Focusing on shortcomings in equipment made Western military analysts underestimate Moscow’s military capacity.
By Franz-Stefan Gady, October 17, 2015
Russia’s military reforms have been misunderstood and its capabilities underestimated by the United States and Europe. That’s the conclusion of a newreport by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).
The Russian military’s tactical and operational weaknesses became most blatantly apparent to the Kremlin during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, when the U.S.-trained Georgian forces proved a much more agile and motivated adversary than expected.
As a consequence, Russia initiated the most far-reaching military (the “new look”) reforms since the 1930s divided up into three distinct phases, according to the ECFR study:
First, increasing professionalism by overhauling the education of personnel and cutting the number of conscripts; second, improving combat-readiness with a streamlined command structure and additional training exercises; and third, rearming and updating equipment.
The United States and Europe primarily focused on the third and still mostly incomplete aspect of these reforms, neglecting the substantial progress that was made in the first and second phases.
Almost unnoticed by observers, the Russian military addressed one of the biggest organizational weaknesses dating back to the Soviet and Czarist eras and introduced a new professionally trained non-commissioned officers (NCOs) corps dissolving the existing warrant officers system.