Russia invaded Ukraine betting on a quick victory against Ukrainian forces, but finds itself bogged down in a protracted war that offers many lessons about the nature of future conflicts.
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"Taiwan draws lessons" from the war in Ukraine, noted in November the chief of the American staff, general Mark Milley. “There are lessons we are learning. There are lessons that European countries are learning and there are lessons that President Xi (Jinping) and the Chinese military are learning.”
Not only has Russia failed to achieve the goals it set out to invade its neighbor on February 24, but Ukraine's Western allies are imposing punitive sanctions on it and sending Ukrainian forces a steady stream of weapons. which proved crucial on the battlefield.
“One of the things people learn is that war on paper is very different from real war,” General Milley added.
“There is a lot of friction, fog and death in a fight,” he continued, predicting difficulties for the Chinese military, who have no recent combat experience, if China decides to to invade the island of Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory to be recovered one day, and if necessary by force.
The importance of logistics
Russia's nuclear arsenal has had no effect on the battlefield, noted Pentagon number three Colin Kahl, inviting Beijing to learn from it.
“The fact that Russia has nuclear weapons did not make the invasion of Ukraine successful, not even strategically,” he told a conference. "I think that's an important lesson for Beijing to learn."
The Russian offensive in Ukraine "represented a terrible strategic disaster for Vladimir Putin", he added. "I find it hard to believe that Xi Jinping wants China to face the same reaction from the international community" as Russia.
For US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the response of Ukraine's allies demonstrates the determination of the international community to defend the rule of law.
"As soon as Russia invaded Ukraine, we saw countries come together and not only provide military assistance, but also participate in sanctions and trade restrictions that make things very difficult for Russia," he said. he said during a recent press briefing.
He cited two lessons to be learned from the Ukrainian conflict: the importance of logistics and the autonomy granted to non-commissioned officers in Western armies, as well as within the Ukrainian forces, trained by NATO countries.
“The Russians had logistical problems from the start” and they still have them, especially in terms of ammunition, he said.
And “I think the Ukrainians fought well at the start thanks to the training we gave them (…) at section and squad level. We have seen NCOs take initiatives on the battlefield,” he added.
“By attacking the supply lines and the command and control centers, they made it very difficult for the Russians at first,” explained the Pentagon chief.
Plenty of ammunition
For Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the conflict has highlighted how the battlefield is now constantly observed. With drones and satellite imagery, "it's much easier to be seen and much more important to hide," he told AFP.
And while precision missiles like the Himars played an important role in Ukraine, the war has shown that older weaponry still has its place.
"A lot of people thought that the battlefield would evolve mainly towards precision, and that's not the case," says the expert. "Both sides fire thousands ... of unguided projectiles every day."
The impressive number of various bombs and ammunition used since the start of the conflict in Ukraine has shown the importance of having suitable stocks of ammunition, according to Colin Kahl.
Another of the lessons learned from the conflict in Ukraine thus relates to the attention to pay attention to the "type of ammunition that we need, but also (to) the type of stocks that we should have at our disposal for other allies or partners in the event of a Ukraine-type scenario,” he said.