Archive for the ‘Geopolitics’ Category

By Richard Martin

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resistance of the Ukrainian people, government and armed forces have provided the world and especially NATO countries with the focus and resolve to assist Ukraine in defending its independence and security in alignment with the fundamental NATO values of freedom, democracy, law, and rights. 

Russia is seeking to undermine these values by dominating Ukraine and its people while attacking the same values in other countries, and specifically within NATO and the EU. Russia has been consistently employing “hybrid” warfare techniques to undermine the resolve and morale of the peoples and nations that oppose Russian ways and means of achieving its aggressive ends. The attack on gas pipeline infrastructure in the Baltic is just one example of this.

Beyond this, Russia has been conducting information warfare and psychological operations against NATO, the EU, and the West in general. The main approach involves using disinformation and other hostile information activities. There are two main goals. The first is to present the Russian point of view, to convince citizens, decision-makers, and influencers in NATO and EU countries to either support Russia’s war aims in Ukraine, or to undermine their support for their own nations’ commitment to supporting Ukraine and countering Russia. The second goal is to sow chaos, confusion, discord, and conflict within and between NATO/EU countries.

The first of these goals is familiar and is traditionally called propaganda. Although it is not pleasant, it is relatively easy to counter with facts and rational argument. The second goal is less familiar and resembles in many ways classic disinformation, misdirection, and active measures adopted by the Soviet Union and other Communist powers during the Cold War. It is much more insidious, as it aims at nothing less than eroding the ability of free-thinking individuals and groups to act effectively and efficiently in the face of threats to peace, security, and prosperity. In a nutshell, disinformation and active measures are forms of epistemological warfare.

Young people are probably the most vulnerable to epistemological warfare, as their ideas and habits of mind are still in development. They are highly vulnerable to disinformation, ideologies, and nihilistic questioning of the values and structures that uphold the values of freedom, democracy, rule of law, and human rights. Young people are idealistic, with many hopes and dreams about the future, both collective and personal, but these ideals are not tempered by the experience of living and the knowledge of history, values, and goals of our societies.

Epistemological warfare throws contradictory and inflammatory statements, observations, and opinions into the infosphere, especially social media, and sees what will stick. There is not necessarily an ideological standpoint that is upheld. The aim is not to say one side or opinion is better than another, but instead to sow doubt about what is real, and whether anyone in authority or with expertise is to be trusted. Disinformation about COVID-19, the actions of powerful and/or wealthy people, conspiracy theories, etc., are all grist for the mill.

The threat goes well beyond cyberattacks, disinformation, and misdirection. In fact, I believe we have entered a new phase of information warfare which I call “epistemological warfare.” The aim of epistemological warfare isn’t just to attack nations and their populations with false, misleading, obfuscating, or confusing information and propaganda. It goes much further by launching a full-scale assault on the critical faculties and judgment of friendly nations, populations, and leaders.

The techniques are many but focus mainly on eroding critical thinking by overwhelming the public sphere, especially through social media channels and platforms, with false, doubtful, or contradictory information presented in sound bites, images, video clips, and Internet “memes” that exploit and reinforce well-known cognitive biases and fallacies. These include everything from non sequitur and tu quoque fallacies, to psychological heuristics such as the primacy effect, the bandwagon effect, and others too numerous to list.

The goal is to erode the ability of individuals to judge what is true and false, who and what to believe, and who to support. This results in a cynical and nihilistic attitude toward the facts, intentions, and objectives presented by and for contending powers and forces and undermines support for a strong defence against hostile intent and activities.

© Richard Martin

UNE STRATÉGIE DE LUTTE CONTRE LES MESURES ACTIVES DANS LA SPHÈRE PUBLIQUE

Richard Martin, Président, Académie canadienne de leadership et développement du capital humain

La situation

Dans nos sociétés, les individus consacrent beaucoup de temps et de ressources à regarder ou à lire des médias et des contenus en ligne. Nous ne reviendrons pas à l’époque où les choix télévisuels étaient limités et où il n’existait que quelques sources d’information (inter)nationales. Chez les jeunes générations, l’ampleur de la participation en ligne est stupéfiante par rapport aux générations plus âgées. Cela s’explique par le fait que les jeunes ne se fient pas aux sources d’information traditionnelles, “grand public”. Ils vivent dans le monde éphémère et évanescent des médias sociaux et des plateformes de contenu d’origine collective, dont la provenance et l’intention sont souvent douteuses.

Il en résulte que les jeunes sont inondés d’idées, d’idéologies et d’influences concurrentes ou contradictoires par le biais des médias sociaux, amplifiées par des influenceurs à l’association et aux intentions douteuses, des ouï-dire, des établissements d’enseignement, des organisations de la société civile, de la publicité et des différents modes de vie. Ces messages ne sont pas nécessairement (bien que beaucoup le soient) négatifs ou corrosifs pour les valeurs civiques fondamentales, bien qu’une partie importante d’entre eux offrent un récit qui ne soutient pas ou remet en question nos démocraties stables, sûres, libérales et prospères. Certains canaux et sources d’information favorisent le désordre social et la subversion dans le but de saper la résilience, la défense, les valeurs et les objectifs de l’Occident.

Les principales plateformes de médias sociaux sont les principaux (mais non les seuls) canaux permettant la promotion d’idées et de concepts qui peuvent éroder l’engagement à créer et à maintenir des sociétés pacifiques et sûres qui valorisent la liberté individuelle, la démocratie, les droits de l’homme et l’État de droit et qui sous-tendent les sociétés les plus prospères de toute l’histoire. Je crois que ces valeurs méritent d’être soutenues, entretenues et, au besoin, défendues. Cela dit, la censure et le contrôle centralisé de l’information, qu’elle soit publique ou privée, ne sont pas la solution, car ils vont à l’encontre des valeurs fondamentales de l’ordre libre, démocratique, fondé sur les règles et les droits.

La menace

Des puissances et des forces hostiles se livrent sans relâche à des opérations d’information pour saper le moral, la résilience et la détermination des nations occidentales et de leurs populations. La sensibilisation du public à cette menace et à ses effets s’est accrue depuis l’invasion de l’Ukraine le 24 février 2022, mais l’accent est mis sur la Russie, laissant d’autres acteurs étatiques et parrainés par l’État opérer relativement sans entrave sous le radar du public, des politiciens et des entreprises. D’autre part, cette prise de conscience est floue, limitée et non spécifique. Les individus et les organisations comprennent mal les intentions hostiles, les stratégies, les approches opérationnelles et les techniques, tactiques et procédures spécifiques utilisées pour atteindre des objectifs hostiles.

La menace va bien au-delà des cyberattaques, de la désinformation et de la mauvaise orientation. En fait, je prétends que nous sommes entrés dans une nouvelle phase de la guerre de l’information que j’appelle “guerre épistémologique”. L’objectif de la guerre épistémologique n’est pas seulement d’attaquer les nations et leurs populations avec des fausses informations et de la propagande trompeuses ou déroutantes qui obscurcissent plus qu’elles n’éclairent. Elle va beaucoup plus loin en lançant un assaut à grande échelle contre les facultés critiques et le jugement des nations, des populations et des dirigeants.

Les techniques sont nombreuses, mais elles visent principalement à éroder l’esprit critique en submergeant la sphère publique, en particulier par le biais des canaux et des plateformes des médias sociaux, d’informations fausses, douteuses ou contradictoires présentées sous forme d’extraits sonores, d’images, de clips vidéo et de “mèmes” Internet qui exploitent et renforcent les biais et les paralogismes cognitifs bien connus. Il s’agit notamment des sophismes non sequitur et tu quoque, des heuristiques psychologiques telles que l’effet de primauté, l’effet d’entraînement et d’autres trop nombreux pour être énumérés. L’objectif apparent est d’éroder la capacité des individus à juger ce qui est vrai et faux, qui et quoi croire, et qui soutenir. Il en résulte une attitude cynique et nihiliste à l’égard des faits, des intentions et des objectifs présentés par et pour les puissances et les forces en présence, et cela sape le soutien à une défense forte contre les intentions et les activités hostiles.

La stratégie

Les efforts visant à renforcer la résilience de la société, en particulier pour les générations futures, dépendent de la capacité à fournir des outils concrets pouvant être utilisés rapidement et efficacement pour résister, contrer et évaluer les affirmations, les preuves, les déclarations et les arguments qui constituent la base de la désinformation, de la propagande et d’autres activités d’information hostiles. Cela exige une approche rationnelle et systématique du problème, fondée sur des résultats, des produits et des méthodes clairs.

La clé d’un succès durable et à long terme dans la construction de la résistance sociétale est de se concentrer sur la génération montante de leaders actuels et potentiels qui deviendront des influenceurs, des formateurs d’opinion et des décideurs dans les domaines de la politique et de l’administration publiques, de la diplomatie, des communications, des affaires, de la finance, de la sécurité publique et de la profession des armes.

Le centre de gravité de cet effort est de développer et de diffuser une boîte à outils intellectuelle et psychologique à l’intention des jeunes leaders actuels et futurs, afin d’étayer les analyses et évaluations individuelles et collectives concernant la solidité logique et la validité des diverses affirmations, preuves, propositions, rhétorique et arguments qui sont insérés et diffusés dans le domaine public.

La meilleure façon d’équiper nos jeunes pour qu’ils résistent aux attaques féroces de la guerre de l’information et de la guerre épistémologique est de les aider à reconnaître les différents types d’activités, en vue de les reformuler selon des principes logiques pour évaluer leur probabilité et leur validité globale. De cette manière, les leaders de la génération montante seront mieux équipés pour appliquer leur propre jugement par le biais de processus et de méthodes de raisonnement éprouvés, résilients et invariants dans tous les domaines, sujets, plateformes et contenus.

© Richard Martin

A STRATEGY FOR FIGHTING ACTIVE MEASURES IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE

By Richard Martin, President, Canadian Academy of Leadership and Development of Human Capital

The Situation

Individuals in our societies spend significant time and resources watching or reading online media and content. We are not going back to the days of limited television options and a few (inter)national news sources. In younger generations, the scale of online participation is staggering as compared to older ones. This is because younger people do not rely on traditional, “mainstream” sources of information. They live in the ephemeral, evanescent world of social media and crowd-sourced content platforms, much of which is of doubtful provenance and intent.

The result is that younger people are flooded with competing or contradictory ideas, ideologies, and influences through social media, amplified by influencers of questionable association and intent; word of mouth; educational institutions; civil society organizations; advertising; and variant lifestyles. These messages are not necessarily (though many are) negative or corrosive of core civic values though an important portion do offer a narrative unsupportive or questioning of our stable, secure, liberal, prosperous democracies. Some channels and sources of information favour social disorder and subversion with the goal of undermining Western resilience, defence, values, and objectives.

Prominent social media platforms are the principal (though not exclusive) channels enabling the promotion of ideas and concepts that can erode the commitment to creating and sustaining peaceful and secure societies that value individual liberty, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law and which underlie the most prosperous societies in history. I believe these values are worth upholding, sustaining, and as required, defending. With that said, censorship and centralized control of information, whether public or private, are not the solution, as these go against the core values of the free, democratic, rules and rights-based order.

The Threat

Hostile powers and forces are relentlessly engaged in information operations to undermine the morale, resilience, and resolve of Western nations and their populations. Public awareness of this threat and its effects has increased since the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, but the focus is on Russia, leaving other state-based and state-sponsored actors to operate relatively unhindered below the radar of the public, politicians, and businesses. On the other hand, this awareness is hazy, limited, and non-specific. Individuals and organizations have little understanding of hostile intentions, strategies, operational approaches, and the specific techniques, tactics, and procedures that are used to achieve hostile ends.

The threat goes well beyond cyberattacks, disinformation, and misdirection. In fact, we believe that we have entered a new phase of information warfare which I call “epistemological warfare.” The aim of epistemological warfare isn’t just to attack nations and their populations with false, misleading, obfuscating, or confusing information and propaganda. It goes much further by launching a full-scale assault on the critical faculties and judgment of friendly nations, populations, and leaders.

The techniques are many but focus mainly on eroding critical thinking by overwhelming the public sphere, especially through social media channels and platforms, with false, doubtful, or contradictory information presented in sound bites, images, video clips, and Internet “memes” that exploit and reinforce well-known cognitive biases and fallacies. These include everything from non sequitur and tu quoque fallacies, to psychological heuristics such as the primacy effect, the bandwagon effect, and others too numerous to list. The apparent goal is to erode the ability of individuals to judge what is true and false, whom and what to believe, and whom to support. This results in a cynical and nihilistic attitude toward the facts, intentions, and objectives presented by and for contending powers and forces and undermines support for a strong defence against hostile intent and activities.

The Strategy

The effort to build societal resilience, especially in succeeding generations, depends on the ability to provide concrete tools that can be used quickly and effectively to resist, counter, and evaluate the claims, evidence, statements, and arguments that form the basis for disinformation, propaganda, and other hostile information activities. This requires a rational, systematic approach to the problem, one based on clear outcomes, deliverables, and methods.

The key to long-term, enduring success in building societal resistance is to focus on the succeeding generation of current and potential leaders who will become influencers, opinion formers and decision makers in the areas of public policy and administration, diplomacy, communications, business, finance and banking, public safety, and the profession of arms.

The centre of gravity in this effort is to develop and disseminate an intellectual and psychological toolkit to current and future young leaders to undergird individual and collective analyses and evaluations concerning the logical soundness and validity of the various claims, evidence, propositions, rhetoric, and arguments that are inserted and disseminated in the public domain.

The best way to equip our youth for resilience in the face of withering attacks of information and epistemological warfare is to help them recognize the different types of activities, with a view to reformulating them according to logical principles to evaluate their probability and overall validity. By this means, leaders of the successor generation will be better equipped to apply their own judgment through proven processes and methods of reasoning that are resilient and invariant across domains, topics, platforms, and content.

© Richard Martin

By Richard Martin

The West is engaged in an information war. Our youth are vulnerable to cynical and nihilistic ideas about the world. This erodes their resolve and resilience in the face of withering attacks that seek to undermine their ability to apply the cardinal virtues of judgment, justice, courage, and moderation.

However, we must ask how willing people are to stand up for their values and beliefs. Gallup conducted a worldwide poll in 2015, which found “that 61% of those polled across 64 countries would be willing to fight for their country, while 27% would not. However, there are significant differences by region. Willingness to fight is highest in the M.E.N.A. region (83%) while it is lowest in Western Europe (25%). A history of those countries in recent conflict provides an interesting comparison. The Japanese (11%) are the least likely of 64 countries polled to be willing to fight for their country. Results from Germany are similar – 18% willing to fight. By comparison these numbers more than double in the UK (27%) and France (29%).”[1]

Figure 1 – Source Gallup. The darker the shade of red, the higher the willingness to fight for one’s country.
Figure 3 – Source Gallup

The New York Times set up an online forum after the war in Ukraine (February 2022) started to garner comments from young people around the world. The following comment by a 15-year-old from B.C. is indicative: “When I first heard about the invasion, I thought it was a not going to be a big deal. Like what happened in 2020 with Iran shooting down a Ukrainian plane. I thought it was going to be talked about once then over with. But seeing the damage and tragedy that has taken place in Ukraine. I now know that this is extremely serious. My heart breaks for the people in Ukraine. This isn’t something you can just protest about or raise money for. This is real, and people are dying, I sincerely hope that the people in Ukraine are safe, I am 15 years old, and I don’t think my peers understand how terrifying it would be for someone to just take over your home and country by force.”[2]

Another high school student, this time from North Carolina: “There is so much uncertainty surrounding this. Before spiraling into anxious thoughts and endless worries, I had to think this through. As a Christian, I have hope. I know that worrying will not get me anywhere, and my beliefs help me to cope with this situation. There has been so much suffering in the world, but we have survived. This attack has put into perspective how lucky I am. It hurts to see people being so ungrateful to live in a country where we do not have to constantly worry about war, and death. I pray that we can do our part to help Ukraine, and I grieve with those who have lost their lives, family members, their homes, their security. My dad has brought up to me that my grandfather still has nightmares from hiding in bunkers during the Cold War, as a young child. The fact that more children are going through this hurts me. I stand with Ukraine.”[3]

Meanwhile, 18-year-old Ukrainian boys are leaving university and volunteering for military duty and are being deployed to the front lines with as little as 3 days of training.[4] Through the work of the International Forum for Peace, Security, and Prosperity (IFPSP), as well as personal experience, we know that there are young people willing to sign up for military service in NATO and EU countries. We also know that there are idealistic young people who volunteer for military academies to become the next generation of officers. However, even these motivated youths come to military college with preconceived notions about history, politics, economics, and society. Even in a military academy it can be an uphill struggle to convince officer cadets of the values of our nations and what we are trying to build, grow, and defend.[5]

How should we focus our efforts and resources to equip our youth against the nihilistic, cynical disinformation that seeks to undermine our society’s support for Peace, Security, and Prosperity?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resistance of the Ukrainian people, government and armed forces have provided the world and especially NATO countries with the focus and resolve to assist Ukraine in defending its independence and security in alignment with the fundamental NATO values of freedom, democracy, law, and rights. 

Russia is seeking to undermine these values by dominating Ukraine and its people while attacking the same values in other countries, and specifically within NATO and the EU. Russia has been consistently employing “hybrid” warfare techniques to undermine the resolve and morale of the peoples and nations that oppose Russian ways and means of achieving its aggressive ends.

To this end, Russia has been conducting information warfare and psychological operations against NATO and EU nations. The main approach involves using disinformation and other hostile information activities. There are two main goals. The first is to present the Russian point of view, to convince citizens, decision-makers, and influencers in NATO and EU countries to either support Russia’s war aims in Ukraine, or to undermine their support for their own nations’ commitment to supporting Ukraine and countering Russia. The second goal is to sow chaos, confusion, discord, and conflict within and between NATO/EU countries.

The first of these goals is familiar and is traditionally called propaganda. Although it is not pleasant, it is relatively easy to counter with facts and rational argument. The second goal is less familiar and resembles in many ways classic disinformation, misdirection, and active measures adopted by the Soviet Union and other Communist powers during the Cold War. It is much more insidious, as it aims at nothing less than eroding the ability of free-thinking individuals and groups to act effectively and efficiently in the face of threats to peace, security, and prosperity. In a nutshell, disinformation and active measures are forms of epistemological warfare.

Young people are probably the most vulnerable to epistemological warfare, as their ideas and habits of mind are still in development. They are highly vulnerable to disinformation, ideologies, and nihilistic questioning of the values and structures that uphold the values of freedom, democracy, rule of law, and human rights. Young people are idealistic, with many hopes and dreams about the future, both collective and personal, but these ideals are not tempered by the experience of living and the knowledge of history, values, and goals of our societies.

Epistemological warfare throws contradictory and inflammatory statements, observations, and opinions into the infosphere, especially social media, and sees what will stick. There is not necessarily an ideological standpoint that is upheld. The aim is not to say one side or opinion is better than another, but instead to sow doubt about what is real, and whether anyone in authority or with expertise is to be trusted. Disinformation about COVID-19, the actions of powerful and/or wealthy people, conspiracy theories, etc., are all grist for the mill.

© Richard Martin


[1] https://www.gallup-international.bg/en/33483/win-gallup-internationals-global-survey-shows-three-in-five-willing-to-fight-for-their-country/

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/03/learning/what-students-are-saying-about-russias-invasion-of-ukraine.html

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/03/learning/what-students-are-saying-about-russias-invasion-of-ukraine.html (emphasis added)

[4] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60724560

[5] Conversation with Dr. Sean M. Maloney, Professor of History, RMC of Canada

by Richard Martin

Some people are questioning whether Moskva is the biggest sinking since WW2. Wikipedia claims Belgrano displaced 12,242 tons full up and Moskva 12,490 (but without specifying if that is dry or full up).

The loss figures I’ve seen are 14 crew recovered and brought to Sevastopol, with 496 still missing. The Belgrano had way over 1,000 crew.

The Moskva fulfilled a different role to the Belgrano, especially in this conflict, similar in some ways to an Arleigh Burke class DDG, although much less capable of course. According to what I’ve been reading, it was patrolling in a fixed pattern off shore to provide area air defence cover in the area of Kherson (and Crimea?).

There’s currently a lot of poopoo-ing of the Ukrainian claim that they hit the Moskva with 2 home-grown Neptun anti-ship missiles, but I think it is realistic. ASM are designed to penetrate the hull of a warship and detonate the main charge after penetration. Also, remember the Sheffield. It was sunk by an Exocet missile, if memory serves.

On the other hand, maybe the Ukrainians are only claiming they hit it with Neptuns but actually used Harpoons provided by the UK. Would be cool.

As with the “experts” claiming the death of the tank, this does not show the death of the area air defence ship, even in coastal waters. Like all weapons systems, ships are part of a tactical and operational system.We must also factor in that the Moskva was obsolete and likely in poor repair. Those sixteen impressive-looking tubes housed jet powered cruise missiles. That means liquid fuel. So, basically a floating fuel depot. Add to that low standards of training and survivability, and you have a recipe for disaster.

It is my estimate that the Ukrainians did deliberately target the Moskva with the intent of at minimum incapacitating it. The aim was to eliminate or degrading the air defence cover it provided over Kherson and the Crimean Peninsula in preparation for an attack on Kherson.

In fact, if I were the Ukrainians, I’d be looking to outflank Kherson on the W, head for the narrow isthmus that links the mainland to the Crimea, and then roll up the Russian flank toward Melitopol. I would also try to damage or even drop the bridge over the Kerch strait to prevent Russia from maintaining lines of communication with Crimea from the E.

See maps. Part 1 (UK MoD) shows UA forces south of Dniepr W of Kherson. If that’s accurate, could be a jumping off point. Depending on the terrain (it looks pretty marshy), it may require a lot of engineer support and amphibious, perhaps even further to the E to be feasible. Part 2 shows the intent to cut off the isthmus at its narrowest point. Part 3 shows also the need to destroy or deny the bridge further east linking Crimea to the mainland, and also the Kerch narrows bridge, which would represent a complete Sickelschnitt.

Of course, this is all speculation on my part, based on some conversations (you know who you are) and a very quick and dirty map estimate. I’m willing to be proven wrong, but I can always dream, especially on Good Friday.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin was an infantry officer for over 20 years in the Canadian Army. He is currently an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and information warrior focusing on extracting valuable information and signals from chaos and noise.

Care of UK MoD
Care of Google Maps
Care of Google Maps

by Richard Martin

Everybody is predicting a battle royale in the E, SE, & S. I think not. There will still be a lot of needless destruction and death, especially of Ukrainian civilians, but I think that Russia has shot its bolt. See ISW’s analysis of Russia’s manpower situation for deeper context: https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-april-9

I think the Ukrainian forces will degrade the remaining Russian forces as they did in the N while avoiding major offensive operations against prepared positions. Infiltration will be the main focus. Ukrainian forces will only launch major attacks with combined arms if there is a chance of success for minimal casualties on the Ukrainian side. This will occur at the tactical level and then the operational level, as in the N.

Subsequent to this, the main challenge will be to neutralize continued Russian air and missile attacks from within Russia. It is only once Russia has completely vacated Ukrainian territory, including the Donbas, that Putin can be truly forced to negotiate. The vital ground in that regard will be the Crimean peninsula, specifically Sevastopol. I think it would be a good pain point for Russia.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin was an infantry officer for over 20 years in the Canadian Army. He is currently an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and information warrior focusing on extracting valuable information and signals from chaos and noise.

by Richard Martin

War is an act of force to compel the enemy to do our will. If a ceasefire will help us achieve our end — i.e., to impose our will on the enemy, either to buy time for renewed military action or to freeze the situation in the hope of creating a fait accompli on the ground — then it may be a useful temporary measure. If not, then it is to be avoided unless compelled by force of arms.

Russia invaded Ukraine to eliminate the existing government and replace it with a compliant one that would allow Russian suzerainty over Ukraine. The main effort at the beginning was to seize Kyiv and force that change of government, while applying simultaneous pressure in the east, southeast and south. With the failure of the overthrow of the legitimate Ukrainian government and the decision by Zelensky to stay in Kyiv, Russia has moved to its secondary objective, the establishment of a secure land corridor from the east of to just west of the Crimean peninsula. There are geopolitical, strategic and economic reasons for doing so which I won’t get into here.

Ukraine’s main war aim is clear: stop the invasion, reverse Russian gains, and possibly recapture terrain lost in 2014. Longer term, Ukraine needs security guarantees against Russia trying the same thing in the future, either as open warfare or grey-zone warfare. Ukraine must destroy the Russian invasion force and force Russia to give up its war aims.

If there is a ceasefire, then the Russians would have an opportunity to reconstitute their forces, solidify their hold on conquered areas, and proceed with ethnic cleansing by allowing emigration of refugees, internal population displacement, and forced population engineering through eviction of Ukrainians and settlement of Kremlin loyalists in their place. That is what happened in the Balkans in the 90s. While that is happening, Russia could use the full panoply of dirty tricks just like in the 2014-2021 period to solidify its hold on the coastal areas along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

Ukraine has nothing to gain by a ceasefire, for exactly the opposite reasons that such would benefit Russia. Ukraine has everything to gain by continuing to fight, even if it’s an insurgency using guerrilla tactics. With that said, with sustained Western/NATO support and the right kinds of weapons and equipment, Ukraine can continue to resist pretty much indefinitely, in my estimation. The problem for Ukraine is to muster the combat power to go onto the operational offensive. This is the real crux of the issue.

In conclusion, Russia has a lot to gain from a ceasefire. Ukraine has almost nothing to gain from a ceasefire. If the West/NATO wants Ukraine to win, i.e., to impose its will on Russia and therefore continue to exist as an independent state in its prior borders, then it has to create that reality on the ground. No amount of negotiations with Russia will achieve that aim.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin was an infantry officer for over 20 years in the Canadian Army. He is currently an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and information warrior focusing on extracting valuable information and signals from chaos and noise.

by Richard Martin

This question was asked by an acquaintance of mine this morning. This is my answer.

Not in the least. For the following reasons.

1. The West as a whole, and particularly the EU, NATO, and the US, invited post-Soviet Russia with open arms into the international community of nations after the end of the Cold War. There was a Russia-NATO joint commission. Russia was first invited and accepted into the G7 — becoming the G8 — and G20 groups as well as the WTO. Western companies poured hundreds of billions into Russia in investment, only to see their operations hijacked and expropriated to the benefit of Moscow’s minions.

2. NATO countries made great efforts to secure and destroy Soviet nuclear weapons and materials, all at the cost of the countries doing the hard work of conversion and transformation. There were disarmament treaties and attempts at military cooperation and confidence building measures. NATO and other Western nations actively engaged with former Soviet republics to increase military professionalism and assist in converting their armed forces to a more defensive posture under civilian control.

NATO Exercise in West Germany in the 1970s

3. At the end of the 80s, just before the end of the Cold War, NATO forces in Europe were well-armed, integrated, and operationally exercised and trained to a very high standard of readiness and capability. I know, I served as an infantry platoon commander in Germany and then brigade and division staff officer from 1988-91. I participated in the largest peacetime deployment of troops as part of the REFORGER exercises in Germany in September 1988, with the US V and VII Corps and the entire German army, plus all the other countries in the Central Region of NATO. Before that, I was a platoon commander in the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group. We deployed on exercise by sea and air to northern Norway in August-October 1986 for the largest peacetime deployment on Exercise Brave Lion, to train with the Norwegian Armed Forces as well as the Royal, Dutch, and US Marines. This was to demonstrate and test the capabilities of the Canadian Air-Sea Transportable Brigade to NATO’s northern flank. The US protected Western Europe with its nuclear arsenal, especially at the level of theatre nuclear forces (Pershing II, Lance, and cruise missiles). Meanwhile, the US was developing and deploying the initial elements of the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars).

4. NATO countries, mostly in Europe and Canada, paid out the “peace dividend” and proceeded to slowly disarm and degrade their military capabilities. Eventually, the Baltic republics, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, Albania, Slovenia, and Croatia formally asked to join NATO and were accepted into the collective security organization. These countries had to meet stringent requirements in terms of military professionalism, civilian control of the armed forces, respect for the rule of law, and the explicit renunciation of expansionism and irredentism.

5. Western nations only started to change their tack with Russia after it became clear that the Kremlin had no intention of honouring its commitments to respect the borders of the former Soviet republics, recognized by the international community of nations and integrated into the UN. The Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008 was only the first move by Russia, followed by the annexation of Crimea and the Donbass separatist “people’s republics” in 2014. That’s when the West finally woke up to the Russian threat and imposed economic and political sanctions. But nowhere near to the same level as what is being imposed since 24 February 2022.

6. Russia NEEDS to be cancelled. The West must isolate the Russian economy, punish those who are responsible for this war of aggression, support Ukraine with as much military, technical, economic, financial, diplomatic, and political means as needed to defeat and reverse the invasion and to restore the borders of Ukraine to the internationally recognized — including by Russia in 1994 — borders of post-Soviet breakup. That means that the so-called “peoples’ republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk and the Crimean peninsula must be reconquered by Ukraine.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin was an infantry officer for over 20 years in the Canadian Army. He is currently an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and information warrior focusing on extracting valuable information and signals from chaos and noise.

by Richard Martin

  • The consensus of open sources is that the Russian offensive has “culminated.” That means that it has run out of steam. Some news outlets are calling that a “stalemate.” If by that they intend to mean that nothing more will happen, then not really. The Russians are preparing a new campaign, and that could take days to weeks to prepare.
  • The consensus is that the Russians appear to be digging in on their current positions. They have failed to achieve their operational objectives. See the attached map (Map 1) of 26 Feb by “Jomini of the West” (@JominiW on Twitter). That was his assessment of Russian objectives at the start of the campaign. I’ve also attached his assessment as of yesterday (20 March 22), so you can see for yourself how the Russians are doing (Map 2).
  • I did my own assessment of Russian campaign objectives a few weeks ago before I was aware of @JominiW’s one, and it corresponds pretty much to his (Map 3).
  • It appears that the Russians are conducting a massive ethnic cleansing campaign in the E, SE, and S of Ukraine. The aim would be to expel as many civilians as possible from the major cities of Sumy, Kharkiv, Mariupol and others. That is the purpose of all the destruction, to make the cities uninhabitable. This is essentially what the Serbs did in Bosnia back in 1992-93, e.g., Srebrenica, Sarajevo, etc.
  • Once most of the civilians are expelled, the Russians will claim a fait accompli on the ground, with a view to “negotiating” a ceasefire or a peace treaty with a rump Ukrainian state. In other words, Putin wants to turn Ukraine into another Belarus.
  • Speaking of Belarus, things have been happening there that probably aren’t being reported by the media. For instance, about 3 or 4 days ago, there were major explosions in Belarus corresponding to known airbases. It also appears that Belarusian railway workers are sabotaging switching stations and engaging in consequential civil disobedience and job actions as part of widespread refusal to support operational movements into Ukraine.
  • There are some who believe that Putin is trying to provoke Lukashenko to commit Belarusian forces to the ground war in Ukraine by staging false flag attacks. Most seem to think now that it is resistance in Belarus (see previous point), possibly even revolts or mutinies in the military.
  • The Kremlin apparatus is threatening to thrust into W Ukraine, but I believe that is not realistic or probable at this stage.
  • I would treat any claims by Russia of use of Wunderwaffe (e.g., hypersonic missiles) with a lot of skepticism. Also, claims of large numbers of foreign volunteers from central Asia, Libya, and Syria. They’ll probably get some, but nothing like the 20K that Ukraine is claiming have already joined the Ukrainian Foreign Legion.
  • For the latter, the Ukrainian legion is telling foreigners to volunteer only if they have actual combat experience. That means that if the 20K figure is to be believed, then it’s mostly actual fighters, not rear area people.
  • Final point, the Ukrainian Information Operations campaign is putting out mostly accurate information. The consensus is that it is mostly believable.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin was an infantry officer for over 20 years in the Canadian Army. He is currently an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and information warrior focusing on extracting valuable information and signals from chaos and noise.

Source: @JominiW on Twitter
Source: @JominiW on Twitter
Source: Richard Martin

by Richard Martin

This is a longer post than usual. My aim is to provide a better understanding of Russian strategy, operations, tactics, and logistics in its invasion and attempt to conquer Ukraine.

War is the systematic application of violent means to attain political ends. It is a contest of wills, with the aim of imposing one’s will on the enemy. The ultimate Russian aim is therefore to destroy Ukraine’s will to resist and to neutralize NATO’s will to commit to the war other than through indirect and long-term means.

We must therefore analyze the war from Russia’s perspective at the four levels of the hierarchy of ends, ways, and means: grand strategic, military strategic, operational, and tactical. Each level provides the ways to achieve the higher level. To this we add logistics, which provides the means to implement the ways to achieve the ends.

Grand Strategic Level

Ukraine conquered, fully merged into Russia, either de jure or de facto. Rally the international Axis of Lies and Resentment (Iran, North Korea, China, etc.). Keep the rest of the world guessing and off balance, wondering how far Putin is willing to go, up to and including World War III and global thermonuclear exchange.

Military Strategic Level

Destroy Ukrainian armed forces and national will to resist. Isolate Ukraine geographically and militarily, while keeping NATO off balance with threats of nuclear escalation. Exploit Western and NATO reluctance to engage in the conflict. The following diagram provides a quick visual overview of the military strategy.

Assessment of RU War Plan as of 12 Mar 22.jpg

Operational Level

Manoeuvre on exterior lines. Attack on 4 axes to keep the Ukrainian military dispersed and guessing as to the focus of main effort. Since the start of the invasion on 24 February, the Russian main effort has been on the Belarus-Kyiv axis. The initial attempt to execute a coup de main to capture or eliminate the Ukrainian government in Kyiv failed. It was based on seizing the major airport at Hostomel with heliborne forces then bringing in air transportable mechanized forces to rush to seize Kyiv. The aim was apparently to install a puppet regime. Ukrainian forces foiled the initial and repeated attempts to seize Antonov Airport (Hostomel) and the subsequent “thunder run” to Kyiv. This forced the Russians to fall back on a ground assault plan. I won’t speculate on how far the apparent “plan B” was developed in advance, but I will say that weather, logistics, and terrain were major factors in slowing the Russian advance.

Tactical Level

The Russian army basically follows military doctrine developed and honed during the Soviet era. The best way to characterize Russian tactics is as follows: “Who needs tactics when you can mass a thousand tanks in a square kilometer?” As best I can make out, tactical proficiency, low-level and individual initiative, and welfare of troops on the ground are the last consideration of the Russian command. Russian units, up to and including divisions, tend to follow prescribed patterns of movement and rigid drills while relying on concentrated mass at points of breakthrough followed by exploitation forces. What is considered basic field craft in Western armies is, for all intents and purposed, non-existent in the Russian army.

Sidebar on Russian Logistics

We need to also briefly consider Russian logistics doctrine, which is closely intertwined with fighting doctrine, as in all armies. The best way to do so is to compare US and NATO logistical methods with Russia’s.

NATO armies mainly use a “push-pull” system and keep large groupings in the field for extended periods. Combat stores (ammunition, rations, water, and fuel) plus spare parts and medical supplies are kept close to the front lines in the logistics train and called forward by combat units as their stores are depleted, at minimum daily, and more often in high intensity combat. Smaller armies, such as Canada’s, tend to be more “forward focused” in their logistics and maintenance. For instance, Canadian Army doctrine is based on forward maintenance of equipment: repair as many vehicles and weapons as possible as far forward as possible. The US Army approach is based more on workshops and depots in depth that can exploit specialization, replacement, and economies of scale. This obviously stems from its huge size compared to smaller countries’ armed forces. Regardless of the implementation, the basic philosophy is the same: soldiers are the most important resource; they must be cared for and treated with respect.

The Russian army basically follows Soviet doctrine, upgraded somewhat to reflect the evolution of combat since the end of the Cold War. From what I gather, Russian units and soldiers basically go into combat with a basic load of ammunition and fuel, and they are expected to fight until depleted, to be replaced by new units. When I was studying this stuff in the 80s and 90s, the expectation was that a Soviet unit or formation could be in the line until it was down to 30% fighting strength. If you look at the 2nd World War, sometimes it even went lower than that. We’re currently seeing that approach being tested, especially north and west of Kyiv, but it fits with what I know of Soviet logistics doctrine that the Russians have adapted. They fight with smaller, more flexible units than under Soviet structures, e.g., Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) grouped into task-organized brigades, divisions, and armies. However, Russian fighting forces appear to have about two thirds less support units within their organizations than NATO/US ones.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin was an infantry officer for over 20 years in the Canadian Army. He is currently an entrepreneur, strategic advisor, and information warrior focusing on extracting valuable information and signals from chaos and noise.