Mick Ryan, AM Profile picture
Dec 19 25 tweets 14 min read
War is a very destructive human endeavour. But war is also a learning opportunity for military institutions. Many governments and institutions are watching the war in #Ukraine for insights into future competition and conflict. A thread on lessons and the war. 1/25 🧵
2/ Back in May, I explored why learning in war is so important, and explained some of the principles related to lessons and lessons learned for military organisations. You can read that post here:
3/ In the past ten months there has been a profusion of articles that propose lists of lessons from the Russo-Ukraine War. Some – from experts on war, the military, strategy and national security affairs - are well informed and cogently argued. atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atla…
4/ Some, on the other hand, are biased, poorly structured, misinformation or just plain wrong (or even weird). This includes premature declarations such as ‘the death of (insert your least favourite military equipment here)’.
5/ But learning from war is a serious business that has significant consequences for military organisations if not done well. The lives of our future service personnel literally hang on how competently we learn, and adapt, from our observations of modern wars.
6/ Why should we look at lessons from war in general, and this one in particular? The answer is that our world is constantly changing. Rather than continuously making our own mistakes in responding to change, clever institutions can learn from the missteps of others.
7/ To exploit the failures of others requires a military institution to have a learning culture. As I have explored previously in my threads, the Ukrainians have demonstrated a superior learning culture in this war, and in its lead up. They learned from 2014, adapted & improved.
8/ I have explored this competitive learning environment in #Ukraine, which can be better called an adaptation battle, in several articles. engelsbergideas.com/essays/how-ukr…
9/ With this as context, I wanted to explore some of the better observations from the war in #Ukraine. While there is a long way to go, these provide good intellectual foundations for the lessons that military institutions will draw from the war to inform modernisation efforts.
10/ The November 2022 report from @RUSI_org is probably the best report on Ukraine war observations released thus far.
11/ It has a particular focus on Russian operations and the integration of different force elements. Its critiques of Ukrainian operations are limited however, noting the requirement for operational security. That said, it is a very good report on initial observations of the war.
12/ One lesser-known series of reports is from the @AARCAusArmy. In a three-part series, these reports look at the context of the war, and observations from its conduct.
13/ And while this is not a long report, the source makes it worthy of perusing. In June this year, the Secretary of the US Army discussed five key lessons from #Ukraine. breakingdefense.com/2022/06/us-arm…
14/ The war in the air over Ukraine is worthy of additional study. There has been a lot going on with both crewed and uncrewed systems, missiles, and Ukraine’s integrated air and missile defence system. One of the better studies on this is from @RUSI_org
15/ This report on air warfare, as well as space operations, from @atlanticcouncil is also very comprehensive. atlanticcouncil.org/programs/scowc…
16/ Cyber operations, have been described by some as that dog that hasn’t barked in Ukraine. This is probably an unfair assessment – there have been cyber operations on both sides. But they are not as obvious or transparent as other aspects of the war. lawfareblog.com/cyberwar-ukrai…
17/ In June this year, Microsoft issued a report on the early lessons of cyber from the war in Ukraine. It is a good read, although should be read in conjunction with other views of the cyber war such as those from @WIRED and @TheEconomist
18/ Finally, information warfare. This war has seen widespread influence operations from both sides. It has also seen a Cambrian explosion in civil influence operations, open-source mapping and assessment, and intelligence analysis. gov.uk/government/spe…
19/ This discussion from @CSIS explores a range of observations drawn from the war in #Ukraine. The link is a transcript, but a video of the discussion is also available. csis.org/analysis/nafo-…
20/ While reviewing the many observations made of this war so far, there are 2 things to keep in mind. First, events in the coming months might change the context of these current observations. And second, even with these observations, not all military #innovation is good.
21/ We must ensure that institutional processes are informed by examples of failed lessons and failed ‘lessons learned’ processes. Examples of failed reform processes can be just as informative as successful adaptations.
22/ Earlier this year, Kendrick Kuo explored how military innovation can also hurt military effectiveness. It is a long read but contains many useful lessons for observing military affairs and drawing lessons on innovation and adaptation. belfercenter.org/publication/da…
23/ In #learning from this war, western military institutions will need to invest in – and apply – collection, analysis, dissemination, and adaptation processes. Importantly, as Don Starry described in "To Change an Army" this will require #leadership from the top.
24/ As this war continues, and both sides are adapting based on battlefield learning, their interactions with each other, and new technologies and ideas. Other clever military institutions must be watching, assessing and adapting. End.

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More from @WarintheFuture

Dec 20
Recently, there has been much commentary about whether #Ukraine can - or should - seek to take back its Crimean territory through the force of arms. #Crimea remains Ukrainian territory, occupied by Russia since 2014. A thread on how all roads may lead to Crimea in 2023. 1/20 🧵 Image
2/ There is no prospect of Russia negotiating over the future of #Crimea unless they are forced to through continuing battlefield defeats. Putin has shown zero inclination to give up annexed territory he doesn’t control, let alone Ukrainian territory he illegally seized in 2014.
3/ How might Ukraine, and its supporters in the international community, move towards an outcome where Ukraine regains control of this part of its territory? abc.net.au/news/2022-12-2…
Read 20 tweets
Dec 15
In 1914-1915, a scandal erupted in England about the shortage of high explosive shells for the western front. There was a lag in industry expanding to satisfy the enormous consumption of munitions in the war. Something similar is occurring now with #Ukraine. 1/24
2/ Importantly, the WW1 shell crisis was also a symptom of a military institution that had failed to anticipate the challenges of modern war. The current shortage of munitions should be understood as a government & military failure to anticipate. smh.com.au/world/europe/a…
3/ Consequently in 2023, the Ukrainian Army may run out of munitions before it runs out of fight. Based on current usage of ammunition in the war, production of munitions is increasingly lagging battlefield needs.
Read 24 tweets
Dec 11
The uncertainty inherent in military operations is part of the enduring nature of war. It is impossible for a military institution to anticipate everything. Therefore, a key virtue for military organizations in war must be adaptability. Adaptation in #Ukraine - an update 1/25 🧵
2/ As @DWBarno76 & @norabensahel have written, “even if militaries do imagine the next war accurately, the opening battles often unfold in spectacularly unexpected ways—with even well-trained armies often taken by surprise.”
3/ Belligerents constantly seek ways to outthink & out fight the other side. New technologies are introduced, new tactics developed & new organisations are introduced to exploit new ideas and technologies.
Read 25 tweets
Dec 7
A couple of interesting points emerge from today’s statements made by Putin about Russia’s ‘special military operation’ to invade #Ukraine. 1/13 🧵

2/ First, the headline is the nuclear issue. Putin is walking back some of his more bellicose statements, now claiming that Russia would not use them first. This is positive (if he is genuine), but what does this really mean?
3/ He is enlarging the corner he has painted himself into with his #Ukraine invasion. Currently, he has minimal strategic room for manoeuvre. By ruling out nuclear first use, he further reduces any potential for NATO direct intervention in the war.
Read 13 tweets
Dec 5
There remains much uncertainty about the reported Ukrainian strike on Russian airbases in the past 24 hours. This appears to provide some corroboration. What does this mean for the Russo-Ukraine war? 1/15 🧵
2/ The video in this tweet shows the alleged strikes. Thanks @Gerashchenko_en and others who have shared this.
3/ There are several important implications of this strike which are worth discussing.
Read 15 tweets
Nov 28
In the wake of the Ukrainian victory in western #Kherson, and in the midst of Russia’s ongoing terror bombing campaign against Ukrainian civil infrastructure, we should look at the man in charge of Russia's campaign. A thread on General #Surovikin. 1/25 🧵
2/ CAVEAT: This thread is NOT about admiring an enemy military commander who has previously demonstrated brutality towards Syrian civilians, his own soldiers, and now against the Ukrainians. It is designed to provide insights into how to defeat him. rferl.org/a/russia-bruta…
3/ Much of the reporting about the Russians in #Ukraine focusses on ‘the Russians’ as some amorphous mass. The reality is, even in barely adequate military institutions, there is organization, control, and command from the top. Military commanders matter.
Read 25 tweets

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