Short answer: A psychological operation – like almost everything else in Russia.
How is the war in Ukraine going? Today they confirmed the death of Russian General Major Suhovetsky. He’s unsurprisingly a paratrooper. So let’s discuss the role of paratroopers in Russian military doctrine. That’ll shed a light on the course of this war and why Russia lost it.
Paratroopers hold more legendary status than any other troops in Russia. They are elite force comprising the Reserve of the Supreme High Command. They are supposed to lead the offensive, being dropped behind the enemy lines and holding the ground before the rest of the army comes.
Except they aren’t used this way. If you look at this picture you’ll understand why. It’s just to easy to shoot them all in the air before they reach the ground. That’s why in pretty much every conflict – Afghanistan, Karabakh, Georgia, Chechnya they were used as regular infantry.
Since WWII there were only three cases when Russian paratroopers were actually dropped on the enemy from the air:
Ergo, paratroopers act as paratroopers only when they don’t expect resistance from another regular army.
Paratroopers aren’t that strong. The firepower of an “elite” paratrooper regiment is way weaker than that of regular, “non-elite” infantry regiment. They can’t defeat an army. But they aren’t supposed to fight against an army. They are supposed to suppress mutinies and rebellions.
The entire concept of VDV, Russian paratroopers makes total sense if we consider that they are not so much soldiers as the riot police. They don’t need to fight other regular armies, they need to suppress disorganised mutinies and protests.
Since paratroopers are the shock troops of regime, they absolutely need to look scary to scare off any mutineers. Their entire legendary status is one huge psyop. That’s not a secret, really well-trained forces such as those of GRU consider these guys to be fraudsters.
. . . .
That’s why “elite” paratroopers comprise the Reserve of the Supreme High Command. It’s not a reserve for a big war. Nope. It’s a reserve for suppressing mutinies within Russia or in neighbouring countries. And that’s largely done through psyops. Thus they work hard to seem scary.
When Russia decided to suppress the insurrection in Kazakstan last year, it sent there its glorified riot police – the paratroopers. See the light blue stripes on their vests? Only VDV wears it.
Let’s be honest, Kremlin sees Ukraine as a rebel province. The very existence of this country is mutiny. And if you need to suppress a riot, you send the riot police. So Putin sent there paratroopers and they were completely routed. Because they didn’t expect organised resistance.
Russian paratroopers were used as paratroopers only during the suppression of “fascist revolt” in Hungary 1956 and in Czechoslovakia 1968. Why? Because they knew they’re not gonna face another regular army there. So they can unleash their psyop without fearing any consequences.
When Putin invaded Ukraine he thought he’s suppressiing yet another Eastern European mutiny. And sent his riot police expecting Ukrainian army to run or surrender. But it didn’t. And once it didn’t his entire special operation modelled after Whirlwind 1956 or Danube 1968, failed.
Putin’s Blitzkrieg failed because it wasn’t a Blitzkrieg. Blitzkrieg is a war operation against an enemy who fights. But Russia launched a special operation expecting Ukrainians to surrender. That’s why they sent forward their glorified riot police. Of course, they were beaten.