizarre behavior, abandoned vehicles, no vehicle track recovery units, very little, apparently, effective use of airpower in coordination with ground power. They’re going back to being an artillery army, pounding and encircling cities and trying some starve them out. So I think the generals are getting desperate.”

“They’re getting up to the front areas of the battle, but a lot of them are probably saying to themselves, saying, if we don’t unscrew this mess, Putin is going to shoot us.”

“Again, I’m really surprised that the thing has so far unraveled on them, but there’s a lot artillery, a lot of helicopters. This fight isn’t over. Zelenskyy’s courage and time and Russian casualties could change the political calculus in Russia on the viability of this war.”

Thus, it would seem that like Putin himself, the generals have no reverse gear. There is no going back, not without quick reorganization and new tactics. But even basic communication between Russian forces is now degrading:

Russian forces relaying the news back to their superiors were forced to use an unsecure phone line with a local sim card — that was promptly intercepted.

Even attempting to reorganize may be impossible because communications could be intercepted. As McCaffery said, these generals are probably at least as worried about being shot upon going back to Russia as being shot during the war. As McCaffery noted, the desperation could lead to an even more dangerous situation in Moscow and Kyiv.


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