U.S. Army combat veteran and leadership executive who went to West Point now making his fifth trip to Ukraine are finding that Russia’s military shortcomings could negatively impact the country for decades to come.
Dan Rice, president of Thayer Leadership and a former infantryman who fought in Iraq and was wounded in Samarra, currently serves as special adviser to General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces.
Throughout his travels in Ukraine, he has watched T-72 tanks destroy Russian targets in the Donbas region and stood on the outskirts of Kyiv as the Russian military made close gains in May 2022.
As he embarks on a new mission, Rice told Newsweek the Russian military “is poorly led at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.”
“At least 300,000 military-age men left Russia, and Russia claimed to draft 300,000,” Rice said. “They have taken 110,000 killed in action and another 300,000 wounded. They have lost most of their best army units and best tanks and armor.
“The entire Russian military is being degraded in less than a year and will not recover in my lifetime. Russia, and China, was considered a ‘peer competitor,’ but after this war, is no longer. The U.S. only has China to consider a ‘peer competitor’ and after the destruction of the Russian army, China will think twice about trying to take Taiwan.”
He blamed the ineptitude on Russian forces only following two of the nine principles of war, those being “mass” and “offensive.”
“They throw more and more bodies at the same objectives with no significant changes each attack. They are not a learning organization,” Rice said. “They are an enormous country with a lot of resources, but they aren’t unlimited. They are running low on many of their weapons and ammo.”
“They are being forced to go to the ‘axis of evil,’ Iran and North Korea, to get additional artillery shells,” he added. “They are taking enormous casualties and are running out of troops and having to go to mobilization/draft. The draft caused both a brain drain and a brawn drain.”
Ukrainian soldiers of the Territorial Defense of Kherson reinforce their positions on January 7 in Kherson, Ukraine. Dan Rice, president of Thayer Leadership and a U.S. Army combat veteran, is pictured in the inset near a destroyed bridge on the outskirts of Kyiv in May 2022. Rice is making his fifth trip to Ukraine to advise General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces.
Rice said he has worked alongside Zaluzhnyi to help educate the American public on what is taking place in Ukraine, as well as to relay to the invaded nation what capabilities could potentially be provided by the U.S.
Between 2005 and 2013, he traveled without security dozens of times to Iraq and Afghanistan as an investor with the Marshall Fund and later a contractor with SunDial.
“Getting involved in the largest war in Europe in 70 years, to understand the issues and help contribute, is in my mission,” said Rice, who as president of Thayer leads roughly 100 staffers and faculty members who teach the principles of military leadership to corporations.
He personally got involved in the war effort through a chance encounter with a woman at a restaurant in Miami during the initial days of the Russian invasion. The woman showed him films of her family under fire in Kyiv, leading to Rice encouraging them to immediately head west and exit the country.
Rice later welcomed the family of refugees into his home once they reached the U.S. The non-English-speaking mother of the woman saw West Point materials throughout the home and inquired whether he attended, leading her to ask if he wanted to meet General Zaluzhnyi.
That led to a Zoom meeting with the general, in which the pair discussed leadership, leader development and strategy. Rice, who possesses four degrees in the fields of military, business, leadership and learning, asked if he could be of service.
Zaluzhnyi took him up on his offer. Two days later, Rice was on a flight to Krakow, Poland, and upon arrival boarded a civilian bus traveling to Lviv, Ukraine. Once there, he was transported to Kyiv to interview the general for two hours.
Rice was sent to interview commanders on the battlefield who had helped Ukraine become victorious in the battle of Kyiv.
“I realized very quickly that they had just left the bunker, they were desperate for Western support, and that my role would be to advocate for additional weapons and ammo, starting with Howitzers, and then HIMARS, then F-15/F-16s, cluster artillery rounds, etc.,” Rice said.
With the weapons provided by the U.S. as part of tens of billions of dollars of assistance, Rice said Ukraine has the “fire” aspect of effective combat operations down pat—aided by weapons systems, Javelins, Stingers, NASAMS, Howitzers and Patriots—but it needs the “maneuver” aspect as well.
That includes an additional armored combat force of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, he said. He touted the U.S. for finally providing M2A2 Bradley fighting vehicles—the U.S. is starting with 50 vehicles, but he believes that number “will increase dramatically” to around 500. Several donor nations have also provided T-72 tanks.
“Ukraine needs far more tanks to take the offensive and we should be providing M1A2 Abrams tanks,” he said. “If we provide Ukraine with enough tanks, fighting vehicles and the correct artillery ammunition for both the Howitzers and HIMARS rocket launchers—specifically Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions—I believe Ukraine will win.”
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