Two Years in Ukraine — The Russian Army is Still Bad at War

Wes O'Donnell
11 min readFeb 20, 2024

As we approach the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, it’s worth looking at where Putin’s clown army has improved and what lessons they have failed to learn.

Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

Before February 2022, Russia was thought to have a modern, lethal military machine.

Since Putin came to power over two decades ago, the media has subjected us to stories of how Russia is modernizing its conventional military, creating super weapons, and investing in a fighting force capable of taking on NATO and the West.

Exhibit A — This New York Times article from 2021 which has not aged well: Russia’s Military, Once Creaky, Is Modern and Lethal

For those of us raised during the 1980s, Russia was the main enemy in the media of the day. Movies like Red Dawn, Rocky IV, and even Top Gun sent countless ’80s kids running to their local recruiter’s office ready to sign on the dotted line to “kill a commie for your mommy.”

I joined for the college money — fighting Russians was just a bonus. After September 11th, 2001, Islamic terrorists became the new boogeymen. But Russia was always there in the background, quietly rebuilding its military.

Or so we thought.



Wes O'Donnell

Army & Air Force Veteran | Global Security guy at War is Boring, GEN, OneZero | Intel Forecaster | Law Student | TEDx Speaker | Pro-Democracy | Pro-Human Rights