The Russian Decision to Start This War

I was one of the people that did not believe that Russia was actually going to start this war. My blog posts on the subject are here: So Is Russia going to actually attack Ukraine? | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org) and here: The Russo-Ukrainian War of 2022 – part 1 | Mystics & Statistics (dupuyinstitute.org)

There were three reasons for this:

1. Force Ratios: They did not have a particularly favorable force ratio.

2. Weather: This was not a good time of the year to start an offensive

3. Warning: They had given Ukraine plenty of warning that they were coming.
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All three of these points have turned out to be true in spades.

1. Force Ratios: This appears to now be a war of 200,000+ plus on each side, with no one having a numerical advantage. Not particularly surprising, this war has now stagnated. It happens when both sides are roughly equal in strength.

2. Weather: The Russians forces were afflicted by frost bite, tended to be road bound, and now the war has stalled, and the weather is not helping.

3. Warning: The Ukrainians were well prepared for the Russian attacks and halted most of them.

 


So, I do think the three reasons I gave for why conducting on attack in late February was a bad idea has indeed been proven valid. That they did so anyway indicates to me a major error on the part of Russia and/or Vladimir Putin.

Now, history is full of examples of leaders doing the wrong thing. There is no shortage of examples of leaders initiating wars that were really bad ideas. I could list them, but no need to, it is a very long list of stupid ideas.

It is hard to account for incompetence. If it looks like this is a bad idea as I am sitting here at my desk, then I tend to assume that the people leading, with their supporting advisors and staff, also see that this is bad idea. Yet history has no shortage of leaders initiating disastrous wars, so obviously one must always be ready this. This is hard to objectively account for. Still, it was clear that initiating this war, when and how they did, was a mistake.

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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