Recently, USA has excluded Pakistan from military training list. On the flip side, Pakistan has signed an agreement with Russian Federation for the training of its officers. My personal assessment is, this is a degradation of Pakistan's prevalent status. Pakistan army played a key role in Soviet-Afghan War of 1989 and helped the USA to defeat (arguably) Soviets. Pakistan military has a history of obtaining a large number of Sword of Honors from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Pakistan military officers were also providing training in the same academy.

Did USSR's defeat in the 1989 Soviet Afghan War have anything to do with the quality of training of soldiers and/or officers?

If yes, has there been any relative improvement in the area of training and strategic planning as compared to NATO since then? Has Russian Federation been able to fill relative the gap?

  • 6
    It would be useful if you could give us some idea what you have discovered so far. Using "have anything to do with" for training makes the answer almost inevitably 'yes'. – Lars Bosteen Aug 12 '18 at 12:18
  • 1
    Why Russians are faring well in Syria and did fare well in Osetia but they didn't fare well in Chechnya and Afghanistan is an interesting and on-topic question. – Pere Aug 12 '18 at 12:39
  • 6
    Concur with Mr. Bosteen; it would help to understand what you have researched so far and why that hasn't been helpful in answering the question. – MCW Aug 12 '18 at 12:52
  • 3
    This question seems to be simplifying things quite a bit. Was the U.S. military disorganized and poorly trained because we pulled out of Vietnam? Would we assume that nothing has changed since? Are you talking about the quality of their average soldier or their officers? Their strategic command decisions or the effectiveness of their special forces? – Tal Aug 13 '18 at 12:49

Question: Has the training of Russian troops improved since 1989.

Likely So. The Soviet Union was on it's last legs financially in 1989. 3 years into Gorbachov's Perestroika ("restructuring" the Soviet's stagnated Economy) campaign. Their Military budgets were contracting.

enter image description here

They were no longer able to compete successfully with the west in military spending. It would all collapse in a muffled implosion in 1991 when the Soviet Union would disintegrate and Boris Yeltsin would be sworn in as Russia's first President. In 1989 the Soviet doctrine was to mass troops and equipment. To bring overwhelming numbers. That meant really large numbers of men under arms, and supporting a lot of equipment which was outdated. Stalin once reportedly said, Quantity has a Quality all it's own

Today's Russian army is smaller and better trained.

Assessing Russia’s Reorganized and Rearmed Military (2017)
First, in terms of equipment, experience, attitude, confidence, and more, the Russian military is a radically different force from the one that began the process of transformation in 2008.


NATO Would Be Totally Outmatched In A Conventional War With Russia
In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, the Russian military underwent a significant reduction in force and capability that transformed it into a shell of its former Soviet-era glory. Both the 8th Guards Army and 1st Guards Tank Army were disbanded, their component units either suffering a similar fate or reorganized into smaller brigade-sized elements reflecting the reality that Russia, like the United States, believed large-scale ground combat in Europe to be a thing of the past; casting the Russian Army circa 2008 as a “near peer” opponent would not have been a flawed assumption on the part of the American military.


Soviet interceptor pilot and defector Viktor Belenko told the west in 1976, that he spent about a third of his training (classroom time ) in political indoctrination classes. He also said that as a pilot and Russian military officer, he was expected to spend weeks at a time annually harvesting Russian crops on communal farms.

Russia like China adopted a more western philosophy of smaller more professional armies after the first gulf war.

What Scares China's Military: The 1991 Gulf War (2014)
In 1991, Chinese military officers watched as the United States dismantled the Iraqi Army, a force with more battle experience and somewhat greater technical sophistication than the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The Americans won with casualties that were trivial by historical standards.

This led to some soul searching.


Was the Russian Military a Steamroller? From World War II To Today(2016)
In quantitative terms, Russia today is a shadow of its imperial and Soviet predecessors. Russia still has a lot of tanks — 15,000 to 8,000 for the United States, nearly a 2: 1 advantage. However, the United States has superiority over Russia in most other areas: total aircraft 3.8:1, total naval assets 1.2:1.

In nearly every arena, Russia is behind the United States and, often, many other states as well. The United States today has twice as many people. In fact, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh all have more people than Russia. Russia’s active military of 766,000 is barely larger than North Korea’s. The United States and India have nearly twice as many military personnel, and China has three times as many. China and the United Kingdom spend more on defense than does Russia. India and Japan’s military budgets are only slightly less than Russia’s. The United States far outstrips every other nation in military expenditures with a defense budget ten times greater than that of Russia.


Question: Pakistan army played a key role in Soviet-Afghan War of 1989 and helped the USA to defeat (arguably) Soviets.

As far as the Soviets go I would argue the United States army played little or no role in that war. Rather it was the CIA, US Congressional and Saudi Arabian spending and Pakistani logistics and intelligence which aided the Afghans in that war.

Question: Did USSR's defeat in the 1989 Soviet Afghan War have anything to do with the quality of training of soldiers and/or officers?

Probable. The Soviet Military was primarily trained to do battle in a European war against NATO. I don't think they were especially well prepared for Afghanistan. I think Afghanistan is an incredible difficult terrain for any invading force, and the Soviets could have been better prepared and trained. Then Again the United States didn't fair much better militarily. The US experience was moderated by their less ambitious goals and better strategy to control Afghanistan. The US widely used the checkbook rather than the sword in their Afghan war. The United States never seriously tried to control the countryside, as the soviets did.

I do think the Afghan war accelerated and even was one of a number of causes for the collapse of the Soviet Union. the Afghan war was a terrible unpopular war in Russia. It was expensive in capital and Russian lives. A 9 year war which ended in an embarrassing defeat and ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union. It contributed with the decline in nationalism, stagnation in the economy, the unpopularity of Gorbachev, and ultimately with the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Question: If yes, has there been any relative improvement in the area of training and strategic planning as compared to NATO since then? Has Russian Federation been able to fill relative the gap?

If the question is, is Russia's military training and equipment better off than it was in 1989, then the answer is likely yes. Likely because nobody really knows how good their military is until they use it. But Russia's military is smaller today than it was in 1989. Smaller means they can afford to spend more money on training their troops. It's expensive to maintain huge numbers of active duty military personnel and that expense is often credited in limiting the training for such forces in the old Soviet and old PLA's models. Russia's best equipment is often newer and as good or better than the West's. But that doesn't really tell the entire story.

If the question is, is Russia's military training and equipment better off than NATO, then the answer is likely not. NATO is made up of 29 countries who have organized their militaries to complement each other and fight together. NATO has a wide disparity of competencies in its member nations approach to defense. Given that NATO has several countries who spend on the same magnitude as Russia. Britain($45 billion) and France's($36 billion) for example combined defense budgets from 2017 outspent Russia in defense spending by about 15%. Individual both have likely outspent Russia over the last decade in defense spending. Then of coarse you have the United States which in 2017 outspent Russia by about 10-1 or $639 billion dollars. United States defense spending is increasing yet again in 2018, and Russia's defense spending will contract for the first time since the early 1990's in 2018. The reported US defense budget for 2018 ($716 billion). A lot of that goes to equipment, a lot of it also goes into training.

While Russia's best equipment is comparable or even arguable superior to Western military equipment, the real tale is told with expenditures. The Russian economy does not allow Russia to spend on the scale that would allow it to field enough of that new equipment to really challenge NATO.


  • Is Russian military training good enough to train Pakistani officers? – user32936 Aug 13 '18 at 0:48
  • 2
    @anonymous Russia's military like that of Britain's, France's and the United States has a proud history and could likely teach any country a lot. I would go with Britain, France or the United States over Russia, but Russia's military history and defense culture is in that class. You don't really get to know the order until the next time troubles occur. – user27618 Aug 13 '18 at 1:07
  • An enormous fraction of the ~$700B US military budget is pensions and veteran's medical costs; are such expenditures included in the French, German, UK, Chinese or Russian military budgets? – hyportnex Aug 13 '18 at 17:06
  • 1
    @hyportnex Actually the Dept of Veteran Affairs which provides healthcare to the US military is a separate cabinet level agency with an independent budget. Also the Dept of Treasure (see Other military-related expenditures) pays for US military pensions, not the Dept. of Defense. The US Defense Dept and budget exclusively is committed to defense. The US DoD doesn't even conduct traditional boarder security. – user27618 Aug 13 '18 at 17:38
  • Indeed, my question regarding the US budget was about "fraction" not "portion"; I specifically asked if those items are counted in the other countries' budget or not? – hyportnex Aug 14 '18 at 15:54

My understanding is that, after its 2008 invasion of Georgia and lackluster tactical performance, Russia critically examined a lot of its doctrine, equipment and troops. I assume some level of better training has followed, certainly procurement is known to have been focussed on.

How that will play out with training Pakistani forces is another story.


More information in this PDF, training considerations are addressed near the end. But since this report came out only 2 yrs after Georgia, it's more in needs-to-be-done category than assessing what was done.


Googling for "Russia military reforms after 2008 Georgia" should give you plenty of reading material.

As to the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, certainly the USSR had a number of deficiencies in its operations there, and training would likely have been a major one (training and morale are huge and often overlooked military factors). But better training, on its own or even with better equipment, would probably not have succeeded in imposing a foreign mode of government on Afghanis, as 17 years of NATO efforts without clear success to date demonstrates.

Last, Russia military organization (inherited from USSR) apparently doesn't give put emphasis on the NCO component. Western armies have privates - NCOs - Officers. NCO, being older and often veterans, contribute significantly to tactical military effectiveness when both privates and frontline officers (Lt, Cpt) can be expected to be quite young.


  • 2
    When you say Russia invaded Georgia, you are wrong. An EU-sponsored report says: Georgia had attacked the Russian-backed South Ossetian rebels, triggering the war. Source: BBC. – user2247 Aug 13 '18 at 7:36
  • 3
    @Dp_ When you drive your army into a neighboring country and attempt to create a new government favorable to you, you cant just say "its not an invasion because we think we have a good reason". Especially when the invading country has since continued to use the same strategy of embedding their un-uniformed troops inside "rebel" groups of neighboring countries while supporting said "rebels" with money and weapons. Then using hostility towards the "rebels" as an excuse to annex territory. – Tal Aug 13 '18 at 13:14
  • 1
    @Tal If your statements were true, the EU report would have put all the blame on Russia. If a source appears independent, and the source says it was Georgia that triggered the conflict, I'm inclined to believe that source. I'm not aware of any proof that the EU was particularly Russophile in this case. – user2247 Aug 13 '18 at 16:40
  • @DP_ You arent looking beyond a snapshot in time influenced by Russian information warfare immediately after the events. We are now 10 years in the future. We know that these same bullying tactics have subsequently and repeatedly continued to be used against Russia's other neighbors. If someone's neighbor dies, but you cant find any evidence pointing to them, then you wont consider them a suspect. But you should look on that old case with fresh eyes when you later keep finding more dead bodies around his house. – Tal Aug 13 '18 at 17:24
  • @BBC How does my invasion statement, even assuming that your claims are true, have any bearing on the answer? True, I have a thoroughly negative view of Russia's behavior under Putin, but my answer was fairly neutral, except for the implicit statement that Russian forces were deficient in that operation, something Russia has itself recognized. FYI: "Invasion* has no inherent ethical meaning. Don't believe me? Google up "overlord invasion amphibious", which refers to D-Day 1944. Look # of times invasion is used. Do you wanna argue that means it was an ethically dubious operation? – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica Aug 13 '18 at 18:28