Early Lessons from the Ukraine War (Part 1)

By | March 13, 2022

[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:

  1. 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
  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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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  1. 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.
  2. 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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Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

26 thoughts on “Early Lessons from the Ukraine War (Part 1)

  1. Defend Free Speech

    General Satterfield, you have done us well. Go Ukraine! 🇺🇦. Go USA! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

    Reply
  2. Jack Burgess

    You cannot understand this war without knowing something about Russia’s historic fears of “encirclement,” the US’s “Polar Bear” invasion of Russia in 1918, US attacks of Russian allies in Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, and Libya, and the Western & American role in the revolution in Ukraine in 2014. Today’s events are not happening in a vacuum. Nor is this a simplistic struggle of good & evil. See my article on Yahoo and elsewhere: Ukraine: Lessons of History.

    Reply
    1. Anya B.

      Jack, spot-on comment. The world cannot be oversimplified and that is an ongoing danger when we look at international relations, war, economics, etc. Do you have a link to your article?

      Reply
  3. Max Foster

    It is to be hoped that Thursday’s meeting between the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers indicates a movement toward reconciliation and explains the otherwise truly horrifying debacle of American leadership on the issue of giving Polish warplanes to the Ukrainians and replacing them with American fighter planes for the Poles. If the United States’ departments of state and defense do not have some such excuse for the low farce of bobbling back-and-forth on the much-discussed warplane transfers with Ukraine and Poland last week, the Biden administration is breaking down in shambles and is incapable of showing any coherence or discretion in addressing any serious international problems.

    Reply
    1. Gilley the Brother

      It is hard to comprehend the gross failure of US policy making on this issue.

      Reply
      1. Len Jakosky

        Gross failure is an understatement. The Biden Administration is blinded by their leftist ideology and you can never convince them they are wrong. Even when their policies blow up in their faces, they never see themselves as wrong, just that you failed to follow them.

        Reply
      2. Willie Strumburger

        Why is Gen. Milley, at the JCS level, the most senior US military officer still in his job? Fire him today. He is immoral and down right stupid.

        Reply
          1. Q Razor

            Tells you something about the degraded ability of our senior military leaders. 🏳️‍🌈 More worried about the gay flag than about people’s real lives.

  4. Linux Man

    Be Prepared!!! …… classic boy scout motto and spot-on. The Russian army and air force were not prepared.

    Reply
  5. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    I’m most interested in information operations. Perhaps, Gen. Satterfield, you could pull an article together on this topic, and include propaganda as a key element inside info ops. This is one where there were a number of great surprises to most folks who study war. A number of senior military officials pointed out that Russia has not done a good job, except perhaps within their own country. But to the rest of us, it’s the Ukrainians who are masters of info ops.

    Reply
    1. Eye Cat

      Excellent point Otto. I believe most of us would agree that we would like to see more on “info opns.”

      Reply
  6. E.T.

    I look forward to tomorrow’s article as well.
    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.

    Reply
    1. Deplorable John

      “The Kremlin likely seeks to increase its combat power by drawing Belarus into the war and leveraging Syrian proxies, in addition to ongoing efforts to directly replace Russian combat losses through individual conscripts that are unlikely to be well-enough trained or motivated to generate effective new combat power.” What I found interesting from this article.

      Reply
      1. Ursala J. Simpson

        What I like – not about the war – about the Internet is that you can find a great deal of info that helps you put togehter an idea of what is happening. Some of it is obviously propaganda (as Gen. Satterfield noted).

        Reply
      2. Pumpkin Spice

        Yes, good article. Please continue to hunt for good sources. ✔

        Reply
    2. British Citizen

      Yep, good final Part 2. Read the whole thing. Great series, Gen. Satterfield. 👍👍👍👍👍

      Reply
  7. Rowen Tabernackle

    Thanks for a cogent article on a topic that most of us have a great interest in.

    Reply
    1. Harold M. Smith II

      Yep, and a reason to read this blog of which I and many others are huge fans. Oh, let’s not forget to support Gen. Satterfield by purchasing his book on the Iraq War and giving him a thumbs up on Amazon or Goodreads. A well placed narrative recommending his book is a tribute to his efforts to keep us all informed.

      Reply
  8. Rusty D

    Excellent article from Gen. Satterfield on important, early lessons from the Russian Ukraine War. I hope and wish for a peaceful ending to this conflict and the sooner the better. But someone is going to have to give up something.

    Reply
  9. Guns are Us

    Well done, Gen. Satterfield. I can’t wait until tomorrow for more. One suggestion for the mainstream audience and that is to limit the lessons to three. I say that so that you can better communicate those most important lessons. There are many many more, of course, but pulling them into just three helps your message.

    Reply
    1. Yusaf from Texas

      A reasonable request, Guns and thanks for that. I was thinking along the same lines when I read today’s article. 😊

      Reply

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