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War in Ukraine. ISW: Putin like Stalin. Reluctance to appoint a commander responsible for the entire theater of operations

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The frequent changes of Russian generals made by Putin have led to factionalism and disorganized the army, negatively affecting its effectiveness, the American Institute of War Studies (ISW) wrote in a recent analysis. Analysts compared the Russian leader to Joseph Stalin, who was concerned about the excessive popularity of the Soviet commander General Georgy Zhukov during World War II.

“Regular changes in command have led to the growing faction divisions in the Russian army and the disorganization of command structures, which reduces the ability to conduct a coherent campaign on Ukraine” – assesses the American think tank in a report on personnel changes in the Russian command since the beginning of full-scale aggression.


Analysts point out that “Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine without a clear and defined command structure and reluctance to appoint a commander responsible for the entire theater of operations in Ukraine (in the first months of the war) had a long-term impact on the command structure.”

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According to analysts, divisions in command structures are not a purely Russian phenomenon, but “their current dynamics have an unusually large impact on the decision-making process,” the study continues.

“Management style is detrimental to creating a stable command structure”

The Institute of Internal Affairs points out that Putin’s initial reluctance to appoint the commander-in-chief for operations in Ukraine (he did so only in April 2022, and since then the commanders have changed several times) was probably due to the desire to attribute success in the war to himself. Analysts compared Putin to Joseph Stalin, who feared that Soviet commander General Georgy Zhukov would become too popular during World War II.

Through numerous changes, Putin limits the influence of generals for fear of a possible weakening of his own power, but such a style of command negatively affects the effectiveness of the armed forces, the American center emphasizes.

At the same time, Putin has not carried out spectacular resignations, which is typical of his style of managing civilian power structures, and is intended to encourage those demoted or relocated to other sections to seek his return.

“Frequent changes and rotations of officials may work well in an authoritarian system that only cares about preserving the institutional power of the Kremlin, but this style of management is detrimental to the creation of an effective and stable command structure in the army,” concludes the ISW.


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