The 1 Silly Russia Can't Win a Major War

Robert Beckhusen

Key point: Moscow might have a decent military, but without a comparable healthcare system it cannot sustain high casualties.

Between the 1941 German invasion to the Soviet victory in Berlin in 1945 and the invasion of Manchuria that August, the Red Army would suffer more than 11 million dead and 15 million wounded — a shocking toll unprecedented and unmatched in history. To wage such a war, the Soviet Union relied on a total mobilization of its society and economy.

To treat such enormous numbers of wounded, the job fell to the USSR’s centralized health care system.

Military and civilian hospitals participated — the latter out of necessity, and the conflict led to important innovations in medical treatments, particularly for frostbite and thermal injuries. A similar trend occurred in the United States after the Iraq War although on a smaller scale — American EMT teams are now much more likely to have tourniquets within reach to treat bleeding from gunshot wounds, a direct lesson from soldiers’ experiences in Iraq.

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In 2018, Russia today is rebuilding its post-Soviet military into a force capable of fighting a large-scale war with NATO. Russia’s Western frontiers are seeing new mechanized divisions form up, with soldiers wearing new uniforms and carrying the latest hardware. They have new rifles, tanks, radios and advanced electronic warfare equipment which is equal to the world’s best.

However, Russia is lacking a medical backbone that can absorb the shock of a major conflict, according to an influential Russian military journal. The result will likely result in an overwhelmed medical system and excessive loss of life for Russian soldiers were they to go into battle with the West.

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