"Something significant and positive just happened in the Middle East, and most Americans are not aware of it. The United Arab Emirates, under the banner of a Saudi-led coalition, late last month delivered a major blow to the most lethal Al Qaeda group on the planet—Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the primary Islamic extremist group operating in Yemen."
By Michael Morel, Politico
Take it with a grain of salt considering who wrote it. Still, it's an example of some rarely respected military forces doing something effectively that Western forces didn't. Another example is Kenya's intervention in Somalia. Essentially every time we expect some military force to only embarrass itself we're setting ourselves up for a surprise.
A big part of the difference between how we perceive the actions of Western high budget forces and non-Western forces derives from the difference in reporting about such actions. The press often easily accepted and disseminates the narrative of events as conveyed by Western forces (in which they naturally look successful and effective), while being much less cooperative with rather alien armed services. Sometimes, they're even outright hostile, as in 1999 when Yugoslavian security forces were very successful in tracking down and destroying armed insurgent groups after their attacks and the bodies were presented to the West not as Yugoslavian military success, but as massacres committed against civilians.
There's a supposedly ultra-left documentary and book by Noam Chomsky, "Manufacturing consent". It's supposedly ultra-left because it uses evidence from the Reagan era (when the Reagan administration's actions were considered as being right wing actions) as examples for how the media reports with bias (not necessarily due to a conspiracy) and thus 'manufactures' consent with the own government's actions even when an unbiased view would not do so at all. I read the book and have to say that over the last decades it proved to be much more applicable than expected, and is rarely disproved by anecdotes. The described bias appears to be largely and typically effective.
We should thus guard us against such a systemic bias when forming our conceptions, our understanding of the world. This includes our appraisal of military / defence policy.
A ministry of defence official who paints Russia as a threat that we'll need to raise several thousand additional troops against merely does his job and follows his bureaucracy's self-interest in more attention, more funds, more personnel et cetera.
We cannot expect the mainstream press to look up the IISS book (or this blog) and look at the real world ratio of military strengths and the finer issues of timelines of forces' arrivals in the event of a conflict. Most of them will simply repeat, disseminate the claim as news, usually without even only offering the view of the Russian MoD as a counter.
Likewise, the Russian ministry of defence has the free choice of whether it wants to paint itself as the powerful defender of the motherland who nevertheless should grow in order to restore Russian glory (which would serve the desire for prestige and respect in addition to attention, funds, size) or to paint itself as in dire need of more men resources (implying weakness and coincidentally being accurate). Their press will prefer to follow their line, not NATO's - and this doesn't even require a control of the press by Putin's cronies. It's simply what the press tends to do. It's in its nature.
This, by the way, is one reason why one should pay attention to non-mainstream sources. Yet keep in mind that non-mainstream and 'crazy' often are terribly close to each other, often even overlapping.