Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Russian cannon fodder

By Bettina Arndt - posted Tuesday, 11 October 2022

Never before has the world been so gripped with saving lives. We've survived Covid lockdowns imposed by governments claiming they'd keep us safe. Teams of burly footballers dropped to their knees because Black Lives Matter. The presumption of innocence wilts under the strain of laws designed to keep women safe.

After all that posturing, it seems odd that we just watch as hundreds of thousands of young Russian men are rounded up for cannon fodder. Somehow concern about keeping them safe simply isn't on the public agenda.

Their lives don't matter. They are just ordinary men, members of a most despised minority group that finds itself at the very bottom of the intersectionality totem pole. To many they are the enemy, the bad guys, even though most of these young Russians haven't a clue about where and why their lives are to be sacrificed. Their fate is simply to provide entertainment in the gripping war game capturing our media.


The Washington Post wrote recently about the "jack-in-the-box" flaw in Russian tanks, referring to the way shells are stored in a ring beneath the turret. Ukrainian forces are now using drones to detonate above the turret triggering the ammo storage below, with the result that "the explosion instantaneously vaporizes the crew." The turret is blown sky high - that's the jack-in-the-box. Vaporized men and bits of tank.

The article ends with a quote from Robert E Hamilton, a professor at the US Army War College, saying that the US military is aware that if one of their tanks is destroyed and the crew survives, they can always replace the tank: "You can make another tank more quickly than you can train another crew".

He says Russia has no such concerns about a properly-trained crew, "The people are as expendable as the machine."

People? Well, he's really talking about men. Men and boys. Many of the 300,000 new conscripts are teenagers. Boys who are given no choice: "You're standing there asking yourself whether you should go and fight and die there or spend 20 years in prison," says Mikhail, a Moscow man protesting the draft who was interviewed by the Japan Times.

Reluctant men and boys, sometimes with no prior military experience, given little systematic training, with inept leaders, and inadequate equipment are facing a highly motivated, extremely well-armed and very innovative foe in the Ukrainians. The result is akin to a death sentence.

Last week we heard about the war-wrecked Ukrainian town of Lyman where Russian forces hastily departed to avoid getting encircled by the advancing Ukrainian troops. "Not all the Russians made it out. Burning Russian vehicles and sprawled bodies of dead Russian soldiers remain on the roadsides outside the city," wrote a Wall St Journal reporter.


He mentioned seeing the remains of seven Russian vehicles caught in a recent Ukrainian ambush. "Nine bodies of young Russian soldiers lay on the roadsides, two hugging each other in unnatural contortions, another, his skin waxlike pale, lying on his back with his fists clenched. Nearby, amid antitank mines and other ordnance, a severed hand was perched on the asphalt, a wedding ring on one of the three remaining fingers."

No wonder so many conscripts are desperate to escape. We've all seen images of long queues at the borders, thousands seeking to escape to neighbouring countries, at least those willing to have them. Many countries are closing their borders. "Those running because they don't want to fulfil a duty imposed by their own government, they don't meet the criteria for humanitarian visa," was Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky's firm comment.

Interestingly, there has been much media interest in stories suggesting that the conscription was targeted, with ethnic minorities disproportionately at risk. Naturally, the ABC leapt on the suggestion that the draft is targeting Crimean Tatars, a Muslim minority group that makes up a small proportion of Crimea's population. Minorities are a far more acceptable group to champion than the ordinary Russian blokes who comprise the major victims of this unfolding human tragedy.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

This article was first published on Bettina Arndt.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

72 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Bettina Arndt is a social commentator.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Bettina Arndt

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 72 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy