10 July 2024

Ukraine: Lessons for Leaders


Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. But the two sides have been fighting since 2014. The ground war in Ukraine is unlike the Marine Corps’ experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and significantly different from our future, forecasted role in the Pacific. Ukrainian forces, fighting for their country’s survival, have been innovative and flexible, fielding new technology, destroying Russian tanks, discarding doctrine when required, fighting well with donated equipment and citizen soldiers, and keeping their enemies off-balance.

Is the war in Ukraine relevant to the Marine Corps? If so, what can we learn? If we had to fight a similar conflict, what would we need? The following insights on modern, conventional ground combat are taken from thirty recent reports and analyses.

1. The battlefield is totally transparent. Drones are everywhere, all the time.
We need to disperse, camouflage, and move to survive.

Reports: During the battle of Bakhmut, in August 2022, there were 50 drones in the sky at all times.1 In addition to continuous conducting surveillance, armed drones killed tanks, artillery, and aircraft.2 Under this threat, Ukrainian units have learned to disperse headquarters, ammunition dumps, logistics centers, and aircraft. Dispersing is difficult, but more effective than concealment.3

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