Virtual Lecture - Why did the West overestimate Russian military capabilities and why does this matter?

Bettina Renz takes an in-depth look at why the West overestimated Russian military capabilities. The lecture is available via Crowdcast

Russian MBT destroyed during the Russia-Ukraine war shortly after Russian forces crossed the border in 2022.

Talk Outline

US and UK intelligence agencies accurately predicted Russia’s assault on Ukraine on 24th February 2022. Expectations about how the Kremlin’s troops would perform were less exact. Many in the West had expected a quick and decisive victory, based on the assumption of numerically and technologically superior Russian armed forces. Instead, the world witnessed blunder after blunder as ill-prepared and ill-equipped troops attempted a disastrous push towards Kyiv. The lecture will take an in-depth look at the reasons why the West overestimated Russian military capabilities. Practical approaches to military analysis, which tend to overemphasise material assets, are only one factor. Western narratives about contemporary Russia and the complexity of strategy also need to be taken into account if more accurate future forecasts are to be achieved.

About Bettina Renz

Bettina Renz is a Professor of International Security at the University of Nottingham’s School of Politics and International Relations. She completed her a PhD in Russian and East European Studies at the University of Birmingham. Her research expertise is Russian defence and security policy with a particular interest in military modernisation. She has published widely on the subject, including her latest monograph, Russia’s Military Revival, which appeared with Polity in 2018. Before her appointment at Nottingham, Professor Renz worked as a lecturer in airpower studies for King’s College London at the RAF College, Cranwell. She was also a distinguished visiting professor at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto in 2020.

About the RAF Museum Research Programme

The RAF Museum’s 2023 programme includes Lunchtime Lectures at the RAF Museum, Cosford; Air Power Lectures, co-organised with the Centre for War and Diplomacy at Lancaster University; and Air Power Seminars, co-organised with the University of Wolverhampton. You can attend these lectures in person or join us online as we live-stream from the venue.