A few observations. Russia has always been a land of bizarre constrasts. As Dominic Lieven has demonstrated, it did not defeat Napoleon by throwing 'more peasants at the enemy', but because its leaders outthought Napoleon. On the bicentenary of 1812, the 'Russkiy Mir' website had a tribute to Barclay de Tolly, commemorating his role as founder of Russian military intelligence. The service he created helped Barclay and Alexander I work out the kind of war that Napoleon wanted to fight, and ensure that he did not fight it. As important as the repulse of Napoleon, as Lieven brings out, was the decision by Alexander that Napoleon should not simply be pushed out of Russia, but utterly destroyed, and the spectacular feats of Russian arms in 1813-14. (See http://www.russkiymir.ru/en/publications/139713/ ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzElqomAATI .)
The creation of the Red Army was the bizarre joint work of former Tsarist general staff officers, who included figures like Aleksandr Svechin, who were some of the most brilliant military minds in Europe at the time, and erstwhile agitators like Mikhail Frunze who discovered a talent for generalship. (On this, see the chapter by Jacob W. Kipp, then director of the U.S. Army's Foreign Military Studies Office, entitled 'The Origins of Soviet Operational Art, 1917-36', in the symposium 'Historical Perspectives of the Operational Art' published by the Center of Military History of the U.S. Army in 2005. See http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/070/70-89-1/cmhPub_70-89.pdf .) The role of Stalin in all this is quite incredibly mixed. On the one hand, among his many catastrophic actions, his fear of new Bonaparte made him destroy what was, apart from the German, the best command group in Europe, and replace them with inept cronies like Voroshilov and Budyonny. But the military-industrial and mobilisation machine he created – at an astronomic cost in human lives and suffering – made possible the defeat of Germany. And when push came to shove, unlike Hitler, Stalin put competent people in charge. To cut a long story short, and slide over very many complexities, the fact that the Stalinist system had worked during the war created an immense inertia. As the late great Moshe Lewin – a sometime Red Army soldier – brings out in his last work, the 2005 study 'The Soviet Century', already during Andropov's time as head of the KGB, which began in 1967, it was becoming clear to intelligent people in the Russian security services that their system was dysfunctional. Implicit here were questions about the Cold War which would gain increasing force in the years that followed. The notion that the post-war Western strategy of 'containment' was purely defensive is actually BS. Anyone who seriously believes this should read the crucial early Cold War policy papers, in particular NSC 68. Looking at it from a Russian point of view, however, the patent bankruptcy of communism has ambivalent implications. If you conclude that the West's essential enemy was simply communism, that not only 'rollback' but 'liberation' make sense as strategies, from the point of view of Russians as much as anyone else. If however you conclude that behind the anti-communist rhetoric there is a fundamental anti-Russian agenda, the implications are quite different. In that case, people who take the West's rhetoric of 'liberation' at face value are, as we would say in England, mug punters. Equally, how one answers the question of whether the West's enemy was fundamentally communism or Russia crucially influences one's reading of what was wrong with post-war Soviet military strategy. A complacent view of Western strategy leads naturally to the view that this was simply self-destructive. A narrow military logic, which pointed to an offensive posture in Central Europe, had made enemies of people who would naturally have been friends. If however one concludes that Western emnity was either not, or only secondarily, the product of Soviet policy, all the evaluations change. Already, the process of changing evaluations was apparent with the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Far more critical, however, was the Georgian War. In its aftermath, a leading figure among the so-called 'new thinkers', Sergei Karaganov, wrote an article which began 'Curses fall from my mouth'. The 'key para' as an old English sub-editor would say (I think the American equivalent may be 'money graf'): 'At one time, during the Communist times of the weakening and decay of the USSR, members of the dissident intelligentsia and simply intellectuals were asking the strictly speculative question: what if the country throws off the stranglehold of Communist ideology and the socialist economy and becomes capitalist and free? Most believed that a free and capitalist world would welcome us with open arms. A minority of these unrestrained romantics said that a strong capitalist and economically more effective and free Russia would cause no less opposition than the Soviet Union.' And then, the sentence which lies behind everything which has happened since: 'It appears that the latter came out the ''winners'' in the argument.' (See http://topics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/03/the-traps-of-a-cold-war/?_r=0 .)
And there was another indication, to which people had they been listening might have paid notice. In the aftermath of the Georgian attack on South Ossetia, it turned out that perhaps the most famous 'Russian' conductor in the West, Valery Gergiev, was not Russian at all: he was an Ossete. And he took his Marinsky Orchestra to Tskhinvali. As the darkness fell in front of the town hall, he played Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony. (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKqSTPNCsMM .) It seemed to me likely that there was an allusion intended to the evening of 9 August 1942, the day Hitler had intended would celebrate the fall of Leningrad with a lavish banquet at the city's Astoria Hotel. On that day Lieutenant-General Leonid Gorovov, the artilleryman who a key to the defence of the city, unleashed a bombardment on the German positions, so the hall could be lighted up as Karl Eliasberg conducted his half-starved orchestra. (Apparently Govorov later remarked to Eliasberg that: 'we played our instruments in the symphony too, you know'.) So, the stage was set by the Georgian War for a radical change, in which, among other things, the military again became a far more natural place for young people of energy and ability who want an adventurous and honourable profession.