Bangkok (AP): With its ground troops forced to pull back in Ukraine and regroup, and its Black Sea flagship sunk, Russia’s military failings are mounting. No country is paying closer attention than China to how a smaller and outgunned force has badly bloodied what was thought to be one of the world’s most powerful armies.
China, like Russia, has been ambitiously reforming its Soviet-style military and experts say leader Xi Jinping will be carefully parsing the weaknesses exposed by the invasion of Ukraine as they might apply to his own People’s Liberation Army and his designs on the self-governed island of Taiwan.
“The big question Xi and the PLA leadership must be asking in light of Russian operations in Ukraine is whether a military that has undergone extensive reform and modernization will be able to execute operations that are far more complex than those Russia has undertaken during its invasion of Ukraine,’’ said M. Taylor Fravel, director of the security studies program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Russia’s armed forces have undergone an extensive process of reform and investment for more than a decade, with lessons learned in combat in Georgia, Chechnya, Syria and its annexation of Crimea helping guide the process. The Ukrainian invasion, however, has exposed weaknesses from the top down. Experts have been collectively stunned that Russia invaded Ukraine with seemingly little preparation and lack of focus _ a campaign along multiple, poorly-coordinated axes that has failed to effectively combine air and land operations. Soldiers have been running out of food, and vehicles have been breaking down. With losses mounting, Moscow has pulled its bloodied forces away from the capital, Kyiv, to regroup. Last week, the guided-missile cruiser Moskva sank after Ukraine said it hit the ship with missiles; Russia blamed the sinking on a fire on board.
“It’s very hard to see success at any level in the way that Russia has prosecuted the campaign,’’ said Euan Graham, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies based in Singapore.
President Vladimir Putin, who has been closely involved in Russia’s military reform, did not even appoint an overall commander for the operation until about a week ago, apparently expecting a quick victory and grossly misjudging Ukrainian resistance, Graham said.
“It’s a very personal war on his part,’’ Graham said. “And I think the expectation that this would be a cakewalk is obviously the biggest single failure.’’
Putin’s decisions raise the question of whether he was given accurate assessments of the progress of military reform and Ukrainian abilities, or was just told what he wanted to hear.
Xi, also an authoritarian leader who has taken a personal role in China’s military reform, could now be wondering the same, Fravel said.
By David Rising