How Politics Destroys Armies: Politics, Factionalism & Russia’s war in Ukraine

Political

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Description:
Militaries, like any organisation, share a basic vulnerability – they’re made up of people. And wherever there are people, there is an organisational culture.

Culture can shape the way a military performs just as much as the capabilities of its weapons or the count of its personnel. Having all the tanks in the world only means so much if the system maintaining them is weakened by corruption and false reporting – factors we’ve explored before.

But there’s a third part of this story, the component that helps explain why systems adopt inefficient structures, struggle to coordinate or become filled with mutual distrust and self sabotage. Politics. Where the political interests of individuals deviate from the interests of the collective, bad things happen, and where leaders begin to put more focus on loyalty than on competence, then a system will never live up to its full potential.

This episode serves as the third episode in the trilogy that began with “How corruption destroys armies” so I would advise watching those first if you have not already

Patreon:
https://www.patreon.com/PerunAU

Caveats & Comments:
Under normal circumstances, Kremlin power games would not normally be played out in public – contests like those now being seen between Wagner and Shoigu for example that play out in public are relatively new phenomena. As a result, there is a recency bias in the examples used.

Also note that as much of this topic is evidenced by competing, self-interested claims by various parties – examples should be considered illustrative or with low confidence levels.

Further Reading:
Information drawn from the Telegram channels of relevant figures – as a rule I do not directly link to content by these sources but relevant extracts are contained in this presentation.

Drach’s video on the IJA’s Navy (recommended)

Russia’s defence reform Assessing the real ‘Serdyukov heritage

Click to access f_0027951_22760.pdf

Russia’s New PMC Patriot:
https://jamestown.org/program/russias-new-pmc-patriot-the-kremlins-bid-for-a-greater-role-in-africa/

Russia’s (not so) Private Military Companies
https://www.foi.se/rest-api/report/FOI%20MEMO%206653

Band of Brothers: The Wagner Group and the Russian State
https://www.csis.org/blogs/post-soviet-post/band-brothers-wagner-group-and-russian-state

The Russian Way of war
armyupress.army.mil/portals/7/hot%20spots/documents/russia/2017-07-the-russian-way-of-war-grau-bartles.pdf

The Best or Worst of Both Worlds?
https://www.csis.org/blogs/post-soviet-post/best-or-worst-both-worlds

Shoigu survives reshuffle
https://jamestown.org/program/russias-defense-minister-sergei-shoigu-survives-government-reshuffle/

Shoigu sells Russias military success story
https://icds.ee/en/defence-minister-shoigu-sells-russias-military-success-story/

https://theconversation.com/chechens-fighting-in-ukraine-putins-psychological-weapon-could-backfire-179447

Timestamps:
00:00:00 — Opening Words
00:01:42 — What Am I Talking About
00:02:47 — SPONSOR: PRIVATE INTERNET ACCESS
00:04:21 — POWER & INCENTIVES
00:04:33 — The Problem of Incentives
00:06:15 — System Self-Select & Perpetuate
00:08:34 — The Personalist Structure
00:09:04 — The Autocrat’s Incentives
00:12:09 — The Boyar’s Incentives
00:13:34 — COMPETENCE, REFORM & THE RUSSIAN ARMY
00:13:48 — The Post-Soviet Decline
00:14:18 — Yeltsin’s Praetorians
00:15:23 — Grachev
00:16:55 — The Serdyukov Reforms
00:19:29 — Rebellion & Replacement
00:20:14 — Remember Sergei?
00:21:14 — The Shoigu Years
00:22:19 — Sergei’s Failures
00:23:25 — Sergei’s Successes
00:24:54 — DUPLICATION & EMPIRE BUILDING
00:25:05 — Efficiency is Sleek
00:25:54 — Empire Building & Divided Rule
00:26:37 — Building an Ideal Military
00:27:44 — German Military Feudalism
00:28:56 — Waffen SS or HEER
00:29:14 — An Organisational Melee
00:31:11 — FRAGMENTATION IN RUSSIA (DRAMATIS PERSONAE)
00:31:17 — The Regular Army
00:31:49 — Rosgvardia
00:32:59 — The DNR & LNR
00:34:59 — Russian Law
00:35:49 — Kadyrov
00:37:25 — Kadyrovtsy
00:37:55 — Loyal to Whom?
00:38:38 — Yevgeniy Prigozhin
00:40:29 — “Volunteer” Units
00:41:22 — Other Players?
00:42:16 — The Costs of Fragmentation
00:43:53 — COORDINATION & COHESION
00:44:05 — There is no “Team”
00:45:12 — IJA: The Rivalry
00:46:07 — IJA: Organisation
00:46:44 — IJA: Coordination
00:47:51 — The MoD v Wagner
00:49:51 — Duelling Narratives
00:50:54 — The Narrative?
00:53:03 — Meanwhile, in Wagner World
00:55:10 — DIRECT “COMPETITION”
00:55:17 — Unit “Friction”
00:56:12 — Rogozin
00:58:59 — POLITICAL OBJECTIVES
00:59:25 — When Politics Trumps Military Logic
01:00:52 — THE AGGREGATED IMPACT
01:00:59 — An Ending (To This Act)
01:02:00 — CAN IT BE FIXED?
01:02:08 — This is Not Unique
01:02:55 — Antidotes and Controls
01:04:13 — The Russian Issue
01:05:35 — Cultural Factors
01:07:57 — Conclusions

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