WASHINGTON - Russia is claiming its victory over Georgia confirms its re-emergence as a military power. Propaganda aside, Russia's advance into Georgia was anything but smooth. The 58th Russian Army in Chechnya was in charge of this military operation.
Russia was prepared to move into Georgia long before the fighting began on August 7. The Russians did successfully move 10,000 troops and 800 armored vehicles into South Ossetia, with element of this invasion force than moving into Georgia. Yet coordination between the Russian Air Force and ground forces was poor.
Due to a lack of air cover, Russian armored columns were left open to Georgian artillery and anti-armor hunter-killer team attacks. In addition, logistical problems quickly surfaced as the Russian military moved south. Reporters in the area saw large numbers of broken down Russian vehicles on the roads south, causing traffic jams along the invasion routes.
Reports say Russia used aging vehicles not equipped with the add-on armor needed to counter anti-tank missiles and rockets. Many of the Russian armored vehicles were not air conditioned, making them so hot inside that Russian soldiers chose to ride on top. Russian soldiers also believed the vehicle's armor was insufficient to withstand Georgian-placed landmines. One reporter was surprised to see older T-72s and T-62s and no T-80 tanks among the Russian armored columns.
As the fighting continued, Russia discovered that some Georgian tanks were more advanced than theirs. The Georgian T-72s were upgraded with night-vision equipment and other items.
The Russo-Georgian War did show the Russian Army had significantly improved since its disastrous performance during the First Chechen War in the 1990s. The force that entered Georgia was made up of mostly professional soldiers, not conscripts. The Russian Army made sure it had overwhelming force available. The billions of dollars spent by he Russian government on rebuilding its army seems to be bearing fruit.