The Bakhmut Analysis: Being Definite and Being Flexible
Since well before February 24,2022, Ive been completely befuddled by the very strong claims made by the analytical community about how supposedly strong the Russian Army was and how supposedly weak Ukraine was. It was everywhere in the analysis—that Russian armed forces were easily some of the best in the world, that the Ukrainians would have no chance to stand up to them in the open field, and that things were so bad, that the Ukrainians might not even be able to muster an insurgency.
I put together some of my thoughts on why the analysis was so off early after February 24, in this article published in the Atlantic.
The analysis before February 24 seemed to use variables that made little sense for understanding military efficiency, and instead played up factors that did not seem, to me at least, to be particularly important. So, for instance, number of weapons, and claims about their effectiveness, were given credence—but whether the Russians had shown any real ability to use those weapons in complex systems was not really questioned.
For whatever reason, the analysis created this idea of a very powerful Russia and weak Ukraine that was dominant.What I found perplexing about these claims, which was reinforced by my discussions with Ukrainians about Bakhmut, was that they seemed so definite and so based on an assumption of Russian military capabilities that did not seem to supported by what we were seeing on the ground.
Russian Strength and Ukrainian Weakness Before February 24
Ive been part of a research effort, which commenced in March 2022, to try and understand the pre-February 24 analysis of the Russian and Ukrainian militaries. We have collected a vast database of sources of different analysis, and I think we have as clear a picture as any group about how the Russian and Ukrainian militaries were viewed, how power was understood and how a possible war would develop. As the project is ongoing, I cant get into any conclusion now. However it is clear is that many in the analytical community had very definite views on Russia’s military dominance over Ukraine, which they used to argue against supporting Ukraine with weaponry. One of the most definite was Rob Lee, who later would be one of the most definite about what was happening around Bakhmut.
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