By Paul Goble
Putin made “a crude strategic miscalculation” when he overrated the capability of the Russian military to take on Ukraine, confusing the models of new weapons which the military-industrial complex was happy to show him with the rearmament of the military with them, Vladimir Pastukhov says.
To put it in more lapidary language, the London-based Russian analyst says, the Kremlin leader failed to make the necessary distinction between a parade and an actual war and so failed to see that the new weapons he was being shown were not being produced and adopted by his military as a whole (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=62549C9B8F707).
As a result, Pastukhov says, Putin failed to understand that his very large army was in fact one of World War II vintage and that if it were confronted by a military with contemporary weapons, it would be in very serious trouble. Given that the West has provided Ukraine with such weapons, Russia’s military is “bogged down in the Ukrainian steppe like a wasp in syrup.”
One is compelled to ask, the London analyst says, “how could this happen?” He suggests that it did because of Putin’s childish passion for playing soldiers and his proclivity to speak to defense designers rather than talk with the producers of military hardware. The former could show him shiny new weapons; the latter would explain why the army doesn’t have them.
It is not the case that the designers lied to Putin, but it is certain they misled him because they did not tell the whole story; and that is this: “Russia has always been able to make weapons,” and the backlog today from Soviet times means that it will be able to do so for some time into the future.
But shiny models “don’t win wars.” Real conflicts are won “with mass-produced weapons the army is actually equipped with in numbers that a war requires.” To achieve that, Pastukhov points out, the entire defense establishment needs to be transformed – and that is something its leadership under Putin doesn’t want or feel at all compelled to do.
And the explanation for that is simple as well: When a state is nothing more than a bandit, one can hardly expect its army to be modern. “Whatever a state is, so too will be its military.”
Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .