meat shield

Yeah, so Vlad Putin is ‘mobilizing’ 300,000 Russian men to serve in his ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine. In fact, he’s probably ordered a much larger conscription; some estimate as many as a million Russian men, mostly from the more rural ethnic regions of Russia.

The vast majority of these conscripts will receive little (or no) training before being deployed. This is a feature of the Russian Army, not a design flaw. The lack of training is a deliberate aspect of Russian military strategy in Ukraine.

You may be thinking, “Greg, old sock, that doesn’t make a lick of sense.” And you’d be right (aside from calling me ‘old sock’ and I don’t know WHY you insist on calling me that) IF we were thinking about any conventional Western military strategy. But the current Russian military approach is built around what they call a Battalion Tactical Group (BTG).

The BTG approach involves a cadre of highly skilled soldiers around which poor quality infantry units can be attached. Different types of unskilled units will be attached to a BTG depending upon the nature of the mission or the condition under which they’re fighting. The unskilled or untrained units serve as a literal meat shield to protect the core of the BTG.

This is how it works. Say you’re a Russian officer and you want to know if there’s an ambush ahead, or if there are tanks in that village. You send the meat shield forward to draw their fire. That exposes the location of the enemy units, allowing the BTG’s artillery to target those positions. It works the same way on defense; station the meat shield in between the advancing Ukrainians and the core BTG; when the conscripts get attacked, the BTG artillery can target Ukrainian attackers more effectively.

It’s hard on the meat shield, to be sure, but it keeps the core of skilled professional troops more or less intact. Since the conscripts require little or no training and, for the most part, aren’t given decent weaponry, the meat shield is easily replaced. Just conscript a few thousand more ethnic peasants, and hey bingo, you’re back in business.

It’s a mistake to think of the effectiveness of the Russian Army in terms of casualties. It’s designed to have high casualty rates. Lots of dead and wounded conscripts are acceptable, so long as they achieve the strategic and tactical goals, and keep the core BTG units relatively secure.

The mobilization of a 300,000 body meat shield will help the Russian Army defend the territory they’ve stolen — for a period of time. Maybe it’ll be enough to get them through the winter, which will give them time to train and reinforce the BTGs. And that will prolong the war.

This, of course, is assuming Putin doesn’t contract ‘high building syndrome’ because of his unpopular war policies. It’s looking more and more like he’s losing control of the nation.

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