The war in Ukraine is now a year old. On Friday, 24 February I watched two webinars discussing the past year, and what the future might look like. Brookings held an event titled, “Meeting the Russia challenge: Lessons from the foreign policy transition from Bush to Obama.” The panelists, including Condoleezza Rice and Fiona Hill, recalled some of Russia’s past actions, and discussed how they shape Russia’s actions, and our own, today. Also posted on the Brookings page is a special section called “Lessons From Ukraine.” The contributors are among our country’s, and the world’s foremost experts on their subjects.

For more thoughts on the war, see also the Council on Foreign Relations current Ukraine page for more analysis. Finally, RAND has posted a blog titled “One Year After Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Experts React” where you can read quick reflections on the year past and the future by the experts.

There was also a webinar online at  Again, expert analysis and opinion. Unfortunately they do not seem to provide recorded events for later viewing. Their year in review can be found here (paid subscription may be required for full content.)

My study of hybrid warfare/new generation warfare continues. Today I decided to back up, thousands of years in fact, and think about the beginning of the study or war, and how it shapes the war in Ukraine, and warfare today in general. I narrowed my focus to three points, all stemming from Sun Tzu’s adage, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

  1. Study Russian history- from hundreds of years in the past, to Putin’s actions last week, to develop an understanding of his mentality and its shaping of Russian doctrine, his actions and decisions.
  2. Study Russian doctrine- especially that part of it dedicated to New Generation Warfare (NGW), and pay attention to differences between the doctrine on paper and actions on the ground.
  3. Take a close look at US military doctrine (which directly affects those of our partners) especially information warfare, assess the shortfalls, and search for indications that they are being remedied.

Putin’s fascination with Russia’s history of imperialism is often noted in articles and talks. It came up in both above events, mentioned by numerous panelists. In summary, Putin may see it as his duty to continue Russia’s imperialist aims. These aims are an integral part of Russian history and life in Russia in general- warfare, hardship, and suffering are part of Russian history and the Russian psyche.

Continuing on with hybrid warfare/NGW, for a concise perspective on NGW and counter-NGW, and where the US Army falls short, a must-read is “Russian New Generation Warfare: Deterring and Winning the Tactical Fight,” by James Derleth, in Military Review, September-October 2020. Pay close attention to the notes at the end- there are important definitions included, not to mention a worthy reading list.

Here is a direct quote from his summary, which urges us out of the past, and into developing robust counter-NGW tactics:

“The dichotomy of war and peace is no longer a useful construct for thinking about national security or tactical operations. We are in a state of competition and conflict that is continuous and dynamic.”

What does continuous conflict in this context mean? In short, it is about continuous and unrelenting information warfare. It is about weaponised information. The availability of information and being connected 24 hours a day is not going away, it is only spreading horizontally to more people, and more remote locations around the globe. And with it the spread of engineered truth- “truth” that fits the writer’s needs, will spread as well. In our post-truth political and informational environment it becomes harder each moment to avoid deception, to sort truth from lies; we have no choice but to continue to try.

Finally, Russian combat losses to date:

Russian combat losses as of 26 February, 2023

Russian combat losses as of 26 February, 2023

I will begin be recommending a recent Brookings event: “The Russia-Ukraine War: Year two and strategic consequences.” Please note that the recording of the event is nearly 2 1/2 hours long, but it is well worth watching. There are three separate panels, so you can break it up if you do not have time to watch it all at once. There is a full transcript of the event available as well.

A couple of striking points of note from the panelists, first Fiona Hill, reiterated by Bruce Jones, is the question about the type of war that is underway. They ask, “is this a proxy war?” and answer decidedly that it is not, that it is “more than a proxy war and less than a direct conflict.” Hill made reference here to WWII, asking if we would have labeled our support for Britain fighting against Germany, before we actively entered the war, as fighting a proxy war? No again.

Next point of note is a Hill’s characterisation of Putin, as paraphrased by Constanze Stelzenmuller as a “highly rational actor who makes a point of pretending he is not.”  Keep those two points in mind as you watch events and attempt to decipher all the data of the day on the Ukraine war.

On to commentary: I have seen reports- propagandistic, very manipulated, with selective use of quotes and mixing of messages and sources, to show that the US and the west are suffering from fatigue in their support for Ukraine. This message is false. The idea of “fatigue” is a fiction. We will continue our support, and it will only increase. Russia also continually issues “reports” on the questionable performance of Ukrainian troops. As I have said before, the best way to read such reports is to turn it around 180 degrees- substitute “Russian troops” and read on about the incompetence, unprofessionalism, and poor performance of Russia’s military. To put the level of performance and professionalism of the Ukrainian military in perspective, look at the 2014 invasion of Crimea. This was a low point for the Ukrainian military. Witness their performance today- in about 8 years they have become a disciplined, highly trained, motivated, professional military capable of taking on one of the world’s “great powers.” And they will not stop until the win. It is precisely because of this that we must offer them our support until the end.

A thought on the Russian government and its military/military industrial complex/security apparatus- in a sense they are one of our best assets in our support of Ukraine. Corruption, partisanship, nepotism, fraud, theft, cronyism, and anachronistic and bloated Soviet/Russian bureaucracy in general, not to mention fear of change in the Russian military and government structure, keep Russia slow and stumbling forward.

Russian combat losses- the number of invaders killed increased by 1,140 as of Friday, and another 900 on Saturday for a total of 6,500 invaders killed for the previous week alone. “The uptick in Russian casualties is likely due to a range of factors including lack of trained personnel, coordination, and resources across the front,” says a report from Ukrinform, quoting a British Defense Ministry intelligence update.

As of today, Monday, 13 February, Russian combat losses are as follows:

Russian combat losses as of 13 February, 2023

Russian combat losses as of 13 February, 2023

Update for today- mostly links to background and current reports, all of which I consider pertinent for developing a solid view of the war in Ukraine, of Russia’s capabilities, tactics, and probable courses of action, and an understanding of Russia’s overall threat against freedom and democracy worldwide.

There is hope in Belarus, where they are still not following Putin’s doctrine to the letter, and may well act to thwart his plans- from 29 January, 2023, from the RFERL website, “Amid Worries Over Russian Forces In Belarus, Former Security Officer Says Belarusian Conscripts Won’t Fight.”

From the RAND website, from March, 2017, see the testimony to the House Armed Services Committee: Understanding Russian “Hybrid Warfare” And What Can Be Done About It  by Christopher S. Chivvis. This testimony, though it is from 2017 and as such its predictions and warnings have become history, is worth the time to read.

The testimony notes Russia’s goals in their hybrid war as creating division in and weakening NATO, subversion of pro-western and democratic governments, the creation of pretexts for war, and to justify the annexation of territory as a few of those goals. It covers briefly the development of Russia’s hybrid, non-military toolbox, growing out of the “traditional” espionage and subversion used by the USSR. It stresses the importance of countering Russia’s threats in the information realm- specifically in the media and news, on social media, and the internet in general, along with strengthening of governments’ cyber security and enhancing collection and sharing of intelligence among European, EU, and allied nations as key in the fight against the Russian threat.

Continuing in that realm, from the Army University Press website, September-October 2020, see “Russian New Generation Warfare Deterring and Winning the Tactical  Fight” by James Derleth, PhD.

For a quick, two-page introduction to Russian Military Doctrine from August, 2020, see “Russian Armed Forces: Military Doctrine and Strategy” from the Congressional Research Service website. Key points of note include hybrid and new generation warfare, non-kinetic strategies such as the use of the information sphere (control of media, social media, information creation and delivery, etc.), Russia’s historical and continued emphasis on offensive doctrine and targeting of infrastructure, and lack of concern for mass casualties due to lack of training, morale, and poor command and control.

This RAND page, “Russia’s War in Ukraine: Insights from RAND” has pages of resources- background, testimony, and commentary. It covers strategies and positions of all the players, and has sections dedicated to capabilities, humanitarian concerns, diplomatic and political aspects of the war, and more.

More background, from the United Sates Army War College Press, June 2011, “The Russian Military and the Georgia War: Lessons and Implications”  assesses Russia’s performance in Georgia and how it forced doctrinal changes in the Russian military.

Updates directly from Ukraine are available at the Ukrinform website.

For an update on the current situation on the ground in Ukraine, see the latest assessment from the Institute for the Study of War.

Finally, as always an update of Russian combat losses to date, totaling 131,290- an increase of 700 from the previous day. I read that a New York Times report puts the total number of dead and wounded Russian soldiers at about 200,000 so far. The number will only increase, with daily numbers increasing, until Russia comes to its senses, abandons the Tsar’s mania for conquest, and leaves all Ukrainian territory.

Russian combat losses as of 05 February, 2023

Russian combat losses as of 05 February, 2023

I mentioned Turkey and its importance in my last post. Here is an article originally from the Foreign Policy Research Institute that clearly states the importance of Turkey in the future of European security.

According to the Telegram channel “Find Yours”, at this point there have been nearly 38,000 Russians killed in combat in the Ukraine. This number will continue to rise, unless the Russian government, or the Russian people, come to their senses. Remember that the Soviet Union was a repressive, communist state.  The Russian Federation is a repressive, oligarchic kleptocracy, and will likely become equally oppressive in due course.  While there are many differences, glaring and subtle, throughout the two systems, the end result is the same. The people of Russia are servants of a corrupt dictator, to be used as he sees fit, sent of to work the fields, or to die in the fields of Ukraine.

The same Telegram channel reported the following crimes committed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine to date (translated using Google Translate):

The Office of the Prosecutor General has published updated data on the war crimes of the occupiers recorded since the beginning of the war

▪️The number of dead children increased to 347, another 646 were injured

Crimes committed by the Russian aggressors during their invasion of Ukraine, as of 07 July, 2022.

Crimes committed by the Russian aggressors during their invasion of Ukraine, as of 07 July, 2022.

I have been reading lately about the weaponisation of water, food, and other resources.  We are all familiar with the concept at this point, seeing it in use in Syria, Yemen, the Palestinian territories, and of course in Ukraine, to name a few places. Water is the last commodity, and it has more value than we can imagine. It is scarce in so many regions already, and once a crisis occurs and refugees concentrate in one location, it is only a matter of time before exploitation begins.  Water and food are the most basic needs, and are easily controlled by governments and non-state actors.  Water and food are now weapons in the latest iteration of hybrid warfare.

I recently read an article by Robert Legvold from the journal Foreign Policy from 1977. The title, On Power: The Nature of Soviet Power says it all. It helped put the current situation in perspective. The article mentioned interdependence many times. Back then, the Soviet Union was a relatively isolated country, and globalisation as we know it today, and thus the interdependence we have come to regret, was in what we might call its infancy (again, compared to today.) The article notes how interdependence might be used as a weapon. And now, 45 years later, witness today’s sanctions against Russia. Just one point of note.

Finally Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty reporting, though obviously having a distinct agenda, is full of background information, as well as current reporting, on the situation in Russia and Ukraine. For some background on the fall of the USSR, see the article The Undoing of the USSR: How it Happened.   Here is a story about one Russians’ stand against Putin’s war.


While I do my best to only scan the daily news, and not let it consume me, the events on the Poland- Belarus border are hard to gloss over. First, the intent behind it all is quite clear, as reported even by U.S. news agencies- essentially regional destabilisation and distraction of the European Union and its allies.  The BBC and Aljazeera give good background on the crisis, and yesterday I began hearing how the term “hybrid warfare” best describes what is now playing out in the region. Hybrid warfare, in case you are unfamiliar, encompasses all possible forms of confrontation- asymmetric warfare, cyber warfare, “lawfare”, economic warfare, regular and irregular warfare including psychological operations and the extensive use of propaganda. The final items in the list are some of the easiest to use in our day and age, with the “democratic” internet and social media at everyone’s fingertips, especially governments, and more important to most people than the oxygen they breathe. What we are seeing currently goes well beyond that, using living humans as fodder, battering rams, and Trojan horses on a new kind of front line.

Now a word about background. First we have a resurgent-minded Russia- Vladimir Putin’s clearly expressed goal in life is to reclaim and rebuild greater Russia. His ally is Belarus and its dictator Alexander Lukashenko (a reminder to A.L. in case he should read this- be careful! If Putin succeeds your country will no longer be an ally, but a satellite, and you will become expendable.) Their aim again, or I should say Putin’s, is disruption and distraction of Europe, the European Union, and its allies. I am sure Putin would be perfectly happy if bullets started flying; proxy warfare is one of the best kind- why use your own troops when you can use those of others to die for your cause? All very straight-forward.

Finally, something that seems to be forgotten by most observers and news reports is the fact that Syria is also an ally of Russia, and that with Russia’s support, the pathological, megalomaniacal, murdering dictator, Bashar al-Assad is largely behind the crisis.  Remember where many of these migrants have come from- Syria, as well as other, similarly dysfunctional countries (if we can still call them countries… when does a country just become a battleground? ) throughout the region.

What to do about it all? Good question. One of the most important things we can do for the entire world is to address climate change. Which is clearly not at the top of Putin’s agenda. Why? If we were really serious about stopping global warming, fossil fuels would have to become obsolete, and soon. This would put Russia in a very precarious position- the power behind its riches in oil and gas would fall away, and its would-be super-power status would be at risk. That is not going to happen! The world will continue to heat up, we will become a world full of refugees, and sic transit gloria mundi.

End of Monday afternoon rant.