I’d never heard of Dmitry Gorenburg, but he has a must-read piece today in War on the Rocks. Here’s the unsettling part:
The first clear lesson from the Crimean operation is that the Russian military understands how to carry out operations with a minimal use of force. This observation may initially seem banal or trivial, but we should keep in mind how Russian troops acted in previous operations in Chechnya and even to some extent in Georgia. Subtlety was not a strong suit in these operations, nor did it seem to be particularly encouraged by the political leadership. Instead, the goal seemed to be to use overwhelming force without much regard for civilian casualties. By contrast, the entire operation in Crimea was conducted with virtually no bloodshed or violence.
He says the three keys to Putin’s success were diversionary tactics, pre-emptive action, and rapid deployment — none of which are traditional Red Army strengths. Although to be fair, the first two were largely political actions, and very much a part of Russia’s historical modus operandi. That says to me that the Kremlin has its mojo back after a three-decade lull.