Can We All Stop Attacking Ukraine’s Soldiers

“Greetings! You must serve your country! You could be shot at from both sides, underpaid, underequipped, accused of cowardice if your commander does something the government doesn’t like and you merely follow orders and you’ll be forced to shoot civilians occasionally. Oh, and if the Russians invade, your death will be pointless. We don’t know if they’ll invade or not. Why aren’t you signing up? Are you not patriotic?!”

Granted, that’s an exaggeration, but it conveys the sheer sense of dystopia that the Ukrainian rank and file feels. To better show this point, let me cite a passage:

…Кино смотрели, про то, как черно-белый, как и всё вокруг, офицер, затянутый в портупею, в блестящих сапогах, сурово взирая на построенный, перед боевой техникой, личный состав, делает отмашку флажками и тут же включает секундомер. Бойцы разбегаются по машинам, чётко занимая места, согласно расчёта. И вот, уже через минуту колонна, организованно выплёвывая дизельные выхлопы, трогается с места. Мужики, готовящиеся к увольнению, по достижению предельного возраста, утверждают, что так оно когда-то и было. Не знаю, не знаю. Марш артполка, на станцию погрузки, несколько отличался от киношного эталона.

Спустя месяц, после описываемых событий, мне показали статью в газете, где были примерно такие слова: “…Тихим августовским утром, ни кем не замеченный, артиллерийский полк, бесшумно растворился в утреннем тумане, держа путь по направлению Дагестана…” Я помню, смеялся, аж до икоты. Как же, ни кем не замеченный, бесшумно растворился. Да наш полк, сутки добирался до станции погрузки. Мужественно преодолев, аж двадцать километров, родной земли. Не нюхавшая топлива в течении последних четырёх лет, наша техника стояла на всём протяжении дороги до станции. Что можно говорить о водителях, которые в большинстве своём, видели боевые машины впервые.

Всё что могло двигаться самостоятельно, тащило “русскую недвижимость”, которая составляла семьдесят процентов, от общего количества техники. Грохот и мат стоявший на всём протяжении маршрута до станции, в течение суток не давали покоя жителям домов, окна которых выходили на дорогу. Вот так вот мы ни кем не замеченные, бесшумно растворились в утреннем тумане. Люди не обучены элементарному. Многие водители, впервые оказались за рулями и рычагами. Мне лично посчастливилось загонять на платформу все семь единиц своей, убитой горем техники, так как штатные водители, в один голос категорически отказались, от этого рискованного мероприятия.

Можно было конечно предположить саботаж или ещё что-то из этой оперы, но тут был один веский контраргумент – наполненные животным ужасом глаза, моего необученного войска. Законный вопрос. А что же вы господа офицеры, такие правильные и пушистые не обучили своих солдат? Куда смотрели? Этот вопрос прошу задать тем, которые развалили нашу армию. Когда в баках, вместо топлива паутина. На стройках вместо рабочих – солдаты. А в кармане дырка, которая не беспокоит, потому что туда не чему выпадать. Делайте выводы. Может ли в разваленной стране, быть образцовая армия.


…When we went to the movies, we saw how an officer, neatly dressed and wearing shining boots takes a strict look at his personal company, waves a flag and turns on a time. The soldiers quickly mount their vehicles. Within a minute the column starts moving. The old soldiers tell me that’s how it was during the days of Communism. I’m not sure. The march of our artillery was “slightly” different from the movies.

After a month of watching the movie with my fellow officers and friends in Chechnya, one of my friends showed me an article in a newspaper which said: “on a quite August morning, the artillery brigade, unnoticed by the city’s population, quietly entered the morning fog and head for Dagestan.” I remember laughing my ass off. Suuure, unnoticied… disappeared into the fog. In reality our brigade took twenty four hours to reach the train station, “speedily” traveling at one kilometer an hour. The artillery units were improperly maintained for the past four years, or rather, not maintained at all, and our artillery units stretched all the way from the brigade headquarters to the train station. What can I say about our drivers, recent draftees most of whom saw artillery vehicles for the first time?

Everything that could drive on its own carried the rest of the “Russian non-mobile artillery brigade”, which comprised roughly seventy percent of our units. Noise and cursing continued for the day, the night, and the duration of our twenty four hour journey, not letting anyone get any sleep. That’s how our brigade “unnoticed… disappeared into the fog”. The people were not taught the basics. Most drivers had no idea how to drive military stick shifts. I personally had to drive all seven of my battery’s artillery guns and support units, since my soldier-drivers refused to carry out this risky task.

One could, of course, suppose sabotage, or something from that tune, but I disagree, because I saw the eyes of my soldier-drivers filled with primal fear. A query results: Why didn’t you, as an officer, so correct and wise, failed to teach your soldiers the basics? Where were you? My response is that you should ask this question to those who failed our army. When the gas tanks are filled with spider webs instead of fuel, when soldiers are forced to do construction work to survive, and when the pockets of officers have holes, which the officers don’t care about since there’s no money to fall through those holes, make your presumptions: can you have an organized army in a country that’s falling apart?

This passage was written by a Russian Patriot, describing the conditions of the Russian army in 1998-1999. Today’s Russian army is vastly improved as events in Ossetia in 2008 clearly showed. Nevertheless, that’s what happened to a Soviet army that was neglected for four years. Now, imagine an army that was neglected for over two decades? Welcome to Ukraine’s army. The conditions in Ukraine’s army are just as bad, if not worse, than the conditions described in that passage. And it’s an honest passage; he had no reason to lie. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

During the First Chechen War, most of the Russian army was led by the Soviet Experts who managed to salvage the situation. During the Second Chechen War the Russian army was led by Putin’s Generals, able men like Shamanov. Who leads Ukraine’s army? The interim president, who assigns unrealistic objectives and blames the armed forces when those objectives are not met?

As if that was not enough, the Ukrainian army has to deal with local factions, who can fight amongst themselves and even shoot at the Ukrainian army if they get in the way. And I’m not just talking about the self-defense forces of DonBass against Right Sector. I’m talking about Battalion Dnepr firing a few volleys off at the local police building. That’s extremely demoralizing to the soldiers, seeing their compatriots hurt by their side.

Then there’s the issue of payment. Ukraine’s army is notoriously underpaid. The Russians did a mini documentary where a Major in Ukraine’s army, (he’s now serving in the Russian army,) was forced to live in a communal Khrushevka! Don’t get me wrong college dorms are fun; but when you’re a Major in an army, you should at least have a one bedroom apartment.

Their opponents, the self-defense forces of the DonBass, are able soldiers led by officers who know their stuff and they have no constraints to deal with. They’re fighting for their homeland. They have a clear list of objectives. Additionally, there’s the constant fear of the World’s most maneuverable army, the Russian army, maneuvering next door. Demands that Russia stop military exercises on Russian soil have been met with laughter and popcorn. Would any great power act differently? If the Russian army invades, Ukraine’s army will rout and the soldiers will have a tough task: fight an army that will destroy them or rout and be declared traitors by Kiev. Perhaps that’s the reason that some of them are already routing and switching sides. They’re underfunded, underequipped, undermanned, ineptly led, demoralized, have no clear objectives in sight, are fighting an able opponent, and it’s the soldiers that are being blamed for this ineptitude?


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