[March 13, 2022] From afar, it is easy to oversimplify or distort lessons from the Ukraine War and what the world should learn from it. There is a significant risk of taking the wrong lessons and applying those to the greater global stage of international relationships, our economic systems, and how we use our military.
Today is the 18th day of the war when Russia invaded Ukraine. It appears that much of the Russian plan1 to invade is far behind schedule. There are several reasons for the Russian failure to progress quickly, today’s main lesson.
Here are five lessons from the Ukraine War:
- Leadership matters a great deal: We see that Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has taken it upon himself to lead from the front, never wavering in his duties, and being inspirational to his fellow citizens. Alexander the Great’s quote about fearing an army of sheep led by a lion is most appropriate.2
- Being Prepared: The Russian military appears to be unprepared for the fight in many ways. Their soldier morale is poor, the Russian equipment has not been adequately maintained, and their logistics is being crushed. The Ukrainians are better prepared, and we see this in the use of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons stockpiles, which means their military leadership anticipated how the Russians would fight and readied themselves for the battle.
- Proper Use of Military Capacity: A mystery is why the Russian failure to use its advanced Air Force to immediately degrade Ukrainian air assets, airfields, and support structure. Russian artillery has been very effective, but other units on the battlefield show they do not have adequate numbers or the skill to blunt the sting of the Ukrainian military. Russian forces have not consistently coordinated their offensive operations or integrated non-military assets.
- Information Operations: Russia has noted the importance of public opinion in Russia, Ukraine, and other countries (Europe, the U.S. and China) and have aligned their messaging to achieve good results before the invasion. The use of propaganda has not been up to their capability, and the reason is yet to be explained. The Ukraine government has done a better job of messaging.
- Outside intervention by Western nations: Military arms and intelligence are flowing rapidly into Ukraine to support their resistance to the Russian military offensive. This means that the Russians operate under a severe disadvantage when their positions are communicated to the Ukrainians.
Tomorrow, in Part 2, I’ll address flexibility, logistics, drones, morale, and how leadership outside the conflict is helping and harming both sides in this conflict.
- There is no one that I know that has read the Russian invasion plan. Still, a lot can be inferred from Russian military doctrine, their actions on the ground, and the conduct of the war so far, especially the Ukrainian resistance.
- Alexander the Great: “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” I’m not comparing the Ukrainian military to sheep; far from it, they fight like tigers. But the truism that leadership matters is a long-held view of outstanding military leaders throughout the history of humanity.
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