Foreign volunteers are heeding the call to join Ukrainians in defending their country from Russian attacks. In this article, Dan Byman recalls lessons learned from past conflicts and writes that the results are mixed. Although foreign fighters can be helpful, particularly if they have relevant military experience, their presence often brings unintended negative consequences. Byman writes, "In general, private war is a bad idea even in cases like Ukraine, when there is a clear victim state and villain state. If governments believe Ukraine needs more support, they should provide it, not put the onus on individual citizens, especially when such fighters can make things worse for the country in question and pose long-term dangers."
"Foreign Fighters in Ukraine? Evaluating the Benefits and Risks" - Lawfare
This fascinating analysis discusses how Russia's war in Ukraine gives the United States "a window into the future of conflict without fighting in one." The U.S. has an opportunity, as it has in some past conflicts such as the Yom Kippur War, to see its equipment and tactics perform on the battlefield. These observations could serve to help the U.S. adapt and prepare for future conflicts in which it might be a direct participant. The article argues that the Ukraine war is providing a wealth of insights regarding virtually every aspect of war, and that the results are thus far showing that "the Ukraine war looks like a win for U.S. equipment and tactics—at least for now."
"Is the U.S. Military Capable of Learning from the War in Ukraine?" - Foreign Policy
"Russia’s war once again poses the question whether the United States needs to reexamine the way it prepares for future conflict: not only which weapons it buys, but also how it envisions great-power wars in the 21st century—whether they will be short, sharp affairs or grinding, protracted struggles."
"Today, Russia’s war against Ukraine could well provide as many insights about 21st-century warfare as the Yom Kippur War did for 20th-century conflicts. For decades, the U.S. Defense Department has shaped the U.S. military for flash conflicts and quick interventions where speed and precision rule. But one year into a war that some thought would last only days, Ukraine raises the question of whether the age of industrial warfare has returned. The consequence: The United States would need to prepare to fight a very different type of conflict than it plans for today."
Reports from Ukraine indicate that U.S. High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMAR) long-range missile systems are giving Ukrainian forces an important boost against Russia. As the war drags on, this article gives an important analysis of the current state of play in Ukraine, relating it to what the author and many other foreign policy experts consider a broader conflict war underway in the world between democracy and autocracy. The author points out that:
"There are three things to bear in mind as you read the news from Ukraine:
- The Russians are not interested in a settlement.
- The Russians are running out of men and materiel, and the war is getting closer to the lives of people in Russia who thought it would never touch them.
- The Ukrainians are taking terrible losses, but they could outlast the Russians with Western help."
"The Stakes in Ukraine Have Not Changed" - The Atlantic
Who or what can stop Putin, and how will this end? Eliot Cohen wrestles with the question of what the West can do in the face of Russia's escalating attack on Ukraine in this article in The Atlantic. He acknowledges the tremendous challenges the world faces with regard to Putin's aggression, but celebrates the "remarkable solidarity and decisiveness of the liberal democracies, in Europe and outside it." He argues that "Western strategy should rest on three pillars: vigorous and imaginative military support to Ukrainian regular and irregular forces; sanctions that will hobble the Russian economy; and construction of a militarily powerful European alliance that can secure the border with Russia as long as that country remains a menace." To the question of how this might end, Cohen posits that "The road that the West should seek will lead either to the collapse of Putin’s regime or to a long-term weakening of the Russian state’s capability and appetite for aggressive war." He goes on to note that Americans will have to again accept that national security must be a priority.
"The Strategy that Can Defeat Putin" - The Atlantic
NATO member states Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, which share borders with Russia, have a great deal of experience dealing with Russia. Their leaders have been outspoken since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the presidents of all three Baltic states recently visited Kyiv. This opinion piece argues that the West should be heeding the Baltic states' advice to not be deterred by Putin's rhetoric. "Baltic nations also insist that NATO must grow a backbone."
"Want to Know How to Stop Putin? Listen to Leaders of the Baltic States" - Philadelphia Inquirer
"Having lived under Soviet rule, the Balts have no illusions about the need to prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from scoring a brutal 'victory' over Ukraine, something which could still happen if NATO members don’t send heavy weapons quickly. Their leaders are blunt about the long-term threat to Western nations if they fail Ukraine."
The Black Sea is of tremendous strategic importance. Bordered by Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Turkey, and Romania, the Black Sea is connected to the Mediterranean Sea (via the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean Sea) through the Bosporus straight. Russia's unfettered access to the Black Sea, as well as its occupation since 2014 of the Crimean Peninsula, facilitate its continued attacks on southeastern Ukraine. Ukraine's ability to defend itself is hampered because Russia destroyed and/or took control of most of Ukraine's naval forces when it annexed Crimea.
The international community is unable to curtail Russian warships' access to the Black Sea because, as noted in the article linked below, "Due to Montreux Convention rules regarding the Bosporus and Dardanelles that connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, countries that sit on the Black Sea have unlimited access. Nonresident countries may only send ships in for short stints and are limited by ship size. So although NATO is not intervening militarily on Ukraine’s behalf, the Black Sea was always going to be a vulnerable spot for Ukraine."
For more information on the Montreaux convention and the importance of the Black Sea, check out this article:
"What Makes the Black Sea So Strategically Important?" - Defense News
Russia's invasion of Ukraine purportedly arose out of Putin's concern for Russia's security and is intended to discourage NATO expansion and undermine cohesion among NATO countries and the West. The invasion in fact seems to be having the opposite effect, with the West unifying in its opposition to the war, NATO readying defensive forces, and accelerated talk of NATO membership for countries such as Sweden and Finland, as well as increased talk of admitting Ukraine into the EU. For an excellent read about the strategic implications of this conflict, check out this Q&A with Atlantic Council experts.
"Twenty Questions (and Expert Answers) about What's Happening with Ukraine and Russia" - Atlantic Council
As Russia has turned to Iranian-made kamikaze drones in addition to its own missiles to attack targets across Ukraine, calls for the international community to provide Ukraine with air defense systems have intensified. The U.S. and European countries have provided air defense systems and more are on the way, but stocks are low and new systems take time to be manufactured. Air defense systems are quite complex, as they seek to identify and destroy a wide variety of aerial threats traveling at differing speeds over varied terrain, from helicopters to ballistic missiles to cruise missiles. Ukraine has its own systems, but many have been destroyed. Allies continues to unite in support of Ukraine as individual countries provide air defense support and NATO countries work to build an interoperable air defense system for NATO member countries and allies.
"Can the U.S. Do More for Ukrainian Air Defense?" - Center for Strategic and International Studies
This article presents an excellent explanation of how air defense works:
"Ukraine Wants More Air Defense. Here's How It Works" - Washington Post
"NATO Rushing to Build Up Air Defenses for Ukraine - and Itself" - Politico
Here's another excellent interview from the Aspen Security Forum. CIA Director William Burns gave fascinating insights on the conflict in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin's evolving character and decision-making process, Americans detained overseas, relations with China, Taiwan, Iran's nuclear program, and other national and international security issues. During the interview he provided the first public U.S. estimate of Russian casualties during the war in Ukraine: 15,000 killed and 45,000 wounded. Regarding President Putin's health, Burns said, "As far as we can tell, he's entirely too healthy."
The U.S. has recently started to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions, also known as dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICMs). Cluster munitions are small munitions that are released in groups and spread out as they fall, hitting a larger area than a single explosion would. These munitions can pose risks to civilians because some of them fail to explode and can remain on the ground like landmines, exploding and injuring civilians later. Russia has already been using cluster munitions in Ukraine, and Russian cluster munitions have much higher "dud rates," or failure to explode on impact, than U.S.-produced munitions. One hundred and twenty three countries are signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits their production and use. The U.S., Ukraine, and Russia are not signatories. Ukraine has requested cluster munitions because they are highly effective against a variety of targets and because Ukraine believes that the danger to Ukrainian civilians is greater if Ukraine is not adequately able to defend itself than it is from unexploded cluster munitions.
"Cluster Munitions: What Are They, and Why Is the United States Sending them to Ukraine?" - Center for Strategic and International Studies
This 6-minute video provides a useful summary of the issues surrounding the provision of cluster munitions to Ukraine.
"Balancing the Risk and Reward of Sending American Cluster Munitions to Ukraine" - Military Times
Heavy losses of Russian tanks during Russia's war in Ukraine have led some analysts to conclude that the era of tanks might be over. Are tanks obsolete in modern warfare? Or does the loss of so many Russian tanks reflect other issues that do not represent the relevance of tanks in warfare overall? Here are some articles that dig deep into the issue.
This is a very interesting discussion of the historical use of tanks:
"The Tank Is Dead: Long Live the Javelin, the Switchblade, the...?" War on the Rocks
"We should all recall the words of Australian Maj. Gen. Kathryn Toohey in 2019: 'Tanks are like dinner jackets. You don’t need them very often, but when you do, nothing else will do.' The general’s caution explains why the tank has endured and why it is perhaps not time for its funeral, unless she can be proven wrong."
"The Tank Is Not Obsolete, and Other Observations about the Future of Combat - War on the Rocks
"The available data from Ukraine, as well as the recent war in Nagorno-Karabakh, indicate that tanks are still critical in modern warfare and their vulnerabilities have been exaggerated. Russia’s heavy tank losses can be explained by employment mistakes, poor planning and preparation, insufficient infantry support, and Ukrainian artillery."
"The Tank's Death Has Been Exaggerated" - Center for European Policy Analysis
"Tanks a Lot (Well, Not Actually That Many for Ukraine)" - Foreign Policy Research Institute
Russia's war in Ukraine is undoubtedly being studied very closely, and will be analyzed for years to come. This essay, and the longer chapter linked within, make up part of the International Institute for Strategic Studies' Strategic Survey 2022, an excellent survey of recent world events relevant to security studies. No one knows the eventual outcome of this war, but the human and economic effects are clearly devastating. This has grown to be the largest war in Europe since 1945, involving not only two large states but many other nations providing support. Although Ukraine's allies are taking pains to deter Russia from escalating the conflict with the use of nuclear weapons, the implicit threat remains. This article, and the longer chapter, provide excellent insight into the emerging military lessons from Russia's war in Ukraine.
"Russia's War in Ukraine: What Are the Emerging Military Lessons?" - International Institute for Strategic Studies
"Perhaps the most important facet of the war is that what was planned as a short 'special military operation' against an inferior enemy has turned into a large-scale conflict between states, in which prolonged fighting has been at a high intensity and over a wide geographical area."
According to the UN World Food Program, a record 349 million people in 79 countries are facing acute food insecurity in 2023. More than 900,000 people worldwide are facing famine-like conditions. Conflict in Ukraine and elsewhere is the biggest driver of hunger, while pandemic after-effects, economic shocks, climate extremes, and high fertilizer and input prices are also significant factors. Ukraine has historically been a major exporter of food, but since transport has been disrupted due to Russia's invasion, international food shortages have been exacerbated.
"A Global Food Crisis" - UN World Food Program
The 7-minute video on this website is excellent.
"How Well is the Grain Deal Working for Ukraine?" - The World
"In July, the United Nations brokered a deal with Russia to create a “humanitarian corridor” in the Black Sea to resume sending grain abroad, with ships inspected by the UN and Turkish and Russian and Ukrainian authorities. Now, Ukraine says that the deal, which is set to expire in mid-March, is not meeting expectations."
For the military analysts, veterans, Ukraine supporters, and foreign policy enthusiasts among us, this is worth a look. The U.S. has recently pledged additional military assistance to Ukraine, bringing the total U.S. security assistance commitment to Ukraine to just under $13 billion. U.S. security assistance includes, in addition to weaponry, things like logistics support, salaries, stipends, intelligence support, and training. The Hill has published a list of the materiel the U.S. has supplied to Ukraine with some of that $13 billion. Wow!
"Here's Every Weapon U.S. Has Supplied to Ukraine with $13 Billion" - The Hill
"U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine" - Congressional Research Service
"Since the start of the 2022 war, the Biden Administration has committed about $12.9 billion in security assistance to 'provide Ukraine the equipment it needs to defend itself.'"
It is rare to see details on the effectiveness of sanctions. David Ignatius’s article below provides several. Interesting read.
If the war in Ukraine is indeed prolonged, the effect of sanctions becomes more important in strategic planning. The role of the Europeans becomes more crucial. Can experimentation WITH the Europeans be done on this?
"Opinion: Putin's Long Game in Ukraine May Not Play Out as He Predicts" - Washington Post
This week Public Radio International's The World re-aired a 5-part radio series called "How Wars End." These brief programs are a fascinating review of history as they discuss Iraq, the American Civil War, World War I, and the Gulf War. They also provide timely considerations regarding the end of the war in Afghanistan one year ago and regarding an eventual end to Russia's war in Ukraine. These are well worth a listen.
"How Wars End: Revisiting Our Series About One of the Most Difficult Aspects of War" - PRI's The World
An introduction to the re-airing of the series.
All five programs in the series "How Wars End" by PRI's The World.
Robert Kagan discusses American involvement in Russia's war in Ukraine in relation to U.S. interventions in past conflicts in this article in Foreign Affairs. He argues that although American territorial security and sovereignty may not be at risk, the U.S. is acting in its national interest when it acts in defense of its beliefs and ideologies. It is sometimes in the interest of the United States to defend the liberal world, even beyond its borders. "When Republican Senator Mitch McConnell and others say that the United States has a vital interest in Ukraine, they do not mean that the United States will be directly threatened if Ukraine falls. They mean that the liberal world order will be threatened if Ukraine falls."
"A Free World, If You Can Keep It: Ukraine and American Interests" - Foreign Affairs
"Russia’s invasion has changed Americans’ views not only of Ukraine but also of the world in general and the United States’ role in it...The war in Ukraine has exposed the gap between the way Americans think and talk about their national interests and the way they actually behave in times of perceived crisis."
Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine is not only reshaping the entire security environment in Europe, but is also revealing a great deal about Russia's military capabilities and weaknesses. CSIS has published a comprehensive report on lessons learned. "This analysis examines lessons from Russian air, ground, cyber, and other domains following Moscow’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. It asks: What are some of the most important military lessons from the first three months of the war? What do these lessons suggest about the future of the war?" The report lays out Russia's weaknesses in training and planning, which led to numerous logistics failures. It also discusses how Russia's incorrect assumptions about the Ukrainian military, the Ukrainian public, and the West have affected the offensive. Third, the report analyzes the challenges Russia faces in domains such as cyber operations, electronic warfare, air operations, and maritime.
"Russia's Ill-Fated Invasion of Ukraine:Lessons in Modern Warfare" - Center for Strategic and International Studies
NATO is bringing under its command and control and deploying allied air and missile defenses in an "air shielding" mission to boost NATO defense of Eastern Europe in the face of ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine. This effort is a significant expansion of NATO cooperation in the region and serves to protect the Alliance from air and missile threats.
"NATO Fortifies Eastern Europe's Defenses Under New 'Air Shielding' Mission" - Air Force Times
"The policy brings together disparate allied air and missile defense units under NATO’s command, rather than relying on them in a more reactive, piecemeal fashion."
"Additional fighter jets are bolstering eastern defenses as well. The U.S. recently sent its F-35A Lightning II jets from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, to Estonia, and F-22 Raptor fighters from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to Poland as part of the expanding mission."
"USAF F-35s Forward Deploy for NATO Air Shielding Mission" - NATO Allied Air Command
"This activity enhances the security of NATO airspace ensuring a robust and integrated shield for Allied territory and contributing to the deterrence and defence of the Euro-Atlantic area."
Almost a year into Russia's war in Ukraine, the U.S. has decided to give Ukraine the Patriot missile defense system. Ukraine will receive one battery of the system, enough to protect a very limited geographic area. The transfer is highly symbolic, as the system is sophisticated and its presence is considered by Russia to be a provocation and escalation in the conflict. Ukrainian soldiers will begin several months of training this month at Fort Sill, Oklahoma on how to use the system. Generally around 90 highly trained soldiers are required for command and control of the system. Germany has indicated that it, too, will send a Patriot system to Ukraine. As Russia repeatedly targets Ukrainian infrastructure and civilian buildings, Ukrainian officials continue to seek additional military aid and materiel from the U.S. and other allies.
"U.S. Involvement in Ukraine War Deepens, with Troops to Train in Oklahoma" - Washington Post
"The Patriot system, first used in combat during the Gulf War to take out Iraqi Scud missiles, relies on sophisticated radar to track incoming threats, including cruise and ballistic missiles, and launches long-range missiles to intercept them. Typically deployed on the back of a truck, it requires a crew of at least three soldiers to operate, with extensive backup needed to keep it functional."
"Patriot to Ukraine: What Does It Mean?" - CSIS
"The United States is sending Patriot to Ukraine for three reasons: to help defend against Russian missile attacks, which are pounding Ukrainian cities and disrupting utilities; to strongly convey political support; and because the United States has few other air defenses to send."
"What the Patriot Missile System Can Do for Ukraine" - CBS News
"Each Patriot battery consists of a truck-mounted launching system with eight launchers that can hold up to four missile interceptors each, a ground radar, a control station and a generator. The Army said it currently has 16 Patriot battalions. A 2018 International Institute for Strategic Studies report found those battalions operate 50 batteries, which have more than 1,200 missile interceptors."
"Ukrainian Troops Will Start Patriot Missile Training Later this Month" - Newsweek
"The Patriot system is a ground-based, mobile missile defense interceptor, which can detect, track and engage drones as well as cruise missiles, and short-range or tactical ballistic missiles."
"Why the U.S. Is Giving Ukraine a Patriot Air-Defense System - Washington Post
Hundreds of thousands of Russians have fled their country over the last two weeks to avoid getting called up to fight in Ukraine. This is a sobering commentary by a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general with decades of experience training soldiers who predicts these Russian "reservists" will be woefully unprepared.
"Putin's Recruits Are Heading for Slaughter" - Opinion in the Washington Post
Surely one of the unintended consequences of Russia's invasion of Ukraine is that the mistakes, weaknesses, and depravity of Russia's military are on full display for all the world to see. By now we all know about the stalled convoy and maintenance failures as well as the fact that Russia is running out of missiles. In addition, this article in the Atlantic argues that "The Russian air force’s failure is perhaps the most important, but least discussed, story of the military conflict so far...the Russian air force continues to suffer from flawed logistics operations and the lack of regular, realistic training. Above all, the autocratic Russian kleptocracy does not trust low-ranking and middle-ranking officers, and so cannot allow the imaginative, flexible decision making that NATO air forces rely upon. All this meant that when the invasion started, the Russian air force was incapable of running a well-thought-out, complex campaign." The authors go on to describe how the Ukrainians have creatively leveraged their more limited airpower resources to significantly hamper Russia's efforts to control the skies.
"The Overlooked Reason Russia's Invasion Is Floundering" - The Atlantic
Russia has used millions of dollars worth of missiles to destroy powerful Ukrainian HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) donated by the U.S. Oh but wait, those HIMARS the Russians destroyed with their costly cruise missiles were wooden fakes. In fact, Russia claims to have destroyed more HIMARS than Ukraine ever received.
"Ukraine is Building Wooden HIMARS Decoys to Fool Russia - and It's Working" - Popular Mechanics
Russian diplomats around the world are toeing the line, propagating false pro-Russian propaganda about the war in Ukraine. As this AP article points out, "Russian embassies and consulates around the world are prolifically using Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to deflect blame for atrocities while seeking to undermine the international coalition supporting Ukraine."
"For Russian Diplomats, Disinformation Is Part of the Job" - Associated Press
Observers have speculated, perhaps hopefully, that Russia's profligate use of expensive missiles in its war against Ukraine would eventually lead Russia to face a shortage of missiles. A new paper from the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggests that it is in fact likely that Russia will be able to produce sufficient supplies of missiles to keep up its attacks, and that Ukraine should continue to bolster its air defenses. Air defenses supplied by Western allies have been highly successful in Ukraine, including against barrages of attacks seemingly aimed at the air defense systems themselves. This article provides excellent analysis of the effectiveness of Ukraine's air defenses, as well as information on Russia's missile production capabilities and suggestions for continued provision of air and missile defense systems from Ukraine's allies.
"Russia Isn't Going to Run Out of Missiles" - Center for Strategic and International Studies
"Russia’s continued strike campaign in 2023 has made one thing quite clear: it is unrealistic to expect Russia to ever “run out” of missiles. Despite sanctions and export controls, it appears likely that Russia will be able to produce or otherwise acquire the long-range strike capacity necessary to inflict significant damage upon Ukraine’s people, economy, and military."
South Africa's foreign minister is acting baffled as to why her country would be criticized for planning a joint military exercise with Russia and China next month. South Africa has refused to condemn Russia's aggression in Ukraine, choosing instead to portray itself as neutral. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently met with South African President
and Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor in Pretoria, and Lavrov and Pandor described each other as "a friend." The joint exercises will be held over the one-year anniversary of the launch of Russia's ongoing attack on Ukraine. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited South Africa the day after Lavrov's visit.
"Lavrov Visit to South Africa: Pandor Defends Joint Russia-China Military Exercise" - BBC
"South Africa's leaders have a connection to Russian dating back to the fight against white-minority rule, or apartheid, when some members of the country's liberation movement received military training in Russia. In recent years that relationship has grown into business ties through the Brics bloc of emerging economies - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa."
"U.S. 'Concerned' as South Africa to Hold War Games with Russia, China on Ukraine Invasion Anniversary" - CBS
"'We are concerned about South Africa's plan to hold joint naval exercises with Russia and the PRC in February, even as Moscow continues its brutal and unlawful war of aggression against Ukraine,' David Feldmann, spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in South Africa, told CBS News in response to the remarks by the senior South African and Russian diplomats."
"Why South Africa Continues to Be Neutral in Ukraine-Russia War" - Al Jazeera
"Pretoria and Moscow have long historical ties dating back to the times of white minority rule in South Africa. South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) has longstanding relations with Moscow forged during the liberation struggle against apartheid. Many of the ANC leaders were educated or received military training in the Soviet Union. Some, like the late Eric “Stalin” Mtshali, have Russian nicknames thanks to their connections to Moscow. The Soviet Union backed the liberation movement with arms and money."
The Black Sea region is of considerable international strategic importance given Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine. Ten conflicts have occurred in the region since the end of the Cold War. The region is on the frontline of conflict between Russia and the West. Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkiye are NATO members in the region. Conflict is active between Armenia and Azerbaijan regarding Nagorno Karabakh, and is simmering in the Transnistria region of Moldova. Russia has been building up naval predominance in the Black Sea since its 2014 invasion of Crimea, and some commentators suggest that Russia is trying to treat the Black Sea as a "Russian lake." Russian naval power in the Black Sea is such that all countries of the region that want to ship goods through the Black Sea need to do so with Russian agreement.
This one-hour CSIS discussion on security in the Black Sea region discusses all of these issues and more. The discussion is with the authors of a recent paper on security in the Black Sea region, linked below.
"The Future of Security in the Black Sea Region" - Center for Strategic and International Studies
"The Inhospitable Sea: Toward a New U.S. Strategy for the Black Sea Region" - Center for Strategic and International Studies
U.S. military aid is pouring into Ukraine. This week U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv, further demonstrating U.S. resolve and committing additional assistance. U.S. military aid to Ukraine now tops $3 billion since Russia's invasion in late February. What kind of weapons is the U.S. providing? One example of crucial assistance is Man-Portable Air Defense Systems, or MANPADS. These shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles are highly portable and include the American Stinger, effective against low-flying aircraft, and anti-tank Javelin missiles. The U.S. is also sending armored personnel carriers, drones, ammunition, howitzers, body armor, medical supplies, vehicles, heavy artillery, training, and more.
"The Latest Aid Package to Ukraine Is a Major Escalation of Support" - Center for Strategic and International Studies
"What Weapons Has The U.S. Given Ukraine - and How Much Do They Help?" - BBC
"The West Needs to Keep Supporting Ukraine with MANPADS" - German Marshall Fund of the United States
For those of us who aren't Army engineering experts, here's a chance to admire and celebrate American military ingenuity in "wet gap" crossings, or modular bridge building for combat situations. This expertise is in striking contrast to bungled Russian attempts at river crossings in Ukraine.
"The Army is Pushing the Limits of Bridging Ops as Ukraine's Fight Spotlights River Crossings" - Sandboxx
"The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, in partnership with Program Executive Office Combat Support, is now pushing the outer limits of vehicle weight load capacity for the Improved Ribbon Bridge, according to an announcement from the Army Corps of Engineers. The floating bridge, which has been used by both the Army and Marine Corps since 2003, is designed to carry 105 wheeled, or 85 tracked vehicles, according to published specifications. In extreme situations, that load can be increased to 110 wheeled or 90 tracked, with caution."
Photo from U.S. Army Europe and Africa (Twitter: @USArmyEURAF)
The Washington Post published two interesting articles on Russian generals this past week.
Ukrainian forces have killed several Russian generals and other senior commanders on the battlefield, providing a boost to Ukrainian morale.
"Russian Generals Getting Killed at an Extraordinary Rate" - Washington Post
Channels of communication between senior U.S. and Russian military personnel have gone quiet, as top Russian military leaders decline to take calls from U.S. leaders. This dearth of communication increases the risk of miscalculation and accidents that could cause dangerous spillover from Russia's war in Ukraine.
"Top Russian Military Leaders Repeatedly Decline Calls from U.S., Prompting Fears of 'Sleepwalking into War'"
As Ukraine's allies send weapons and ammunition to help the country defend itself against Russia, donor countries are depleting their own stockpiles at a rapid rate. Some are increasingly concerned that they will not have enough left for their own defense should the need arise. Stockpiles in some countries had already been low due to budget constraints and the perception that the threat level was low. Production capacity is in many cases limited, as only a few companies produce these weapons, lead times are long, supply chains are complex, demand is high,, and skilled labor is in short supply. The defense industry wants firm commitments, and contracts, before investing in additional production capacity.
"Weapons Shortages Spark Tough Choices for Ukraine's Allies" - DefenseNews
"Ukraine's Appetite for Weapons Is Straining Western Stockpiles" - Foreign Policy
This and other topics were discussed recently at the Halifax International Security Forum. Find information and links to session recordings here:
Halifax International Security Forum (including links to Youtube recordings of the event)
It's interesting to consider the complexity involved in providing materiel to Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia. Not only are there significant security and logistics obstacles, but in some cases Ukrainian troops need training to use the equipment. This need for training has to be balanced with the fact that Ukrainian military personnel are needed on the battlefield. As this article points out, the supply of international weaponry needs to not outstrip the Ukrainian military's capacity to receive it and learn to use it most effectively.
"From Howitzers to Suicide Drones: Pentagon Seeks Right 'Balance' on Training Ukrainians on New Arms" - Defense News
Ukraine is successfully using uncrewed surface vessels, or unmanned ships, against Russian vessels. These unmanned ships can be relatively inexpensive, are able to carry more explosives than aerial delivery systems such as drones, and can inflict more damage than drones or planes because they can strike enemy ships at water level. This RAND report describes these surface vessels and posits that they "could become a centerpiece of naval warfare in the coming decades, one that navies may ignore at their peril."
"The Age of Uncrewed Surface Vessels" - RAND
"A new age of naval warfare has been inaugurated in the Black Sea, defined by an emerging weapon. Ukraine has employed explosive uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) as formidable weapons against Russian fleets and even infrastructure. Like prior transformative weapons such as torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, USVs could have a large impact on future naval tactics, equipment, and even the design of fleets."
The Wall Street Journal recently published a video showcasing U.S. unmanned surface vessels.
"Drone Boats: Inside the U.S. Navy's Latest Unmanned AI Tech" - Wall Street Journal
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since Russia began its offensive on February 24, more than 2.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country and become refugees. Just under two million additional people have been displaced from their homes but remain in Ukraine.
For frequently updated information on the refugee situation, consult UNHCR's Operational Data Portal on Ukraine, linked here. Within are links to flash updates with more information on assistance UNHCR and others are providing to refugees.
UNHCR Operational Data Portal on Ukraine
Recently the European Council acted to enact the EU's first-ever Temporary Protection Directive (TPD) for Ukrainian refugees. This historic decision grants refugees from Ukraine who are anywhere in the EU the right to housing and health care and access to the labor market and to education for children. Refugees from Ukraine who left the country on or after February 24 do not have to go through a lengthy process to request protection and assistance in EU countries. Instead, they automatically receive access to these benefits upon asking for a residence permit in any country in the EU, and the benefits are standardized. The TPD is in place for at least one year and will likely prevent EU countries' asylum systems from being overwhelmed by applications.
"Ukraine: Council Unanimously Introduces Temporary Protection for Persons Fleeing the War" - European Council
For more detailed analysis, watch this hour-long webcast from the Migration Policy Institute, "Briefing on Ukraine: Avenues to Safety and Meeting Immediate Needs."
As we watch catastrophe unfold in Ukraine, observers are grasping for possible ways to reduce harm to Ukraine and avert a broader war in Europe. One proposal being made is to deny Russia the ability to attack Ukraine from the air by imposing a no-fly zone (NFZ). It sounds simple enough; if Russian planes aren't allowed to fly over Ukraine, Russia's attack will be more limited in scope and therefore inflict less damage. But here is the problem with NFZs that proponents are not addressing: NFZs require enforcement. That is, if an NFZ is in place, some country or countries need to patrol the airspace. If Russian aircraft violate the NFZ, someone needs to shoot those Russian planes down, essentially initiating an all-out war with Russia. What western government is willing to do that now? If Russia attacks NATO and NATO invokes Article 5 (the principle of collective defense), war of western powers against Russia will be inevitable. But unless and until that happens, imposition of an NFZ over Ukraine is highly unlikely.
Learn more about No-Fly Zones from this interesting Rand Corporation paper.
"Denying Flight: Strategic Options for Employing No-Fly Zones" - Rand Corporation
What is genocide? In recent days Ukrainian President Zelensky, U.S. President Biden, and others have characterized Russia's actions in Ukraine as genocide, while others including French President Macron have taken care not to use the loaded term.
The term "genocide" was first used during the Second World War, and in 1946 genocide was codified as a crime under international law by the UN General Assembly. It has a very specific definition.
This website provides a superb, concise discussion of the history and meaning of the word genocide.
The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide:
"Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."
A very interesting point is that the definition of genocide includes intent. As the UN Office on Genocide Prevention discusses, "The intent is the most difficult element to determine. To constitute genocide, there must be a proven intent on the part of perpetrators to physically destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. Cultural destruction does not suffice, nor does an intention to simply disperse a group. It is this special intent, or dolus specialis, that makes the crime of genocide so unique. In addition, case law has associated intent with the existence of a State or organizational plan or policy, even if the definition of genocide in international law does not include that element."
Russia has declared martial law in the four territories of Ukraine that Russia recently annexed. What is martial law, and what is the significance of Russia's action? A declaration of martial law gives the military legal authority over what are usually civilian jurisdictions. Putin has given Russian military leaders broad powers over the occupied Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine. Just what is martial law? Here are some excellent resources to learn more.
"Martial Law Explained" - Brennan Center for Justice
"In the United States, martial law usually refers to a power that, in an emergency, allows the military to take the place of the civilian government and exercise jurisdiction over civilians in a particular area. But 'martial law' has no established definition, because across history, different people have used the term to describe a wide variety of actions, practices, or roles for the military. The law governing it is complicated and unsettled — and, as a result, the concept has never been well understood."
"What Is Martial Law?" - Juris Magazine
"Martial law is the substitution and suspension of civilian law for military rule. During periods of martial law, the military becomes the lawmaking and enforcing governing body, replacing civilian leaders and the police with military personnel. If civilians violate the law, military personnel could try civilians in military tribunals instead of traditional civilian courts. Martial law is discernible from military law because military rule applies exclusively to individuals in military service. Thus, only martial law governs civilians."
"What Is Martial Law, and Why Did Putin Impose It In Ukrainian Areas?" - Washington Post
"In practice, what will change on the ground in highly militarized regions already under military occupation, or under contest in Ukraine’s counteroffensive, remains unclear. The main change could be a new degree of cover for military actions under Russia’s legal system."
The big news this week has been Sweden and Finland's announcements of their intentions to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Although Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to deter NATO expansion through his attack on Ukraine, he seems to have accomplished the inverse. So just how do countries join NATO?
"What Does It Take to Join NATO?" - The Economist
Regarding Finland and Sweden, "Given that they are mature democracies, and highly interoperable with NATO, accession is expected to be quick. Prospective members have to send a letter of intent to NATO and, assuming it approves, hold talks on a range of political, defence, legal and technical issues. NATO would then draw up accession protocols which can be signed by ministers, or ambassadors to NATO."
"Enlargement and Article 10" - NATO
"NATO Enlargement & Open Door" - NATO
"European countries that wish to join NATO are initially invited to begin an Intensified Dialogue with the Alliance about their aspirations and related reforms. Aspirants may then be invited to join the Membership Action Plan, a programme which helps nations prepare for possible future membership. Participation does not guarantee membership, but is a key preparation mechanism. To join the Alliance, nations are expected to respect the values of the North Atlantic Treaty, and to meet certain political, economic and military criteria, set out in the Alliance's 1995 Study on Enlargement. These criteria include a functioning democratic political system based on a market economy; fair treatment of minority contribution to NATO operations; and a commitment to democratic civil-military relations and institutions."
NATO members must agree to the accession of new members. Currently Turkey is opposing the accession of Finland and Sweden.
"Turkey Blocks Start of NATO Talks on Finland's and Sweden's Applications" - Washington Post
Ukraine's allies have been significantly ramping up weapons deliveries to Ukraine in recent months. The U.S. has sent a wide array of materiel, and deliveries of tanks and heavy vehicles from Germany and other western allies are underway. But Ukraine's ability to expel Russia from Ukraine, especially including Crimea, is far from certain.
Defense News queried a number of experts for their opinions on how this war will end. "Their answers are glum: The war will be expensive, cost lives and likely last at least a few years — or even become interminable. It will tax the American and European defense industries, especially when it comes to munitions, and could cause economic ruin in Russia. All this while the possibility ofnuclear escalation remains."
"When Will the War in Ukraine End? Experts Offer Their Predictions" - Defense News