Posts Tagged ‘Military Lessons’

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

As a former infantry officer, nothing would give me greater satisfaction than to follow the chorus and declare the end of the tank.

But no. It’s not the end of the tank. It’s just the 483rd confirmation that proper application of distributed leadership and initiative, combined arms tactics, OPSEC, and secure logistics are what maximize the chances of success.

Technology is only a means to an end, and those are the ways of combining the means effectively and efficiently.

Dude, where’s my chassis?!?

© 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.

By Richard Martin

Ukraine and Russia appear to have to diametrically opposite approaches to Information Warfare.

Ukrainian Information Operations

For consumption in Russia: See what your government is doing to your Ukrainian kin?

For consumption in Ukraine: Rally the people, armed forces, successes, how to pass on important information, leadership

For international consumption: Support us, we are fighting for YOU, and YOUR freedom, see what the Russians are doing?

The Ukrainian information strategy combines selective truth telling with the theme of Ukrainian heroism and resistance to Russian brutality tyranny and aggression.

Russian Information Operations

For consumption in Russia: Focus on internal IO to keep the people and forces onside.

For consumption in Ukraine: Sow panic, disinformation, misdirection, false flags, confusion, “we’re here to liberate you”

For international consumption: Generate distrust in ALL information, cynicism, nihilism

The Russian information strategy can be summed up as nihilistic. The idea is to sow the most fundamental doubts in the receiver’s mind about the reality of what they are seeing, reading, and hearing. It’s gaslighting on a massive scale. It’s basically about saying: “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”

© 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

1st Falsehood: Russia has legitimate security concerns about its borders and NATO encroachment. Wrong! Russia would have less security concerns if it weren’t constantly threatening, badgering, or bullying its neighbours.

Highly detailed physical map of Russia,in vector format,with all the relief forms,regions and big cities. (c) bogdanserban

2nd Falsehood: The United States/West/NATO caused this crisis by wanting to expand to Russia’s borders, thus threatening the latter. Wrong! The reason NATO has expanded since the end of the Cold War is that Russia’s neighbours felt, and continue to feel, threatened by Russian aggression and expansion.

3rd Falsehood: The Russians are just like us; they want freedom and democracy with a free market system. Wrong! There is little or no evidence to support this assertion, at least since the end of the Cold War. There have been attempts at economic and political reform, but the Russian people have remained relatively quiescent and followed the official ideology and worldview.

4th Falsehood: Ukrainians are just a part of the Russian nation. Wrong! That’s like saying the Flemish and Dutch; Austrians and Germans; Czechs and Slovaks; or even the French and Quebeckers are unitary nations. They’re not. Ukrainians and Russians speak closely related languages and have intertwined histories. But they are different nations, and this has been asserted and realized to varying degrees over hundreds of years.

5th Falsehood: NATO and non-NATO countries not at war with Russia. Wrong! Russia has been conducting what it calls “hybrid warfare” against the U.S., Canada, U.K., and other NATO nations since at least 2016, and one of the main theatres is cyberspace, where Russia has been conducting continuous cyber and information warfare to disrupt communications, infrastructure, military, and financial networks.

6th Falsehood: Economic sanctions and financial restrictions are sufficient to bring Russia to heel. Wrong! Only military defeat of the Russian invasion either by Ukraine acting alone (though with foreign support) or outright foreign involvement will force Russia to leave Ukraine.

7th Falsehood: A negotiated solution is in the offing. Wrong! Everything indicates the exact opposite. Putin and the Kremlin appear determined to solve what they perceive as the Ukrainian problem once and for all. Even if there were a negotiated withdrawal, Russia would only do that to buy time, just like Saddam did after the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin was a career infantry officer in the Canadian Army. He now plies his trade as an information warrior and strategic advisor to leaders and decision-makers. He focuses on extracting valuable lessons and signals from chaos and noise.

by Richard Martin

There are 100s of videos of RU prisoners, and it is clear that many, if not most, are poorly trained, poorly led, and have no knowledge of the true purpose of their being sent to Ukraine.

Russia has lost 100s of tanks and armoured vehicles mostly destroyed, but also captured and now being repurposed by the Ukrainian forces. I’ve read estimates that 60-90% of Russia’s total ground forces have been or are being committed to the campaign. Equipment is being redeployed from the Far East districts to the western district.

The Russian AF (VKS) is not dominating the skies, and this has many analysts wondering what is happening on that level. Also, much of the Russian communications are on commercial platforms and equipment. Again, a bit of a mystery as to why.

The attack on and capture of the Zaporozhya nuclear station has 2 effects, one intended and the other probably unintended. Intended: Russia will be able to shut it down to cut power to Ukraine. That is probably why they wanted to capture Chernobyl at the start of the campaign also.

The unintended outcome is that it is misdirecting outside media coverage. There appears to be an operational pause to the west of Kyiv. This gives RU cover to do something there. The intent is to surround Kyiv (and other major cities, e.g., Kharkiv). They’re having a very hard time of it though.

The WSJ had a write up this morning about the initial RU attempt to seize the major Kyiv airport at Hostomel. It’s changed hands several times since then. The intent appears to be to seize major airfields near the capital to airlift in “élite” VDV airborne forces.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin was a career infantry officer in the Canadian Army. He now plies his trade as an information warrior and strategic advisor to leaders and decision-makers. He focuses on extracting valuable lessons and signals from chaos and noise.

by Richard Martin

man looking at a tentacle monster that destroys the city, digital art style, illustration painting (c) grandfailure

There is a widespread belief that poverty and inequality are causes of war and aggression. It’s the other way around. War is the cause of poverty, famine, pestilence and misery.

War is caused by people who are unwilling to create valuable products and services to trade for other people’s valuable products and services. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Maduro, etc. never worked a day in their lives.

Aggressors are thieves and bullies. They prefer to steal and murder to create their own prosperity for themselves and their supporters. Everybody else can go to hell as far as they are concerned.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin was a career infantry officer in the Canadian Army. He now plies his trade as an information warrior and strategic advisor to leaders and decision-makers. He focuses on extracting valuable lessons and signals from chaos and noise.