Since the beginning of their invasion, Russia’s military has been forced by the Ukrainians to continually re-assess their strategic objectives. This is not unusual in warfare. While political objectives shape how war is conducted and what battles are fought, so too do battles reshape political objectives. The Ukrainian resistance, and their defeat of the Russians in the north of the country early in the war, have unhinged the Russian overall campaign for Ukraine.
This has been the result of well-considered Ukrainian military strategy. I have previously described this approach as a strategy of corrosion. The Ukrainians, through a variety of indirect attacks, information operations, destruction of Russian logistics and commanders, and tough close combat, have embraced the corrosion of the Russian physical, moral, and intellectual capacity to fight.
British military historian and theorist, Basil Liddell Hart described this as the indirect approach. He wrote about how ‘effective results in war have rarely been attained unless the approach has had such indirectness as to ensure the opponents unreadiness to meet it.’
The Ukrainians have clearly studied this approach closely. They have attacked the weakest physical support systems of the Russian army in Ukraine — communications networks, logistic supply routes, rear areas, artillery and senior commanders in their command posts. In the initial Battles for Kyiv and Kharkiv, the Ukrainians were able to fight the Russians to a standstill because they were able to penetrate Russian rear areas and destroy parts of their logistic support. All of this also had a significant impact on Russian morale. The Ukrainians corroded the northern Russian expedition physical and morally from within and forced its withdrawal from Ukraine.
From the start of the war, leading this effort has been General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi. Appointed by President Zelensky to usher in a new generation of military leaders, Zaluzhnyi has proved to be a decisive yet innovative leader of the kind required when a smaller nation must fight off a larger predator. He has also shown a talent for appointing talented subordinate generals, providing them with guidance and then allowing them to get on with the job. It is this command philosophy from the top, combined with the military strategy of corrosion, that has provided the sure foundations of operational success in Kherson and Kharkiv. [Continue reading…]