Petraeus: One Military Truth Is in Ukraine's Favor

In urban warfare, invaders typically need 5:1 advantage; Russia may need a greater one
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2022 11:07 AM CDT
Petraeus: One Military Truth Is in Ukraine's Favor
Former Gen. David Petraeus speaks during a discussion at the Milken Institute Global Conference in 2018 in Beverly Hills, Calif.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

One of America's most famous modern generals assesses the Russia-Ukraine conflict in depth via a CNN interview, and the short version is that retired Gen. David Petraeus is decidedly unimpressed with Russia's military. "Abysmal" and "incompetent" are two of the words he uses. This applies across the board, from strategic planning to the most basic of logistics ("their wheeled vehicles get mired in mud very quickly"). Petraeus finds it hard to believe that Russia will ever be able to "take, much less to control, Kyiv," and that's in large part because of the surprisingly resilient Ukrainian forces.

On that front, he says Ukraine will have another advantage as the fighting shifts into urban warfare, meaning battles that are waged building by building and in city streets. In this area, Ukraine will "very much" have the edge, says the retired general:

  • "Usually, the rule of thumb for urban warfare is that it requires at least five attackers to every defender," says Petraeus. "In this case, I'd argue it may be more than that because the Ukrainians are so resourceful. They will work together to prevent the Russians from taking urban areas the way that infantry and combined arms normally would do, such as the way the United States military cleared and then held cities during the Iraq War in, e.g, Ramadi and Fallujah, as well as parts of Baghdad and other cities."
(Read the full interview by Peter Bergen, which stretched over two days.)

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