On April 3rd, 2022, The Institute of World Politics trustee Hon. Tidal McCoy was invited to speak on The Cats Roundtable. This podcast episode discussed the situation at the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian War, which started on February 24th, 2022. Mr. McCoy pointed out Russia’s internal problems, including corruption among officers, misjudgment of the situation, and Russia’s command culture.
About the Speaker
Mr. Tidal McCoy graduated from The United States Military Academy at West Point in 1967. He served as an Army Field Artillery Officer in command and staff assignments in The United States, Europe, and Vietnam. He also served as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Air Force from 1981 to 1989, as well as Acting Secretary of the Air Force for a period of time during the Reagan administration.
Many people in Ukraine have been hurt by this unprovoked attack. The propaganda is heavy on each side. Around 30% to 40% came from the Ukrainian side, and about 20% from the Russian side. Some Russians were conscripts; they destroyed their weapons and did not want to fight. In addition, Ukrainian special forces were well trained after the Crimea attack. They are conducting surgical strikes on Russian command posts and killing personnel on the battlefield. In the case of the recent attacks on Russian oil depots, it could be a malicious attack from either side. It is not hard to imagine that at this stage of the war, the top commanders on both sides are trying to provoke further conflict.
Problems of the Russian Side
Mr. McCoy pointed out two essential problems on the Russian side. First, the intelligence services and the Russian government were lying to Putin and his top generals, saying that Ukrainians were weak, lacking skills and motivation; second, the army and the military officials lied about the fact that the Red Army was well-trained and well-equipped. With both of these assessments wrong, Putin decided to launch an attack on Ukraine, believing he could get away soon and that it would help to divide NATO, which turned out to be incorrect.
Mr. McCoy believes they are at a strategic pause in the country’s middle. In the east of the country, they are still on the offensive. There may be some rethinking between the Russian High Command and Putin. They are probably all guessing, pointing fingers at each other, and waiting to sort out the way forward. It could be a strategic pause, such as a step back in the central and eastern parts, east or western regions of Ukraine. They would at least try to get as much of eastern Ukraine as possible because there are large tracts of agriculture and underground natural gas.
Putin’s Assessment and the Corruption in the Military
One of the main points discussed in the podcast is that Putin has strategic nuclear weapons. Putin believes that he has the power to control the entire country and military officers without being influenced by other factors, but his judgment may be wrong. Also, Mr. McCoy believes the army and generals may have misled Putin, as many Russian generals have misappropriated many expenses that should have been spent on the military. Therefore, the generals dared not let Putin know that the army was not ready to attack and win the war because of this misuse of the budget.
The Top-Down Command Culture
Mr. McCoy believes there were around seven Russian generals killed by snipers. He explained that they had to go a long way into the actual battle because the conscripts, mostly European ethnic, were reluctant to advance. “The middle-level officer is a top-down command culture,” said McCoy. It almost takes a general to make colonels and captains move and threaten them. If they do not move, they will be shot, so Mr. McCoy thinks that the generals have to go further than people normally see; Logically speaking, those generals may be taken or shot by snipers. Some snipers may even be one or two of Russia’s own side because of the lower-level Russian army’s poor performance.
Mr. McCoy noted that the American people should realize that we are facing another Cold War, and it is gradually turning into a hot war now. Our main enemy would be China in the next few years. Now China is using Russia as a precedent to see the U.S.’s response, strengths, and weaknesses. Mr. McCoy called on people to realize that, as in the past, Russia and China have long been allied against the West; the U.S. and our allies will have to spend more money, be more disciplined, focus on our military and people, and be prepared to defend our lifestyle if war comes near. Otherwise, the order we have managed to build will risk being taken away, as it is in Ukraine today.