There is evidence that Russian troops are looting. It’s not just food, and that one makes some sense. These troops have not been properly supplied. They were also reportedly told to forage. This is as old as war. I might not like it on principle, but armies do this.
Nor should this be construed as justification. It’s not.
What it is, is a window into both psychology and material conditions. As I said, poorly supplied and fed troops taking food makes some sense from an operational level. What is very telling is the other things that troops have taken.
First, there are a few caveats about the Russian Army.
Who serves? In theory, every male in the Federation is subject to conscription when they turn 18. In reality, those who can, read urban middle class, elites, get out of it. There are many ways. People can use lawyers who specialize in this, to get them a myriad of excuses. Or if well connected, they will never get the paperwork.
It’s part of the corruption in the kleptocracy that is Russia.
Here, is a little background. Though dated to the Chechen war, the practices continue.
The immense public antipathy toward conscription is closely linked to numerous exposés about endemic abuses in the armed forces. Among the first was Yuri Poliakov’s 1987 novel, One Hundred Days Until the Order, which gave the Soviet public the first opportunity to read a frank account of violent hazing of conscripts during their first year of service.5 In subsequent years, especially after the break-up of the Soviet Union, the media continued to expose the appalling conditions in the armed forces, including severe malnutrition and poor medical care that sometimes led to death and permanent injury of conscripts. Journalists also provided vivid descriptions of conscripts’ desperation that too often led to suicide, frequent attempts to desert, and a pattern of deserters going on shooting sprees or committing suicide in order to avoid having to return to their military unit.6
As young men of conscription age and their parents became increasingly wary about the perils of military service, many of them started looking for ways, both legal and illegal, to avoid it.7 A network of soldiers’ mothers’ organizations emerged throughout…