chapter  1
20 Pages

1 Russian operations in Georgia: lessons identified versus lessons learned


The armed conflict between Russia and Georgia in August 2008 lit the fuse for the long overdue creation of a distinct form for the Russian military, as opposed to a continuing existence as a pale remnant of the Soviet armed forces. The process is proceeding with remarkable haste and flexibility. After many false starts for ‘reform’, in the recent words of Dale R. Herspring, ‘this one is for real’ (Herspring 2010: 151). The parameters of ambition for change, and the protracted tormina gripping the Russian military in transition, have been well documented by informed observers both in Russia (Yevseev 2010) and elsewhere, including by Margarete Klein and others in this volume. This chapter seeks to look at this transformation to see what measures were taken specifically to address failings identified during Russian operations in Georgia – in other words, what is Russia likely to do better next time it engages in combat? There was a substantial overlap between the priority tasks for transforming the Russian military championed by Defence Minister Anatolii Serdiukov and his ally, Chief of General Staff Army General Nikolai Makarov, on the one hand, and the urgent improvements identified in analyses of operations in August 2008, on the other, but they were by no means the same.