Kyiv Ain’t Damascus: Russia’s Failed Transition from Counterinsurgency to the Conventional Fight 

It’s satisfying to watch the Russian military faceplant on the world stage. Vladimir Putin’s forces have thus far failed to hold key terrain, gain air superiority, or resolve logistics complications in Ukraine. The casualty statistics are staggering: an estimated 65,000 Russians have been killed and another 195,000 wounded after only eight months of fighting, according to Western media and Ukrainian sources. The inability to execute the fundamentals has relegated the Russian army from the second-best army in the world to the second-best army in Ukraine.

We can learn from watching our adversary flounder in Eastern Europe. As the U.S. pivots from counterterrorism to the near-peer threat, it’s worth remembering Russia is fresh off a successful counterinsurgency campaign in Syria. The post-Global War on Terror landscape is fraught with talk of changing priorities, reorganizations, and preparing for multi-domain conflict. Seeing the forest through the trees is important, but it’s equally important not to lose sight of the basics.

Winning the conventional fight isn’t about gadgets or tech; it’s about brilliance in those basics that make special operations special and make the relentless grind of a well-orchestrated ground campaign so effective.