For years after the cold war ended, the United States sat back and watched the former Soviet Union implode as its economy failed. Popular thinking was that its once powerful military would no longer have the financing to maintain itself yet alone find the financial means to keep it on pace with our improving technology.
Now that the Russians have gone into Syria and Ukraine and started to show off some of their military weaponry, it has become apparent to those in charge of our military that we have grossly underestimated Russia’s current military capabilities.
This is vitally important to us because President Putin has shown little respect for the west and pushed pro-Russian agendas forward despite the fact the west has leveled crippling economic sanctions on them.
Russia scoffed at the overthrow of the former pro-Russian government in Ukraine by annexing Crimea and not-so-covertly backing pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
These moves have left them with the vital Black Sea Naval Base that they craved and have destabilized Ukraine to the point where it cannot ally totally with the west and put another NATO nation on Russia’s doorstep.
Despite all these things, it is Syria that has become the biggest game changer as far as how we now view Russian military strength.
Just a little over a year ago, the rebels were showing so much resistance to the Syrian regime that there was serious fighting going on in the capital city of Damascus and it looked like the rebels would get the victory they so badly wanted to achieve.
Now all that has changed as ISIS virtually walked into the country and took over wide parts of it and the foreign military backing the Assad regime is getting from Russia and other allied nations has put the rebels squarely back on their heels.
The USA-led coalition has been conducting 100 – 200 sorties a month against ISIS in Syria; the support it had hoped to get from its Middle East allies is all but gone with their concentrated effort in the ongoing battle in Yemen.
At the same time, the Russians have been showing the ability to support air operations that our intelligence community did not consider them capable of. They are flying almost as many sorties a day as the US-led coalition has been flying in a month.
The Russians have shown other capabilities we did not believe they possessed either. They have been launching cruise missiles accurately from almost 1000 miles away from Syria; these same missiles that intelligence experts estimated had a range of some 500 miles.
Their electronic warfare capability has been shown to be more advanced than previously thought and they have also set up an air defense shield over Damascus that experts agree would be hard for coalition aircraft to penetrate if the need arose.
All these things should be a serious wake-up call for our intelligence community and its failures. These are not the types of military surprises we need when facing a potential adversary that has little respect for world order unless it fits into their own agenda.
Our intelligence community needs some serious reform and it needs to start now.