Why is it 'Russian forces' but 'THE Russian army/military'? It makes no sense to me since both terms mean the same thing. Examples from the Internet:

They waged a brief but bloody war in August 2008 over Georgia’s Moscow-backed separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, in which Russian forces occupied swathes of Georgia’s territory and bombed military and civilian targets.

(the Guardian)

Notwithstanding Putin’s reputation in the West as an authoritarian and aggressive leader, his two decades at the helm and the pinnacle of global politics have reflected the fact that he is, on balance, a calculating and experienced decisionmaker, as evidenced by his decision not to employ Russian forces to help Syria defend itself against Turkish attacks.

(the Carnegie Endowment)

Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of Tallinn and Riga is 60 hours.


Now, examples for 'Russian army/military':

In the summer of 1890, for instance, a young lieutenant in the Russian army pedaled from St. Petersburg to London, averaging 70 miles a day.

(National Geographic)

His father, Yaakov Friedman, was a graveyard worker and unofficial rabbi for the local Jewish community who was conscripted into the Russian Army during World War II and killed in conflict.

(the New York Times)

Sometimes he appeared to tip his hand, praising President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, bragging about Russian grain production and fawning over the Russian military.

(again the New York Times)

  • 1
    It isn't just that. Those are only a few examples. It's quite possible to say the Russian military and Russian army. Jun 18, 2020 at 3:15

1 Answer 1


In your examples using Russian forces, it's possible that it was not the whole army that performed the actions, or that other forces besides the army (for example the navy or air force) were involved.

If we say "the Russian army" we mean the whole army and not just a part of it. Even in your example about a single Lieutenant, when the army is mentioned it's being mentioned as a complete service.

If we say "the Russian military" we mean all the military forces including the navy and air force and whatever other military services Russia has.

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