Journal Column – War In Ukraine

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Invasion of Ukraine illustrates why we still need soldiers

Following months of hostile grandiloquence, Russia invaded Ukraine on the 24th of February to the revulsion of the world. War has started. It’s early days and a number of outcomes are possible.  It very much depends on how the world reacts. In situations like this, just a few wrong moves could escalate things to a very dangerous level. Russia has a huge military capability and the most nuclear weapons in the world.


At the time of writing, the initial response from the West had been to instigate hard-line diplomacy and sanctions.  It is right that we explore sanctions and diplomacy first, but if it is handled badly and fighting escalates it’s quite possible this could lead to World War Three.


I’ve no doubt President Putin and his close cable of advisors had planned this invasion for some time, and, too, for the West’s reactions. However, war is a very unpredictable thing and plans and predictions can be thwarted. What one predicts can sometimes be very different and personalities, aims and pride can all impact the next moves.


So far, Ukraine has resisted very strongly. Despite a massive military capability, Russian progress in Ukraine’s cities has been far slower than Putin would have liked.


So, why have Russian forces not made speedier progress towards achieving their operational objectives?  Russia has invested heavily in its land warfighting capability and although the West has assisted Ukraine with weapons and training, there is still a disparity in overall land warfare capability between the two nations.


However, very often winning a conventional war is not just about troop and tank numbers. In military doctrine there are three components of effective fighting power: the physical, the conceptual and the moral. The physical is the size and equipment of a force. The conceptual is the proficiency and execution of the strategy and planning. But the moral component is often the eventual battle winner. It was Napoleon Bonaparte who said that ‘the moral is to the physical as three is to one’.  In simple terms, Bonaparte was illustrating that the will of individual soldiers to fight and win can overcome a greater opposition. 


It would certainly seem that, so far, what we are seeing on the battlefield in Ukraine is that the will to win by the Ukrainian forces may well be appreciably greater than that of the Russian troops who are opposing them.  Indeed, so far, around 5,000 Russian troops have been killed and around 146 tanks destroyed.  


It’s not too surprising; many of the Russian soldiers are conscripts and one wonders just what they have been told about the invasion. On the other hand, the Ukrainian military and civilian volunteers are very determined to fight and do whatever it takes to defend their homeland. 


While this is positive, the danger is that Russia will up the ante and start using greater firepower and, God forbid, weapons of mass destruction, which will always lead to large numbers of civilian casualties. The recent order by President Putin to put Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces on high alert was most alarming and one can only hope it was a tactical bluff as tensions mount.


However, as Putin is seemingly raising the stakes in this conflict, ordinary Russians are beginning to count the cost to them.  As the economic sanctions start to bite and the world’s revulsion mounts, there seems to be a growing resentment from the Russian people and protests are beginning to grow.  Already one police officer, whose son was a conscript and killed, has defied orders to quell the anti—war protests.  If this escalates then many of Putin’s supporters may start to reconsider their loyalties and he may be toppled by a coup. 


Whatever happens over the coming months, this conflict has clearly shown that there is still a need for traditional armed forces. In recent years the MOD has scaled back on the number of military personal at the expense of investing in the likes of cyber weapons and drones. While these are all important in the national military arsenal, we still need people in our Army, Navy and Airforce. As such, I hope that the Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, cancels the proposed plan to reduce the Army by a further 2,500 personnel.  


I would also urge him to put an end to the growing woke culture that is creeping into the military.  Did those who signed this off really believe our enemies will tremble at the sight of our military embracing PC wokery? Well they won’t, and the reality is adopting a softly, softly approach towards recruitment and training of the military will lead to increased and unnecessary casualties. 


Military basic training is when a civilian is evaluated, tested, trained and pushed to the very limits of endurance to see if they have what it takes to go to war and kill or be killed.  Not many people have what it takes to be a soldier and that is why the military recruitment, training program and regime is harsh, almost brutal even, to ensure those who are not cut out for a military career are weeded out from the beginning.  To do otherwise would, quite simply, put their lives and the lives of their comrades in jeopardy. That is why there is no room for PC wokery in the military and it needs to stop now before is it too late.  Lives, literally, depend on it.


This column was published in the Newcastle Journal on the 3rd Marh 2022.