Eight Lessons

At The Strategist Joseph Nye proposes eight lessons that could be learned from the Ukraine war so far. It’s an expansion of his post of two years ago. Here’s his conclusion:

The most important lesson from the Ukraine war remains one of the oldest. Two years ago many expected a quick Russian victory, and just one year ago there were great expectations of a triumphant Ukrainian summer offensive. But as Shakespeare wrote more than four centuries ago, it is dangerous for a leader to ‘cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war.’

The promise of a short war is seductive. Putin certainly never expected to be bogged down indefinitely. He has managed to sell his war of attrition to the Russian people as a great patriotic struggle against the West. But the dogs he has unleashed could still turn around and bite him.

I wish I were as sanguine as he about nuclear deterrence:

Second, nuclear deterrence works, but it depends on relative stakes more than capabilities. The West has been deterred, but only up to a point. Putin’s nuclear threat has kept NATO governments from sending troops (though not equipment) to Ukraine. But the reason is not that Russia has superior nuclear capabilities; rather, it is that Putin has designated Ukraine a vital national interest for Russia, whereas Western governments have not. Meanwhile, Putin’s nuclear sabre rattling has not prevented the West from extending the range of the weapons it provides to Ukraine; and the West, so far, has deterred Putin from attacking any NATO countries.

My concern has a number of facets. First, as he notes, nuclear deterrence has not prevented the West from “extending the range of the weapons it provides”. Is NATO deterrable? I don’t know. It should also be noted that “Putin has designated Ukraine a vital national interest for Russia” is an understatement. It has been a vital national interest of Russia’s for centuries. George Kennan pointed that out decades ago:

2 comments… add one
  • TastyBits Link

    Autocratic militaries do not allow NCOs and junior Officers to become small unit leaders with the authority to make decisions. They have the leadership skills to start an insurrection.

    When the battle plan goes to shit, everybody needs to wait for a senior NCO or Officer to make a decision on a change. During that time, the enemy adjusts to your actions. If the senior NCO or Officer is killed, everybody needs to wait for another one to arrive.

    As is, neither Russia nor NATO (US) can get past the Dnieper. Both would need to institute a draft, and both would need to convert to a wartime economy. It would require time to build-up troops and equipment, but the US would require shipping time, as well.

    For the First Gulf War, it took about six months to build-up enough troops, equipment, munitions, and armaments. These were existing from the Cold War. That is not the case today.

    When faced with the reality of what it would take to restore pre-2014 Ukraine borders, establish defendable bases in the Baltics, Sweden, Finland, and Ukraine with fallback positions in Poland, Hungary, and Germany (at least) most of these war hawks would have a heart attack.

    As for nuclear war, it is highly unlikely, for the reasons in paragraph three. In the highly unlikely case that NATO (US) was willing to re-industrialize, institute a draft, ration, de-iPhone, relinquish the green fantasy, and push past the Dnieper, they will have the same problem as the Russians – flat terrain.

    Eventually, NATO (US) will have the same problem as all previous invaders – the Russian winter. In the past, the Russians have used a “scorched earth” tactic on Russian territory to deny the invaders resources, and it is possible they could use battlefield nukes in this manner.

    Hawkwind – Damnation Alley

  • Grey Shambler Link

    Israeli Defense Forces estimates that Hamas with its limited resources has constructed 350-450 miles of tunnels in Gaza.
    Imagine the underground structures that would insure survival of ruling classes in DC or Moscow.
    Sort of changes the calculus.

Leave a Comment