Ben Connable of the Atlantic Council says that the absence of realistic military exercises was a significant factor in Russia’s failures. Too frequently, the Russian military attempted to script its drills to reassure superiors that everything was in order. Consequently, it was unprepared to fight successfully when an actual conflict arose. In the years before he exacerbated the Ukraine conflict, Vladimir Putin often attended sections of the Kavkaz and Zapad drills, among others.
Putin’s generals were under intense pressure to transform these events into spectacles. As with any performance, ninety percent of a successful production is generated during rehearsals. All it takes is one incorrect trigger finger twitch to destroy the arrangement. Less professional the soldiers, the more difficult it is to execute a large operation. A Russian conscript’s whole term might be spent planning for a massive rally.
Moving people and equipment to the exercise fields might take months. Each week spent planning for and doing demonstrations is a week of wasted combat training. It is ludicrous to believe that 150,000 or even 10,000 Russian forces could perform flawless large-scale military movements without warning. So many of these so-called impromptu exercises were probably definitely ruses requiring maybe months of practice behind closed doors. Russia’s limited actions in Syria and Crimea concealed its inability to transform routine drills into nimble fighting capabilities.