A Potemkin Military? Russia’s Over-Estimated Legions

Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Mathematical Sciences

Publication Date

Spring 5-6-2022

Publication Title

Center for European Policy Analysis (Washington, D.C.)

Document Type



Seen from the West, the Red Army was an able, well-integrated, and competent opponent able to rapidly launch joint offensive operations with no or little warning. Every Western soldier learned how the Soviets would fight by watching Red Army propaganda movies which projected a fast-moving armored onslaught that would either overrun any defense or destroy the defending forces after encirclement. The West was taken in by the Communist propaganda machine because these were the only movies showing Soviet capabilities. We believed that Russianarmored divisions would sweep across the open landscape, cross rivers and streams with ease when engineers unfolded pontoon bridges as the spearhead arrived, all surrounded by a symphony of well-orchestrated artillery and rocket fire and framed by the smoke trails of SU-24 ground attack aircraft in joint operations. We looked at the Soviet, and now Russian, order of battle and drew mathematical inference – and ended up being wrong. We missed discipline, leadership, coordination, trust, and the effects on troops and hardware, living in a culture of corruption and theft for decades.

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