Russia’s Military Embarasses itself in Georgia

The Times of London reports on the shoddy, embarrassing quality of the army Russia sent into Georgia, one which NATO could easily have brushed aside at will if it had chosen to do so — yet another serious error made by the Putin regime in connection with the Georgia conflict.

Pictures of triumphant Russian soldiers sitting on armoured personnel carriers as they were driven through towns in Georgia will be among the lasting images of the seven-day war. But the victory did not tell the whole story, analysts said yesterday.

The ageing vehicles were so lightly armed and so uncomfortable and hot to sit in that the Russian soldiers felt safer perched on top. “At least they could then react quickly if there was an attack,” Colonel Christopher Langton, an expert on Russian armed forces at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, said.

For an invading force from what used to be a military superpower, Russia’s 58th Army did not look like a modern fighting unit. Victory came as a result of overwhelming numerical superiority and a textbook Soviet-style strategy based on detailed planning that leaves little room for flexibility. It was shock and awe by force of numbers, rather than by precision-guided weapons.

The Russians have learnt lessons from American campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and from their own experiences in the Balkans, but the Georgia operation was old-style fighting with Cold War-era equipment.

The Russians arrived in Georgia not only with inadequately protected troop carriers but also lacking in airborne surveillance platforms to pinpoint targets for their gunners and bombers. They lost four aircraft, shot down by Russian-built Georgian anti-aircraft weapons. One of the aircraft was a Tupolev supersonic bomber (Tu22) known by Nato as a Blinder.

Colonel Langton said the Georgians had highly mobile anti-aircraft systems and were able to move them around to attack the Russian jets. Without the range of sophisticated unmanned aerial platforms that the Americans always deploy to watch over the battlefield, the Russians were flying blind into the war zone.

General Anatoly Kornukov, the former head of the Russian Air Force, told the Moscow-based Independent Military Review that the failure to destroy Georgian anti-aircraft capabilities before the Tu22 arrived in the region meant the crew of the bomber were sent to their deaths.

Losing aircraft at the hands of such a tiny opponent was unfortunate. Losing their overall commander, who suffered shrapnel wounds as he travelled in an armoured convoy in South Ossetia, the breakaway Georgian region, looked like carelessness. General Anatoli Khrulyov, the head of the 58th Army, was in a convoy that appeared to lack air cover.

Perhaps, most embarrassingly, the Russians discovered that some of the Georgian equipment was more advanced than their own. Georgia’s T72 tanks and Su25 jet fighters were upgraded with night-vision equipment, something the Russians appeared to lack. “The Russian forces had to operate in an environment of technical inferiority,” Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy director of the Russian Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, told The Moscow Times.

The brief Georgia war, however, showed a Russian army that had improved significantly from the 1990s, when corruption, lack of leadership and poor funding hampered the once-mighty Red Army severely as it became bogged down in Chechnya, where largely conscript troops were deployed. In Georgia, the majority were professional soldiers, although the defence ministry in Moscow admitted there were some conscripts.

“The Russian army has shown that it is far more deployable than in the 90s, able to get frontline troops in and out in a short space of time,” Matthew Clements, from Jane’s Information Group, said.

Russia has said that one of it priorities is to rebuild its army, and much of its new-found oil wealth has gone into weapons. The defence budget went up 22 per cent last year and Moscow plans to spend £100 billion in the next ten years on new hardware.

Russia formally informed Nato yesterday that it was halting military co-operation with the alliance until further notice. Nato foreign ministers had already announced after an emergency meeting in Brussels on Tuesday that no meeting of the Nato/Russia Council could be held until all Russian troops were withdrawn from Georgia.


Ageing armoured personnel carriers lacked proper bolt-on armour to protect against anti-tank weapons

No airborne unmanned surveillance platforms to spot Georgian anti-air defence systems

No precision-guided missiles/bombs

No night-vision or satellite-linked navigation equipment

No protection for Tu22 bomber destroyed during reconnaissance

8 responses to “Russia’s Military Embarasses itself in Georgia

  1. This proves Russia’s “Biik” mentality and how much they care for their own soldiers and people.

  2. The Russian army has clearly come a long way since the chaos of the first Chechnya war in 1994. That is what has been interesting and perhaps unexpected about the rcent campaign. The fact that much of their equipment is not up to the best in NATO is hardly astounding. Russia’s defence complex was badly damaged in the slump of the 1990s and it will take several years of increased defence spending to bring it up to standard. Perhaps it is worth reminding ourselves how minuscule Russian defence spending still is compared to that of NATO. As for your conclusion that NATO could just have brushed them aside if they had had the will….sounds to me like the postmortem of a lost football game.

  3. Russia would rather spend its money developing these trivial pursuits of war than securing the “peace.”

    If only russia had the capability to start a war now. We could avoid a world war by decimating them now.

  4. Given The Times of London’s tepid argument, why didn’t NATO ultimately enter the fray in Georgia, and quickly polish-off Russia’s ‘beleaguered’ military assault force there, Mr. La Russophobe? Why only empty words on our part as a response to Russian military ‘aggression’?

    Indeed why didn’t mighty Britain’s once-indomitable Navy enter the fray when Iran took hostage 15 British sailors some months ago? Why the hedging if the Iranians and Russians are so unworthy of our steel, sir?

  5. For anyone watching the footage with some analysis it was obvious that the Russians used only their third or fourth level of military harware. One can say the “training” equipment. It was obviously “used” hardware that has seen better days, most lilely in use as training hardware. They did not need to use their primary, battle quality that would be used if any one from Nato side dared to intervene. Yes if Britan or US used their good “steel” they would meet the real Russian hardware and that is no toy or training quality. The smart thing to do is to show respect and be objective not onesided as they have been so far. It worked on Balkans but it ain’t going to work here. During Balkan wars Russia had the drunken prez who had no idea what was going on (sort of Russian Regan) so it was easy to do what NATO wanted. Not anymore the new Russia is under new management and it ain’t backing down. So learn to deal with them in peaceful and honest manner.

  6. Truth is, the West has grown too complacent over the course of the past 19 years, foolishly believing Russia too weak to stand up to those who continue their attempts to encircle her. Seanquixote’s comment that Russia seeks war rather than peace, left me disappointed in his inability to reason: The United States of America, for instance, has militarily engaged in the affairs of no less than 12 other nations over the course of the past 20 years, and even today we’re looking to nose in on yet other countries. Anyone therefore willing to suggest that Russia is routinely ‘warlike’ while the U.S. is a ‘peacemaker’ is only fooling himself.

    Hence, if you feel willing to take on the Russians yourself, Sean, then remove the cosmoline from your argument, suit up in your combat gear, and go try.

    I, on the other hand, would prefer to allow Russia her pride and territorial safety, and I’d like to see us enlist her as an ally in the war on terror. Trouble is, after continually bad-mouthing her over her position on Georgia this month, we’ve likely lost Moscow’s confidence in our ability to play fairly, and we’ve doubtless lost our chance at winning her assistance on the issue of Iranian nukes.

    Not a sterling month for Western diplomacy, August 2008.

  7. The West is “too complacent”?

    Noone in Europe wants wars – they’ve had enough of wars. They tried to engage roosha to join the rest of civilized humanity – to no avail.

    Kremlinites constantly whine about Kosovo – but there were many, many months of negotiations and meetings, attempts to stop the genocide by Milosevic, before resort to force was had.

    And now rooshans are whining because the murderous butcher Milosevic, oily orthodox “slavic brother” of roosha, was stopped.

    Sick, sick rooskie minds.

    Why is rasha still in Georgia?

    Russian “pride.”

    Wouldn’t it be better if rasha just got along with everyone on good terms, as a good neighbor, rather than trying to subjugate the entire world again?

    rooshan “pride.”

    Why does rasha/maskva feel the need to beat up other countries, instead of building up its own society?

    rashan “pride.”

    Stupid, sick rashan “pride.”

    Maskva/rasha is not happy unless they’re spreading misery all over the place.

  8. Misha, I not only have served in my “combat gear.” I am still serving in defence of liberty today.

    I am really not impressed with the russian taught insurgent policy of harassment fire. In fact the only thing that is killing my soldiers is suicide bombings. Which by the way is not practiced by russian soldiers.

    An insurgent russian population would bog us down with disease ridden and starving children. My soldiers would feed them before they fed themselves.

    Can you say that about yours?

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