previous post next post  

South Ossetia, a hummer-top AAR.

With the Tsar, er, Soviets, oops!, um, Russians putatively pulling out of Georgia today, what have we learned (in terms of stuff not already covered ad nauseum around here)?

Well, regardless of the reasoning applied in Tbilisi, they clearly misread the tea leaves as their own forces left their start positions. By the morning of the next day, there were Russian forces flowing into South Ossetia via the Roki Tunnel and by air. Clearly the Russians were ready and prepared. No shock, having been conducting their own exercises on their side of the border, providing all the time and pretext they needed to have their forces and logistics in place. In that regard, the Georgians, apparently trying to pull off an "in-stride" attack leveraged off their own on-going exercises, set themselves up for failure by giving the Russians all the pretext they needed to be in place, ready, and to some extent, rehearsed.

Just hours after the Georgians began their offensive, an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 Russian troops were on the main highway leading into Georgia. By 1:00 pm on August 8, there were reports of roads filled with hundreds of tanks, APCs, and cannon and rocket artillery, moving through the Roki Tunnel.

Given those numbers, that starts to look a lot like a motorized rifle division, moving from a standing start (maybe) in their laagers on the Russian side of the border. You don't "uncoil" a heavy division from it's assembly areas on a whim. There's a plan. We spent significant amounts of time during the planning for things like the REFORGER exercises in Germany, planning the march tables to deploy a division from tactical assembly areas into combat positions. There are many things to consider in laying that out, all driven by the considerations of the factors of METT-T (Mission, Enemy, Troops, Terrain, Time). Leave aside the relative complexities of making sure everybody is fueled, armed, and has their basic loads of beans and bullets - you have to consider are you going to have to fight your way through? Clear obstacles? What kind of fights and where? How often will you have to refuel on the way? What's the recovery plan for break-downs? What's the road clearance plan should refugees start clogging the roads? What's the threat on the line of march? At the release point?

All these things and more drive how long your march columns are, who is where in them, what tactical spacing they maintain, what the convoy speed (vice catch-up speeds) is needed - and that's a complex matter - because your best speed is that of your slowest vehicles... at least for whoever is behind them. So you may have to plan 'passing points' and things like that in case there is a need for slow vehicles to be up front in the march columns. The point being - this isn't something you do on a whim. It takes detailed, competent planning - good, solid staff work - which is something not necessarily seen as a strength in the Russian Army during their forays in Chechnya in the 90's. Ivan has gone to school on himself, and part of the message here is - at least a part of the Russian Army has it's groove back.

But wait - there's more! Russian media reported on 9 August that elements of the 76th Air Assault Division based in the Leningrad Military District had already been airlifted into Tskhinvali, with elements of the 96th Airborne Division based in the Moscow region chalked as follow-on forces. These may have been the battalion task forces that General Vladimir Boldyrev, commander of Russian Ground Forces, said captured Tskhinvali early on. These units are the Russian equivalent of 18th Airborne Corps, the US's rapid response force - and we're seeing that in just a couple of days, the Russians have a light corps with a heavy component (just like 18th (Airborne) Corps) on the ground and undertaking operations. Admittedly, this is easier to do when you have forces in place on the ground and in your own backyard - but make no mistake - this represents a real accomplishment for the Russian armed forces. That was *not* an easy thing to do. And, of course, nor did they do it on a whim.

Another aspect of all this is that the Russians were committing troops with significantly more combat experience in this kind of war and this kind of terrain. The Russians have been using Chechnya, next door, as a live training ground for their professionalized forces (vice the conscripts) and there are some reports suggesting that some of the Russian units were pro-Russian Chechen paramilitary formations. The Georgians have been getting training and weapons from the U.S. and Israel over the last few years - but that training was mainly for peacekeeping operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This was of limited use against experienced Russian troops - and provides an example of why there is some disquiet in US military circles about a perceived loss of proficiency in MCO-style operations.

As I've been able to track it - the Georgians did better in the air and at sea, even though they were greatly outnumbered there as well, and in the end it didn't really matter. Georgian warplanes shot up the Russians pretty badly for a while before the Russians were able to shut down the Georgian air force. But in the process Russia lost at least four aircraft destroyed, and a number of others badly damaged. The USAF will undoubtedly go to school on this - but the Russians have some ways to go in their air campaign planning, I think. They seems to have done well in terms of air logistics, but the "gain and maintain" air superiority piece will probably get some polishing. 

I've not really tracked the performance of Russian naval forces.  Anyone with an interest and knowledge in the arena of Air and Naval ops is welcome to chime in here.

As we know here, it being of interest to many of us, the Russians ran a large scale InfoWar campaign, shutting down Georgian access to the Internet for several days, and blanketing the world media, and Internet, with Russian spin on what was going on in Georgia and why. Hello, Gospodin Vadim!

Russia has now shown that she's interested in the Great Game again. Russia has been trying to annex two parts of Georgia that border Russia, and wants to ensure all the states that border her and can be intimidated, are intimidated. Which brings to mind one of the things Sanger had to say in a comment on previous posts - you are as sovereign as your neighbors allow you to be, or that you can assert. This war was all about showing Georgians and other interested parties that Russia would enforce their view of sovereignty. The UN was putatively created to deal with this sort of thing, but Russia is doing well, so far, intimidating the UN into inactivity - but the truth is - despite some heated rhetoric in some circles - no one wants to go to war over Georgia at the moment. Except Russia.

It's a clear victory, short term, for the Russians. Long term, maybe not so much. The Poles, who were playing cute over missile defense - and the recipient of warnings themselves about things like that - suddenly developed an intense interest in the subject.  No doubt Ukraine and Byelorussia are taking notes - as clearly the Baltic states are. NATO and the Europeans have been reminded that the Russian bully they have feared and despised for so long - is no longer the drunken bully who is staggering around, more a danger to himself than others. He's cleaned himself up, and it turns out he's not just a mean drunk.  He can be mean sober, too. Or at least prickly about issues of honor and self-interest.  

The Russian General Staff has demonstrated that they've got some skillz. In some respects, I think the Russians, while enjoying the moment, will come to regret showing to their neighbors that they've come so far from their parlous state in the 1990's. In this, they've lost the element of surprise, and caused NATO and others to look at them through Cold War eyes. Which is exactly what caused the Soviet Union to go belly up.


Clearly the Russians were ready and prepared. No shock, having been conducting their own exercises on their side of the border, providing all the time and pretext they needed to have their forces and logistics in place.

I couldn't remember if it was you or someone else who was talking about going to war under the watchful eye of satellites and ever present spy planes that armies could no longer conceal their movements behind mountains, hills and forrests so they had to do it by having  manouvers and or other routine activities that would lull the opposition into not paying attention to their activities or dismissing them until it was too late. 

As I was reading the last four months worth of dispatches from, it was very apparent that these two countries were about to go to war.  Even that there were pro-russian or at least pro-unification parts of the Georgian government.  Possibly these were infiltrated.  There were a lot of things going on such as sabotage, Russian forces, allegedly "peace keepers", carrying mines, rocket propelled grenades and various other arms in the back of a car on their way to S. Ossetia (yeah, how did those Georgian Army marked ammunition boxes end up at Beslan?).  Georgians kept the munitions, but were forced to return the Russian officers.  The Russians had the gull to demand the weapons, too. 

Then, the Russians were rebuilding that rail line along the coast in Abkhazia.  Looks like somebody on the Georgian side tried to sabotage it (not very well though) and tossed a mine on the track.  It didn't go off, but since the Russians were claiming the rail line was for "humanitarian aid" (what?  the three ports and the two over mountain roads weren't good enough?), they were claiming the Georgians were trying to kill their peace keeping, humanitarian efforts and Russian forces.   Of course, the Russians ended up using that rail line to bring in a ton of vehicles, somehow, magically on a whim.  (Yeah, you know, because pulling together all those flat bed rail cars for a couple hundred vehicles happens over night; not to mention the Russian magic genie that snaps his fingers and, voila, fifty rail cars are loaded and secured in three hours).

Both sides started blowing each other up with tossed grenades, IEDs, VBIEDs, mortars, etc.  Raids into whatever territory.  Opposition leaders and suspected spies were being arrested.   Russian planes started routinely flying over Georgia, despite Georgian protests or American protests at the UN security council.

As I said in the other posts, these guys were going to war and we were busy eyeballing Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Frankly, I don't think Saakashvili misread the tea leaves.  he was about to be invaded.  I think he was desparately trying to save his country with a pre-emptive strike and simply did not have the men, weapons, means or, for that matter, good plan or good enough leaders, to do the deed. 

the part about the Roki tunnel is bothering me.  and the rail lines in Abkhazia.  It was as if they were half-arsing it all the way. 

Russian Navy - try the wired danger room article I linked and his blog

Pretty much points to the same thing.  Russian Navy, locked, loaded full of Russian bears and equipment, hanging out in the Black Sea waiting the go sign, magically appearing at Ochimirie in 12 hours from a distance of 400 nautical miles.  Did I mention they were fullyloaded? 

Pretty much, Georgia was screwed and Saakashvili was desparate. 

Oh, and I think there are way too many spies down in that area. 

heard michael totten was going to trot over that way from Azerbiajan.  Might try to catch him
I tend to think the Georgians were trying to pull off a spoiling attack, and hoped to sieze the Roki tunnel. Whether that was realistic is debateable.

If you want a good look at the naval aspect, you really need to go visit Information Dissemination and scroll back through the posts he put up.
BTW - I don't think the thugs riding that BMP in the top picture are Russians.  They're pro-Moscow Chechens, and a nasty bunch at that, led by a couple of brothers.  So nasty that the Moscow installed governor of Chechneya asked Moscow to disband them.

So when Putin says Russian troops aren't committing atrocities, he's technically correct.  It's his mercenary paramilitary thugs that are doing it.

I'll check the Early Bird back at my office for the article on those guys.

Arkady Babchenko in Georgia has taken some hard core pics that indicate to me that the South Ossetian, Chechen and Cossack terrorists unleashed upon the Georgian civilian population are light-skinned janjaweed.

Tough guys

Six weeks before invasion, VoA in Russia goes blind, deaf and dumb

Oh, the propaganda:
Ts'khinvili is largley unmolested (by Georgians) and Russian paramilitary are all over the place, looting, robbing, killing and all sorts of unsavory things that Russia apparently didn't bring enough troops to secure the territory.  Most of the dead may be Georgian, not Ossetian.  I believe the Russians are going to try to add Gori to the S. Ossetian province either directly or as part of the demilitarized "security buffer" that would basically put Gori and the East/West transportation block directly under their control, even in a piece agreement. 

Really sort of heavy handed, these folks.  They haven't learned nearly as much from the US on good information warfare (lord, knows we aren't even the best). 

Finally, I suggest this nice little Instapundit round up on the subject.
The Bear is back!  It's leaner and meaner and this time it has oil/gas wealth.  This may be another "fun' ride!  IMHO, This could be the beginning of another cold war that will last at least as long as the last one.  Now the really bad news: we don't have the highly competitve defense indutrial base we had during the last cold war.  There are fewer than a dozen defense contractors left in the business.  Now the really, really bad news: They have a semblance of capitalism, so they may have more creative competition than we do, now.

   And once more, the old adage is proven that "Amateurs discuss tactics, but Professionals discuss logistics".

   Any army can fight, and that right fiercely, for 3 days. It's on day 4 that it becomes apparent why we need those long tails.


John,  GREAT to see you posting. I hope you're feeling better. Going back to something BillT suggested was a Ronald Reagan concept, "Trust, but verify." There are so many "issues", or as you say, "so much 'stuff'". out there. Just maybe, we should take some of that "stuff" and put it on the grass, last I heard, it really makes the grass grow.

As I read today's news, there was a question about Georgia committing the war crime of genocide in the two break away provinces. The first question is this, Was genocide committed? If so, was it committed on a war crime level?  If so, who committed the crime? If you believe it has been committed,  than you must prove it with truly independent verification. No independent verification, no trust, that's just the way it is. - Grumpy
The rag bags with white engineer tape arm bands are the South Ossetian militia.  I think the Chechen and Cossack paramilitaries are wearing those too so real Russian soldiers don't light them up.
Well, Kat, the record does seem to reflect that Russia has been working 24/7 to extend their influence in the disputed areas.  I see there's a recent op-ed in the Moscow Times that accuses Putin of covertly and illegally subsidizing South Ossetia for use as a cat's paw.  Be this as it may, however, I don't know know that I feel comfortable with continuing to back Saakashvili.  There seems to be quite a bit out there that doesn't support the "self-defense" and "provocation" rationales.  Here's one thing that bothers me: Georgia's admission to NATO couldn't take place until these territorial disputes were resolved.  Another that Saakashvili (to quote Helen Cooper in yesterday's NYT) "...made the return of separatist areas to Georgian control a central plank of his platform."  Ms. Cooper also says that Saakashvili and his advisers had developed a "concept of operations" aimed at getting control of South Ossetia.

Then there's this business about the strategic value of the Roki Tunnel.  Unless I'm missing something, Russia didn't need to fight a war to get control of it.  Saakashvili did.

The Georgians do not seem to have lacked incentives to keep stirring the ethnic pot.  The most recent round of hostilities began, as I understand it, in 1990.  I read that, in 1992 or thereabouts, many ethnic Georgins withdrew from Tskhinvali to villages to the east, presumably in the expectation that, as a result of the "peace process," they would be permitted to return.  I don't know that that has happened.  There have been man, any exchanges of shelling since that time.  And all these "villages" we hear about seem to be armed camps, not pastoral oases of tranquility.

Saakashvili now invites us to believe that he ordered his forces to advance and seize Tskhinvali only when he became aware that Russian armored units were bearing down on him.  I referenced, in the earlier thread, his admission that getting control of the Roki Tunnel was part of his offensive "plan."  The problems with all this are obvious.  In fine, I think Saakashvili's credentials for the crown of victimhood are suspect in the extreme.

I wouldn't wish to be understood as suggesting we shouldn't vigorously pursue our interests with respect to both Caspian crude and strategic defenses.  And I can go with "He may be a s.o.b., but he's our s.o.b."  I don't know, though, about "He may be a harebrained adventurer, but he's our harebrained adventurer."


I think he was desparately trying to save his country with a pre-emptive strike and simply did not have the men, weapons, means or, for that matter, good plan or good enough leaders, to do the deed.

he needed two things in my view. Those 2k Georgians in Iraq back with personal Presidential authorization that they will be secret and not leaked to the media that the US is transfering etc etc back to Georgia.

Second, Georgia needed some kind of concrete agreement with Bush if hostilities went on. Also secret.

He had neither. Not to mention that we can assume that the creme of the crop officers and up and coming general officers were training in Iraq, not back in Georgia manning a desk.

The best folks were whom we trained, which would be their NCOs and company level leaders. Not their general staff advisers or what not that the President of Georgia would have been relying upon. Those were old school military. Russian type military trained, one might say.

Really sort of heavy handed, these folks.</b>

If the West helps make it work, everything is golden.

And they, Code Pink, the UN, EU, NATO, will make it work, one way or another.

Why can't every reporter in America be like that? Arg.

Russian AF Tu-95 fly, since 15 Aug., along the Black Sea coast of Ukraine between the Crimea and Odessa, after being refueled over Rostov Region in South Russia. Any comments?
Well, the challenge with that, Ser Bulba, is that I don't read Russian.
OK, here is translation from the article mentioned above:

Ukrainian internet news-site “Kryliya” [The Wings] citing the regional air-traffic control service writes that the Russian airplanes Tu-95, starting from 15 Aug., violate the air space of Ukraine near to Yevpatoriya [Crimea]. According to the news-site, Russian planes keep flying for the third day in the zones of responsibility of local airports not responding to the inquiries.

The planes do not contact the air traffic controllers and never inform the Ukrainian air authorities of their flights. They make refueling over the Rostov-[on-Don] regional control zone and after that continue their flights at the echelons FL275 and FL265 between Odessa and Simferopol, that affects the civil air traffic. Last Saturday the pilots of the Ukrainian air flight company “Aerosvit” reported about visual contact with a Russian Tu-95.

The officials responsible for the air traffic had submitted the reports on the violation of the use of air space, however the reaction from Kiev is still absent.

On Monday, a source in the Ministry of Defense, Ukraine confirmed the Russian Tu-95 flights in the air space controlled by Ukraine. However according to him they do not cross the Ukrainian sea border line. The air defense forces keep tracking them.

The Chief Directorate of the Russian AF has declined to confirm or disavow to “Grani” the information of the flights of Russian military aircraft near to Yevpatoriya.

In the afternoon, news came about a ban on the flights of the Black Sea Navy aircraft over the Ukrainian territory. In particular, the “Regnum” site informs that the Ukrainian border guards had forbidden the transport aircraft of the Black Sea Navy to fly between Anapa and Sebastopol.

18.08.2008 14:41

Comment of Vasiliy Tiomny [a military expert of “Grani”]:

Based on the “Krylya” information, one may suggest that a Russian Tu-95 (still most probably this is a strategic reconnaissance aircraft Tu-95”MP“ [Morskoi Razvedchik, or Sea Spy] enters the air space over the rim of the 12-mile zone of Ukrainian national waters.

For the local traffic controllers he must be an annoying intruder, still more because he does not respond to contacts. However the military has no formal reason to make a protest. Still in the similar situations the Russian air defense forces track the intruder and alert interceptors to scramble up. Everybody understands that a dangerous closing in takes place, arranged by the adversary for training or provocation. All involved use the situation to master their skills and in a certain sense are grateful to each other.

Today the Russian combat aircraft flying in the close range to Ukrainian territory is something bigger than the maneuvers, and this is even not a provocation. A part of the navy assault group, which took part in the combat near to Georgian coast is sailing now to Sebastopol. Its flagship “Moskva” and escort ships will have to test the [recent] decree of the President of Ukraine introducing new regime of stationing the Russian Navy.

It would be strange if the Russian AF had vacations these days. A source in the military says that the air men of the North-Caucasus Military Region have been switched to three-watch combat duty schedule. Black Sea Navy has also introduced the raised alertness regime. Thus, unfortunately, a prospective of a navy battle between Russia and Ukraine takes shapes.

Kiev has not been showing any reaction to the activity of the Russian AF, except of the ban of his border guards on the Black Sea Navy transport flights along the Anapa-Sebastopol route. However, this is small-bite tactics (even so, why the border guards?). By now, Kiev, out of politeness, does not remind to Moscow that Ukrainian S-200 can drop down Russian strategic reconnaissance planes. Or will he do this without warning?

So far, only one nation has reacted to the flights of Tu-95. This is Turkey. A pair of fighters once came from the distant shore, flew around, and swiftly went back – apparently leaving two brethren countries to talk one-to-one.
OVER the weekend, photographic proof emerged that the Russians used mur derous Chechen mercenaries to do their dirtiest dirty work in Georgia: The ragtag unit in question is so vicious that, last April, Chechnya's Russian-installed "president" demanded it be disbanded.

War snaps taken by Russian photojournalist Arkady Babchenko have been circulating among intelligence personnel. The shots reveal far more to the West than Babchenko realized.

Amid photos of the horrors of war, grateful South Ossetians and triumphant Russian troops, one series leapt out at me as a former intel officer: Bearded irregulars riding atop Russian-built armored vehicles (old BMPs, for the military-hardware buffs). The vehicles had been splashed with white lettering.

What did the scrawls announce to the world? These thugs proudly proclaimed that they're Chechens serving in the Vostok ("East") Battalion commanded by Badrudin Yamadaev - who shares a reputation for gangland violence with his brother, Ruslan.

But why would those Chechens paint up their armored vehicles to tell the world they'd arrived in Georgia? First, they're proud of their fearsome reputation. Second, they didn't want Russian regulars to mistake them for the enemy and pull the trigger.   -- 
Ralph Peters
RUSSIA IS RAVAGING GEORGIA! what a hell is that?! several cities are destoried so that they must be rebuild again! :((((((