When you go to war, as Vladimir Putin, and thousands of Russian conscripts have found to their fatal cost since February, you want soldiers who have “been there before”. Nothing substitutes for experience – wars, certainly those involving infantry, are most often won by experienced non-commissioned officers leading troops because only they really know how to maintain discipline under intense pressure; they know the importance of sticking to plan; and that those plans sometimes have to change.

The subtext to today’s ...

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