Former CIA director says Russia has been ‘surprisingly unprofessional’ in its invasion of Ukraine

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  • Retired Gen. David Petraeus was deeply critical of the Russian military in a recent CNN interview.
  • “They clearly have very poor standards when it comes to performing basic tactical tasks,” he said.
  • Petraeus said that Russia underestimated the resolve and capabilities of the Ukrainian resistance.

Retired Gen. David Petraeus said that it’s “not entirely” surprising to see Russian military forces encounter difficulties while invading Ukraine, pointing out that the Russians are “just surprisingly unprofessional,” according to CNN.

During an interview with the network last week, Petraeus — a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director who led the 101st Airborne Division during the War in Iraq in 2003 and commanded US forces in Afghanistan — spoke of how the sustained Ukrainian resistance has impeded Moscow’s plans for a straightforward occupation.

In pointing out the source of Russia’s stumbles, Petraeus noted that Ukrainians have been relentless in their attempts to protect their country.

“There are many reasons for the Russians’ abysmal performance. … [T]hey’re fighting against a very determined, quite capable Ukrainian force that is composed of special ops, conventional forces, territorial forces and even private citizens, all of whom are determined not to allow Russia to achieve its objectives,” he told the network.

He continued: “They are fighting for their national survival, their homeland and their way of life, and they have the home-field advantage, knowing the terrain and communities.”

Petraeus then picked apart the Russian military operation in Ukraine, which has already displaced 6.5 million people throughout the country and led to the departure of another 3.2 million individuals, according to the United Nations migration agency.

“They clearly have very poor standards when it comes to performing basic tactical tasks such as achieving combined arms operations, involving armor, infantry, engineers, artillery and mortars,” he said in describing the Russian forces to CNN. “They are very poor at maintaining their vehicles and weapon systems and have abandoned many of them. They are also poor at resupply and logistical tasks.”

He emphasized: “We have known for decades that the Soviet system, now the Russian system, has always lacked one of the key strengths of US and Western militaries, which is a strong, professional non-commissioned officer corps.”

Petraeus went on to note that Russia’s weaponry paled in comparison to the tools utilized by the US military.

“The Russians just have relatively unimpressive equipment, given the investment supposedly made over the past decade or so,” he told CNN. “They certainly don’t have equipment comparable to what the United States has.”

The retired general said that Russia’s precision munitions were not accurate, noting that the country didn’t cut off Ukrainian airport runways after initially invading the country, similar to what the US did after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“We can also see this with the sheer frequency of the Russians hitting civilian infrastructure, like the hospital in Mariupol, other medical facilities and the government center in Kharkiv — unless they truly meant to hit those targets, which obviously would be nothing short of horrific,” he told the network.

The former intelligence chief also said that Russia’s cyberwarfare capacity this year was “unimpressive,” adding that the country has “been unable to take down the Ukrainian command and control system.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has continued to utilize his social media accounts to communicate with world about the war on the ground in his country.

Petraeus articulated that Russia underestimated what it would take to control Kyiv and replace the Ukrainian government with one that would be loyal to their country.

“In every single area of evaluation, the Russians, starting with their intelligence assessments and understanding of the battlefield and their adversary, and then every aspect of the campaign, all the way down to small unit operations, have proved woefully inadequate,” he said.

He added: “Much of the population also hate the Russians, and that hatred is being deepened with every strike on civilian infrastructure. Not only are the Russians not winning hearts and minds, they are alienating hearts and minds.”