Western observers of Russia’s failure in Ukraine likely will soon begin arguing that Moscow’s inefficiencies diminish Washington’s need to rebuild the U.S. military. But Russian failure has stemmed from logistical issues, and the U.S. military’s capabilities, like Russia’s, aren’t prepared for major combat with a global power.
The Russian military didn’t invest enough in logistics, despite spending lavishly on the polished hardware that appears in military parades. The Russian military, like its Soviet predecessor, remains a conscript force and has neither enough professional noncommissioned officers to maintain equipment nor enough officers trained in logistics. In combat, there is a major difference between a military driver with three years of training and an 18-year-old conscript with a driver’s license. The Russians expected a Ukrainian collapse, but logistical incompetence prevented Russia from supporting multiple fronts simultaneously. Russia has now withdrawn its bloodied units from northeastern Ukraine toward the Donbas region and has abandoned a significant amount of armor and artillery in the process.
It is tempting to ascribe this failure to authoritarian conditions and assume that American and allied armed forces would be immune to such incompetence. But the U.S. military may encounter logistical problems at a similar scale to Russia if the U.S. defends Taiwan against an assault by China. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) isn’t the Russian military, nor does it face the same operational difficulties.
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