To Fix Its Problems in Ukraine, Russia Turns to the Architect of the War

In rare public comments, mimicking Mr. Putin’s propaganda, General Gerasimov portrayed Russia as a victim of Western aggression, without explaining his strategy to neutralize the perceived threat.

“Our country and its armed forces today are opposing practically the entire collective West,” he said in an interview with the Russian newspaper Arguments and Facts published on Jan. 24, adding that NATO is “using Ukraine for a hybrid war against our nation.”

As he sought to overhaul the Russian military, General Gerasimov elevated the irregular warfare tactics that he falsely believed that Americans were conducting, instead of focusing on what the United States did well — combined arms warfare, blending various military capabilities to create overwhelming force, Seth G. Jones, the national security expert, argues in his book “Three Dangerous Men.”

As a result, Russia’s military gained expertise in subterfuge and clandestine tactics, like sending Russian Spetsnaz special forces units, without insignia, to Crimea before Russia illegally annexed the peninsula in 2014.

But the war in Ukraine has required a different kind of maneuvering: offensive campaigns by large numbers of ground forces operating in different areas with the goal of seizing land. There, General Gerasimov has been ineffective.

The troops sent to take Kyiv in the early days of the war lacked even basic supplies and soon stalled outside the city. He did not hone the military’s ability to move large numbers of different kinds of troops, by land, air and sea, yet his invasion plan depended on that. Russian forces got bogged down, and then eviscerated, in northern Ukrainian cities and towns.

General Gerasimov himself almost fell victim to his military’s poor planning when, in late April, he narrowly escaped being killed in a Ukrainian strike when he visited troops. Dozens of Russians were killed instead, in an incident that prompted Moscow to scale back visits from leaders to the front.

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