April 28, 2022

Start with the Political: Explaining Russia's Bungled Invasion Of Ukraine

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks.

Many of us who analyze the Russian military for a living have been shocked to see Russian forces fumble the way they have in Ukraine. There are already some heated calls for analytical accountability, most prominently from Eliot Cohen and Phillips Payson O’Brien, into how the body of Russian military analysts could have gotten the Russian military so wrong. There is no doubt that the Russian military has performed much more poorly than most anticipated and it is important to understand why. However, observers should beware of drawing simplistic, overarching conclusions about Russian military power writ large.

The stage was set by Moscow’s inaccurate and chauvinistic assumptions about Ukraine, its leaders, its military, and its people.

One can lump Russian military failure into two large categories: those that are contingent to the current conflict and set of circumstances surrounding the invasion, and those that are inherent to the Russian military. Based on my experience as an analyst of the Russian military and former member of the National Security Council staff during the Obama administration, I focus here on the former: those contingent political factors that have contributed to the Russian military’s poor performance. I plan to follow this up with another article on those failures inherent to the Russian armed forces.

Read the full article from War on the Rocks.

  • Podcast
    • June 21, 2024
    Resuscitating Europe's Defense Industry

    Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the attempt of transatlantic partners to provide Kyiv with the weapons systems and ammunition it needs to keep up the fight for the...

    By Nicholas Lokker, Jim Townsend, Sophia Besch & ​Christian Mölling

  • Podcast
    • June 14, 2024
    Unpacking the European Parliament Elections

    Last weekend, voters across the European Union went to the polls to select the next European Parliament. In the run-up to the elections, many observers were focused on the pot...

    By Nicholas Lokker, Jim Townsend, Klaus Welle & Susi Dennison

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Affairs
    • June 14, 2024
    NATO’s Missing Pillar

    It is commonly assumed that NATO was built on U.S. power, but in fact the commitment to collective security emerged in Europe first....

    By Jim Townsend, Sean Monaghan & Mathieu Droin

  • Podcast
    • June 12, 2024
    The High Stakes of European Security with Thomas Wright at the 2024 CNAS National Security Conference

    The current moment in the transatlantic relationship is one of high stakes. The United States and its European allies are continuing to grapple with numerous difficulties, inc...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Thomas Wright

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia