RUSHVILLE – A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a very interesting man, Brigadier General Mike Kiefer, (ret.), who is also a very good friend of mine for another reason – we share something else even more important together – three grandsons! My son, Will, is married to Mike’s daughter, Eileen, and they have three boys, Matthew, Nicholas, and Joseph.
We were attending a birthday dinner for our youngest grandson, Joseph, and Mike and I asked him about views on what’s going on in Ukraine. He, like most civilized people, thinks that what the Russians have done makes them not much better than barbarians. Why does he think that? Because they’ve specifically targeted hospitals, schools, and population centers that have absolutely no military value and by doing so have committed war crimes.
Furthermore, he thinks that it’s likely the Russians will lose the war they started against Ukraine for several reasons. First, their troops are not being supplied with the necessities required by any army to stay in the field. Things like food, ammunition, medical supplies, and other essentials. Second, their supply lines are being stretched very thin, which is a major reason for their lack of supplies. Third, Mike says they have a huge gap in their organizational structure – no non-commissioned officers. The Russian army has enlisted men and officers, but no sergeants or corporals. There’s an old saying that no army can function on a tactical level without NCOs. They are the people who ensure that the orders issued by their officers are carried out by the soldiers on the ground and who keep the foot soldiers under control to prevent looting, rape, and indiscriminate killings.
Since the Russian army doesn’t have NCOs there’s no one to prevent any of that in Ukraine, as we’ve all heard on the news. Nor is Putin above using chemical and biological weapons against not just the Ukrainian armed forces, but also against the civilian population if he thinks he’s going to lose.
Mike also made the point that it’s not all the Russian people who are one rung above barbarians, but that it’s the political/military leadership under the direction of Vladimir Putin who are carrying out atrocities against the Ukrainian people. Additionally, Mike points out that the morale of the Russian troops isn’t anywhere as high as the people resisting them, and, as a matter of fact, pushing the Russians back in several places. The morale of the typical Russian soldier isn’t very high because they’re poorly trained and also lack the discipline an NCO corps would provide.
Finally, Mike thinks that the delay in supplying the Ukrainians with the military hardware to continue the fight is deplorable. After all, that’s all they’re asking for! NATO, he said, should be supplying the Ukrainians with exactly what they’re asking for in terms of military hardware.
There is a natural tendency to lump all Russians together as being a semi-barbaric people because of the behavior of their military and political leaders. As a result, there is a tendency to lump all Russians together as living in something close to a third world country, which is part of the reason dictators like Putin are trying take the place he thinks they rightfully deserve on the world stage. But trying to overrun a country like Ukraine may turn out to be one of the most serious geo-political mistakes the Russians have made in a very long time. Vladimar Putin isn’t the only person by whom we should judge the Russian people and their place in history.
Some notable Russians include Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia for almost 35 years during the 18th century. Catherine the Great was the country’s longest-ruling female leader. An ambitious ruler, she rapidly expanded the Russian Empire and is credited with modernizing the country along Western European lines. She supported the ideals of the Enlightenment and the period of her rule—the Catherinian Era—is considered the Golden Age of Russia.
Another is Leo Tolstoy, who was a Russian writer. Tolstoy is widely considered as one of the greatest authors ever. After experiencing a profound moral crisis in the 1870s, Tolstoy went through a phase of spiritual awakening, which had a great impact on his subsequent works that incorporated ideas on nonviolent resistance. These works influenced personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, thereby effectively changing the course of history.
A third is Mikhail Gorbachev who did more than any other Russia in the last century to improve relations between Russia and the West. Born into a poor peasant family, Mikhail Gorbachev went on to become one of the most influential figures of the Soviet Union. He served in various positions, most notably as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He is regarded as one of the most prominent personalities of the 20th century. So, we should not judge all Russians by the example of Vladimir Putin. He could end up being compared to Joseph Stalin!
That’s —30— for this week.