Monday, September 15, 2008

Is the Russian Army is Worse Than I Thought?

A few months ago the European Command conducted a training event called "Immediate Response 2008," involving roughly one thousand Soldiers and Marines. The news was barely noticed, and I suspect even the European Command forgot about the whole thing. Ho-hum, just one more exercise. After all, we do these "training exercises" all the time.

But one thing made "Immediate Response 2008" worthy of note, and even then, only in hindsight:

Immediate Response was a training event we conducted with Georgia, in Georgia. This year it took place in early July. Such things usually last just a few weeks, as did this one.

When we go on such training events we usually travel pretty light. In this case, they had basic gear -- some tents, a few Humvees, a couple of generators, and not much more. That sort of stuff still takes up a fair amount of space, though, so it's most efficient if you can send it in (and take it out) by ship. That is what happened this time as well. Well, the "send it in" part, anyway.

When the training was complete the Americans prepped their vehicles for shipment (stripping them of any sensitive gear), packed what they could not carry into a few steel shipping containers, and sent the lot of it over to the port at Poti, Georgia where it could be picked up by a cargo ship. Then they flew home.

Of course, you know what happened next. In August, Georgia and Russia fought over South Ossetia, and Russia subsequently pushed deep into Georgian territory along multiple routes. Still, as you can see from this map, our stuff should have been safe in Poti, which is well away from either conflict zone within Georgia.


Here's my take. After pouring over the news, the videos, the various accounts from news sources around the world, I've come to the conclusion that the Russian Army is a lot more messed up than even I thought they were before all of this happened. Breaking into containers and looting the contents, let alone grand theft auto, is not what a professional or disciplined force does in a conflict. Therefore, it seems to me that what actually happened, particularly in the case of the US gear that was prepped for commercial shipping, is that the Russians totally lost control over their own troops. Their soldiers were going wild and stealing everything they thought they could use or sell. We cannot tell if this loss of control was at the junior officer level, or the mid-grade officer level (probable), or perhaps even at the general officer level, but apparently their forces are so ill-disciplined, broke, and perhaps starving, that they will and did resort to looting under the least pretext.

Even the director of security for Poti's commercial port seems to confirm this:

"The port's director of security, Vakhtang Chichradze, said there was little that Russian troops didn't steal, saying they hauled away chairs, light switches, radiators and even five U.S.-made military Humvees. "From the military port, they took armchairs, toilets - everything," he said."

They took freakin' toilets? Whoa. You are pretty far down on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs when you resort to stealing toilets.
As seen from the Intel Dump.

If this is true, the Russian army couldn't stand up to any first rate army...or second rate or moderately numerous third rate army. The Georgians merely lost their war because of numbers...not anything else. really nothing else. How long before Russia irritates some nation that's less ... restrained than the West?

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