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Russian troops are proving that cell phones in war zones are a bad idea (taskandpurpose.com)
122 points by Stratoscope 14 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 251 comments

> troops cross into Ukraine, their cell phones emit a roaming signal that connects to Ukraine’s cellular network... naive and ignorant about using mobile devices, they often call home

This is not unique to the Russo-Ukraine situation. I've been with British personnel who carry their own laptops with them while on active duty and move across borders with them. We have an unbelievable naivety about technology in all societies - basically an inability to control it, because people see carrying an all-in-one personal tracker as their god-given inalienable right.

CO: Put this uniform on!

PVT: Yes sir!

CO: March 500 miles in the rain and snow!

PVT: Yes sir!

CO: Eat this disgusting MRE.

PVT: Yes sir!

CO: Fire on these enemies!

PVT: Yes sir!

CO: Please surrender your cellphones for the safety of your entire company.

PVT: FK OFF! I need* to post on Facebook.

While running an exam I asked students to switch off their phones and put them in a box at the front of the hall. Half were resistant. I had to expel two for refusing and another who sneaked-in a second phone that rang during the examination. Many of the remaining students were distracted, looking nervously at the box every minute.

These are good, honest, hard working and normally attentive young people, not delinquents, but those things have a hold over them that is worrying. These things are drugs and the sooner we start saying so and treating them as such the sooner we can find the appropriate psychological stance and interventions.

The students you mentioned are probably more nervous about the $1000+ device now not in their control than they are as a ‘withdrawal’ symptom. I’m happy to show the device being turned off and out in a backpack in those situations, but I’m not letting it out of my possession. I’d sooner just not take it with me in the first place.

Taking my own phone into a hostile situation on the other hand, why would you? I don’t even take my own phone when travelling for business.

> I don’t even take my own phone when travelling for business.

Huh? That makes absolutely no sense to me. Being on business travel is exactly when I want my phone.

Most would certainly want a phone, but the borders one crosses and the government policies around those crossing may disincentivize bringing your personal phone.

That’s what your business phone is for.

Burner business phone?

Maybe just reuse the phone number?

Yeah this is a good point. Maybe it’s solvable with simple tech like this: https://www.amazon.com/brotrade-Hanging-Jewelry-Organizer-Je...

Get a similar soft display case with compartments big enough to hold cell phones, and have it displayed at the front of the class where everyone can see them. You put your phone in one of the “pouches,” you can see it the whole time you’re taking an exam, you pick it back out once you’re done.

I’m not sure what a practical method of ensuring you get the right phone back would be, but I can think of a few schemes. For example, each pouch has a uniquely numbered card, and when you put your phone in there, you take the card. Then you put the card back when you pick your phone back up. It would probably be helpful to have 1 or 2 visual indicators that you got it right, like the coordinates from the card also printed on the clear plastic in a way that’s easy to see them match, plus maybe a color scheme where a stripe or sticker of some kind on the clear plastic matches the color of the card itself. (This all to prevent accidental mix ups, not theft. The main benefit I see is letting the people still taking the exam feel confident that their phone is visible to them and it’ll remain where it is until they pick it up.)

Highly disagree. We all have things that cost money that we don’t think about every 10 seconds. Even your own example, leaving your phone while on a business trip is fine. But having it in a box a few feet away is somehow anxiety inducing because of its cost?

What if some asshole throws theirs into the pile and cracks the screen of yours? What if the box gets turned over and phones spill to the floor?

Those are objective risks. Then you should also factor in subjective belief that when the phone is in your hands then you control its safety, while when it's out of your hands then anything can happen. When you're not in control, you tend to get pretty anxious.

Then you can add in other nightmares. What if the screen gets scratched? What if the phone gets crushed? What if someone takes your phone and accidentally drops it? What if they take it and leave with it? What if someone spills their coffee into the box? What if someone touches your phone with their filthy greasy hands and you get corona because of that?

Yes we can “what if” the situation to death but that’s not really of much use to anyone. The phones being described are presumably stationary without anyone throwing anything on the pile, since we’re talking about an exam environment.

The exam guards can start with saying: "There is no need to worry. We will not drop your phones on the stone floor, and no one will take your phone by accident just because it looks the same." The students will then look relaxed :-)

tbh as a kid, i 100% definitely would have been worries about someone claiming my phone is theirs, on purpose

I still am, as an adult.

Mildly worried about both on purpose and by accident.

(My GP comment was meant ironically, like, wouldn't this be crazy if: ...)

> While running an exam I asked students to switch off their phones and put them in a box at the front of the hall. Half were resistant. I had to expel two for refusing and another who sneaked-in a second phone that rang during the examination. Many of the remaining students were distracted, looking nervously at the box every minute.

Seems like you are looking for conflict trying to be abrasive and prove your prejudice. This is especially the case now since many people use cases which are also wallets for your credit cards. Would you be comfortable leaving your wallet in a pile of other wallets in a box you can't control?

The easy way of doing it, which I personally experienced during countless exams, is that all phones needs to be turned off and put in your bag. The bag is then stashed out along the walls or hung on hooks. Then you can both keep an eye on your bag, knowing that no one will ruffle around in it and the exam watchers can easily make sure that only allowed materials are on the desks. Magically there's no opportunity for conflict.

Sure, someone inevitably forgot to turn off their second morning alarm and then an exam watcher and the person would together walk to the bag and under supervision turn it off. No need to escalate it into something more than it is.

> Seems like you are looking for conflict trying to be abrasive and prove your prejudice.

With respect, it sounds as if you have some issues with authority. The chaps were told weeks in advance. The box was for their safety. It's not a theatrical magicians box that disappeared down a trap door in a puff of smoke while my scantily clad assistant made big eyes and cooing noises. It's just a clear plastic storage cube in full view the whole time - really no different than having it on the desk in front of you, just a few feet further away.

> Would you be comfortable leaving your wallet in a pile of other wallets in a box you can't control?

Absolutely yes, in the hands of a trusted figure, if protocol demanded it. I have to put my gear through a scanner every time I fly. Damnit, I have to put my life in the hands of others. It's something you get used to as you grow. We're not all in in control all the time.

> Sure, someone inevitably forgot to turn off their second morning alarm

You're making my point for me. The example I am giving is just a crummy maths exam. People are griping about scratched screens and other first world "nightmares". The original article was about getting yourself and all your buddies blown to pieces because of an "inevitable" lack of self-discipline.

Indeed. Put it in your own bag and you're good, I wouldn't trust a box filled with mobile phones. Someone is bound to take the wrong one home when they're done, someone might even steal one. There is really no need to create that unnecessary stress when you're already writing an exam.

As a [near poverty] grad student, I am more concerned with the loss of the device than with "cheating" in an exam. The phone has my cards, contact info, plus its actual value. Understandably, exams are a stressful situation, and risking losing your phone is an added and frankly unnecessary stressor. 250 euro (how much my one plus nord cost me on sale) is not a lot to most people here, but that covers my living expenses (minus rent) for a month or so.

If the instructor had announced, a few weeks before, "Absolutely no cell phones in the exam - leave it at home, or it will go into a box in the front corner of the classroom during the exam, or else you will automatically fail the exam"...would that work (both operationally and psychologically) for you?

Leaving it at home may not be feasible if the student needs to take the metro and they use the ticket apps.

I'd ask whether I can sit at the front, put my phone in my backpack, and store (lock) the backpack in front of the desk so that I can't access it without standing up and making noise.

So far no professor took issue with this.

Does this imply that you value passing your course at less than 250 euros? I understand your point about the hassle, but trying to understand the rationality

It implies that I will be performing suboptimally because I will be worried about my livelihood over the examination.

No it doesn’t, humans don’t work like that.

I think that you are underestimating soldiers emotional need to have contact with wifes, children, parents, friends. Yes, it put them in danger. No it is not just about facebook.

Second, students really dont want to loose phone. Do, they like me have habits - check pocket/bag periodically whether phone is in. If the phone is not where I always have it, I will search for it soon.

It is expensive. People without such habit loose their devices often. And yes I know such people and they buy new phone once nine months or so. Cause the old one got lost.

I was in the Army before smart phones really existed and did a 15 month deployment. While it does indeed suck, soldiers are capable of functioning without continued contact for long periods of time with their families.

I more recently was employed as a mobile device exploitation analyst at DIA and leverages many and more tactics outlined in the article against 'enemies of the state' if you will. The pragmatic thing to do is to properly educate the military and prohibit the use of these devices on deployments. Alas, that'll never happen though.

Literally no one said they are "incapable of functioning".

What I am saying is that characterizing use of tech as pointless Facebook post is argument base on lie. It is designed to make us feel certain way, it is designed to mock those soldiers, but it is not designed to be true.

Mail a letter.

Jesus, yes that is totally the same. Why dont we all mail letter to each other

Consider yourself lucky you live today and not >20 years ago, eh?

You know what, the communication means are better now. Duh.

Are we underestimating the power and importance of connection to family and home?

Given that soldiers went to great lengths to write letters from trenches, it seems like war might suck and it may be nice to hear from mom or the wife.

On the other hand, if your army has shitty comma gear having a cellphone might be useful as a fallback communication option, but I probably would prefer to use previously locally acquired sims…

This has been going on for a long time and affects Western nations just as much as what's happening in Ukraine.

Remember all those Strava (and other) fitness/running heatmaps from US/UK bases in Iraq/Afghanistan back in the day?

It's like you need some phone isolation practice time before the exam also. One class a month with phones in the box.

Maybe schools should not then demand that students carry cellphones. Let them register for courses oldschool, using paper forms. Let them submit work in hard copy. And give up on all those emergency/amber alert/active shooter notification schemes. Stop asking for personal phone numbers on every form.

Asking for schools to go backwards on technology is kind of the opposite of what we want. Schools already get enough flack for not preparing students for “the real world”.

What school requires students to carry cell phones?

All registration and homework is online at my college, and signing into anything has enforced two-factor authentication now. Phones aren't optional anymore. K-12 might be a different situation. Still lots of material online, especially post-covid. I don't think many high-schools use enforced 2FA though.

Aren't those things you'd mostly do at home? I can't think of a single reason I would strictly need to bring my personal phone to university. Worst case I'd sign into one of the provided computers.

> Many of the remaining students were distracted, looking nervously at the box every minute.

There are many possible reasons to look at the phone. Some were mentioned in comments, I can add two more.

It may be a reflex action triggered by the need to consult google. Not the real attempt to google, but when my mind suggested such a possibility to me, my eyes could flicker in a direction of my phone.

Another possible reason is the process of rehearsing. If I was rehearsing answers using the phone, then I would try to look at my phone on each question needing a mental effort to answer. It is how memory works: when you trying to remember what you had read in a book you will look at the book or at least imagine the book.

Or third reason. A neurotic reaction. Exam is a stressful experience, while phone often used to relax, to shut down external reality and to get some rest. So students are trying to get grip on themselves by taking a phone, but stop themselves from doing it. Probably they stop not just because their phone is unreachable, but because it is an exam and not a time to relax. But their mind keeps trying to use phone as a tool of self-regulation. If phone was in their pocket, they would touch it sometimes without looking.

These things are not drugs but a new part of a human body. Like pants. Or even better, like glasses. I use glasses from my childhood, and I refuse to use contact lenses, because I feel myself naked without my glasses. I feel every movement of the air. It is disturbing. If you asked me to take an exam without my glasses, you probably would watched how I sometimes reach my nose with my hand, trying to touch my glasses founding everytime that I wear no glasses now. Or how sometimes I look longingly in a direction were my glasses are. I would do all this while being absorbed in an exam, and probably wouldn't remember it afterwards.

> If phone was in their pocket, they would touch it sometimes without looking.

I am old enough to remember people doing that with packs of cigarettes. Automatically or subconsciously touching the pack for comfort at an interval when not actively smoking.

I have remarked on this behavior in myself and my phone.

> These things are not drugs but a new part of a human body. Like pants. Or even better, like glasses.

The big difference is that glasses are a clear net positive. It is possible for phones to be a net positive but a phone is multipurpose and I doubt most of there users prioritize it as an educational device.

Sadly behavior like mindless scrolling is all to common, and companies know and measure success by sucking in more of there users minutes. The goal of these companies isn’t to maximize productive and meaningful minutes. The goal is to get any minutes at all. Sadly those mostly seem to come from the more drug-like use cases.

Yet no one in government finds a reason to curtail the privacy invasion aspect or the gross level of location tracking they do.

> These things are drugs

Dopamine dosing systems.

The stories of Russian military incompetence are so widespread, I'm starting to have a hard time believing it.

They can't drive a convoy a few hundred miles, they don't seem to know that tanks need protection from anti-tank missiles, they're scared to fly their plans, they use ordinary mobile phones to talk to each other, their generals are way out on the front line, their flagship got sunk, soldiers are quitting their jobs due to this not being an official war.

Wouldn't you stop after I don't know, a week of this? It just seems so overwhelmingly bad, you have to wonder if actually the war is going ok for them despite all these things and the Western media is simply keen to point out their shortcomings.

It just makes less and less sense with each story.

I've heard the general-in-the-front thing is just Russian military culture. They lead from the front. That has advantages and disadvantages: one of the disadvantages is that generals get killed. For instance, they lost a fair few high-ranked officers in Syria.

A lot of the stuff you've mentioned is a combination of ordinary military incompetence (do you remember that US destroyer crashing a few years back? That's happening in the most well-funded, capable navy in the world. Other militaries are worse), Russian doctrine (scared to fly planes = no tradition of SEAD/DEAD, no doctrinal requirement, etc), and the fact that this war is not really the kind of war the Russian military is designed for.

That's part of why it's all so surprising. People didn't think the invasion would take place because it's a bad idea for the Russians.

If you consider that a military is like a very big, too-big-to-fail company, with marginally worse-than-average pathologies for that kind of organization, except when disasters happen, people die and it's plastered all over the news by a very unsympathetic media, you can probably imagine why the Russian military is looking the way it does. My takeaway is essentially that the Russian military performance is exactly what you would expect for an organization that size, in a country like Russia, doing something very difficult against determined opposition.

> People didn't think the invasion would take place because it's a bad idea for the Russians.

Just before the invasion, French military intelligence told Macron that Russia wouldn't invade, because Russian military capabilities were not sufficient.

Current accepted wisdom is that Putin decided to invade because the FSB told him it would be a cakewalk. I'm really surprised that no one in the media has drawn a parallel to the intelligence failure leading to the US invasion of Iraq, when the CIA told Bush it would be a "slam dunk" to find WMDs there. It seems the CIA and FSB have a similar problem with groupthink.

Not a fan of the CIA, but, in the Iraq case, the push for the invasion came from some elements in the White House (you know who), they have already decided that Iraq would be invaded and were searching for a reason. In fact, the CIA didn't lie to the White House.

"The report is rife with what now are obvious red flags that the Bush White House oversold the case for war. It asserts that Iraq had an active chemical weapons program at one point, though it admits that the CIA had found no evidence of the program’s continuation."



There's a rumour going around in March that the FSB had an assignment (for years now) to bribe the Ukranian military , which of course the FSB officers reported they did while pocketing the money ("they're giving me cash in preparation a war that'll never happen, and they don't expect a receipt? Don't mind if I do!"). So it's possible Putin/other departments thought the Ukranian military had been pacified. The second part of the rumour is that the FSB officers panicked when they realized war was really going to happen, so they leaked the plans to the CIA in hopes of getting Putin to back down.

Discussion at the time (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30796339). The article posted may have been a hoax.

It's hilarious and terrifying that Putin had a less accurate understanding of the capabilities of the Russian military than most world leaders due to the insanely corrupt and fear-based society he has created.

Putin mistake was not in his understanding of the capabilities of the Russian military, but in the reaction to expect to the invasion from the Ukraine and NATO leaders.

Typical military intelligence incompetence.

> I'm starting to have a hard time believing it.

I am not. Those, like me, that are following the conflict in detail, have overcome the disbelief you're struggling with. I knew before the invasion that Russia was about to fill YouTube will hundreds of blown up tanks just based on the number of Javelins I knew were already present in theater, but what has happened has exceeded all expectations.

Two weeks ago Ukraine began attacking Snake Island. They used Bayraktar UAVs to systematically destroy all of the air defense equipment Russia placed on that rock, publishing video of these attacks in almost real time. Response? Send in a top commander in an MI-8 in full view of the UAVs and zero air cover. Destroyed on landing. Send in assault craft with zero air cover. 2 destroyed and the third chased off. Now they're sending in more equipment -- respawning like NPCs in a video game.

Similarly, last week Russia tried a (minor) river crossing with two battalions of men and armor. They stacked it all up waiting for pontoon bridges to be deployed and delivered a perfect target to Ukrainian forces. They did this under the surveillance of NATO satellites and Ukraine's drone surveillance. Result? 50+ armored vehicles and men annihilated by 1970's artillery.

This is every day. Every. Single. Day. Ukraine pulverizes some chunk of the Russian military that is so farcically inept that they are unaware of basic knowledge about the conditions of this conflict and apparently incapable of learning or adapting to it.

You are observing epic dysfunction in action. Proof that corruption and cognitive dissonance are fatal.

And it's going to get much, much worse. The advanced heavy weapons that Ukraine has received are only just now starting to appear in the front lines. M777A2s started limited operation a few days ago. By the end of May they'll have batteries of these firing. PzH 2000 is weeks away yet. Ceaser still later. Gabriel V/Blue Spear anti-ship missiles are on the horizon. They've just now adapted Brimstone missiles to launch from what is effectively an ice cream van. And the Russians are and will do absolutely nothing to anticipate or adapt to any of this.

I'm not expert but I, more or less, follow the war (from my comfortable sofa) and I would like to point some observations.

-We see a lot of Russian bad decisions and result of that decisions but never Ukrainian. That should you make you stop and think.

-If you look only to the maps, and not the news, it's not obvious that the war is going so well for Ukraine, despise they have logistic and intelligence support from NATO.

I could be wrong, but that makes me think that we are the target of a marketing operation.

> I could be wrong, but that makes me think that we are the target of a marketing operation.

a) I think we're realizing that the marketing operation was 70 years of "Russia is scary strong". Reality is Russia is really bad at fighting armies and great at brutalizing civilians.

b) The preponderance of evidence is that Russia has made a long string of really, really bad decisions at all levels. It is so bad that they should consider playing Yakety Sax when they pass in review.

c) The fact is Russia should have taken all of Ukraine by now given the asset and manpower advantage they have. The fact they haven't achieved air dominance, have lost major capital ships to a country that effectively has no navy and are being beat by forces largely using less of the same equipment plus is just mystifying. It wasn't that many years ago that the Russian and Ukrainian army were the same Soviet army.

> I think we're realizing that the marketing operation was 70 years of "Russia is scary strong". Reality is Russia is really bad at fighting armies and great at brutalizing civilians.

Whether it was a marketing campaign or not the USSR military was scary strong until it began its collapse along with the union in the 80s.

It's... unclear. The Cold War was all about power projection and no real fight at scale (thankfully). Projection here implies an image to project as well as actual military power, the proportion between them unproven by definition. Smoke without fire.

The same is surely true for any military of any country, but if you actually study the history of the Cold War in depth and detail, there are reasons to believe that USSR military has been hyped well beyond the real capabilities, even at its peak in 60's. Hyped not just by the Union, but by other countries as well, due to various reasons (internal funding, just to name and example; Swedish military in particular was very persistent in this and kept this strawman to fund its MIC well into 2010s).

> Russia should have taken all of Ukraine by now

The idea that conquering another nation through military means should be quick seems to come out from time to time (not just for this war). I wonder if that has ever happened.

Repeatedly: E.g. the battle of France took six weeks, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq just over a month, never mind things like the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia that was over in 2 days. However, occupation can be a bitch...

Yah there is a huge difference in conquering and occupying a land. Insurgent fighters in occupied lands are very difficult to get rid of - as the US learned the hard way in Iraq and the Russians will in Ukraine.

Thanks. Not sure if I wasn't aware or if I had forgotten, but you provided just the answer I was looking for.

A few more:

Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia took Poland in 37 days (people forget that the Soviets and Nazis were allied at the beginning of WWII and had an agreement to split Poland). The Nazis alone took Netherlands in four days, and Belgium in 18 days.

a) Well, now that we have realized the truth, I'm sure everybody is going to be on board with reducing the NATO military budgets and dedicating the resources to more productive endeavors.

b) No doubt about that, starting by invading.

c) I'm not sure about the manpower advantage. What are the numbers? And Ukraine is fighting in its own territory with unlimited intelligence and supply support from the richest countries in the world. We shouldn't forget about that.

Ukrain troops have also recieved plenty of training from a lot of western countries since Russia took Krim 7-8 years ago. And not only NATO countries, Sweden has had instructors there until the start of the latest war.

Ukraine wouldn’t have received the support from the West if they didn’t survive the first few weeks. Germany only wanted to send helmets before the war broke.

Quite infamously the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany claims a minister had talked to him like Russia had already won just after the invasion began: https://news.storyua.com/news/2517.html

The whole government (or maybe a specific chancellor from a party with a history of ties to Putin ...) is still dragging its feet and only slowly coming around. It still feels a bit like they want Ukraine to lose already so they can finally stop caring about it.

I'm sure there is lots of propaganda at play, but it doesn't change the basic numbers of Russia having over three times Ukraine's population and nearly ten times their GDP, also a much larger military with a much larger military budget. With all those advantages you shouldn't need excellence to secure victory just basic level competence, yet look what's happening.

> With all those advantages

But without all that intel from US and NATO, including almost real-time satellite data and location of high value targets.

>> “We did not provide Ukraine with specific targeting information for the Moskva,”

"Don't look at LAT XXX LOG YYY, don't send drones there, don't have some missiles ready"

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/05/us-intelligenc...

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/05/11/...

But Russia has not mobilized. That's why they keep calling this clusterf*ck a 'special operation'. In fact, I don't know the exact numbers, but my impression is that they have less troops than the defenders in Ukraine.

And your comparative is kind of unfair. I mean, the war is kind of stuck, with all the support from NATO. Imagine how it would go without external support.

It really bothers me being "that guy", because I have not special love for Putin and its band of kleptocrats, but come on, let's have a little of critical thinking. Or do you think that the USA support of Ukraine is for "defending freedom"?

We know exactly how the war would go without the external support because that's how the war started. Russia picked the time, date, place and had the initiative, Ukraine wasn't convinced that Russia was going to invade despite US warnings, and yet despite all that the Russian advance bogged down in three days. After one month multiple intelligence sources and an accidental leak from Russia said Russia had experienced around 10,000 fatalities. This was during the period before significant amounts of arms had arrived from other countries. This was done by Ukraine largely using what it had at the outbreak of war. That is a huge number of dead in such a short time. This is not Russia showing competence.

Like you said, Russia hasn't mobilised, but they wouldn't start a war they thought they wouldn't win so the fact they haven't mobilised and invaded anyway shows poor intelligence and lack of judgement. The fact Russia didn't mobilise isn't evidence of Russia secretly been good actually, it's more evidence of incompetence.

And clearly Russia hasn't sent its entire military but since their military is much larger than Ukraine's they can pick the units and equipment most suitable for the mission, where Ukraine just has to use everything, regular military, reservists, paramilitaries, and in many cases volunteers with literally hours of training. So even if the numbers are similar the advantage would still be with Russia.

No matter how you try to paint it Russia had nearly every advantage yet still managed to largely stall in just three days and experience huge losses doing it. It is blindingly clear the Russian military is doing a very incompetent job and it takes some very motivated reasoning to begin to argue otherwise.

It's not just enough to call for critical thinking, you actually have to practice it.

Well, if we know exactly how the war would go without the external support, now with all that external support, should be a walk in the park.

Of course, propaganda is a natural and necessary part of war and what we are reading is mostly pro-Ukrainian propaganda. Stories that are meant to raise morale. You should always take war news with a pinch of salt.

Sure there is always some on both sides; but the Russians were considered a superpower and Ukraine's military was considered much weaker on paper: the Russians are the ones moving backwards and losing all the time. Winners go forwards. Propaganda is mostly useful to the loser trying to convince their population that all is well. Goebbels kept saying Germany was winning even as the Russians and Western allies were already in Germany.

Just a note. Unfortunately the Russian's have reestablished the garrison and anti-aircraft systems on Snake Island (https://twitter.com/ArtisanalAPT/status/1525220038914895872?...)

The cost to do this when the island will likely continue to flip flop in control is callous military incompetence.

Read up on how the Russians fought in WW2. Russia has executed 153000 of their own soldiers, among other things. They defused mine fields by forcing penalized soldiers to walk through them. Nothing has changed.

You don't need to believe propaganda, just look at the map of the invasion and ask yourself how is it possible that a far superior military on paper is losing so badly.

Quantity has a quality all its own.

In all post-Soviet countries they will tell you "Nas Mnogo" (lit. "there's a lot of us") is THE Russian strategy. It used to sound scary when we thought manpower is everything. Today, with drones and things like Javelin... Seems more funny than anything else.

I think it still sounds scary, as in a scary disrespect for human life

Agreed 100%, I never understood Russians themselves using it and being proud of it.

Do you think it seems "more funny" to the grieving relatives of dead Ukrainian and Russian sons?

No, but it wasn't uncommon to have pro-Putin/pro-Soviet Russians tell you this phrase on the street (I live in CZ) - as an insult/threat, usually the next sentence was something like "Czechia belongs to us too and we will soon return". That's what would sound very funny now, especially if they delivered it in the usual manner (drunk rage).

From the military perspective, in a morbid sense - yes.

I guess, you're from US? Anyone with experience with Russians, this situations is not just believable for us, this is Russian default.

if this is the default, do they expect to win via attrition? I don't believe russia can out-industry the west. Perhaps they hope that the voting population gets sick of the cost, and bail out, giving russia the win.

"When things are bad, keep fighting and don't give up" is a pretty common and often extremely useful military mindset.

From the $billions that the war is costing the west, to millions of Ukrainian refugees, to developing grim shortages of many things which Russia and Ukraine were major exporters of, to surging inflation & other economic effects, to the short attention spans of western news/hype cycles, to regular elections which most pro-Ukraine western leaders are facing in the next year or so...

"Win via attrition" is probably too optimistic a phrase. But it would be pretty realistic for Russia to say "our least-bad option is to keep fighting, because our enemies' situations will deteriorate faster than our own".

I have an anecdote from one of my trips to Moscow (I also spent some time in Ukraine for two months and one week, Odessa and Lviv, respectively). This was the one time I was there in winter.

This was many years ago (10? 15?), but I have no reason to think the attitude behind what I describe have changed.

I went on a walk not far from the Kremlin in early evening. Lots and lots of cars on the wintery multi-lane streets in the center of Moscow.

For no reason whatsoever, on many major crossings with four lanes or more, when the other side had to stop because of red light the cars started occupying the opposing lanes(!!!). Yes, the ones for the traffic from the opposite direction, the one that would be needed a minute later when the traffic lights changed colors.

Of course, this lead to total gridlock, because that happened on both sides. So, the started to also use the side walk(!?), for even more standstill gridlock.

There they stood, and I saw this on several major crossings in the city center, facing one another, and no way to untangle this idiotic situation because nobody could move forward any more.

There was no reason for any of this. Police did nothing. It happened every evening that I watched.

Why on earth would you block the lanes for the opposite direction? Even assuming complete selfishness and disregard for others and accepting it, how could one possibly think that would help one get ahead faster? You could see the cars waiting on the other side of the traffic light, the ones whose path you are now blocking.

Funnily enough, I have a few vaguely 'libertarian' (in a UK-sense) friends who don't see that if everyone broke societal 'politenesess'/manners as they do, ekeing a small personal advantage, then everything goes to shit. Sure, one or two do it and they can advance. Well done, them. Everyone does it and back in time we step. People forget that most manners were purely an invention of post-medieval society, not some naturally-inherent instinct.

I feel as much about how Big SV Corps get forward, by externalising little bits of shit that the rest of society has to wipe off its collective face. Looking at you, Amazon.

This feels like some cartoon villain stereotype of a libertarian. Actual libertarians are big into contracts and contract law. They aren't against agreements, let alone politeness or manners. Heck one of the reasons I eventually became a libertarian (UK sense) myself was due to noticing how unfailingly polite and unassuming they all of were despite often being faced with the most vile hatred.

Consider how nonsensical your comparison really is. The problem in question appears in Russia, a place where the largest official political alternative to Putin is the former Communist party. It's the opposite of a libertarian country. Places like New Hampshire or even relatively non libertarian places like the UK on the other hand, simply can't imagine behaviour like that. It's the whole reason it's an interesting anecdote to begin with.

If only I'd said something like "vaguely ‘libertarian’" to dismiss any notion of orthodoxy in the matter. Curiously, my good friend who most suffers from the what I accuse him here also holds himself in similarly-noble terms as you appear to. And yet... .

I don't think prefixing the word vaguely would change anything about your point, which is about ideology and which doesn't make sense for logic reasons alone independent of personal views on whichever is preferable. You can't use people's social behavior in a formerly communist country (one that still has many communist approaches to things), to derive conclusions about libertarians i.e. the exact opposite kinds of people. Russia is like China, it's a nightmare society for libertarians. Nothing about it is libertarian.

While there are several good comments here about how Russian social problems have contributed to their poor military performance, they all neglect what I think is the most significant factor in this conflict. From before the start of the war, US/NATO has been providing enormous intelligence aid to Ukraine.[1]

Consider one guy with a sniper rifle running around the countryside. He's not going to be anything more than a minor annoyance to an invading army. Provide him with real-time intel on the exact location and vulnerabilities of high-value targets, and he's now a serious threat. Extrapolate that to the entire Ukrainian armed forces.

[1] https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/national-security/us-intel-...

There’s a lot of propaganda meant to make Russia look far more incompetent than they are.

There are also countless videos from the war showing Russia’s military is full of people more incompetent than even the most ridiculous propaganda could ever make us believe. I’ve seen loads of tanks and Russians getting blown up in ridiculous ways and I’m really not even going out of my way to search for it.

>There’s a lot of propaganda meant to make Russia look far more incompetent than they are.

They are certainly extremely incompetent, no question about that.

Just ask any person in any army in the West. I talked with some of them. Nobody gave two cents for Ukraine against Russia, because Russia on paper was so overwhelmingly superior.

Specially the US believed Ukraine had no chance against Russia and did not want to send free weapons to Russia(after they defeat the Ukrainians and took their weapons).

Everybody was shocked and surprised by the sheer incompetence of that army. I have a friend that is Colonel in a NATO country and even today is shocked and say they find it very hard not to underestimate them after what we are seeing.

Obviously Ukrainians are not going to show their tanks blowing up on youtube, but the offensive should be already over if the Russians were competent at all.

Probably most of these stories are part of the pro-Ukrainian propaganda - in every war the side people are on makes fun of the adversary.

The bias and narrative is definitely pro-Ukrainian, but the facts are well documented. There's a massive OSINT effort around this war. There's a Dutch group called Oryx specifically tracking material deployment and destruction [1]. That data is also scraped and put into a visual format by a guy on GitHub [2].

[1]: https://www.oryxspioenkop.com

[2]: https://github.com/favstats/uaconflict_equipmentloss

What would that even mean, concretely? It’s not Ukrainian propaganda that the Moskva sunk. Russia admits it. (And if it wasn’t sunk by a Ukrainian missile, extreme Russian incompetence is the other explanation on the table.)

It's perspective. Successes might be exaggerated, things that the Russians actually find a minor inconvenience turned into a major problem, and nothing negative or embarrassing is published about the Ukrainians.

For example, is it 100 soldiers refusing to fight, or 100,000? The former is noise, the latter is an actual problem.

Remember the flag burning photos they used to regularly show in the middle East?

It always looked like a huge crowd, but I remember seeing the regular photos and eventually realizing it was often a tiny crowd of people.

It might only be 20 extremists that the camera was tightly focused on. They often had the camera zoomed in and low to the ground and slightly pointed up so you couldn't clearly see how empty the area was.

And that was a natural consequence of the photographer/TV crew wanting to make money.

They wanted to make it look really packed/busy because it sells more pictures/attracts more viewers.

I don’t see that it is a question of perspective. The scale of Russian losses is well documented, and we know that Russia has failed to remove Zelensky from power or occupy a significant area of Ukraine. Thus by any reasonable measure the whole Russian operation has been a disaster so far. Could that change in future? Sure.

I’m afraid this subthread is an example of HNers being too clever by half. Sometimes the simple narrative that you find in major media outlets is the truth. It’s honestly quite interesting to see the mental gymnastics that people have to engage in to somehow convince themselves that this war is going well for Russia - and not because they support Russia, but merely because they hate the idea of agreeing with the New York Times.

You can believe the information coming out of the war zone is too corrupted to draw conclusions without being motivated by wanting to disagree with the New York Times.

There have been several major, heavily hyped stories about the war so far that just weeks later were admitted to be deliberate lies to booster Ukrainian morale. The Ghost of Kiev and his many kills: never existed. The "fuck you Russian battleship" guy who turned out to be captured, not heroically self sacrificed. Etc. These events weren't mere exaggerations, they were entirely made up.

Given this it's pretty reasonable for rational people to assume we have no idea how the war is going. After all, for every made up Russian kill that gets detected there must be many more that don't. And the same in the opposite direction with Russian state media of course.

>These events weren't mere exaggerations, they were entirely made up.

They were also completely inconsequential stories as far as the overall progress of the war is concerned. You're cherry picking some incomplete or inaccurate stories then using these as a (poor) justification for disbelieving well-confirmed facts about Russian losses.

> I don’t see that it is a question of perspective.

A sunk battleship is a sunk battleship, no doubt about that. And I certainly haven't heard any reports claiming the Russian attack is going well.

But the first time I heard a "top general" had been killed, my mind naturally went to generals I've heard of - the MacArthurs and Zhukovs of this world. If instead it was a one-star general and the Russians have 200 other generals just as capable, the loss might be far less consequential.

There are also a lot of figures floating around that are ripe for causing such confusion. Javelin missiles have a 90-95% kill rate; Ukraine has received 17,000 antitank missiles and says they need 500 per day; any yet, only 400 russian tanks have been destroyed in total?

I haven’t heard of a Russia’s “top general” being killed. What is your source? Rather, several lower ranked generals were killed, which is still objectively bad. There are only two US generals killed in the entire Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and one of them was by an insider in the same room.

Even in WWI and WWII, generals getting killed in combat was unusual.

You asked what it meant, I answered. It's not me adopting a position or even my position and I'm not arguing against you. No-one's saying the war is going well for Russia, we're giving you examples of the pro-Ukraine spin a lot of stories were taking. Especially in the early days when most professional observers were afraid Russia would turn it around, but Western governments needed a lot of public support to spend a lot of money.

One can still hope and wish for a free Ukraine while doing it with our eyes open. You can read the news while being aware of the bias in the media.

In future, just don't ask the question if you don't want to hear the truth. The only mental gymnastics going on is you reading far too much into people attempting to answer your question.

With respect, you didn't actually answer my question, which was what it would mean in concrete terms for 'most of these stories [of Russian military incompetence]' to be Ukrainian propaganda. Your response said very little about the Ukraine conflict specially, except to make the general (and I suppose irrefutable) point that Russian successes 'might be' exaggerated.

What I'd really like to know is what people who believe that the Russian military has acted competently believe about the situation on the ground. Do they think, for example, that Russia is actually in control of large areas of Ukraine and is making significant advances? Do they think that Zelenski is close to capitulating? Or do they somehow believe that the Russian armed forces have failed to achieve all of their strategic goals and yet not actually been incompetent?

And it's not even that clever just to deny the facts for the sake of being contrarian. There's definitely a pro-Ukranian bias in Western media and on twitter, but there's still more than enough signal in there to determine that the war isn't going well for Russia.

Hell, just looking at Putin's facial expressions tells you as much, and that's just one tiny piece of information.

A little bit of selection bias doesn't mean that the signal disappears.

Early on in the Falkland Islands war the British destroyer HMS Sheffield was sank by anti-ship missiles launched from Argentine aircraft. The British Navy was considered at that point the most well trained and equipped in the world. It was widely celebrated across South America as evidence that cunning Argentines were well on their way to an unprecedented victory against the foolish British invaders who underestimated the grit and determination of the Argies.

The British, of course, went on to trounce the Argentines.

Specific facts which are true themselves but have their significance wildly misrepresented (either through the ignorance of journalists or manipulativeness of military media personnel) to partisan media are very common forms of wartime propaganda. Ships are generally considered thought to be easy to sink with the right ordnance when parked along a coast, and it is not uncommon for a military we consider relatively incompetent to be able to sink some of those owned by a G7 power.

The thing is that the British did come very close to losing, and their carrier groups were enormously vulnerable. The whole operation was a huge gamble. So I’m not sure if it should give much comfort to the Russians.

Also, the Russians have had plenty of time to read the board of enquiry report on the sinking of HMS Sheffield. The same mistakes shouldn’t be repeated again.

The British considered destroyers an acceptable risk (and likely losses). You know when you park ships in a sea theater going hot that you're going to lose some. This is just how war works, and nobody can universally prevent losses of materiel by reading British naval reports.

To say that the British came very close to losing marks you as a victim of that wartime propaganda. Sinking that single ship, the Sheffield, caused Argentina to lose 30% of their jets. At that rate, at most, they could have sunk two more ships if they were lucky. When you look at the basic realities of materiel exchange it becomes comical to ever suggest that the British were ever at a disadvantage, but here we are decades later and the idea that the British were ever so close to losing a water war against Argentina is still in people's heads. Quod erat demonstrandum!

If the British were prepared to lose some ships over something as economically and tactically insignificant as the Falkland Islands, what will Russia be willing to lose to not have a NATO supply line run straight up to a massive land border marching distance from Belgorod?

> to not have a NATO supply line run straight up to a massive land border marching distance from Belgorod?

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are NATO members. Russia already has that massive land border on the west, marching distance from Saint Petersburg.

I don't believe what Russian officials are saying about their justifications and goals is true. Russians are simply trying to expand their empire, like they were doing for centuries.

That's obviously not tactically equivalent to the Ukrainian border. The Lithuanian-Polish border between the gap of Russia and Belarus is a mere 100 kilometers wide, with two viable routes for rapid transit of large armor. It is a chokepoint that Russia has always been confident that it can successfully hold if it came to blows.

The Ukrainian border is over 2200 with dozens.

Maybe Russia is simply doing as you say, I have no comment on that and cannot peer into the inscrutable psyche of Russian elites to know for a fact that they would have still invaded had there been no NATO expansion, but the assertion that the Baltics are strategically equivalent to Ukraine in a NATO-Russia conflict is laughable nonsense.

I love Ukraine and its people and am heavily personally invested in the future of the country. My children are Ukrainian citizens. When people say things that are basely untrue it does not help promote quick conflict resolution or prevent further bloodshed. Circulating falsehoods doesn't help anyone.

They are comparable.

The most efficient shipping method is by sea, the fastest one is by air. The importance of that chokepoint is debatable. Flying distance to Moscow is different but not substantially so, 450 versus 600 km. There's nothing too important in Belgorod or Rostov, while Saint Petersburg is 2-nd most populated city, and has industries related to the military.

Historically, Russian governments also viewed these places as strategically important. They annexed these lands by force, twice: after the Great Northern War of 1700–1721, then once again after WW2.

Falkland is British territory. Every sovereign countries are prepared to fight to protect their territories, no matter how insignificant they seem to be. Kirin, Senkaku, Spratly.

Ukraine, on the other hand, doesn’t belong to Russia. If Russia invade Ukraine to prevent NATO at their border, they now have a much longer of that border to protect. They also have to spread their force to fight the insurgency within Ukraine. Finally, Finland now decide to join NATO because of the invasion, exposing Russia to a much bigger threat.

I doubt Russia didn’t see any of those scenarios before they decided to invade Ukraine, so no, it doesn’t make sense to do it because of NATO expansion. Rather, Russia consider Ukraine part of their influence sphere and can’t accept the fact that Ukraine’s people don’t want to be under their manipulation. Russia want to go back to their glory past. Not to mention the resource Ukraine would bring to the empire. NATO is just an excuse.

You're suggesting that the commander of the Falkland's task force was a victim of Argentine propaganda: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2002/apr/03/falklands.world

>At that rate, at most, they could have sunk two more ships if they were lucky

And how many aircraft carriers did the UK deploy to the Falklands? Two :) Just sinking one carrier would have required the withdrawal of the task force. As Admiral Woodward put it, "the Argentinian commanders failed inexplicably to realize that if they had hit either of our aircraft carriers, the British would have been finished."

> ...the Russians have had plenty of time to read the board of enquiry report on the sinking of HMS Sheffield.

At the start of the war, Russia knew that Ukraine had an anti-ship missile in development but not ready for deployment, so they didn't take precautions. Clearly, the Ukrainian missile developers put in some overtime. After the Moskva strike, Russia bombed the missile factory and moved their ships farther out.

> Specific facts which are true themselves but have their significance wildly misrepresented (either through the ignorance of journalists or manipulativeness of military media personnel) to partisan media are very common forms of wartime propaganda

Argentina was the aggressor, and thought (as did most of the world) that the British would not be able to do anything about the invasion.

No one was surprised that Argentina sunk the Sheffield - what surprised the world was how badly Argentina ran the war. Argentina had more and better air power (I recall it was on the order of 50 or so Harriers vs. 122 Argentine aircraft), but failed to use it to achieve anything that resembled air superiority.

> Ships are generally considered thought to be easy to sink with the right ordnance when parked along a coast, and it is not uncommon for a military we consider relatively incompetent to be able to sink some of those owned by a G7 power.

I think it is pretty uncommon to read about a warship being sunk. Modern navies tend to fight at stand-off distances and use layered defenses, where a large ship isn't unescorted, especially when in range of shore based defenses.

> It’s not Ukrainian propaganda that the Moskva sunk.

If you are interested in some backstory on the Moskva, Michael Kofman covers some in an interview[1]. It seems to be true that two Ukrainian missiles struck it and it sank sometime later, but the rest of the story is uncertain. Kofman describes the Moskva as an antiquated rust bucket, with its defensive systems likely not even functional.

[1] https://warontherocks.com/2022/04/ukraines-military-advantag...

> Kofman describes the Moskva as an antiquated rust bucket, with its defensive systems likely not even functional.

Fire sinks ships. In WWII most ships that went to the bottom didn't blow up. They caught on fire, and eventually, sank or were scuttled. If Moskva wasn't ready to fight, was defenseless, or even sea-worthy, what does it say about leadership to put it in range of anti-ship missiles? Finally, the story on Moskva is that it was sunk by a country that barely has a Navy.

> Kofman describes the Moskva as an antiquated rust bucket, with its defensive systems likely not even functional.

You know, that is the kind of truth that actually adds to the story of how bad Russia is doing rather than mitigating that story. Unless that wasn't their flagship (in that fleet), but I never saw that part of the narrative disputed.

But a closely related story of "ship, go fuck yourself" was propaganda. The way it was told implied that solders died heroically, whereby they were taken pow and later returned to Ukraine.

Propaganda works by selecting some facts and amplifying them, all the while hiding others. Note how Ukrainian military losses are never reported, for example. Photos of destroyed Russian tanks are all over the place, but not a single photo of destroyed Ukrainian equipment. The coverage is very selective to paint a specific picture.

>But a closely related story of "ship, go fuck yourself" was propaganda. The way it was told implied that solders died heroically, whereby they were taken pow and later returned to Ukraine.

That was because after the soldiers said that the feed got cut off and Ukraine didn't hear back from the soldiers until Russia said they were captured. So up until as it was revealed they were captured, the worst was assumed.

>but not a single photo of destroyed Ukrainian equipment

There are many photos like this, did you even bother to look?

Oryx's blog for example has 1,040 photos of destroyed/captured Ukrainian equipment

To the extent that I want Ukraine to win, I'm also ok with western media joining their propaganda effort.

I'd prefer to be given the truth. Explicitly asking to be deceived, well I can't understand that.

Yeah, that's never been the way journalism works, though. Read multiple sources, figure out what truth you believe you can infer. That's all there is.

Tolerating propaganda from friendly sources who are at war is hardly asking to be deceived.

It is precisely asking to be decieved. Precisely, exactly and specifically.

Seems like you are not that familiar with propaganda. Good luck.

> There are many photos like this

Not in the mainstream press.


I’m not denying that Ukrainian propaganda exists. My point is that there is a huge amount of evidence that the war is going badly for Russia and that the Russian military has lacked competence. Oddly, lordnacho seems to suggest that they are less inclined to believe this the more evidence for it that they see.

The mere fact that Ukraine still is not occupied by Russia tells you pretty much everything you need to know.

One doesn't need to read news to know that this war isn't going well. Trying to go against a nation that most Russians perceive as brotherly using an army comprising 16 year old conscripts ain't going to go well. Glaring motivation and morale issues, underpaid officers, rampant negligence, indifference and theft - ask any Russian and you will get an earful of how rotten the army is even during the peace time.

> Trying to go against a nation that most Russians perceive as brotherly

Brotherly, but not in equal sense. More like stupid little brother that can't take care of himself.

It is widely known that Russians, for some reason, consider themselves superior out of all Eastern Europe Slavs.

That's just not true. Leave alone being "widely known".

The stupid (or rather gullible/inane) angle is a fairly recent government spin to justify the aggression.

Are you Russian? Or just plain ignorant?

> The stupid (or rather gullible/inane) angle is a fairly recent government spin to justify the aggression.

By "recent" you mean since imperial time?

> army comprising 16 year old conscripts

LOL? It's not like 18 y.o. are significantly older, but claiming they are 16?

>> which is mandatory for all male citizens ages 18–27, with a number of exceptions

The vast majority is still conscripted as early as possible. 18 or 16 - still kids :-/

> My point is that there is a huge amount of evidence that the war is going badly for Russia and that the Russian military has lacked competence.

You can just copy-paste that comment for virtually every army out there. Ukraine is holding up because it is massively supplied with modern weapons that they never had in the first place by foreign powers: this is clearly a proxy war, not a bunch of peasants pushing back well-armed Russians.

This became true as the war continues. Wasn't the case in February.

Western intelligence was expecting Russians to capture Kyiv within several days of the war [1]

Therefore, western countries refused to supply heavy weapons. They remember the 7 billion of military equipment they supplied to Afghanistan [2]

[1] https://www.newsweek.com/us-expects-kyiv-fall-days-ukraine-s...

[2] https://edition.cnn.com/2022/04/27/politics/afghan-weapons-l...

You can’t copy and paste my comment for ‘every army out there’, as some armies are winning wars and aren’t incompetent. That’s such an odd thing to say that I almost feel you must have intended to write something else.

I’m not sure what you’re getting at with the rest of your comment. Yes, Ukraine has Western aid. That doesn’t negate Russian incompetence or mean that Russia is somehow actually winning. For example, it doesn’t explain how the Moskva was unable to defend itself against a small number of current-generation sea-skimming missiles (a threat that’s been around for at least a couple of decades).

The Ukrainian army has been massively scaled up since 2014, with western assistance.

Remember, the Russian invasion already happened when they marched into the Crimea. This is just a continuation.

The incompetence story is at this point only a cost-saving exercise to avoid paying combat-death compensation to Russian sailors wives and orphans. What a class act from the not-so-clean-anymore bandit Vlady. Btw. check out IC3PEAK March it's right on!

>(And if it wasn’t sunk by a Ukrainian missile, extreme Russian incompetence is the other explanation on the table.)

that is very likely the case, because the Ukrainians have lied before and afterwards about similar ships



check out the talk pages. each ship was confirmed to have been sunk by some authorities and had a highly detailed account of the event published by some media

It seems like mostly fog of war combined with media's incentives to have great stories. Really the Ukrainian military is not going to connect it's PR department up to its tactical to get a real soldier to confirm which class of boat was hit. It also serves them quite well that Russia might not understand which threat cost them the Moskva.

Ukraine’s losses are also being reported - it’s not all positive stories

Of course we (the West from my POV) are conducting propaganda. That's war. However at the present level our propaganda is more to do with emphasis and exaggeration.

I think the truth is the Russians are not doing great and we're exaggerating their failures.

Given that you know the outcome: a supposed second strongest military is losing in a war everybody expected them to dominate in a week, explanations like that are the most plausible ones. Hard to believe outcomes have hard to believe causes.

Yep, I'm in awe at some of the other replies. "Keeping up with Russian sources"? The same ones who claimed Ukraine was not a real country or that they were developing battle pigeons? I wonder which side is more likely to be correct: the ones who claim their enemy is incompetent or the ones who claim their enemy is using black magic. Seems clear-cut to me.

I believe the way you feel migh also be somewhat due to a lack of exposure to the environment in which Russians live. While I'm not Russian and have never been to Russia, I do come from Eastern Europe, so a former communist country, and I now live in the West.

There are just so many things one takes for granted in Western democracies which are just not so in a place like Russia. Nothing really works as it should, not public institutions, not private institutions, army, judges or anything else.

Throughout my life I've seen plenty of things which I thought were normal at the time, but make me cringe now. A few brief examples, I can expand on all of them:

- policemen bribed with a raw steak out of the trunk

- doctors who wouldn't treat you without a bribe

- teachers who'd fail unless you went for "private tutoring"

- whole neighbourhoods built without a permit

- nepotism in public/private institutions to the point where whole departments are basically just friends/family

- public/private jobs which are only available for a fee to the right person (e.g. in order to become a nurse, you need to pay X 2000 EUR)

- skipping queues/processes (e.g. getting a passport) by bribes or knowing the right person

- faking official documents in pretty much any circumstance if it's easier for any party involved

- many others that I can't think of right now

In these places everything is solved with a small bribe. It's required and expected and just the way it works. Things have changed since the EU and all, but everyone who grew up in Eastern Europe knows what I'm talking about.

So while I expected the Russian army to be more capable, hearing that they're selling petrol out of their vehicles and don't know how to operate their tanks doesn't even make me raise an eyebrow.

The most amusing thing here is what Ukraine is just the same post-Soviet country with exactly the same problems, but suddenly...

Ukraine is just as corrupt as any other post-Soviet/Eastern European country, but they've got multiple things on their side.

It's easier to defend than attack, it's easier to defend with gigantic Western support via weapons and information, Ukrainians actually understand what they're fighting for and so on.

I was recently back home in my Eastern European country and saw LOADS of young Ukrainian men in flashy cars driving through my city, while men are supposedly not allowed to leave the country.

There is no black or white.

Just because they're post-Soviet country means they can't change?

Since Zelesnky became president, they've started improving. For example https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diia.

> Just because they're post-Soviet country means they can't change?

Means what the corruption is still there. It can't just vanish with a new president.

> they've started improving

Well, good for them? But how that would help to counter the corruption and mentality of doing things off the table?

And AFAIK Russia did it since 2010 I think.

"Do nothing because the results aren't instant". Great advice.

Ah, yes. Care to point where did I said that?

> And AFAIK Russia did it since 2010 I think.

If you mean degrading into authoritarian state without any opposition, with absurd level of censorship and general gaslighting of population - then yes.

I was talking about their e-governance system but I like what you found the answer you searched for.

If Russia were to be invaded, I have no doubts Russians would fight tooth and nail, like Ukrainians today. It’s the matter of life and death.

I think many westerners do not realize the sheer scale of incompetence and lack of standards or protocols in Soviet/post-Soviet organization. Bundled with corruption and misaligned incentive structures, it's ridiculously dumb and ineffective. The whole system is trained to make it look ok from the outside, though (especially when higher ups are coming for inspection).

I'm Ukrainian, and unfortunately familiar with reality of Soviet/post-Soviet organization systems. Before 2014, the word "army" was a joke. Army was a place for those who couldn't make it into universities. Most of the time soldiers were working in fields or building mansions for generals. It all changed after 2014, of course.

But in russia it's been much worse. Historically russia tried to keep army low-status, so it can't pose risks to the ruling class (communist party in USSR, and FSB in post-Soviet russia). Thieves-in-law are higher in the russian power hierarchy, for example. Consider these news (google-translated links):

- Russian conscripts are forced into gay prositution [1]

- Thieves imposed a tribute on russian military base in Kemerovo [2]

[1] https://www-kommersant-ru.translate.goog/doc/742132?_x_tr_sl...

[2] https://lenta-ru.translate.goog/news/2021/12/26/konraktniki/...

"Bundled with corruption and misaligned incentive structures, it's ridiculously dumb and ineffective"

Aren't there the same 'corruption and misaligned incentive structures' in China, yet they seem to be doing rather better?

To my Western mind, it seems similarly crazy.

One thing I took away from a recent Econtalk episode[0] was that the minds of the Russians are not our minds. I didn't grow up in a post/soviet state. I didn't have to deal with that kleptocracy. I am not the commander of thousands of nuclear warheads. My mind is not their mind.

One good and easy vector that I have is the twitter account of the 'Tires Guy' that was popular briefly in the early part of the war [1]. Trent's continuing insights to the conflict, mostly from a logistics perspective, have been good for me to understand the war and the motivations behind the decisions. He brings in a lot of conflicting voices, history, and other media too. He is open about the fact that he can only see white propaganda and tries to balance that out when the data comes in.

Trent's insights on the Syrian conflict, unfortunately, seem to indicate that the Russians are likely to 'lose' the war, but just go on fighting it anyway (again, their mind is not my mind).

I'd give the guy a follow if you'd like to stay up to date on the conflict. It may take a week or more to grok though, so be prepared to be patient.

[0] https://www.econtalk.org/chris-blattman-on-why-we-fight/

[1] https://twitter.com/TrentTelenko

Well, there's the simple matter that they have been on the ground in the Ukraine for a few months now; seemingly without actually achieving any goals worth reporting. They attacked Kiev, tried to surround it and take it, and then Jill Biden went sightseeing there last week. I think it's safe to say that whatever the Russians wanted there failed. Completely and utterly. If you cut through the propaganda, it was Jill Biden touring Kiev and not Putin having a WW II parade there on the 9th of May (which is when they remember the end of WW II). They had one in Moscow instead. Apparently the "special operation" is still going great for them. All according to plan. Or so the propaganda says. But Jill Biden went to Kiev and Putin didn't. Simple realities.

It wouldn't be the first war that Russia got involved in that went badly for them. They only won WW II because of massive amounts of supplies from the US. Very much like the Ukraine is currently being supplied. And of course Afghanistan comes to mind. Russia was there in the 1980s.The US was supplying all sorts of goodies to the Taliban. I saw Rambo III (speaking of propaganda that did not age well).

Of course there's a bit of more recent history in that particular country where the US also got some egg on their face. As a matter of fact, that ended last year after two decades of boots on the ground. The US finally walked away after two decades of throwing their weight around without achieving a victory.

Anyway, you could ask the same questions you are asking about Russia in that context. And of course people have. But it still happened. Yes there is propaganda; but there are also facts on the ground, and lots of bad decision making, bad intel, bureaucratic inertia etc.

I know people from the Ukraine. I run into refugees here in Berlin on a daily basis. I'm sure it's all a bit abstract and distant for you. But it sure feels awfully close and real to me. Nothing that drives the point home of a war than seeing actual people just trying to find a safe place to stay for their families. All I have to do to see that is take a ten minute walk to the main train station here in Berlin.

My brother is military, has been to Ukraine, and has studied Russia as part of his degree. They are a nation in collapse. Corruption and a centralized command structure are a really bad combination.

Their military is like a headless chicken if you take out those in command. Compare that to a more decentralized, guerrilla-military operation from Ukraine, and you have the results we’re seeing.

I have no doubt that what we see here in the west is an inaccurate and one-sided view, but I think there’s still a clear enough picture that Russia is reaping what they’ve sown.

There has been speculation that Putin doesn't realize how badly the war is going:

"We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military, which has resulted in persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership," Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director, told reporters during a press briefing.

"We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions because his senior advisors are too afraid to tell him the truth," she said.


This reeks of propaganda. There is zero chance Putin doesn't have full knowledge of russian troop presence in Ukraine, and you can't really deny that he doesn't have troops in major cities he wants to control.

Way back when, they did make fake newspapers for Lenin to hide the truth from him. It’s the same thing here. The cabal of Russian leaders don’t want to get killed for their incompetence before Putin dies and they replace him with one of their own.

I would believe it in part. Coming from a post-communist country, I can testify corruption levels at all layers of society were massive. We are still working hard to change the collective mentality 30 years after a regime change, and I have all the reasons to believe there is far more work in this regard to be done in Russia.

(Also, the stories from folks who served in the Czechoslovak Army back then border with the incredible)

An armed horde of soldiers is a formidable force, even if the individual soldiers appear to be rather vodka’d

See also: the Capitol insurrection that was taken extremely seriously, even though many of the people were just straight-up morons

> An armed horde of soldiers is a formidable force, even if the individual soldiers appear to be rather vodka’d

Not against modern weapons.

I believe one doesn't need to look at these individual stories of incompetence, failure of tactics and/or technology.

It's simply that you can't take a country of 44 million with 100 thousand soldiers.

What the heck were they thinking?

The whole thing made no sense right from the start. Russia is alienating themselves from the West and its allies. Instead of keeping the grift on Russia going, Putin and his henchmen decided its a good idea to just start a new war in Europe. It's clearly not explainable with common sense.

Tucker Carlson had a good piece on the biolabs in Ukraine and how someone was collecting Russian DNA enmasse.


It's generations and generations of hierarchical control, and nothing else. Men who did anything other than advance towards the enemy as ordered were shot, in WW1, in WW2, even again today. That scene in Stalingrad with the NKVD, completely factual. Look up the WW2 battle of Izium which is just one example. They're fighting there again today.

No, it doesn't make sense by western standards. But this is as much as anything a clash of network topologies - hierarchy vs mesh. Our tolerance for constant debates and internecine arguing doesn't make any sense to them either, if that's any consolation. They think we´re stupid to tolerate it, when it's so much easier and simpler for everybody to just follow the vision of the one true leader. To their death.

You just don't understand Russia culture. Americans live in lala land, they have no clue.

What communism was about in Russia was taken the best people at every single sector in Russia and just exterminating them. In the 1930s over 50% of Dombass engineers were put out of work!

Most of them were later killed. Anyone that had the minimum entrepreneurial spirit(kulaks) was exterminated. Their children could not study on public school, they became pariahs even without access to food.

Their families were humiliated and deported to the other side of Russia.

Over 50% of the economy was the military and police State to control the population that naturally reveled. When workers did strike, the Soviets took hostage of their families, then after the strikes were over the leaders were killed.

Merchants, unions and the Church were also exterminated. All communities gone so nobody could go against the power.

With Putin all the power remained in the KGB, Putin came from it, all the oligarchs were Putin's friends from the KGB. The Church leader was also a member of the KGB.

Ukraine by the way has the same History, the same System and corruption as Russia by the way, but they are fighting for their land, and have the support and training of the West.

Millions of Ukrainians died from starvation with the Soviets while Stalin exported grain. It was on purpose against peasants as punishment.

Americans admire successful people. Russia culture is the polar opposite. Think for a moment about that.

It's unbelievable but the evidence supporting it is overwhelming.

22 years of corruption under Putin has gutted the Russian military

There might have already been nothing there in the first place.

Keeping abreast with Russian sources as well, I would hazard a guess that it’s a little bit of both.

All of those things seem true, but Ukraine has so few forces and Russia has so many, that it kinda balances out.

And this is not highly trained and motivated Israeli fighting a desperate force a generation or two below their tech. Ukrainians seem to be on par, but russians look to be way more able than the Arab alliances from those past wars.

At the start of the war their tech was comparable, and the new weapons poring out of the west are only now reaching frontlines.

Russians are loosing slowly - the failed Kiev offensive is a proof enough of that, its just they have such a strong media clamp down that their people are not exactly aware of how bad things are for them, well nobody knows _really_ right now but it does keep morale high.

And Putin can’t really afford a “graceful loss” - he needs a win, and I think he’s banking on the west not being able to stay coherent for a long enough time, and to wear down the enemy slowly. It’s not without precedent and authoritarian regimes are considered more stable through war than democracies, let alone abstract things like the EU.

Truth died 3 months ago in the west regarding Ukraine and Russian war. If the Russians were really as bad as western propaganda said they were. Macron wouldn't have said too Zelensky to just let Russia anex Ukrainian regions and sign a peace accord same with the Lloyd Austin US defence minister.

I wouldn't be surprised that once the $40 billion "Ukraine bill" gets approved as one last big tax payer slush fund for western elites, the message will change real quick how the Ukrainians fought like brave lions against the Russian asiatic hordes.

But the Russian asiatic hordes were just too much, how the Russians used human wave attack, while reality russia is fighting a Ukrainian force that is 2~3 times the size of the Russians fighting forces.

Do you think Russia is attaining any of its goals? Ukraine was corrupt, debilitated and inept. Yet it holds against Russia. Minor resistance crippled what we thought was a war machine.

Russia isn’t a great power. It’s a nuisance that now, thankfully, falls almost solely to Beijing go manage. Yet we keep pretending it’s a real threat, the real crime herein.

Russia cleaned Mariupol of nazi, they are now starting to clean up Ukrainian eastern army the most experienced fighting force in Europe they have been fighting the Donbass people republic army since like 2014. Ukrainian cannot join NATO or the EU as long as the war wages on. Those were the main objectives Putin said in his war speech at the end of februari.

Now within Europe the next most capable NATO army is the polish army which is even worse equipped than the Ukrainian one. As a person that still lives in the EU its kinda worrying to see the Russian chew through the EU NATO best regional armies as if it's just a sweaty warming up.

Regarding Russias great power status i don't agree they are a great power and one that isn't even that limited regionally seen, they are active in the middle east, north Africa and central Asia they are just not a super power like the US and China.

> the Russian chew through the EU NATO best regional armies as if it's just a sweaty warming up.

Russians are fighting NATO troops now? You have a source for that?

edit: I know I shouldn't be engaging in this as refuting nonsense like this takes more effort than creating it.

Jesus Christ, that's one if the most absurd things I've read in a while. Nazis in Mariupol? Russians chew through EU NATO?

Russia would already be in pieces if it wasn't for nuclear weapons.

So those soldier accidently put on Nazi symbols or tattoo on their bodies really weird, and people wonder how the holocaust could happen in Europe during ww2.

Yeah Ukrainian army is one of the better equipped and manned army of NATO. Hell turkey is the second biggest NATO army after the US. Germany as a army is non existing reason why they need this $100 billion to bootstrap their rearmament program and the yearly 2% GDP to keep up to standards.

> So those soldier accidently put on Nazi symbols or tattoo on their bodies really weird

How many soldiers, under who's command?

> and people wonder how the holocaust could happen in Europe during ww2.

Weak strawman, try harder.

https://www.businessinsider.com/russia-fighter-neo-nazi-symb... https://www.trtworld.com/magazine/who-are-male-state-the-rus...

> Yeah Ukrainian army is one of the better equipped and manned army of NATO. Hell turkey is the second biggest NATO army after the US.

Ukraine isn't part of NATO, what are you even talking about?

> Germany as a army is non existing reason why they need this $100 billion to bootstrap their rearmament program and the yearly 2% GDP to keep up to standards.


>2~3 times

it's far worse than that. even volkssturm conscripts are being sent to the frontlines. it's everything that Ukraine has - which is a lot in a country of 40-something million people, against a contingent of 150-200 thousand men

Russia is also partially backed up by Donbas army but thats also pretty much an experienced conscription army. People also don't know that the Ukrainian army is probably the most experienced army in NATO to fight a great power rival and the best equipped army in eastern Europe.

> while reality russia is fighting a Ukrainian force that is 2~3 times the size of the Russians fighting forces.

This is not the reality though. At the start of the war at least, Russian troops count exceeded Ukrainian ones by a factor of 2 if not more.

Source: https://www.google.com/search?q=russia+vs+ukraine+troops+cou...

The google result show every male is getting conscripted, that Ukraine had 900k reservist that had military training in the last 5 years. In total like 1.2 million Ukrainian fighting force vs the 170~200k Russian fighting force plus the Donbas militia.

So 900K Ukrainian reservists are added towards the fighting force, while the Russian reservists are not?

With right goal post shifting and creative definitions of "fighting force" you may be able to show that Ukrainians are a larger force.

Then there is this thing as reality. On actual battlefields Russians outnumber Ukrainians.

It’s always the same thing with the Pro-Russian arguments : it’s all or nothing. Never any space for nuance. Russia must be winning, one Western leader made one query implying trouble for the Ukrainians.

Go and have yourself some democracy for a century or two, and learn the concept of nuance and compromise.

Russia would never lose this war, the west is talking about uber soldiers and wunderwaffe being shipped to the Ukrainian side. How are those US drones doing have they shifted the war to the Ukrainian side?

Jury’s still out, but the Kiev offensive was a clear failure.

Like I said, learn nuance.

Russia’s military really isn’t good.

Their problem is that the Russian military has an ongoing history of not fighting against militaries—it’s not their focus. They fight against civilians. The Soviet period was endless murder of their own people. Endless atrocities were committed in Afghanistan. Massacres and rapes against civilians in African countries are reported with disturbing frequency. Ukraine is following that exact script.

There’s no longer much of a worry of a prolonged war being beneficial to Russia. It’s that they’re just going to increasingly terrorize civilian targets and further expand their genocidal tactics. Rape and massacres of civilians are already being reported in huge numbers. It’s going to expand. Macron probably thinks Russia will just stop doing it if they’re allowed to have a nibble of Ukraine, but Ukraine knows they’ll just keep doing it until they’re driven out entirely.

On this topic, a french journalist also highlighted the use of small civilian plane navigation devices on Russian jet fighters, most likely because of the lack of access to components with the sanctions.

For anyone wondering, yes I do know how to spell "troops".

I submitted the story with its original title:

> Russian troops are proving that cell phones in war zones are a very bad idea

The HN code auto-corrected this in a most amazing way:

> Roops are proving that cell phones in war zones are a very bad idea

I was on mobile and tried to make the obvious correction to that, but missed a letter! And now the edit deadline has expired. Ah well.

This proves that with a combination of human and machine intelligence, anything can go wrong!

@dang If you see this, I wonder if you could fix my typo, and also in your copious free time figure out how the original title got corrected to "Roops"? :-)

Email the moderators directly at hn@ycombinator.com

(I've done so in this case.)

Came to post exactly this. It's like the Stavos (?) thing from few years back where everyone saw the secret running track on secret bases. Only this is not an amusing running track, but dying.

It does emphasise something I have been saying for a while - privacy is the politeness of your neighbours, and secrecy is dead.


Fitness app Strava lights up staff at military bases - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-42853072.amp (Jan 2018).

What did I do now?

By the way, I remember a similar case in Russia. A telco company published a heat map created from GSM location data that reflected where in the city yound people spend their time. One of the "hot" spots on the map was in a remote forest area with nobody living around. Most probably it was a military object.

"secret running track" feels like a joke, but the point it illustrates is clear - the massive uncontrolled dispersion of location data.

There was also a case of soldiers using flash-card apps to learn about the nuclear bases they were stationed at, revealing various facts.


This shows that people generally don't understand client-server architecture and think that the app stores data on their phone and not somewhere in cloud.

case in point: https://www.engadget.com/2018-03-13-after-exposing-secret-mi...

Strava exposed unmarked US bases since soldiers were using the app for fitness tracking, and suddenly unexpected parts of the globe had activity in their heat map that Strava chose to publish.

I am very surprised that the Russian military hasn't simply cut all the fiber optics running into and out of the areas where they're operating. Does anybody have insight on this?

Fiber isn't hard to find. The aerial stuff is unmistakable (snowshoes or other slack-loop storage). The buried stuff has conductive marker tape, like the stuff used for locating buried power lines but with a different resonant frequency.

It can't be that hard to find the few fiber optic arteries into/outof the next city they want to crap all over and cut each trunk once.

Would love to know why this hasn't been done. Obviously I would not make a good general.

Edit: okay, the article mentions this, claiming that the Russians don't have VHF radios, which I find to be an utterly ridiculous claim. This is 1960's (or earlier!) technology folks. Does not pass the smell test. Even if they've resorted to "civilian handheld radios", those don't need cell towers or fiber optics.

Early on, it was rumored that Russian troops were under orders to not damage infrastructure. That makes sense especially if they expected to take the country without much of a fight. Even so, one stereotypical difference between American and Russian approaches to war is that Americans try to bomb everything to rubble before sending in troops, while Russians try to preserve infrastructure they can use once they capture territory.

Usually the military doesn't target infrastructure they'll need themselves.

I've seen various Ukranian sources mention Starlink as a useful comms tool.

Sure, but I don't see how the Russians need the Ukranian fiber optic network or cell network. By all reports it's being used against them quite effectively.

Military orders go over VHF radio, not cell networks.

I have a hard time believing that Russia is incapable of invading countries without cell towers (although it would be cool if that were true!)

> I've seen various Ukranian sources mention Starlink as a useful comms tool.

That's actually yet another reason for them to take out the fiber optics. Starlink only reaches a hundred miles or so; beyond that it needs fiber.

Bit of a late reply but fyi - the Russians have been using cell networks to communicate military orders, which is perhaps the piece of the puzzle you were missing.

> Usually the military doesn't target infrastructure they'll need themselves.

Apparently the Russians destroyed mobile towers despite their own encrypted phones relying on civilian 3G/4G infrastructure:


Aren't soliders across the world taught of this? like how does it even happen in current_year

The Russians don't have reliable communications, so it's not like there's that much choice.

Furthermore, the level of training and education of the average Russian soldier is.. not great. Look at some of the things they did around Chernobyl for an example of their knowledge gaps. Same goes for their discipline ( low morale, poor training, corruption, encouragement of war crimes will do that).

> The Russians don't have reliable communications, so it's not like there's that much choice.

Oh come on, VHF radio is stupid reliable. It's a war zone, so nobody's enforcing TX power limits. I don't buy this explanation. They aren't downloading multigigabyte 4k video, they're issuing combat orders. VHF has done a great job with that for decades.

Have you seen the captured kits? Some soldiers have cheap walkie-talkies (literally commercial off the shelf cheap Chinese brands), but many others have nothing.

If i recall correctly, their aircraft are supposed to be fitted with some high tech super encrypted communications system, but it doesn't work, which is why they use phones (with buttons).

It's not a matter of "the tech is too complex", it's more of a "the people supposed to implement/acquire/rollout this relatively basic tech pocketed the money instead".

> Some soldiers have cheap walkie-talkies (literally commercial off the shelf cheap Chinese brands)

Which need neither fiber optics nor cell towers.

Baofengs aren't actually all that bad (they're not all that good either).

Claiming that they are so poor they couldn't order a palletload of Baofengs is just so far beyond believable...

It's not a matter of being poor, but corrupt. The money was allocated, and later stolen.

You cannot talk to your friends or girlfriend using radio though.

Yep, or ask your girlfriend for permission to rape, or tell your parents you're sending them a washing machine, or posing for TikTok.

They don't have VHF radio.

How do they leave so many dead bodies of soldiers behind in current_year? There's a lot you can ask about the mess in the Russian military culture.

This is why Russian troops are forbidden to have cellphones and to use social media.

Probably the superiors did not waste time explaining the reason and just demanded their phones, then the Russian soldier stole or robbed a phone and called home since he knows there is a big chance that he will be dead soon.

So if you think that your soldiers have this need to talk home maybe an competent army should offer them some alternatives, like some satellite phone they can use once a day and call home, you can't expect 18 years old forced to go to war to be professionals.

Yeah I bet they are also forbidden from looting.

No cell phones on the battlefield seems like operational security 101. Deployed soldiers should not get cell phones, ever. I wonder if this happens more because of bad military policy about cell phones, bad enforcement of said policy, or because even for deployed soldiers it's next to impossible to survive in the modern world without a cell phone. I suspect it has a lot to do with the latter. Cell phones are completely inescapable.

There is lots reporting about video/photo and geolocation uses of mobile phones in the war zone that seem to pay off, the reality seems to be a bit more nuanced. See eg https://time.com/6166781/ukraine-crowdsourcing-war-crimes/

I strongly suggest a different point of view: having always smart devices nearby is a bad idea. For us, civil in peace.

Why? Because letting very few to know very much about us while most of us know next to nothing about them is VERY VERY VERY bad for Democracy.

A small example: let's say you are named Alphabet or Microsoft, does not matter, and you have started to harvest data, no one can know if, how and when you do, from "remote schooling", let's say you have an in-house well developed behavioral model and you are very skilled in ads and propaganda campaigns... What stop you from identifying most skilled students for aspects of your interest and drive, an ad at a time, their interest toward you, so depriving you potential new competitors of talents, perhaps directing bad students to them? When you have essentially the complete control of all human communications because they simply happen on your platform you are not a company anymore, you are a de-facto corporate-state and your customers are your slaves.

Remember a thing: if there is no privacy for all it's ok, if there is complete privacy for all is equally ok. If we are almost all in balance it's ok, if very few hold too much all others will suffer. War is the extreme example, but it's a VERY good one, because as Carl von Clausewitz have written years ago war is just politics by other means and modern management/corporatocracy is just kind-of mock war by few against many others, against customers included, since lock-in, coercion etc pay back well.

"To some, this type of scenario may seem...hyperbolic"

Or just wildly inaccurate given the lack of cell phone networks at sea...

Once they are on land

Military needs to bring it's own crll towers, so troops don't need to use local phone operator.

The best targets are those emitting strong signals.

Pretty sure it has nothing to do with Starlink.

*troops, fix the heading please

Yes, I noticed the typo after the two-hour edit window. Hopefully dang will fix it.

There is a mildly amusing story behind this. Or perhaps I am easily amused!


If you want dang to fix it, click the contact button on the bottom. I always get a response, and usually it's extremely quickly.

It is amusing xD


But this was the public statement of Putin himself and captured Russian soldiers, so...

They may have expected support from citizens in Eastern Ukraine where there has been a war going on for years, but I have yet to hear concrete evidence that this was expected throughout Ukraine.

Also, captured soldiers will say anything under duress, and I have yet to see a verifiable survey of captured soldiers. Relying on The words of a few soldiers is nonsense.

It’s very much a fact, though.

Before the war started, my girlfriend (Ukrainian) said she figured that if Russian soldiers came, Ukraine would just let them in in peace. She didn’t expect Russia to go ahead with an invasion in the first place, and didn’t realise war was what would be involved. Her attitude obviously very quickly changed when she saw her country was fighting back, morale is an important component of this.

It was always delusional to think west Ukraine would welcome Russia, but east Ukraine had been consuming a LOT of Russian propaganda up to the war. And when we talk about eastern Ukraine we aren’t talking about the bordering cities currently suffering heavy occupation, we are talking about the entire eastern half.

If Ukrainians themselves were thinking it, there is no question soldiers were as well. You may have seen comms of dead Russian soldiers in the early days of the war talking about this, including a sms conversation that got famous when being read out at the EU parliament.

> It’s very much a fact, though.

> my girlfriend (Ukrainian) said

> comms of <some> dead Russian soldiers in the early days of the war talking about this,

> including a sms conversation

So a girlfriend, some comms, and an sms conversation prove the attitude and expectations of an entire military force and their leaders?

If you are determined to not believe all the report, why asking? This point came up from all sides - from soldiers, from putin, from spies inside Russia, from political observers of Russia. It is literally one of complaints against FSB - they claimed support for Russia in Ukraine is high and that they build up collaborators.

But, if you are determined to not believe, because I dont know why ...

It’s simply a “point” brought up by a few people with little concrete evidence to prove it. I find this type of journalism to be closer to a gossip column (driven by intelligence agencies and the people that want to believe it is true) rather than a true news story with appropriate facts. The reporting on the Ukraine conflict is borderline pathetic and mostly driven by people that have no idea what is truly happening. Who’s propaganda do you want to believe?

If you discount what soldiers say, what Putin says, what Russian propaganda says and so on as no evidence, then sure.

I think it's more likely that Putin lied about this, and the soldiers were told the same lies. Russia trusted that collaborators / saboteurs in Ukraine would allow them to crush the remaining resistance very quickly. This is allegedly how Cherson fell so swiftly: https://m.dailykos.com/stories/2022/3/29/2088926/-Ukraine-up...

And recently Arestovych said that the first days of the invasion a lot of saboteurs and assassination squads were in Kiev trying to topple the government.

Of course you can't believe everything the Ukrainians say either, I just think it's pure propaganda from Putin when he said the Ukrainians would welcome Russia as liverators.

that's very hard to believe after what happened in 2014 in Crimea.

what do you mean hard to believe? it worked in the Donbas region, Harkiv is majority Russian speaking... from Putin's office looking at a map it was the same situation, and hyping up the Nazi, ultra-nationalist, anti-Russian threat also seemed like a trivial thing, after all it seems to work in Moscow.

it was a cognitive bias, thinking too much about how and why it could/should work instead of looking at why it couldn't (eg. because the strong selection effect of the repressed political activities of Moscow versus Ukraine, plus the strong rose tinted glasses he and many Russians have that color everything positive that seems like the old Russian Empire, whereas Slavic people a thousands of kilometers away have a rather different view of how great that is and was.)

It didn't work in Donbas in 2014 either. Neither it did in Odesa and other cities during Maidan. The level of domestic support was unexpectedly low (for them), that's why they had to rely on local criminal gangs and resort to recruiting the far-right activists from Russia by May 2014 (such as "neo-Cossacks" or former RNU members), then the military vets by June. The native separatist movement in Donetsk that existed there in small numbers has been pushed aside.

I mean it "worked" in the sense that Putin got the bare minimal of support so there was at least a few separatist figureheads. :/

> it worked in the Donbas region, Harkiv is majority Russian speaking

I'm pretty sure Russians understand that not all of Ukraine is pro-Russian.

Russians are a lot of people. some wholeheartedly believe that the current war is started against the Nazis who hold Kiev and hunt the Russian population.

and Putin likely counted on at least some support from some parts of the population in Ukraine. as evidenced by their plan of quick victory, and that the Ukrainian government will collapse, and it will be easy to install a puppet government. just as Janukovic was relatively popular some years ago

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