Repair crews were stopped every 15 miles because military vehicles were so badly damaged. Some officers were in such bad shape that the military spent $ 1.5 million on repainting the standard uniforms.
There was a Russian army when this country invaded Georgia ten years ago. According to the then Minister of Defense. The Kremlin announced a complete overhaul of the military to create a sleek, highly flexible, professional combat force with major and minor shortcomings.
But now, almost three months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is clear that the Kremlin has failed miserably to build an effective fighting machine. While Russian forces in Ukraine have surprised most Western analysts, President Vladimir V. Putin’s military action increases the odds of defeat.
Despite the occupation of territory to the south and east, the Russian army has suffered heavy losses in Ukraine. It was forced to give up what was expected to be a Blitzkrieg that would conquer the entire country in a matter of days. The troops were driven out around the capital Kiev. The Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, Moscow, sank; It never controlled the air; And according to some Western estimates, tens of thousands of Russians have died.
The symptoms of the problem disappeared invisibly. Last summer, Russia hosted the war games, which showed it can mobilize 200,000 soldiers from various parts of the military in a pseudo-effort to fight NATO, the Defense Ministry said. It will be one of the largest military exercises ever.
Deputy Defense Minister Lieutenant General Yunus-Pek Evkunov told reporters that the exercises demonstrated Russia’s ability to quickly deploy coalition forces “to neutralize any enemy”.
The whole tutorial was the script. no resistance; The main units involved practiced their dance for several months; Each exercise was started and stopped at a specific time. Military analysts say the number of troops involved could reach half the announced number.
“It’s basically a Soviet army,” said Kamil Khalive, an independent Russian researcher and former ally of The Wilson Center in Washington. “The reforms increased the efficiency of the military, but they were only half gone.”
After the conflict in Georgia in 2008, when Russia tried to reorganize its military, the goal was to give up the highly centralized Soviet army, which could deploy four million troops at a time. Instead, field officers will take on more responsibility, units will learn to synchronize their skills, and the entire arsenal will be drawn into the computer age.
Many conservatives were against the change and preferred the old model with a larger, more concentrated force. But other factors also contributed to the military’s inability to adapt. The birth rate fell sharply in the 1990s, leading to a decline in the number of forced laborers. That and continued low wages slowed employment targets. Local corruption thwarted efforts.
But the fundamental problem is that the military culture of the Soviet Union persisted despite the lack of people and resources to maintain it, analysts say.
“The Soviet army is built to produce millions of men, to fill many divisions with a large supply of equipment,” said Michael Kaufman.
Eventually, the urge for change faltered, leaving a hybrid version of the military somewhere between mass mobilization and more flexible forces, analysts said. It still significantly supports artillery rather than infantry terrain.
In last summer’s training, the script, the way the military does combat training, will tell. “No one is being tested for brain power on the battlefield,” said William Alberg, director of the Berlin-based Arms Control Program for International Strategic Surveillance. Instead, officials are assessing the ability to follow instructions, he said.
Russia wants the world to see its military at the annual Victory Day parade – a well-oiled weapon, lined up in solidarity with bold uniforms and threatening weapons.
“They use the military as a propaganda machine,” said Klep Irisov, 31, who retired in 2020, five years later. He worked as a military analyst for the official news agency TASS before leaving the country because he was strongly opposed to the invasion.
Senior military leaders claim that recent travel troops, especially in Syria, have provided genuine combat training, but analysts say the claim is exaggerated.
Russian troops did not face a real enemy in Syria; Combat was often an air force operation where pilots could move targets at will. Russia did not wage a major land war after World War II.
However, Russian leaders exaggerated the country’s success. In 2017, Russian Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoiku boasted at a meeting with fellow ministers in the Philippines that Russia had “liberated” 503,223 square kilometers in Syria. The problem is that Mr. The area that Shoi claims would be twice as large as the whole country. ProctEt independent news agency.
With about 900,000 The total population, a third of them land troops, the Russian army is not so large, it should protect a huge country with 11 time zones, analysts said. But the goal of hiring 50,000 contract players each year, originally set ten years ago, has not been met, so the annual raffle for 18- to 27-year-olds is still there.
Sir. Putin did not seek mass military service to mobilize all physically fit adult men for war. But even if he does, it now lacks the necessary infrastructure to educate the general public as a whole. There is consensus that most Russian land forces are already stationed in Ukraine.
Has depleted the resources of widespread corruption. Retired Major General Harry Ohra-Aho, former head of the Finnish intelligence service and still adviser to the Ministry of Defense, said:
Corruption is so prevalent that some cases inevitably end up in court.
In January, the Colonel became the former head of the armored vehicle procurement department. Evgeny Pustovoy has been accused of helping steal more than $ 13 million through fake battery contracts from 2018 to 2020. Throw
In February, a military court in Moscow dismissed Major General Alexander Okloplin and sentenced him to 4.5 years in prison for what he called “particularly large-scale” fraud. Authorities have accused him of embezzling about $ 25 million from state contracts for satellites and other equipment. BFM.RU reported.
Great deals are not the only temptation. Low wages – a top executive earns about $ 1,000 a month – and inflated budgets are a recipe for theft of any kind, analysts say, leading to a chain reaction of problems.
The investigator said the commanders hid how much training they provided and stuck the resources allocated to them. said Irisov. This exacerbates the lack of basic military skills such as navigation and firing, even though the Air Force maintains air defense standards.
“The scale of the lies in the military is unthinkable,” he said. said Irishov. “The quality of military production is very low because of the competition to steal money.”
One in five rubles spent on the armed forces was stolen, military chief prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky told the official government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta in 2011.
Sir. Irisov said he had come across several examples of Sapphire equipment – the Panzir air defense system, which could not shoot down a small Israeli drone over Syria; Russian-made headlights on the wings of SU-35 fighter jets melt at supersonic speeds; New trucks that break down after two years.
In general, Russian weapons are well behind their automated Western counterparts, but military analysts say it could serve. However, some new production is limited.
For example, the T-14 Armata, the “next generation” main tank released in 2015, is not used in Ukraine because they are so cheap, they said.
Russia has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into its military and produced new aircraft, tanks, helicopters and other items as part of the state’s weapons program. While most European countries are struggling to invest 2 percent of GDP, military spending has not fallen below 3.5 percent of GDP in the past decade, according to figures from international strategic studies. Part of the Russian military budget.
What kind of financial investment did Russia make in Ukraine?
Johann Norberg, a Russian analyst at the Swedish Defense Research Agency, said Russia and its military were “unprecedented in solving any problem in ten years.” The war in Ukraine revealed that the Russian army ‘was not three meters high, but not even two meters high’.
Alina Lobsina and Milana Maseva contributed to the coverage.