Sunday, June 4

Ukraine, a not so modern war, article by Jesús A. Núñez Villaverde

While we are getting used to terms as loosely defined as hybrid wars, asymmetricfrom zero casualties -your own, of course- or 2.0the war of Ukraine it forces us to return to the tragic reality of examples as brutal and primary as Mariupol and, more specifically, the assault on the Azovstal steel mill.

Of course, technological development applied to the battlefield has a notable influence on strategy and tactics. And just as in his day machine gun and the battle tanks returned the horses to the stables, today the entry into service of the drones it is probably irreversibly questioning the leading role that those same armored vehicles had until now in ground operations; waiting for autonomous weapons – also now known as killer robots– end up causing even more drastic changes in the use of force to impose one’s will on the enemy.

But, as happens in so many other violent conflicts now silenced, the war in Ukraine teaches us that it is better not to rush to issue the death certificate of some war variables that, at first glance, might seem overcome. This is the case, for example, with decisions such as the one Vladimir Putin has adopted, declaring war without quarter – an aberration both in legal and ethical terms – in Mariupol. In the theatrical and macabre scene broadcast by the Kremlin, in which Putin demands that his defense minister “not even a fly” leave Azovstal, the inhumanity of a use of force that openly despises the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions and that does not clash with what any satrap could have decided in the past.

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two months of war

On the other hand, today as yesterday, it is once again clear that no matter how much firepower that Russia employs to achieve its objectives – be it with artillery fire, aviation or helicopters – the groundwhether in towns or in the open, is not controlled until the units of infantry they finally step on it. And what is detected in the two months of war already elapsed is that the Russian units are scarcely capable of carrying out ground actions as basic as combining the advance of their troops with proximity artillery and air cover. In the same way, they do not seem qualified to carry out large-scale actions, which at least involve high-level troops. brigade or even from tactical group (about 1,000 soldiers); limited to actions of the type company either section and, above all, to hit indiscriminately with projectiles, rockets and missiles that, by themselves, do not achieve definitive results.

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Likewise, it is clear that it is still essential to have mastery of the air space. And the fact that Russia, despite its theoretical superiority of means in this area, has not yet succeeded explains to a large extent the failure reaped so far. Adding to its own shortcomings is the fact that, as already seen in the Afghanistan occupied by the Soviets, anti-aircraft missiles continue to be weapons as effective as anti-tank missiles, if there is not an adequate use of the ground units in charge of eliminating them to make way for those systems that are much more expensive and difficult to replace immediately.

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Finally, it does not seem that in this case victory or defeat depend so much on some technological novelty as on factors as elementary as the combat morale. And there Ukraine is ahead.

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