Russian generals putting themselves in mortal danger because 'fully unprepared' army gives them no choice: analysis
Annual Direct Line with Vladimir Putin in Moscow - Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual "Direct Line with Vladimir Putin" live call-in show. - -/Kremlin/dpa

In recent weeks, the Russian military has suffered the losses of at least five generals — a shockingly high death toll of top officers in a war that forecasters had originally presumed Russia would have an insurmountable upper hand in.

Writing for Foreign Policy on Tuesday, however, Pentagon and national security reporter Jack Detsch argued that the loss of generals actually makes sense, for a simple reason: They have to be on the front lines because Russia's army is too undisciplined to command itself any other way.

"On Sunday, Mykhailo Podoliak, a top advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said six Russian generals had been killed, calling the invading army 'fully unprepared' for the fight in Ukraine," wrote Detsch. "Western assessments of deaths among Russian commanders are slightly more conservative. One European diplomat familiar with Western intelligence assessments told Foreign Policy on Monday that at least five Russian generals had been killed, owing mostly to failures in electronic communications equipment that left them vulnerable to targeted strikes and to their efforts to get a large force of nearly 200,000 troops — many of them young conscripts — to follow orders by leading from the front."

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One European diplomat told Foreign Policy, “They’re struggling on the front line to get their orders through. They’re having to go to the front line to make things happen, which is putting them at much greater risk than you would normally see.”

The Ukraine invasion, which Putin sold under the pretense of protecting so-called "independent republics" in the east of Ukraine declared by Kremlin-backed rebel separatists, has presented setback after setback for Russian forces. They have so far failed to seize the capital of Kyiv, which was essential to their plan to win the war quickly, and they have faced ongoing supply line and morale problems as Ukrainian forces have relentlessly pushed back. Putin loyalist legislators in Russia have frantically passed a law making it illegal to criticize the war, or even call it a "war".

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