Military plans, it is said, never survive the first confrontation with the adversary.
It appears that this is the case for Russia’s military in Ukraine.
Russia’s opening assault was “underwhelming” and “slower than predicted,” according to Ed Arnold, a European security expert at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi).
He cites a variety of explanations.
He claims that the military policy for an invasion is to “go for overwhelming force.”
While Russia has a force of between 150,000 and 190,000 troops stationed on the border, it has not employed all of them yet.
This could be due to the fact that Russia will require them in the later stages of the invasion.
It’s common for militaries to preserve reserves while making changes to their plans.
According to Western officials, the initial attack involved roughly half of the forces assembled.
Multiple strikes from different directions have hampered the initial invasion.
Russia hasn’t deployed its artillery and air strikes as much as it should have.
“A major point is that they are confronting extremely stiff Ukrainian pushback, which I don’t believe they expected,” Mr Arnold continues.
He does believe, though, that any setbacks would be rapidly adjusted by Russia’s military leader.
According to Gen Sir Richard Barrons, a former top British military commander, the Russians “look to be going to secure their military objectives rather soon.”
Gen Barrons says it’s quite clear the initial objectives of Russia’s offensive are to “break the Ukrainian military, remove the central government and annex an element of Ukraine to be absorbed into a wider Russia”.
On some of those goals, Russia appears to have already made progress. It’s made advances from the south. Russian forces have now created a land bridge into Ukraine from Crimea, which they invaded in 2014.
Ed Arnold describes this as a “modest objective”. But from here, they can try to encircle Ukraine’s forces defending in the east.
Some of Ukraine’s most experienced troops are dug in along the line of contact, where they’ve been fighting Russian-backed separatists for the past eight years.
So far, they appear to have bravely fought off Russian efforts to break through their lines from the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk. But they will find it much harder if they become surrounded.
The fact is that a significant portion of Ukraine’s armed forces are already tied down in the fighting and will find it hard to reposition.
Russia has also made significant advances on Kyiv. Taking the capital is the other main objective, not least because it’s the centre of government and leading the resistance.
President Putin wants to replace President Zelensky’s democratically elected authority with his own, more compliant, regime. Ed Arnold of Rusi says “anything less that the capture of Kyiv would not achieve Russia’s objectives”.
The question now is, how easy will that be? Russian forces appear to be making an attempt to encircle the city. But they’re likely to face stiffer resistance the deeper they push in.