The modern Russian army is no longer the one that proved to be so weak in Afghanistan, says David Ignatius in an article for The Washington Post. According to the journalist, now it is a well-organized and disciplined organization, whose professionalism has helped to avoid bloodshed in the Crimea.
Judging from the photographs depicting the actions of the Russian special forces in the Crimea, we can draw the following conclusions, writes David Ignatius in an article for The Washington Post. They operate in secret, without identifying marks, and often cover their faces. They are disciplined and resolute.
The diplomatic reaction to the Russian intervention in Crimea is still ongoing, but the Pentagon authorities have already begun to evaluate the results of the lessons learned. The overall result is as follows, the journalist maintains, Russian actions in the Crimea were a lesson in the high-speed deployment of special forces to achieve a strictly limited goal.
“In Russian troops, I was most struck by the level of discipline, training and cooperation,” said Paul Sanders, executive director of the Center for National Interests.
At the time of the crisis in the Crimea, there were about 15 000 Russian troops, says David Ignatius. Within a few days, they were quickly joined by special forces consisting of about 5000 fighters. Military analysts, the journalist notes, have noticed some interesting features of the Russian deployment of troops. President Putin, a former KGB lieutenant colonel, preferred a covert operation to open military intervention.
Since the troops did not have any identifying marks, at a press conference Putin’s 4 March denied that they were Russian military. “Go to the store with us, and you will buy any form there,” he answered the question of the journalist. 5 in March, the president was supported by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, calling the “complete nonsense” reports that Russian troops invaded the Crimea.
This denial of real facts, according to the journalist, was very useful. Russia managed to cover up “illegal intervention” with the “fig leaf of legitimacy”. In addition, it would allow Putin to distance himself from what is happening if the case turned out to be the murder of Ukrainians.
In addition, Putin showed willingness to take risks. The blood has not yet been shed, says the journalist, but Putin could not know this when he started it all. That is why the discipline of the Russian troops is so important - their professionalism reduced the risk of incidents.
Finally, Putin has prepared a “rationale for his intervention,” writes David Ignatius. Putin acted in defense of the citizens of Russia and the Russian-speaking population in the Crimea. He was supported by both Crimeans and Russians. However, this model of behavior, the journalist believes, can be used to protect Russians in countries neighboring Russia (Eastern Ukraine or Transdniestria).
Experts say that it is less likely that Putin will oppose such neighboring states as Latvia and Lithuania. Such operations against NATO member countries will require a greater military presence, as well as test the alliance’s readiness to act in defense of its members in accordance with Article 5 of the NATO Charter. Putin may not be ready for this risk, says David Ignatius.
A well-organized operation in the Crimea demonstrates improved quality and training in the Russian army. 10 years ago in Chechnya and in 2008 in Georgia, they, according to the journalist, acted far less smoothly. Obviously, Russia is beginning to receive the results of increased funding and modernization of its army.
“In short, the current Russian army is not at all what has so weakly manifested itself in Afghanistan. She is well trained, acts inconspicuously and effectively uses a small area of accommodation. Obviously, Putin’s military maneuvers, which signaled the alliance’s readiness to protect its members, did not stop Putin, but did not show the organization’s readiness to stop Russia's secret operations in a friendly neighboring region, ”the journalist states in an article for The Washington Post.