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With Nato assessments that there are some 40,000 Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border ready to move at a few hours’ notice, the heightening war of words between Moscow and Kiev raises a genuine prospect of conflict. If Russia requires a pretext to move into eastern Ukraine, then many of the elements of that narrative are already in place. But what of the Russian military’s capabilities? What can be deduced from what we have seen so far of Russian operations in Crimea? Keir Giles, director of the Conflict Studies Research Centre (CSRC), a group specialising in Russian military affairs, notes that “this is a very different Russian army from that seen during the Georgia war of 2008″. Despite the apparent easy victory in Georgia, serious deficiencies in Russia’s military performance were obvious. This “was a post-Soviet army, not much changed from the 1980s, and designed for a very different form of combat”, he says. “Serious lessons were learnt in terms of organisation, command and control, equipment, and especially inter-service co-operation. “Communications between ground and air units were a major problem, due to a lack of effective forward air controllers properly embedded with ground units, and several of the Russian air losses were apparently shot down by their own side.” More