Lessons From Ukraine

Not all learning is equal

Allan Milne Lees

--

Image credit: BAE Systems

As Ukraine continues to combat the Russian invasion of its territory, a lot of people are watching and learning. But as is inevitably the case, what is perceived depends to a degree on what one believes, and beliefs are stubborn impediments to change. This article will touch on several important lessons, one of which — the most important of all — seems to be escaping most observers.

The first lessons aren’t new. They consist of re-learning old lessons that our modern age of self-indulgent complacency simply chose to ignore. As is the case in any major conflict between military powers (as opposed to conflict between a military power on one side and lightly-armed insurgents on the other), logistics and supplies play a crucial role. NATO stockpiles of essential munitions were permitted by carefree opportunistic politicians to decline in Europe to dangerously low levels long before Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine occurred. As was the case in every major war of the last two hundred years, large-scale conflict uncovered the fact that far too few munitions were available in the warehouses. As in representative democracies politicians must buy votes by promising to spend money on things voters are told to care about by the mass media, and as no one cares about spending money on maintaining adequate reserves of munitions, the easiest thing to do — and therefore the thing always done — is to neglect critical stockpiles in order to spend on transiently fashionable indulgences.

Only when it is far too late (e.g. after an enemy has attacked and cannot be adequately repelled because stockpiles of essential munitions are inadequate) is the problem recognized.

Recognition, however, does not necessarily lead to action. For the last year or so, NATO allies have been talking about re-arming but for all the blustery speech-making, very little is actually being done. The UK’s response to the clear Russian threat is… to spend even less in real terms in 2023 than in previous years and to continue cutting the size and capability of its armed forces except for the Royal Navy, which is irrelevant in any realistic scenario. For all Scholtz’s noise about an imaginary €100 billion to be added to Germany’s slender defense budget, the reality is that eighteen months later a mere €4.6 billion has…

--

--

Allan Milne Lees

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.