How Russia conceives and prepares for war… and how Ukraine doesn’t fit

cc 4.0,

Many months ago, I agreed to speak to the Oxford Changing Character of War Centre about Russian thinking – not just within the military but also the spook/civilian national security establishment – about war and conflict. Then came the invasion, and the growing realisation that what the Russians were actually doing was rather different from what, according to their own strictures, they ought to have been doing. So, my presentation ended up being a rather more impromptu attempt to explore not just the latter but also the former, and to try and understand the mismatch.

They have now posted an audio recording (so-so sound quality at times, I’m afraid), here:

That was in the especially confused first couple of weeks of the war. Since then we have a little greater clarity as to what is happening, even if still largely conjecture as to why. My belief about the late standing up of a Combat Management Unit (GBU) within the National Defence Management Centre (which is a crucial hub for coordinating everything from logistics to endstate goals – I talk a bit more about it in this episode of my podcast) seems to have been confirmed. We still do not seem to have a single field commander, but instead separate (and thus inherently competing) operational commanders to north, east and south. The generals are trying to reassert their control over the situation, but clearly (too?) late, and with, for the Russians, devastating consequences.

Leave a comment


  1. Edwin Pace

     /  March 23, 2022

    Very good talk. Thanks! But isn’t the real problem that, after the fall of Communism as a coherent cause, Russia’s spy services needed another “cause” to justify their existence? So a Manichaean battle against an enemy bent on destroying Russia means that the Siloviki must always be at the centre of the nation. Otherwise, as in any normal country (including the old SU) politicians would be calling the shots, not spies. To recast Gogol’s old analogy, the “nose” for sniffing out spies is now in charge, not the brain. Perhaps eventually “the nose” may be apprehended (with or without the uniform of a State Councillor). But probably not today.

  2. Chris Terry

     /  March 23, 2022


    This podcast is brilliant, thank you so much.

    Incredible insight.


    Sent from my iPhone



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