Putin’s Winter War
The Daily Mail reported, “Ukrainian forces claimed today to have inflicted one of Russia’s heaviest ever day of losses with more than 1,000 casualties.
“It comes as new totals by Kyiv’s defense ministry put President Vladimir Putin’s losses at 2,800 troops, 80 tanks, 516 armored vehicles, 10 airplanes and seven helicopters.
“Russian officials have made similar claims — that Moscow has captured more than 160 troops; destroyed 74 Ukrainian military ground facilities; downed five fighter jets and one helicopter; and destroyed 18 tanks and other armored vehicles.
“Meanwhile Ukrainian forces earlier today claimed to have hit an airfield in Millerovo in Rostov, southern Russia, destroying at least one of Moscow’s Su-30SM fighter jets.
“Footage posted online purported to show the tail end of a missile strike on the Russian military’s airbase around 10am local time (8am GMT) with several buildings on the site engulfed in flames.
“At least 37 Ukrainians, among them several civilians, have been killed and hundreds more injured in fighting in the past 24 hours.
“Russian troops were by this afternoon bearing down on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv after advancing from Chernobyl, less than 60 miles north of the city, this morning.
Now the fog of war discounts every news report because all newspapers become propaganda sheets when the bullets start to fly.
But the report shows things may not be going according to Putin’s plan. By invading Ukraine, Putin seems to be making the same mistake Stalin did when he invaded Finland in 1939.Fresh off helping Hitler knock off Poland on opening day of World War II, Stalin decided to pick off the much smaller (by population) Finland.
And so on November 30, 1939, the Winter War began.
Stalin sent twice as many soldiers as Finland had.
He rolled in more than 6,000 tanks. Finland had 32.
He flew in nearly 4,000 aircraft. Finland had 114.
Stalin got his ass kicked.
The numbers were staggering. More than half his men were either killed, captured or wounded in 3 months and 1 week of combat.
Russians suffered 381,000 casualties.
The Finns suffered 70,000 casualties. They fought bravely and wisely as they used guerilla tactics and snipers to pick off the Russians.
The war spawned the term Molotov cocktail, named in honor of the Soviet foreign minister (who surprisingly kept his job).
Legend holds that Simo Häyhä, a 34-year-old farmer, picked off 259 enemy soldiers with his Finnish-produced M/28-30 rifle and his submachine gun. The Russians hunted him down and shot him in the face. He recovered after many surgeries. After the war, he became a moose hunter and dog breeder. He died peacefully in 2002 at age 96.
Technically, the Finns lost the war.
The History Channel reported, “While the Finns put up a spirited resistance during the winter of 1939-1940, their troops were ultimately no match for the sheer immensity of the Red Army. In February 1940, following one of the largest artillery bombardments since World War I, the Soviets renewed their onslaught and overran the Finnish defenses on the Karelian Isthmus. With its forces low on ammunition and nearing the brink of exhaustion, Finland agreed to peace terms the following month.”
The channel reported, “The Winter War may have also carried important consequences for World War II. Among other things, the Red Army’s lackluster performance is often cited as a key factor in Adolf Hitler’s mistaken belief that his June 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union would be a success.”
No Winter War, no Battle of Stalingrad, which left more than a million soldiers on each side dead.
Zelensky has gone to the front and has said he expects to be the No. 1 target of the Russians. Good for him. This may be photo op stuff, but we have not had a commander-in-chief actually lead our troops since Washington at Yorktown.
Ukraine is pretty much on its own. That may be for the best. Freedom given is not the same as freedom won.
In a rare interview shortly before his death, Häyhä said 62 years after the Winter War ended, “I did what I was told to do, as well as I could. There would be no Finland unless everyone else had done the same.”
Maybe 62 years from now, an old man will say the same about Ukraine.
UPDATE: A reader reminded me, there are a million Russian soldiers at the Finnish border.