Mamerto Adan is a feature writer who is back in college once again. Science is one of his favorite topics.
In the messed-up war in Ukraine, we have seen it all. Horrendous deaths and destructions were just the start. Some people noted that Russian offensives were so poorly planned and hastily executed, that bizarre events occurred. The battlefield of Ukraine is described as the graveyard of the tanks, due to the large number of Russian armors getting blown. Ukraine is also the towing area for tanks. For the first time in the history of warfare, people are seeing Russian tanks being pulled away by farmers in their John Deere tractors.
Tanks aren’t the only military vehicle being destroyed in Ukraine. Yet, the troops themselves are taking the whole brunt of this conflict, particularly the aggressor. Whether they are young conscripts or seasoned special forces, Russian casualties are high. People pointed out that this is another epitome of a poorly planned war, and the widespread deaths are taking its toll on the soldiers. With morale going down, some simply refused to fight. They even go as far as disabling their own equipment and injuring themselves, so they would have excuses.
With the war not going as planned, Russia then sent in the generals. But they went the way of the tanks, by getting killed in large numbers. In fact, the war in Ukraine is unique for having high Russian general casualty.
Ukraine just became the graveyard of Russian generals.
The General Problem
To begin with, losing a lot of generals in the battlefield is a rare occurrence. In fact, a couple of deaths is already an anomaly. And Russia just made a grim record, by losing 11 generals as of June 5, 2022. And the general massacre started in the early days of the Russian offensive in Ukraine.
A good example was Andrei Sukhovetsky, a highly experienced Russian general in various conflicts. He was there when Russia intervened in the Syrian War, and when Crimea was annexed. Before that, he fought in Chechnya and Georgia. Unfortunately, Ukraine was his last battle, when a sniper in Hostomel took him down in February 28, 2022.
Then, there is Major General Vladimir Frolov. No one was sure how he died, but Russia suddenly held his funeral on 16 April 2022.
Kanamat Khuseevich Botashev was flying his SU-25, but he got blown by a Stinger missile, while Roman Kutuzov never enjoyed his promotion when he was killed the next day (5 June 2022).
They are just few examples. Again, people are surprised on how Russian generals are getting killed in such numbers. Their role should be commanding and managing strategies at a distance, not doing tactical actions on the ground, where they are vulnerable. But that is not the case here. Maybe, the Russian generals are just doing their battlefield supervision differently, or they prefer to do things in the heat of the battle.
Or, we are just seeing another blunder in the Russian army.
Situation on the Ground
Firstly, let us begin on how the Russian soldiers are losing motivation to continue fighting. In a recent report, they cited that they love Mother Russia, but hate Putin. Thanks to the messed-up and poorly planned war that claimed a lot of Russian lives, not to mention the effects of too much hazing, morale among the troops is in all time law. Hence, generals were sent to the frontlines to address the faltering spirits of their troops. This partly answered why the generals are out there, where they are vulnerable to enemy fire, though other reasons for this have nothing to do with fatherly concerns.
They distrust their own soldiers.
Generals could simply relay orders from a safe distance, but they feel the need to physically go there to check if all is going as planned. Why? Because the generals have no confidence on their troops. They must see for themselves that the soldiers are doing what they are told, a sign of lack of trust. But even if they have the means to throw orders from afar, they can’t thanks to the very structure of the Russian army. Russian army differs from the US simply because noncommissioned and junior officers can’t make decisions on their own. Simply, they are not empowered to do so, and it is up to the generals to make direct orders in the field.
Hence, the flawed military structure and lack of trust forced the generals into the battlefield, into the open arms of death.
Aside from micromanaging generals, the Russians also suffered from communication problems. They invested so much in armor and firepower, that they ignored a key element in the battlefield. Command and control capabilities.
There are reports of Ukrainians successfully intercepting Russian communications, thus extracting useful information. Simply, the frequencies being used by the Russian is unencrypted, making them vulnerable to electronic eavesdropping. This was the result of the Russian army’s usage of ordinary mobile phones and radios when relaying important messages. Worse, the mobile phones were confiscated from the Ukrainian local population and uses ordinary Ukrainian cell services.
Failure to establish secure communication lines might also be the result of arrogance from the Russian side, and their inability to recognize the risk of using open networks. And with the help of western intelligence, the Ukrainians took advantage of this blunder, and dedicated a team for targeting Russian officers. They instruct their forces to concentrate on Russian command and control, and kill anyone with “grey hair next to antennas.”
Being Tracked in Real Time
Modern technology brought a lot of benefits, but using them in sensitive military operations is a big no. Again, we will go back on the unsecured communication line that could easily be eavesdropped. And thanks to social media posts, Russian soldiers are exposing themselves in real time. Using geolocation, they are easily tracked, and through dumb luck, a soldier might lead the Ukrainian forces to a command post, where a senior military sits and waiting to be shot or shelled.
The Ukrainians are also helped by outside sources.
The United States is sharing intelligence reports about Russian units, which include anticipated Russian troop movement, locations and details of Russian mobile headquarters. No one was sure how many generals were killed through US intelligence sharing, though the overall effects were devastating on the Russian chain of command.
In the end, Russia is wasting its general’s life because:
- Tight and centralized chain of command that forces the generals to go to the dangerous frontlines, to micromanage.
- Lack of trust on their own troops, which forces the generals to go to the dangerous frontlines.
- Usage of unencrypted communication lines that exposed their positions.
1. Barnes, Julian E.; Cooper, Helene; Schmitt, Eric (4 May 2022). "U.S. Intelligence Is Helping Ukraine Kill Russian Generals, Officials Say". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
2. Delison, Meredith (08 May, 2022). "Why Russia has suffered the loss of an 'extraordinary' number of generals". ABC News.
3. Ranjan Mishra, Prabhat (6 June 2022). "Roman Kutuzov: Russia Loses 11th General in Ukraine War as Fight Intensifies in Donbas". International Business Times. Retrieved 6 June 2022.