Speed Reads

'incremental and somewhat anemic'

Pentagon sees 'anecdotal reports' Russian officers are slow-walking attack orders in Ukraine

There was a lot of speculation Monday on why Russian President Vladimir Putin did not declare any sort of victory in Ukraine, or even say the word "Ukraine," in his Victory Day speech. U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan told CNN it was "because even the Russian propaganda machine couldn't back that one up." 

Russia keeps hitting Ukrainian cities and towns with missiles and bombs, but "they really haven't achieved any significant progress on the lines of access that they had anticipated achieving in the northern Donbas," and "there's been virtually no progress in the south," a senior Pentagon official said Monday, describing Russia's ground campaign as "incremental and somewhat anemic."

"Seizing this corner of eastern Ukraine, with its close ties to Russia, was supposed to be an easier task for the Kremlin's blundering army. But the blundering goes on," the BBC's Andrew Harding reported from the Donbas on Monday. "The Russians have been pounding these frontline positions for weeks now, but the big picture here in the Donbas is that the Kremlin's offensive has largely stalled. They've taken hardly any significant towns, and and the Ukrainians are making them pay a heavy price for every scrap of land."

The Russians "are trying to do what we — in the U.S. military — refer to it as combined arms maneuver," or moving all your assets "in some sort of orchestrated, organized fashion," but "they have not been very successful," the senior Pentagon official said. "We still see anecdotal reports of poor morale of troops. And the officers refusing to obey orders, and move." These "anecdotal reports" typically involve "midgrade officers" up to battalion leaders who "have either refused to obey orders or [are] not obeying them with the same measure of alacrity that you would expect an officer to obey."

"Russian commanders rarely delegate operational authority to their subordinates, who in turn do not gain vital leadership experience," so the "faltering Russian performance on the front line" has "drawn senior commanders onto the battlefield," Britain's Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update Sunday. "The forward deployment of commanders has exposed them to significant risk, leading to disproportionately high losses of Russian officers in this conflict. This has resulted in a force that is slow to respond to setbacks and unable to alter its approach on the battlefield."