Posts Tagged ‘Military Lessons’

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.

by Richard Martin

We live in a Hobbesian world governed by force and counterforce. I believe it was Israeli diplomat Abba Eban who said that the UN was nothing more than a continuation of war by other means, or words to that effect.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) on engraving from the 1800s. English philosopher.
Engraved by J.Pofselwhite from a picture by Dobson and published in London by W.Mackenzie.
Copyright candyman

The UN was formed in 1945 to prevent future wars, especially on a global scale. There was supposed to be a combined command and military staff. The Security Council was supposed to issue orders and direct military operations against transgressors. War was outlawed and declared an illegitimate means of resolving international disputes. There is a World Court (or something like it) along with a whole raft of international treaties, protocols, and institutions. There are financial structures to ensure no one runs out of money so the banking systems in each nation don’t collapse. The non-security bodies were supposed to alleviate poverty and suffering under the assumption that they are the fundamental cause of war and aggression. It’s all mismanaged and it’s a mess.

The dirty secret is this. Aggression is caused by aggressive, violent people, 99% of whom are men. Most crime is attributable to young men. Wars of conquest and domination occur when overly aggressive men in gangs gain control of the state apparatus and decide to use the instruments of internal coercion to attack other nations. The only effective means of countering aggression at the international level, where reigns a state of nature, is through credible armed forces, defensive alliances, democratic governance of nations internally, mild taxes, security of person and property, and free markets and open trade.

Nations must build credible alliances to deter and, if deterrence fails, counter aggression and conquest. NATO is one such alliance. We see the limits of this means of deterrence and defence when an aggressive, powerful neighbour — Russia — threatens nuclear retribution against what it perceives as hostile encroachment on its sphere of dominion and geopolitical influence and interest. If Ukraine were in NATO, the invasion probably wouldn’t have happened, at least not in the way it is happening now. Conversely, if Russia had no effective nuclear capability and the invasion had occurred, NATO would be bombing Russian forces as we speak.

This is why nuclear proliferation is such a threat to world peace. Up to now, the United States, the UK, France, India, Pakistan, Israel, and China have been reasonably responsible with their respective nuclear capabilities and have kept them as purely defensive deterrents. Even the USSR was deterred throughout the Cold War. Russia under Putin is manifestly not deterred, and is in fact using Russia’s nuclear capabilities to threaten retaliation against direct military intervention in support of Ukraine. Now, imagine if North Korea and Iran had significant nuclear capabilities with reasonably accurate and effective delivery vectors. Right now, they seem to have ballistic missiles of varying ranges and accuracies under development and trial. From what I can gather, their bombs have all fizzled. But what happens when they no longer fizzle?

In sum, dreams of world government are just that, dreams. Global governance is a pipe dream. That’s a good thing, because if it existed it would be a technocratic nightmare. We need force to counter force, deterrence to counter threats. That’s the lesson of history and human nature and the signal in the noise.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin served as a career infantry officer in the Canadian Army, and is now an author, educator, and trusted advisor. He focuses on extracting valuable lessons and signals from chaos and noise.

by Richard Martin

The Russians are racking up casualties, including senior officers, formation commanders, chiefs of staff. Hospitals in Belarus are full and civilian authorities are saying “leave them on the battlefield.” 

For someone like me who has studied the Russian front in Ww2 I am starting to understand how the Red Army could stack up such massive casualties. There is little concern for the rank and file. There are multiple sources indicating officers abandoning their units the closer they get to the front. The Russian units with solid officers appear fairly effective though.

The manoeuvring appears to be limited, with poor coordination of fires and mutual support. The RU air force is much bigger than the UkAF, at least on paper. However, there are limited numbers of precision guided munitions and Russian pilots are poorly trained. They are also having a hard time coordinating ground based air defence for columns. Fuel shortages and logistics deficiencies are massive. Command and control is disorganized and most of their radio comms are in the the open, and easily picked up by civilians.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainians appear to be disappearing into built up and wooded areas. They are using ambush tactics and destroying tanks, light armour and trucks with antitank weapons like the US designed Javelin and British NLAW. These are fire and forget missiles that basically only require a safety briefing to operate with a high kill probability. The scenes of civilians filling sandbags and making Molotov cocktails in Kyiv and Kharkiv look like pictures of the defence of Moscow in November 1941.

The drones also are very effective, but they appear to be using them mainly against air defence systems and command vehicles. Some of the footage shows RU vehicles in open leaguers as if they were on parade. They come under attack by drones without seemingly any awareness that they are being sighted. It’s incredible.

That massive RU traffic jam in the north is a choice target. A squadron or two of A10s would wipe it out in a day.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin is a Canadian Army veteran, thinker, educator, and trusted advisor. He focuses on extracting valuable signals from all the noise.

by Richard Martin

Another idea that must be countered. If we come to the aid of Ukraine, where will it stop? We don’t try to stop all the despots and bullies in the world, do we?

Actually, we do. At least the more threatening ones. Moreover, what we’ve done in the past about other threats, potential or actual, has no bearing on whether the west and NATO helps Ukraine now. One of the things we learn in financial analysis is that sunk costs are irrelevant to evaluating whether further investments are beneficial. By analogy, past actions supporting or resisting particular aggressions are irrelevant to future “investments” in defence and security.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin is a veteran, thinker, educator, and trusted advisor. He focuses on extracting valuable signals from all the noise.

by Richard Martin

The nearest historical and geopolitical analogue I can think of to what is happening right now is Nazi Germany’s aggressive designs between 1933 and 1941. And I know a lot of history. Hitler was bound and determined to rebuild the Greater German Empire. That’s what Reich means: empire. All of his negotiations, treaties, agreements were nothing but means to buy time and to disarm the fears and concerns of the opponents of German expansionism.

This is the great fallacy of the myth of appeasement. Had we not appeased Hitler, he would have stopped and been contained. No, he wouldn’t have stopped, and no, he wouldn’t have been contained.

By analogy, there is an argument going around that the West has not taken Russia’s security needs into account and that there has been insufficient engagement of Russia post-Soviet Union. Really?

Do we really think that if Ukraine were to declare itself neutral and renounce its wish to join the EU that Russia would leave it alone? The reason Russia emphatically doesn’t want that, is that it would prevent it from conquering Ukraine and folding it into its empire.The West has given Russia chances and treated their demands with serious consideration time and time again. Europe imports Russian oil and gas, finances and builds pipelines, maintains open lines of credit and banking arrangements. Russia has been accepted into the community of nations.

Russia has consistently spied on us, lied to us, stolen industrial secrets, infiltrated web viruses and trojan horses into our financial, communications, utilities, and governmental networks. All of Putin’s promises and lies have been to one end, and one end only: buy time and lull the West into complacency, just like Hitler did.Russian authorities have cheated their way through international sports competitions, most recently the Beijing Winter Olympics. This is the country that drugs 15 year old girls for figure skating competitions, with the full knowledge and involvement of the state security apparatus, viz., the FSB.

Russia has repeatedly threatened its peaceful neighbours, interfering in democratic processes, while forcefully wielding nefarious influence in major Western states, such as the United States electoral process.Not more than 2 weeks ago, Russian influence in Canada was tearing the country apart and threatening Canadian national sovereignty through cyber warfare and information warfare as they exploited the admittedly idiotic policies of our federal government during the Freedom Convoy.

Putin and his gang of henchmen in the Kremlin must be stopped. Russia must join the community of nations as a peaceful, non-threatening player. If not, they must suffer the consequences of their aggression and disregard for international law and common decency and humanity.

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin is a veteran, thinker, educator, and trusted advisor. He focuses on extracting valuable signals from all the noise.

by Richard Martin

An acquaintance who is a business consultant raises an interesting point: This geopolitics thing is a lot harder than consulting. In fact, it’s a completely different paradigm, even though some of the tools and tactics may be superficially similar.

I served for 26 years in the Canadian Army. The profession of arms is about the reasoned application of force in the solution of a social problem. Social in the widest possible sense. There are no easy solutions. If there were, we wouldn’t be in the conundrum we are in.

While there are experts in logistics, communications, armament, intelligence analysis, operational planning, and even tactics and weapons handling, true military professionals the world over will tell you that there is no such thing as ultimate military and strategic expertise. You can study history, politics, geography, and economics all you want, but in the end you are dealing with mutable goals and motivations.

Plus, it all comes down to one simple principle: selection and maintenance of the aim. In American military terms, the principle of the objective. What is the goal, intent, outcome, end state, or any other way of expressing the end to be achieved? Everything depends on that.

Is the end to try to deal with Putin and Russia as good faith actors of the international community of nations? That was tried and didn’t work.

Is the end to deter Putin and Russia with superior arms and a credible threat that the cost of his gamble would outweigh the benefits? Obviously, that didn’t work either.

Now that battle has been joined, the US, Canada, UK, Germany, and all the NATO nations need to decide what the aim is, what the end must be. In the early days of NATO it was hard enough to get 12 countries to agree on something. Now there are 30 members, and the attack is not on a NATO country, although there are NATO allies who are feeling threatened right now.

I honestly don’t know what actions are to be taken, because I don’t know what the goals are. Those are matters for political decision, which is beyond the province of the profession of arms, diplomacy, and even economic and financial sanctions.

In a word, we need political will. A reminder, Clausewitz called war a clash of arms with the aim of imposing our will on the enemy. Who is the enemy, what is our aim?

© Richard Martin

Richard Martin is a veteran, thinker, educator, and trusted advisor. He focuses on extracting valuable signals from all the noise.

By Richard Martin

© Rotislav Sedlacek | 123 Stock Photo

My study of military history has taught me that most soldiers and warriors throughout history have gone willingly, if not enthusiastically, into battle. They followed their comrades in arms, and they followed their leaders. They participated in behaviour that was downright counter to their survival and the wish to live a long and prosperous life. In many cases, they fought to defend themselves, their families, and their lands against hostile depredations. But in many other cases, perhaps most, soldiers and warriors have fought for conquest, glory, pride, courage, status, recognition, and booty.


On the other hand, the Canadians who have served and sacrificed for peace and security around the world present something of an outlier in this respect. Since the Boer War at the turn of the 20th century, Canadians have largely fought or operated oversees, taking on the forces of countries that have threatened Canada and its allies directly and indirectly, or endangered world peace and security. Over 116,000 have given their lives in these missions, and countless more have sustained debilitating mental and physical wounds. Of these, 158 Canadian soldiers died in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2011. Often forgotten is that approximately 130 Canadian soldiers have died in peacekeeping missions.

It’s only by talking to combat veterans that we can gain a true appreciation for the sheer difficulty of combat and what is involved in military leadership. I was on a battlefield tour when serving in Germany. A Canadian veteran of the D-Day campaign had been a platoon commander during an operation to capture and secure Carpiquet Airfield, near Caen, Normandy. His recall of the engagement was of crawling uphill under the enemy’s grazing fire. Rationally, he knew full well that he had fought on an airfield, and that his memories of crawling uphill must be mistaken. On the other hand, he couldn’t shake the persistent impression of having to struggle against gravity. When he eventually visited the battlefield after the war, he could see that the ground was basically flat and even. It was an airfield after all. But still, the memory stuck with him, and it was only decades later that he could picture the fight in a more objective manner.

The leadership challenge in combat is singular. That soldiers under your command will follow you is not necessarily given, despite the weight of military discipline. Charly Forbes, a veteran infantry officer with the Régiment de Maisonneuve during the Second World War and the Vandoos in Korea recounted his baptism of fire. He had just taken command of a depleted platoon in a company that had been decimated only days before by friendly fire from Allied bombers. He had to lead his platoon to take out a German machine gun that was holding up the battalion’s advance. He did his combat estimate and came up with a simple plan and briefed his men. On his signal, they would run on the flank to assault the machine gun nest while his own machine gunners would lay down covering fire. As he gave the signal, he leapt up and rushed toward the German MG. After a few yards, there was so much withering fire that he had to take refuge in a shell hole. That’s when he realized that there was only one of his soldiers with him. Unflustered, the private said, “It’s okay sir; we’ll take ‘em out,” and the two of them completed the mission.

What does it take to lead soldiers and partake in combat? What makes your troops want to follow you? What makes you want to lead them in this dangerous and, frankly, irrational behaviour? It seems daunting, but it has been done since time immemorial. Coercion and punishment are always possible, but they only work to a certain point. In the final analysis, the best troops are the ones that want to fight, that have morale and cohesion, and who are willing to follow their officers and NCOs until the mission is done. This is what most sets apart the Canadian soldier, sailor, or airman.

© 2017 Alcera Consulting Inc. This article may be used for non-commercial use with proper attribution.