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In Georgia, Russia saw its Army's shortcomings

Decades of neglect, outdated technology, and an ineffective conscript system reduced the capabilities of the Russian Army.

Military giant? A Russian soldier works on his truck.

Seiron Baroian/AFP/Getty Images

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The global perception of the Russia-Georgia war this summer is that an armored juggernaut of old Soviet military proportions rolled over its puny rival after a five-day conflict.

But the view from Moscow is different. Many Russian military experts are still shaking their heads in dismay over a catalog of delays and mistakes that plagued the Russian Army's thrust into South Ossetia.

"The war made it clear that we have all kinds of shortcomings in equipment, training, battlefield coordination, and intelligence," says Alexei Arbatov, a military expert with the Carnegie Center in Moscow.

The Russian Army's questionable performance has prompted urgent debate here over Russia's need for a modern, mobile, professional army capable of rapidly responding to challenges that might erupt along Russia's long borders with its unstable post-Soviet neighbors. In fact, the August conflict is giving fresh impetus for a 30 percent jump in defense spending, and a military modernization plan.

It comes on top of years of accumulated oil revenues, and an increasingly patriotic public mood.

"Russia has changed a lot lately, and the spirit in the country is different from what it used to be," says Lt. Gen. (Ret) Gennady Yevstasyev, a senior adviser to the PIR Center, an independent security think tank in Moscow. "The public will now support major military reform, even if it entails financial hardship. Many things that were stalemated for years will now move forward."

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