So far, Russia’s conventional military forces have been waging the war against Ukraine, and for this first month many of the reports have been about seeming Russian failures or stalls or of the Russian military being “bogged down.” However, since propaganda on both sides is also a large factor in this war, much of this was initially considered to be possible or even probable Ukrainian propaganda and exaggeration.
There’s almost certainly still some of that. And it remains possible that through sheer numbers and willingness to take and inflict heavy casualties that Russia will win militarily in the end. That’s the traditional Russian way of war. But over time I think it’s become more clear that the Russian military actually does have some grave problems.
Some people were well aware of those failings already, as this video makes clear:
So, is the Russian military at least somewhat of a facade-like Potemkin village? If so, that doesn’t mean they still can’t inflict great damage – they can – but it certainly hampers them in that effort. But the deleterious effects for the Russian forces may be even greater in an invasion of Ukraine, because reports are that mud season has been a problem, and troops were not even told they would be fighting in Ukraine (where many of them might have relatives and friends). So there may be a significant amount of increased internal psychological conflict among the troops and morale may be even lower than usual.
In politics and economics, a Potemkin village is any construction (literal or figurative) whose sole purpose is to provide an external façade to a country that is faring poorly, making people believe that the country is faring better. The term comes from stories of a fake portable village built by Grigory Potemkin, former lover of Empress Catherine II, solely to impress the Empress during her journey to Crimea in 1787.
The term seems especially apropos because the story was about a Russian, and Crimea was involved. The story may not be true – which would also be apropos, wouldn’t it? – and of course the Russian military is hardly wholly a facade. But still, maybe somewhat of a facade, at least in terms of its organization and expertise.
If so, why is this the case, and why has it persisted? Some of the suggested factors are money problems (cutting corners), rampant graft and corruption, maintenance and logistical problems, morale problems, and organizational problems. In addition, with a tyrannical leader, underlings are often afraid to tell that leader hard truths.
There is evidence that some of Russia’s newer weapons designs have been mostly for show:
In fact, many of Russia’s high profile technological leaps in military prowess have since proven to be little more than publicity stunts. The Su-57, Russia’s 5th-generation stealth fighter, exists in too few numbers to matter even if it were as capable as they claim. Expert assessments place their premier stealth fighter’s radar cross-section as about comparable to that of America’s 4th generation F/A-18 Super Hornet, and their recently unveiled Checkmate fighter, if it ever flies at all, will almost certainly be even less stealthy.
Likewise, Russia’s T-14 Armata main battle tank may also prove to be among the best in the world, if only Russia could afford to build any.
Believe the following video or don’t believe it, as you wish. It’s from an Australian news site:
There’s also this report about big problems with Russia’s precision-guided munitions.
As for the question of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, I wonder how well-maintained that is. Of course, we do not want to have to find out.
I also wonder how our military is doing in these woker-than-woke days. Our exit from Afghanistan wasn’t the least bit reassuring.
[Neo is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at the new neo.]DONATE
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