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Putin Is Finding War Is Hell, and Expensive

By James Stavridis

15 Mar 2022 · 4 min read

One question I get repeatedly these days: What is wrong with the Russian military? Many in the West had a mistaken belief that the Russian war machine was a rough match for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and they are surprised at how much trouble the massive force is having subduing a much smaller and less-equipped neighbor, Ukraine.

During my time as NATO’s military commander, I spent time with the Russian military and the chief of its general staff at the time, General Nikolai Makarov. A congenial figure, Makarov told me about Russian efforts to modernize his forces, starting with professionalizing them and weaning the nation from a brutal conscript system. There were plans to improve offensive cyber capabilities, precision-guided weaponry and unmanned vehicles.

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