Russia-Ukraine War: A Game of Vain Military Venture?
Lt Gen Gautam Banerjee, Editor, VIF
Military Theories Unheeded

Traditionally, over the centuries, the Russians have been the pioneers of original military strategic thinking. Even the world’s leading military thinkers, mainly the Prussians/Germans and British, have been heavily influenced by the philosophies and doctrines of warfare as adopted by the Russian General Staff. Traditionally however, the Russians have not been keen to propagate their thinking to win adherents as the Americans do. No doubt in the present era, the Americans lead in military doctrinal field, but that lead comes mainly from their massive academic and industrial commitments to militarist theorising and its profound propagations across the globe. For them boosting massive numbers of ‘strategic think tanks’, all overflowing with serious as well as pretending ‘military theorists’ is a highly profitable business.[1] But looking beyond the surface, it becomes clear that most such military theories, including the most enchanting theories of ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’, ‘Psychotronic War’, ‘Hybrid Warfare’ etc., are germinated from original Russian thinking.

Therefore, given the known course of Russia’s ongoing ‘Special Military Operations’ in Ukraine, it is a bit perplexing as to how could the Russian military, led by its brilliant General Staff and headed by a formidable General Gerasimov, could get entangled in frivolous fire-fight for over a month without achieving any conclusive operational objective – if indeed, there was one. In the process, the basic philosophy of warfare has been abused when the outcomes are determined by a macabre practice of counting death and destruction which actually are its ideological anathema; warfare is not about indiscriminate killing and devastation but it is maneuvering the enemy to reconcile. Ironically, Russia’s so called ‘Special Military Operations’ have wrought severe misery not only to the targeted Ukraine, its fence-sitting western power instigators and the world-at-large, but also to its prosecutor Russia. A strange case of collusive nose-cutting!

Cavalier Approach to War

This article argues that purely from military considerations, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been mired by the former’s disregard of the classical concepts of operations. The result is a slogging melee of killing and destruction in the name of war. Even if the external, maybe even internal, political dispensations had forced some restraints upon Russia’s military juggernaut, that does not absolve it from overlooking professionally astute approaches to such a serious venture as warfare.
On the other end, Ukraine has been able to create a favourable tactical asymmetry to impede the far superior invading forces from securing their objectives with the ease the latter had anticipated. But despite spirited defence and propaganda bombast, Ukraine finds no glory either when its peoples, cities and national assets lie devastated because of senseless obduracy against Russia’s strategic sensitivities.

Without any pretentions of being prophetic, this kind of situation is neither the first, nor would it be the last. There are lessons to be drawn.

Roots of Russian Military Mis-adventure

Analysed with some seemingly plausible inputs as available, and after sieving through the mass of half-true, false and contorted propaganda propagated by Ukraine’s leadership and itsself-serving allies, and the equally misleading and self-justifying responses from somewhat accosted Russians, one can find that there are many roots of this catastrophic mis-adventure.

Cultural Compulsions. This war erupts from cultural compulsions of the Russians and the US-led western alliance, when the former cannot be cured of its ruthlessly oligarchic instincts, and the latter, having blood-sucked the entire humanity, cannot desist from dictating their rather profitable versions of ‘human rights’, ‘democracy’, ‘rule of law’ etc. The problem is exacerbated when both demand slavish obeisance across their borders and go mad when spurned. But that is the usual story down the ages and would remain strong as long as there is ‘civilisation’. This root therefore need not be specifically singled out to analyse Russia’s Ukraine War. The former will not tolerate adversarial powers to occupy its gateways, and the western power block will not moderate their sovereign rights to do exactly that. All at the Ukrainian citizens’ cost and their own military-industrial profitability, of course.

Overlook of Military Principles. In violating the basic military principle, the Russians apparently failed to prepare for a ‘strategic end-state’ of the campaign that corresponded to their military objectives and their consequential contingencies. Such professionally instigated strategic constructs lead to genuine evaluations of terrain, relative forces, logistics and the cognitive and subsidiary aspects of the campaigns, all sustained by diplomatic and political manoeuvres. Instead, the Russians seem to have chosen to act cavalier over a serious matter like war. Was it Putin’s Hitler-like obsession with playing an infallible ‘General’or was it a case of incompetency of the Russian General Staff? Was the scenario war-gamed with due cognizance of debate and dissent? Were the war plans tested through tactical exercises with or without troops? The scenario tells the opposite.

Rash Approach to Territorial Invasion. Russians were right in staying clear of entering the tactical quagmire of major cities and thus avoid massive casualties and devastation associated with urban warfare which they wished to avoid against their half-cousins. But apart from the urban and industrialised centers, the Russians could hardly find any worthwhile objectives in the Ukraine’s vast and thinly populated territory, capture of which could cause Ukraine’s submission to Russian concerns; besides performing as conduits and connectivity’s, the vast outlying terrain was of little strategic saliences. Apparently therefore, the Russians planned to reduce the opposition in key cities by short urban skirmishes and longer seize warfare. Sustained and effective siege, if time consuming and troop intensive but relatively less destructive, might have been more impinging against the selectively targeted urban centers. Eventually, that could have made the much hyped-up Ukraine leadership relent.

Tactical Contradiction. Curiously, the Russians triggered an amateurish tactical contradiction here. They failed to cater for adequate troops, weaponry, logistics and reserves needed for urban skirmishes and long siege. Thus they submitted to a spectacle of a global power having to fall back on novice recruits and mercenaries to execute their tactics. They also failed in believing that just the building-blasting of would break the surge of Ukrainian resistance. In their tactical adaptations, the Russians did not consider the necessity to organise their formidable battle groups for concerted deployments in battle fields. Obviously, their plans for special military operations were wrong-footed by optimism and hopes rather than astute appreciation of unseen operational contingencies. To cover their miscalculations, the Russians chose instead to escalate to mindless bombing attacks against defiant Ukrainian assets, much to their world-wide indictment.[2]

Slap-dash Force Application. Russians were right in customising their military tactics for restraint against high-destruction operations. But they were most unprofessional in preparing just for ‘minimum application of force’ and thus got bogged down when that did not work against Ukrainian resistance. Conceptually, military operations have to beconducted with maximum deployable force, and even if least destructive tactics are to be adopted, there has to be the option of overwhelming the opposition with maximum force and to end the tragedy early and with least severity. The Russian preparations for the invasion of Ukraine were apparently superfluous.

Failure of Ukrainian Leadership

There are serious reasons to examine the role of Ukraine leadership whose primary commitment must be to ensure the security of its citizens and national assets. Were the Ukrainian leadership and its President playing to a gallery of grand standing revelers and soaking in their pretentious adulations (a Don Quixote de la Mancha!) to the extent of getting drowned? Some of the questions that arise in this context are:-

  1. Why did the Ukrainian leadership remain adamant in refusing to assuage Russia’s genuine security concerns; why was invitation to NATO war machine into Russia’s underbelly had to be so compelling?
  2. Was it the Ukrainian leadership’s immature obsession, or was the peoples’ pining for western type democracy so uncontrollable that this human tragedy couldn’t wait to be provoked, fast-tracked? Was there no other way to wider economic engagements?
  3. Was there an intelligence failure in gauging the severity of Russia’s consternation over Ukraine’s impending NATO membership? Or was it a case of wanton misleading of the gullible Ukrainian leadership by their western power block instigators to serve their ends without having to blood their palms?[3] Was the massive Russian mobilisation sold as a bluff?
  4. Human sufferings apart, Russian attacks have no doubt pulled the Ukrainians decades back. Was it the western power’s clapping (from safe distances) that beguiled the suckers through a business prospect of rebuilding the devastated landscapes? Was that prospect enticing enough to disregard the devastation and human suffering of a war? Was that enough for the Ukrainian leadership to abandon their supreme responsibility of protecting the nation?
  5. Even if the powerful, stubborn and belligerent Russians had not left even any faint option for the Ukrainians but to cross Russia’s arbitrary ‘red-lines’, but doubts persist over the Ukrainian leadership’s efforts to postpone, if not temporarily prevent, the aggression.
  6. Were the Russians demanding too much of a neighbouring nation that were beyond some sort of accommodation, if temporary, to delay the aggression? It appears to be so, but there have been instances galore when military engagements have been averted or at least postponed to give diplomacy more time. Here, the Ukrainian President got down to mocking the powerful neighbour – his ludicrous call to the Russian forces to ‘surrender’ being one example of his comedy.
The Farce of Disorientation, Falsification and Needling

Public rumour mongering and deceptive plants in the opponent’s state establishment are not new to warfare. In the case of Russia-Ukraine War, however, the customary conflict updates have been impaired with such absurdity that, but for its gory contents, these could be stated to be ludicrous. One has not witnessed a head of state being proposed for Nobel Peace Prize for dragging his nation to a war of immense self-destruction with a formidable power, nor can one digest his comical claims of having killed 15000 enemy troops, thousand odd armoured vehicles and over 500 fighter aircrafts, while inviting 1000 civilian and 1300 servicemen casualties of his own. Apparently, the leader measures his military accomplishments by exaggerating the count of dead bodies, much to the excited adulations from fence-sitting provocateurs, rather than preserving his people’s security.

Leaving out the soldiers and diplomats, complicit in raising the farce to such extreme heights are the western politicians, press and social media. The farce is topped up with the ring-side wagers’ call to indict President Putin for ‘war crimes’! A case of pot calling a kettle black! The farce remains relentless with Putin being called a ‘criminal’ and US President ‘considering a change of regime in Russia’ (later ‘clarified’ by his embarrassed US Secretary of State). [4]

The Waffle of ‘Cease-fire’

Weeks of cease-fire talks are turning into another farce. What is there to talk unless the opponents create room for bargain? Russia would not relent from its unreasonable ‘red lines’ while Ukraine would not control its obduracy over destabilizing Russia. Do the Ukrainians foresee Russia ever reconciling to, in the foreseeable future, NATO forces’ deployment astride the ‘western corridor’ next to the Russia-Ukraine border? Or do the Russians believe that Ukrainians could be whipped to forego better economic prospects and political freedom of choice, ever?

Indeed, much to its ring-side wagers’ gleeful hand-clapping, Ukraine seems to ransom its self-ruination till it can manage to ‘shame’ the aggressor by the sheer extent of its own suffering. In the event, it is clear that the cease-fire talks have turned into a subterfuge aimed at tiring out each other through prolonged killing spree.

Lofty Values, Grimy Intent

In universal value system, a sovereign nation is liable to counteract, whichever way, against its detractor’s military build-up abutting its exposed territory. In similar vein, a sovereign nation has all the freedom to enter into political and economic alliances as it chooses. Nevertheless, there has to be mature understanding of each other’s concerns for the sake of peace and prosperity. Unless there is some minimum accommodation among the belligerents –or even a tacit agreement over stalemate or status quo - this war will remain but a disconcerting example of a deadly cock-fight egged-on by a cabal of cruel gamblers.

It is a misfortune that the rest of the hapless global community of daily strugglers must pay for that insanity.


[1]That is notwithstanding the fact that during the past half-a-century, the Americans have managed to mess-up, much against warnings from their few branded as ‘renegade’ military theorists, most of their major military campaigns across the globe.
[2] Here is a lesson, if ever there was any need, for the militarily naïve nations to value the culture of soldiering.
[3]NATO after all is a Cold War relic, created to ‘contain communism (read the erstwhile USSR) and safeguard free-world values’ that, having outlived its purpose, is finding relevance in building-up western hegemony and profitability of the arms industry.
[4]The French President has cautioned against exacerbating the situation by raising such thoughtless statements (WION, 27 Mar 2022).

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

Image Source:

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
3 + 5 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.
Contact Us