April 04, 2022

Russia’s Urban Warfare Predictably Struggles

By Margarita "Rita" Konaev and Kirstin J.H. Brathwaite

The Russian military’s abysmal performance is one of the major surprises of the Ukraine war. Rather than a near-peer competitor to the United States, this past month revealed Russia to be a poorly trained and demoralized force reliant on antiquated equipment and weighed down by corruption and failing leadership.

But in fixating on Russia’s failures without acknowledging the challenges all militaries face in urban warfare, U.S. policymakers and observers risk falling into the very same trap that tripped the Russians: overestimating their own capabilities while underestimating the difficulty of the fight ahead.

The complications Russia has encountered in urban conflict in Ukraine’s Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Kyiv are not simply a function of Russian incompetence. They’re a reflection of the difficulties any military would face in urban warfare.

Since 2008, Russia has spent billions of dollars modernizing its armed forces, updating Soviet-era systems, developing and buying sophisticated military equipment, and professionalizing its troops. Large-scale Russian military exercises showcasing integrated air defenses, heavy artillery, and sophisticated electronic warfare capabilities as well as the intense and destructive air campaign Russia carried out in Syria and the hybrid tactics it has used in eastern Ukraine since 2014 all display a battle-hardened, professional military that many expected would quickly overwhelm the Ukrainians.

Read the full article from Foreign Policy.

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