Paul Poast Profile picture
Mar 26 26 tweets 7 min read
Many are surprised by the poor performance of Russia's military in Ukraine.

But let's be honest: when it comes to fighting wars, Russia has always -- to use the formal term -- "stunk".

By "stunk", I'm not just referring to losing wars. I'm referring to how efficiently Russia's military achieves its objectives.…
But wins and loses are a useful starting metric.…
Admittedly, Russia/Soviet Union has some historically significant victories.

These include against Napoleon ...
... and against Nazi Germany (particularly at the Battle of Stalingrad).
But Russia's losses are quite notable. They include the Crimean War...
...the Russo-Japanese War...
...and World War I.
And even the notable victories have to been taken with a HUGE grain of salt regarding Russian military prowess.
Napoleon's "Grande Armee" wasn't all that "grand" by the time it actually reached Russia. That's really the lesson to draw from Minard's famous graph of Napoleon's march: by the time the army reach Smolensk it as down to 145k from 420k.
And you were more likely to see a horse in the German "War Machine" that invaded in 1941...
than a Panzer tank (see @adam_tooze)…
Consider some of Russia's "smaller victories", such as against Finland in 1939-40.
In that case, Russia/USSR "won", but by incurring heavily losses in personnel (left column is Finland's losses; right column is Russia's).
Or go back to the wars in Chechnya. Though Russia inflicted massive damage...…
... it also took heavy losses.…
Stated differently, Russia has little regard for the "loss exchange ratio": how many forces you lose/how many forces your opponent loses.…
To underline this point, consider data from the Correlates of War project.
Using data on battlefield losses during "inter-state wars", this graph shows the percentage of wars in which the listed country had the most battlefield deaths of all the participants. The take away should be clear.
The Russian military essentially uses an "attrition model": keep take losses until the other side quits, is destroyed, or, if the fighting goes long enough, Russia itself decides to stop fighting.
Unfortunately, if the plan is to wait for Russia to stop fighting, then you could be waiting a long time.

No need for outstanding strategic planning under this model.

And if your military doctrine is based on an attrition model, then you can get away with coup-proofing the military (e.g. removing highly competent officers from positions of power). See @ProfTalmadge's book.…
This could help explain Russia's history of non-coups by the military (despite opportunities). See @bdtaylor_SU's excellent book.…
All of the above, should put into context the heavy losses Russian forces are incurring in the current war.…
In short, how Russia's forces are performing in Ukraine is consistent with Russia's historical strategy in war fighting: take heavily losses and hope the other side quits.


• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Paul Poast

Paul Poast Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @ProfPaulPoast

Mar 22
This picture offers a key lesson on how wars end.

That lesson points to why Putin should be given an "off ramp" in the current 🇺🇦-🇷🇺 war.

This is the famous photo from the deck of the USS Missouri when Japan officially surrendered to the United States, ending WWII in the Pacific.
As is well known, the United States and its allies demanded the “unconditional surrender” of Japan.

What that meant was laid out in the 1945 Potsdam conference.
Read 32 tweets
Mar 18
Russia is about to default on its foreign debt.

That's a bit unusual, even for Russia. To see why, we need to go back to 1918.

To be clear, Russia in 2022 has not yet failed to make payments to foreign creditors.…
But given the crushing economic sanctions, particularly on the financial side, it is likely just a matter of time.…
Read 25 tweets
Mar 14
Russia seems to be following the British WWI financial model.

That didn't end well for Britain...or the World economy.

We'll get to the British in a moment.

Let's first consider the current state of the Russian war economy, which can be summarized in two words: not. good.…
Russia is already coming up short on material....

Read 45 tweets
Mar 12
Many worry that the 🇺🇦-🇷🇺 war could escalate to World War III.

But are we ALREADY in a World War?

Some observers think we are in World War III. See Fiona Hill (in @politico)...…
Read 41 tweets
Mar 9
The economic sanctions imposed on Russia are unprecedented in scope and scale.

But I'm not sure they'll actually "work".

The massive economic sanctions being imposed on Russia...…
...are aimed at achieving...wait, that's the first problem. What are they intended to achieve?

That hasn't been clearly articulated, as @dandrezner wrote here:…
Read 35 tweets
Mar 5
I disagree with John Mearsheimer on the causes of the Ukraine-Russian War.

Instead, I think...and stay with me on this one... Offensive Realism offers a better explanation.

This is going to be a LONG thread (with lots of links to other threads). In it, I want to:

- Recap John's argument

- Share where I agree with it

- Share where I disagree with it

- Show that Offensive Realism offers a better explanation
To begin, let's recap Mearsheimer's argument on the causes of the Ukraine-Russian War.
Read 38 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Don't want to be a Premium member but still want to support us?

Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Or Donate anonymously using crypto!


0xfe58350B80634f60Fa6Dc149a72b4DFbc17D341E copy


3ATGMxNzCUFzxpMCHL5sWSt4DVtS8UqXpi copy

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!