Michael Kofman is one of the most important Twitter follows for understanding the Russia-Ukraine war. This morning he has a short thread about Russia’s dismal military performance in Ukraine. While he says he has no doubt the US military would greatly outperform the Russian military, he sees the reaction to those Russian failures as an example that “we may be psychologically unprepared for war with [a] determined opponent that has some parity of capability.”
In other words, when you have a real army on the other side, lots of things can go wrong. The US military has had lots of experience over the last two decades in counter-insurgency conflict, against very lethal and determined enemies. But when it comes to invasions, air combat, armor and the like the US has not faced a peer or near-peer in a very, very long time. The military has an adage that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.” But if the enemy is weak enough – in terms of technology, training, logistics, firepower – your plan probably can survive first contact and maybe most of the whole engagement.
But there’s a related but distinct issue that keeps coming back to me as I watch this war unfold.