American observers acknowledge that other elements have contributed to Russia’s unfortunate situation, particularly the retired military officers who offer their opinions on national television broadcasts. Yes, the Russians were taken aback by the valiant Ukrainian resistance, which was reminiscent of Finland’s tenacious defence of itself against the more potent force of the Soviet Union during the Winter War of 1939–1940. It was utterly inaccurate to assume that Ukrainians would remain silent while the invaders marched over their nation. Extensive economic sanctions have also hampered the Russian war effort that the West implemented in response to the invasion. Last, God bless the military-industrial-congressional complex; the United States and its allies have significantly increased Ukrainian fighting capability.
However, in the eyes of American military experts, all of those considerations pale in comparison to Russia’s apparent incapacity (or outright refusal) to understand the fundamentals of contemporary warfare. It is more straightforward to make such conclusive judgements because Western observers have a limited understanding of how that nation’s military leadership operates. It’s similar to making assumptions about Donald Trump’s own beliefs. Since nobody truly knows, any firmly held opinion gains at least minimal credence.
At least four critical factors are emphasised by the predominately self-referential American explanation for Russian military incompetence:
- Firstly, jointness, the military concept that enables seamless integration of ground, air, and maritime operations not just on Earth but also in cyberspace and outer space, is not understood by the Russians;
- Second, Russia’s land forces haven’t followed the combined arms doctrines, which were first developed by the Germans in World War II and emphasise the close tactical coordination of tanks, infantry, and artillery;
- Third, due to Russia’s long-standing top-down leadership practice, the frontline is less flexible, and junior officers and noncommissioned officers are left to convey instructions from above without displaying any independence or initiative;
- Last but not least, the Russians have just the most basic comprehension of warfare logistics. These systems consistently and reliably maintain a campaign’s required gasoline, food, munitions, medical care, and replacement parts.
The implication of this criticism, offered by self-styled American experts, is that the Russian army would have performed better in Ukraine if it had paid closer attention to how US forces handled similar situations. Of course, the fact that they don’t—and possibly can’t—is terrific news for Russia’s adversaries. By inference, Russian military incompetence indirectly affirms American military superiority. We establish the benchmark of excellence to which everyone else must aspire.