Russian air and missile strikes in Syria over the past two weeks have surprised military analysts, who did not appreciate Russia’s sophisticated capabilities, according to the New York Times:
Taken together, the operations reflect what officials and analysts described as a little-noticed — and still incomplete — modernization that has been underway in Russia for several years, despite strains on the country’s budget. And that, as with Russia’s intervention in neighboring Ukraine, has raised alarms in the West.
In a report this month for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Gustav Gressel argued that Mr. Putin had overseen the most rapid transformation of the country’s armed forces since the 1930s. “Russia is now a military power that could overwhelm any of its neighbors, if they were isolated from Western support,” wrote Mr. Gressel, a former officer of the Austrian military.
The capabilities on display in Syria are surely sending shudders up Eastern European spines, but Washington should worry too. Although the United States remains a far more powerful military power than Russia, the speed with which Russia has managed to significantly upgrade its military equipment indicates the perils of resting on one’s laurels in an age full of rapidly-developing high technology. Armchair analysts who pooh-poohed the Pentagon budget cuts created by sequestration ought to revisit their arguments.
A greater worry: if Russia is startling us with its military might, how much might we be underestimating China?