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Putin’s “old-fashioned” war

A destroyed Russian tank in Ukraine. Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty

Vladimir Putin’s “obsession with history” is coming back to bite him, says Antony Beevor in The Atlantic. The Russian president doesn’t seem to realise how much warfare has changed: his invasion of Ukraine feels deeply old-fashioned. It’s most evident in Russia’s reliance on tanks. These lumbering vehicles were a “symbol of strength” back in the Second World War, but in recent conflicts they have proved “profoundly vulnerable” to drones and anti-tank weapons. Unsurprisingly, Ukrainian soldiers are destroying them “like ducks in a row”. Russian troops have been attaching odd bits of iron to their tanks’ turrets in the hope that the added metal might detonate anti-tank weapons prematurely. It’s the same shonky tactic the Soviets used back in 1945 – and it’s as useless now as it was then.

Another example is the Russian army’s new encrypted-communication system, Era. The network relied on using Ukrainian 3G towers – but Russian soldiers destroyed those when they invaded. So now officers are having to communicate over the phone instead, “as gleeful Ukrainian volunteers listen in”. Perhaps most damaging, though, was Putin’s misguided belief that his forces would be welcomed as liberators. But instead, just like the Soviet troops who entered Czechoslovakia in 1968, they have found themselves “cursed, out of fuel, and hungry”. That “disintegration of morale” could lead to a humiliating withdrawal – “a potentially devastating result of Putin’s inability to part with the Soviet past”.

💥📈 Ukraine has lost 74 tanks since Russia invaded last month, but it has gained 117 abandoned or captured Russian ones. So the Ukrainians are currently up 43 in total.