Category Archives: War Commentary

The Vaunted Russian Military

Is unjustifiably vaunted.

[Update Thursday morning]

The very model of the modern Russian general:

Russian operational doctrine relies on a brittle top-down approach to command, which means that when (not if) a plan encounters unexpected setbacks, subordinates lack the flexibility and initiative to adapt to the new circumstances. Without a professional non-commissioned officer (NCO) corps and subordinate commanders who are expected and trusted to adapt to changing circumstances, senior Russian commanders, fearful of being sacked, have been required to expose themselves to hostile fire to direct tactical details rather than focusing on strategic or operational concerns. But the progress of the war thus far suggests that Russian problems are systemic and cannot be corrected by even the presence of senior officers doing the job of colonels and majors.

The relief of Russian commanders, which set this entire sequence into motion, has led some to suggest that a U.S. shortcoming in recent years has been our failure to fire unsuccessful generals. In the words of one critic, “a private who loses his rifle is subject to greater punishment than a general who loses a war.”

…The real problem that the U.S. military faces today is its loss of focus on the factors that underlie military effectiveness. “Diversity,” “inclusion,” and other buzzwords do not win wars. As the Russian experience in Ukraine suggests, neither does a broken system. The continued stalemate in Ukraine, which has dampened this year’s Victory Day celebration in Moscow, illustrates that the modern Russian general faces a task even more daunting than that of his American counterpart.

Both systems are broken, in different ways.