Putin doesn’t realize how much warfare has changed

By | March 24, 2022

Antony Beevor writes:

Otto von Bismarck once said that only a fool learns from his own mistakes. “I learn from other people’s,” the 19th-century German chancellor said. Astonishingly, the Russian army is repeating the past mistakes of its Soviet predecessor. In April 1945, Marshal Georgy Zhukov, under intense pressure from Stalin, sent his tank armies into Berlin without infantry support. Vladimir Putin’s forces not only made the same error; they even copied the way their forebears had attached odd bits of iron—including bed frames—to their tanks’ turrets in the hopes that the added metal would detonate anti-tank weapons prematurely. This did not save the Russian tanks. It simply increased their profile and attracted Ukrainian tank-hunting parties, just as the Soviet tanks in Berlin had drawn groups of Hitler Youth and SS, who attacked them with Panzerfausts.

The Russian president’s distorted obsession with history, especially with the “Great Patriotic War” against Germany, has skewed his political rhetoric with bizarre self-contradictions. It has clearly affected his military approach. Tanks were a great symbol of strength during the Second World War. That Putin can still see them that way defies belief. The vehicles have proved to be profoundly vulnerable to drones and anti-tank weapons in recent conflicts in Libya and elsewhere; Azerbaijan’s ability to destroy Armenian tanks easily was essential to its 2020 victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Yet Putin seems to have learned as little as he has forgotten. In August 1968, the Warsaw Pact forces entering Czechoslovakia were told by their political officers that they would be welcomed as liberators. They found themselves cursed, out of fuel, and hungry. Morale was shattered. Putin’s control of domestic media can hide the truth from most of the Russian population, but his conscripts, forced now to sign new contracts to turn them into volunteers, are all too aware of the reality. [Continue reading…]

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