Can we just agree that professional auto mechanics do not make good gynecologists, nor stock brokers are known for making good commercial airlines pilots, nor, in the end, most of heart surgeons will be good as 5 or more axis CNC machining centers programmers? It is pretty obvious that any serious occupation requires a serious dedicated background which starts with an academic foundation. That is until one gets into the "humanities" field in the combined West where it is totally conceivable that degree in political science or some international relations can qualify one to be… military "analyst". Russia is in no position to be critical, of course, since has "military analysts" with degrees in biology and even screenplay writing. Why this is possible is a mystery to me because in my life I seldom encountered people with degrees in international relations and who never served a day in the uniform to be acceptable (forget good) military "analysts". Mark Galeotti who passes in the West as a "specialist" in Russia also, for some unknown reason, passes as a military analyst. It is, indeed, strange since he is precisely the guy (allegedly versed in military history) who came up with a contrived simulacra known today as a "hybrid warfare". Galeotti could be excused for that—he is a doctrine monger who is rooted in the Western general ignorance on Russia in general and warfare in particular. And Galeotti is hurting because his military "analysis" of Russia is as valid as his…well pretty much anything he produces about war.
Galeotti needs self-medication (many Western "analysts" do) and emotional relief after the start of Vostok 2018 maneuvers and because of that he ejaculated himself onto the pages of The Atlantic with his piece Don't Fear the Russian Military. This is the only place where I agree with him—Russian military doctrine is explicitly defensive and Russia has no intent whatsoever to attack anyone unless attacked first. But after that is where I and Mr. Galeotti begin to diverge on the issue of actual military power.
Galeotii's opening "salvo" is rather underwhelming (as is his record of Russian "analysis" in general) and it starts with proclaiming beaten to death cliché represented as profundity:
That said, there’s a difference between showing off your hardware and testing your new tactics, and actually going to war. We shouldn’t assume that Russia actually wants to fight some major conflict. If nothing else, while Vostok’s scale shows that Moscow has regained the capacity for a continental-scale operation, it could hardly afford to fight one for real. It would have a hard time mustering this kind of army during wartime, when railway lines and communication hubs would be primary targets.
I will open a very small secret to Galeotti: even the first year cadets of military academies in USSR/Russia are introduced immediately in the first lectures on combined arms tactics (in my case this was the Naval Infantry Tactics—yes, yes, after five years we graduated, apart from main specialization, with the qualification of the commander of the tactical unit of naval infantry) to a difference between exercises which are done to fuse separate elements (I am sure Mark Galeotti knows what I am talking about) into tactical skills to how real battlefield "corrects" things. After all--all Tactical and Operational manuals are written with combat experience in mind. That is why armed forces train. This is not to mention a simple fact that Vostok-2018 are Operational-Strategic War Games and do involve a very serious (high) level training of a Command and Control for a whole Theater of Operations. So, it is not just tactics—these are all three of them: tactics, operational art and strategy.
But, the astonishing conclusion which Galeotti makes is the one which is highlighted in yellow. It is the first sign of a person NOT being any military expert, because:
1. Soviet/Russia's experience with railway lines and communications hubs being "primary targets" in war is simply unmatched by any nation in history. And unless war goes nuclear, Russia has enough Air Defense capability to ensure an absolute safety of railroads in strategic depth or their fast recovery in the frontal areas, for that both USSR and Russia have…
2. Russia's Railway Troops, a force, apart from other massive logistics and engineering services of Russian Armed Forces, is specifically designated and equipped to literally restore railway communications under fire. Modern technology allows to restore damaged and build new railways extremely fast. But, I guess, Galeotti being also a "historian" never heard about Red Army, in the words David Glantz and Jonathan House, "performing prodigious feats of logistics" during WW II. I will omit here the fact that Galeotti has a very weak grasp of the ranges of NATO weapons which can actually disrupt railway communications, not to mention "weights" of salvos required for a serious disruption (a hint: NATO as a whole doesn't have it), not to mention the issue of Probabilities of "leakers" in an extremely dense EW and AD environment which USAF never encountered. Well, sort of—if April 13 performance of the old Soviet S-125 and S-200 AD systems augmented with S1 Pantsirs integrated into C4ISR of Russian contingent in Syria are any indication—there all reasons to believe that the impact on railways in Russia will be not significant enough to cause strategic disruption. And yes, real war is hard.
But Galeotti doesn't stop here, he is so insulted with Russia not fitting his and his "sources" in Russia amateur military clichés that he reaches to a good ol' desperate "argument" of an economy:
Yet Putin is aware that the objective indicators do not help him make his case that Russia, with an economy smaller than that of Texas, should be treated as one of the great world powers. Instead, he relies on bluff and bluster, theater and shadow play. He wants to project an image of a dangerous yet confident country, one that should be placated, not challenged. Hence, the pictures we’ll soon see of tanks rumbling across the steppe as rockets, drones, and gunships roar overhead are part and parcel of a campaign to make Russia (look) great again. That campaign also includes Putin’s claims that Russia will soon deploy nuclear-powered cruise missiles. (Prototypes have been tested four times in the past year and have crashed every time.) It’s good to be strong, but it’s more important to be seen as strong.
Obviously this "argument" of Texas "having economy larger than that of Russia" is another self-medicating delusion popular among people like Galeotti and his ilk of "analysts" because it is needed to relieve the pain. What is this pain? Well, among many other things is feeling (for smarter ones—it is understanding) of being uneducated frauds. Consider this, Galeotti uses this tabloid level trash to compare Russia and Texas.
But whereas Russia’s economy is highly dependent on exports of oil and petroleum products, the Texas economy is broadly diversified. The state ranks first in the U.S. for not only oil production but also wind energy. It has a robust agricultural sector, and it’s a leading hub for advanced technology and manufacturing, aeronautics, biotechnology and life sciences. Austin, the state capital, is steadily emerging as the most dynamic U.S. filmmaking city outside of Hollywood.
Obviously the fact that Texas is highly integrated into overall US economy somehow escapes those Forbes' "analysts" as well as understanding of the fact that once "separated" from the US proper all this Texan high opinion of themselves will have to face a very hard landing. As an example, when mentioning aeronautics, Forbes' "experts", of course, forget that Texas only hosts aeronautical industry and infrastructure which is FEDERAL, such as NASA, that is all-American and without all those other "aerospace" places in US, from Everett in WA, to North Carolina to Chicago, among many, Texas alone will not be able to sustain all those wonderful things Forbes lists. Of course, when compared militarily—I wonder how Texas will try to arrange moving of the Newport News or Electric Boat to, say Corpus Christie, to count itself also as a naval power. It will be also fascinating to observe how Texas will produce on its own things of the complexity of GLONASS, S-500, let alone Yasen-class SSGN or will have own space program. This is not to mention the fact that Galeotti never heard of such thing as CINC and the structure of GDP, not to mention PPP (Purchase Power Parity) which make Texas economically a midget compared to Russia. Well, except for film-making, I am sure.
So, Galeotti huffs and puffs with his amateur vitriol, not understanding that he is an exhibit A of what not only me in my book but many other experienced and educated military professionals (I underscore that—professionals) pointed out not for once—Western punditry class has no clue when it comes to Russia in general and Russian military in particular. As Patrick Armstrong, an actual defense professional and analyst, noted:
The reason it is bad is because people with all kinds of pseudo-academic degrees and who have no good grasp of the nature and application of military power get into business of "analyzing" it and, as their records so brilliantly demonstrate, fail time after time to know the difference between shit and shinola. They "study" wrong "economy", wrong "country", and wrong "technology" and inevitably end up frustrated. This, plus visceral Russophobia which dominates Anglo "intellectual" class and which makes it write military drivel time after time. And then, of course, there is issue of actual military education. I am not going to delve into this now but when Galeotti makes this, cliché yet again, generalized conclusion:
So while a concerned NATO watches Vostok to glean insights into Russia’s military capabilities, it’s at least as important to keep an eye on all the subtext.
I have only one advice to Galeotti—how about you stop "keeping an eye" on subtext and go and study a real context and concentrate on something which may be closer to you, Russian organized crime. Leave military "analysis" alone, after all--auto mechanics do not make good gynecologists, nor International Relations specialists make good division commanders, especially on the modern battlefield.