“Is the Russian Military a Paper Tiger?”
by Isaac Chotiner
In The New Yorker, April 6, 2022
This week, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, announced the onset of what he called a new phase in his country’s war on Ukraine, which appears to consist of a focus on Ukraine’s east and a more gradual speed of attack than that of the failed strikes of late February and early March. Lavrov cast this tactical shift as a natural outgrowth of Russia’s so-called special military operation, but it has only highlighted the country’s previous miscalculations. To better understand what went wrong with the Russian approach, I called Joel Rayburn, a retired Army colonel and former U.S. special envoy for Syria, who is now a fellow at New America, a think tank in Washington, D.C. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed what Rayburn learned about the Russian military from his involvement in Syria policy, the biggest mistakes the Russians have made in Ukraine, and whether the failures stem from poor decision-making or corruption.