Posts Tagged ‘Military Lessons’

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.

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.