BANGKOK — (AP) — With its ground troops forced to retreat to Ukraine and regroup, and its Black Sea flagship sunk, Russia’s military failures are piling up. No country pays more attention than China to how a smaller, less armed force badly bloodied what was thought to be one of the strongest armies in the world.
China, like Russia, has ambitiously reformed its Soviet-style military and experts say leader Xi Jinping will carefully analyze the weaknesses revealed by the invasion of Ukraine as they could apply to his own military. People’s Liberation and its plans for self-government. Taiwan Island.
“The big question Xi and the PLA leadership must ask in light of Russian operations in Ukraine is whether a military that has undergone extensive reform and modernization will be able to execute much more complex operations. than those that Russia undertook during its invasion of Ukraine,” said Mr. Taylor Fravel, director of the security studies program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Russia’s armed forces have undergone an extensive process of reform and investment for more than a decade, with lessons learned from fighting in Georgia, Chechnya, Syria and its annexation of Crimea helping to guide the process. The Ukrainian invasion, however, revealed top-down weaknesses.
Experts were collectively stunned that Russia invaded Ukraine with seemingly little preparation and a lack of focus – a campaign along multiple ill-coordinated axes that failed to effectively combine air and ground operations.
The soldiers lack food and the vehicles are broken down. With mounting casualties, Moscow withdrew its bloodied forces from the capital, kyiv, to regroup. Last week, the missile cruiser Moskva sank after Ukraine said it hit the ship with missiles; Russia blamed the sinking on a fire on board.
“It’s very difficult to see success at any level in the way Russia has conducted the campaign,” said Euan Graham, senior fellow at the Singapore-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
President Vladimir Putin, who has been closely involved in Russia’s military reform, did not even name an overall commander for the operation about a week ago, apparently expecting a quick victory and grossly misjudging the Ukrainian resistance, Graham said.
“It’s a very personal war on his part,” Graham said. “And I think the expectation that it would be a cakewalk is obviously the biggest failure.”
Putin’s decisions raise the question of whether he received accurate assessments of Ukrainian military reform progress and capabilities, or simply told him what he wanted to hear.
Xi, also an authoritarian leader who played a personal role in China’s military reform, might now be wondering the same thing, Fravel said.
“Xi may also wonder if he is receiving accurate reports on the PLA’s likely effectiveness in a high-intensity conflict,” he said.
China hasn’t had a recent major conflict against which to gauge its military prowess, having fought its last significant engagement in 1979 against Vietnam, said David Chen, senior consultant at CENTRA Technology, a US-based government services firm. -United.
“The red flag for the Central Military Commission (of China) is that there are more unknown factors involved in such a campaign than they had anticipated,” Chen said.
“Russia’s experience in Ukraine has shown that what may seem plausible on paper at the Academy of Military Sciences or National Defense University becomes much more complicated in the real world.”
Xi, the son of a revolutionary commander who himself spent time in uniform, began undertaking military reforms in 2015, three years after taking over as head of the Central Military Commission.
Total troop strength was reduced from 300,000 to just under 2 million, the number of officers reduced by a third and greater emphasis on non-commissioned officers to lead in the field.
The Chinese military has a tradition of respect for the initiative of lower-ranking soldiers dating back to its revolutionary origins, said Yue Gang, a Beijing-based military analyst. By contrast, Russian forces in Ukraine showed weaknesses where decisions had to be made on the front line, he said.
“Chinese soldiers are encouraged to share their thoughts and views when discussing how to fight,” Yue said.
China’s seven military districts were reorganized into five theater commands, the number of group armies reduced, and the logistics system reorganized to gain efficiency. The ratio of support to combat units was increased and greater emphasis was placed on more mobile and amphibious units.
Xi has also sought to end endemic corruption in the military, going after two former top generals shortly after taking power. One was sentenced to life in prison and the other died before his case was concluded.
The Chinese military is very opaque and does not report to civilian judges and corruption investigators. It is therefore unclear to what extent the organization has been exorcised from practices such as selling commissions and kickbacks on defense contracts.
For Xi, the military’s primary mission remains to protect the ruling Communist Party, and he has followed his predecessors in hitting back hard at efforts to get the military to change its ultimate loyalty to the nation.
Xi’s overriding political orientation could mean the lessons he draws from the Ukraine conflict are wrong, Graham said.
“Xi Jinping will always apply a political solution because he is not a military specialist or an economic specialist,” Graham said. “I think the military lessons have to go through a political filter, so I’m not sure China will learn the lessons that are abundant and visible to everyone.”
The stated goal of China’s military reform is to “fight and win wars” against a “powerful enemy” – a euphemism widely understood to refer to the United States.
China has pumped huge sums of money into new equipment, launched more realistic training exercises with force-on-force scenarios and sought to reform its combat doctrine by studying US engagements in Iraq, Afghanistan and in Kosovo.
General David Berger, commandant of the United States Marine Corps, told a forum in Australia last week that Beijing would closely monitor the conflict in Ukraine.
“I don’t know what lessons they’ll learn but…they’re focused on learning, no doubt, because they’ve been doing it for 15 years,” he said.
Berger stressed the need for strong coalitions in the Pacific as a means of controlling China’s ambitions towards Taiwan.
China claims Taiwan as its own, and control of the island is a key part of Beijing’s political and military thinking. In October, Xi reiterated again that “the reunification of the nation must be achieved and will certainly be achieved.”
Washington’s longstanding policy has been to provide political and military support to Taiwan, without explicitly promising to defend it against Chinese attack.
Like Putin’s assessment of Ukraine, Xi’s China doesn’t seem to believe Taiwan would try to fight back. Beijing regularly blames its problems with the island on a small group of die-hard independence supporters and their American supporters.
China’s fully state-controlled media, meanwhile, relies on the imaginary narrative that Taiwan would not willingly go to fight against what it describes as its fellow Chinese.
Now, the rapid response of many countries to impose severe and coordinated sanctions on Russia after its attack on Ukraine, and the willingness to supply Ukraine with high-tech weapons may cause Xi to rethink his approach to Taiwan, Fravel said.
With “the rapid response from advanced industrialized states and the unity they have shown, Xi is likely to be more cautious of Taiwan and less emboldened,” he said.
Conversely, the Ukrainian experience could prompt China to accelerate its timetable on Taiwan with a more limited attack, such as seizing an outlying island, as a real test of its own military, Chen said.
“A sensible path would be to mature the PLA’s common institutions and procedures through ever more rigorous exercises,” Chen said.
“But as the world has witnessed, a central leader with specific ambition and a shortened timeline can short-circuit the process recklessly.”
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.