Desert Storm and Its Meaning

The View from Moscow

by Benjamin S. Lambeth

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Operation Desert Storm (ODS) is the closest thing to a laboratory test of the U.S. and Soviet ways of war. More important than what it may tell us about future Russian defense policy, however, is what we may learn from assessment of the war offered by military analysts in Moscow. Russian military analysts have publicly cited a number of conclusions from the experience in the Persian Gulf, including (1) the nature of modern war has changed radically in the last few years; (2) though it may not win wars by itself, air power has become the decisive force; (3) the Soviet concept of integrated, overlapping, and redundant air defenses has serious shortcomings; and (4) coalition warfare can work. There is a fair chance that the post-Soviet military could adopt a more Western approach as a result of the model provided by the allied performance in ODS. However, some of the most important insights the Russians have drawn from the Gulf experience have been more political than military. These include a recognized need to disentangle from bad allies and an understanding that it makes more sense to work with the West than against it.

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