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[Analysis] Five lessons from the Ukrainian war

(B2) The war between Russia and Ukraine is a mix between old and new, unity of command and great decentralization. It overhauls traditional strategies.

A necessary reflection

The few days spent in Ukraine shook my “strategic intellect”. These reflections and questions seem relatively absent from public debate today. Particularly at the European level, which always seems to favor everything technological (from electric cars to interconnected networks). Admittedly useful advances but which, in terms of defense, are insufficient and can even prepare a “certain defeat” Read also: [Reflection] The shortcomings of the European Commission on Defence. A war behind?).

First lesson: is the future rustic? ?

Alongside the latest technology, you need good old equipment, very rustic, and if possible not too connected. A rusticity necessary for its rapid appropriation by the population or volunteers trained quickly. The classic instruments of war (artillery, guns, etc.) are still necessary, aided by faster instruments (tactical drones).

Second lesson: don't bet everything on hyperconnection

In the same spirit, basing everything on hyper-connected technology is a mistake. The good old network of aerial sirens, a device of classic radios in radio waves can be very useful in the event of failure of mobile networks. Something to think about when Europe wants to move at all costs towards hyperconnection.

Thirde lesson: keep autonomous modes out of electricity

In the conflict in Ukraine, the good old diesel locomotives proved their usefulness, ready to take over and compensate for a faulty or interrupted electrical network due to strikes. The temptation to switch to all-electric, all-connected, to centralize certain capacities (care, energy production, etc.) must be reconsidered in terms of tactics and strategy. What will we do tomorrow with all-electric cars, dependent on fragile networks?

Fourth lesson: the importance of civil logistics

Civilian logistics are essential for the military. And the choices made at this level directly impact the capacity for resilience. The role of train transport in Ukraine (freight and passengers (read: Travel diary Ukraine 3: by train from Zahony to kyiv, Chernihiv and back. Anyone who travels to Ukraine can only be struck by the strong dimensioning of the network (five - six tracks in the smallest station), as well as the presence of repair trains. Ditto for the health network and primary care stations. All this cannot be improvised at the last moment.

Fifth lesson: small is beautiful the duplicate is the guarantee of success

Small, inexpensive gear (from tablets to small satellites to drones) is just as useful on the battlefield as large, expensive and unique gear. Doubling or even tripling equipment is still a virtue in winning the battle. Having everything in a single model would be a mistake. Refusing duplication is the insurance of defeat. This is also valid for political organizations: NATO and the EU do not duplicate each other. They complement each other, even interchange their roles when one is blocked.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

NB: Other lessons could be drawn, such as the decentralization of logistics and the autonomy of command. I will come back to this.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).