The lack of blitz in Putin’s blitzkrieg no longer appears to be a failure of deployment. Instead, it seems to be a deficit of military power. True, the Russian leader miscalculated in thinking that the Zelensky government in Ukraine would cut and run, allowing Kyiv to fall into his hands. But the revised tactics the Kremlin is using now are emphatically not the tactics of a 21st-century fighting force.
Day One of Putin’s Folly, Feb. 24, is highly revealing in hindsight. Step 1 hasn’t led to Step 2. Russia did not establish air superiority. Its tanks and infantry immediately bogged down, allowing time for Ukrainian fighters to lay mines, fortify positions and plan ambushes.
The inability to follow up on its initial display of modern might illuminates another Russian weakness: Its precision munitions appear to be in short supply. Whether laser-guided or steered by GPS, smart bombs are increasingly the coin of the realm in 21st-century warfare.
This might explain recent Russian operations in Syria. As in Ukraine, Putin ordered indiscriminate bombing using outdated weapons. But some Western analysts speculated that Putin was doing this to sow confusion over whether Syria, rather than Russia, was inflicting the damage.
Now, Putin is showering dumb bombs on Ukraine, and the confusion is gone. His initial volley of precision munitions was, evidently, an exercise in let’s-pretend. And it might have worked — if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had not stood fast. Instead, it appears Russia’s military is mired in 1970.
This brings up yet another weakness. Lacking precision-guided munitions, Russia must rely on relatively low-flying bombers and ground-based artillery for its assaults against Ukrainian cities. Inevitably, that means more targets for the Ukrainian resistance, which will produce more corpses of Russian soldiers and pilots — and more grief in the motherland.