Putin's army has problems with missiles, Iranian drones will not help. Interview

September 06, 2022

The potential of the army of the aggressor country, Russia, is much weaker now than it was at the beginning of the large-scale invasion or even a month ago. Attempts to significantly enhance it, in particular, with Iranian drones, will not give the desired effect, because the counteroffensive potential of the Ukrainian army is constantly growing.

The enemy's use of S-300 air defence systems to launch strikes on Ukraine indicates that it has serious problems with missiles for ground targets. After all, S-300 is an anti-aircraft system. However, the bad news is that the occupier has a lot of such weapons.

At the same time, against the background of failures on the battlefields, the Kremlin again began to look for culprits among its generals. Nevertheless, the appointment of new ones will not fundamentally change the situation, because it wants them to be loyal, not professional. This opinion was expressed by the co-director of foreign policy programmes, coordinator of international projects of Razumkov Centre, military expert Oleksiy Melnyk in an exclusive interview with OBOZREVATEL.

— According to the press centre of the Ukrainian South Defence Forces, Ukrainian defenders currently have all they need to prevent the enemy from building up forces in the south, the size of the occupying army is constantly decreasing. Do you agree with these positive assessments? What is your forecast of further developments in this theatre?

— This is an official source of information. Obviously, they know the details of both our and enemy forces. This information was also confirmed by independent foreign sources. But there are some nuances. One should realise that all demands can never be met fully. When the military say that they have enough forces and means to fulfil certain goals, we should realise that there is a plan, a strategy, and these forces are sufficient precisely for the implementation of this strategy.

Therefore, when talking about further developments, it is important to understand exactly what strategy the Ukrainian command is currently implementing. The stake is made not on daily reports about liberation of some part of the territory or settlements. First of all, they work to exhaust the offensive and defensive potential of the enemy.

We remember the mistakes of 2014, when one infamous "commander", who was in charge of the Defence Ministry at that time, drove along the front line and raised flags almost every day, not realising that the Armed Forces were drawn into traps that ended in Ilovaisk.

Therefore, this apparently shows that the Ukrainian command has analysed the negative experience well enough — and now, a completely different strategy is being implemented.

I think we will hear good news about the liberation of settlements, perhaps with some delay. Absolutely efficient rational tactics is used here – not to storm them, but to create conditions where the enemy will simply be forced to withdraw. If necessary, populated areas may be stormed if the resistance to our troops is minimal.

Regarding the time limits, I will not make forecasts, because it depends on a great number of factors, both on the actions of our side and on the extent to which the enemy will be able to mobilise reserves and move them to the areas where Ukrainian counteroffensive operations are currently taking place.

There is not one but several sectors. At the moment, observers do not have a clear picture, where the main counteroffensive operation is taking place, and where the auxiliary ones are used to mislead the enemy or distract its forces.

— How do you assess the offensive potential of the enemy? It was reported that on the night of September 5, the Russian occupiers attacked Mykolaiv with S-300 missiles. We also know that Russian S-300s were recently transported through the Bosphorus from Syria to Russia. How can the enemy use these systems in the war in Ukraine?

— The enemy's use of S-300 missiles to strike ground targets proves that Russia is running out of missiles designed specifically for ground targets.

S-300 is an anti-aircraft system. It can be used to strike ground targets, but this is its secondary function. Such is the missile design. S-300s are dangerous, they cause a lot of damage, but they cannot make up for the missiles that are designed for ground targets. They are inferior in terms of accuracy and combat charge.

So, this is a forced step for Russia — mass employment of S-300s for tasks not specific to them. But the bad news is that, according to our intelligence, the Russians have a lot of these missiles. Therefore, despite all those shortcomings, it is still a great threat to Ukraine.

If we talk about the Russian offensive potential in general, compared to what it was a month ago, not to mention six months ago, according to many sources, it is mostly exhausted. The steps that the Russian regime is currently trying to implement in order to mobilise personnel, to find the equipment and weapons, confirm that Russia has not given up its intentions. This, in particular, is evidenced by Peskov's statement about their vision of, so to speak, the conflict settlement.

But even the use of some limited sources of supply, such as Iranian drones, or redeployment of the remnants of its weapons from Syria, is unlikely to save the situation, if the dynamics of growth of the Ukrainian offensive potential is maintained.

— There are new purges in the command of the enemy armed forces. More generals were dismissed. What's going on? After all, a general is rather a valuable figure for the army, and there are not so many of them. Why are they so easily scattered in the Kremlin?

— We can recall Švejk’s words: "Things were going well until the General Staff intervened." Indeed, a priori, a general is the brain, the guiding and coordinating force. But given the negative selection characteristic of Russia and other authoritarian regimes, it is unlikely that the generals who are in the top positions there deserved those positions because of their professional qualities.

When loyalty, patriotism, paternalism, etc. become the criteria, appointed to these positions are the people who, as a classic said, "long ago surpassed the level of their incompetence". But even if we assume that some of them are real professionals and top commanders, in this conflict, conventionally political goals in Ukraine outweigh military planning. Strong political interference in planning of military operations almost always leads to a military failure.

The next step is to find the culprits, because politicians cannot admit that political instructions were wrong. The culprits are sought at the level of performers. However, this does not justify the generals at all. How did they achieve their positions? They were supposed to never tell the truth or argue with their bosses.

So, now they will look for those guilty. The good news about this is that the successors are unlikely to be any better than their predecessors.

Tetiana Haizhevska



Oleksiy Melnyk

Co-Director, Foreign Relations and International Security Programmes, Coordinator of International Projects

Born in 1962 in Khmelnytsty Rgn


Royal College of Defence Studies, London, UK (2007)

Air Field Operations Officer School, Biloxy, MS, US (2001)

Squadron Officer School, Montgomery, AL, US (1994)

Defence Language Institute, San Antonio, TX, US (1994)

Chernihiv Higher Military Air Force Academy, Ukraine (1984)


1980 – 2001 — Air Force Active Service (Cadet, Instructor Pilot, Flight Commander, Squadron Commander, Deputy Air Force Base Commander, Participant of two UN peacekeeping operations, Lt.Colonel (Ret)

2001 – 2004 — Razumkov Centre

2004 – 2005 — State Company Ukroboronservice

2005 – 2008 — Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, Head Organisational and Analytical Division — First Assistant to Minister of Defence

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