The Russia-Ukraine Conflict and the (Un)Changing Character of War

The latest edition of the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies is now out. It consists of a special edition devoted to the war in Ukraine, with articles by myself, Alexander Hill, Andrei Tsygankov, Andrej Krickovic and Richard Sakwa, Geoffrey Roberts, and Olayinka Ajala. The journal is open access, so you can all read it free of charge here.

In his introduction to the special edition, Professor Hill notes that:

what sets these authors apart is that they all are willing to write about what they have seen and understand without feeling obliged to follow an unofficial party line in the Western media that all but dictates a particularly blinkered and flawed understanding of many aspects of Russia’s war in the interests of what is perceived as supporting Ukraine. All of those writing here are unwilling to sacrifice their critical faculties for fashionable short-term political ends, and as serious scholars their desire to understand rather than to judge is paramount. As such, and as I hope you’ll agree having read their work, they have produced a thought-provoking range of essays on current events and the background to them that will challenge many of the assumptions on which much Western media reporting and wider understanding of the war rest.

My own contribution is a sort of ‘lessons learnt from the war in Ukraine’. It examines theories of the allegedly changing character of war and then compares them to the realities of the war in Ukraine. To avoid spoilers, I will not say what I conclude, but invite you to read the article here.

Your views on my piece, or any of the others in the journal, are welcome in the comments section on this blog.

10 thoughts on “The Russia-Ukraine Conflict and the (Un)Changing Character of War”

  1. “In short, rather than find new insights into contemporary war, commentators have tended to highlight the importance of well-established ideas of how wars should be fought and have noted failures of the Russian side to conform with those ideas. ”
    There is a lack of cynicism here I find odd.
    It seems to me that all western analysis is designed to support the pure fiction that Ukraine was still in this war back in March, and still in it in April, then May, then June and so on. The appalling tactical errors Russia is accused of are all for the purpose of delaying the day when Western leaders have to turn around to their voters and say “honestly it is in the best interests of Ukrainians to just give Putin what ever he wants”.

    In truth that has been the case since March and it has been Monty Python and the Black Knight ever since.

    After the exit from Afghanistan it would have been reasonable to ask whether any western military analyst can be trusted ever again. No need to ask any more.

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  2. To state the obvious, it is nice to see nuanced discussion amongst academics. Personally, I have found both your and Sakwa’s commentary informative.

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    1. Good to see Richard Sakwa reference me in his Frontline Ukraine book, regarding Bernadine Bailey’s pro-Bandera book, highlighting anti-Russian bigotry within the US establishment going back decades.

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  3. appreciated.

    Concerning your article: Thus Rumsfeld’s “small, nimble ground forces” in Iraq weren’t really his invention.

    I am a bit surprised about your estimated numbers of troops on both sides. So the Ukrainians had slight advantage in troops initially.

    Events around Kiev/Kyiv were indeed a little strange.

    Martin van Crevald is good friend with our far right (AfD), by the way. Lecturing about Europe that for 500 years conquered the world and now they are such weaklings. 😉

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  4. Re. your latest, not everybody is thrilled to welcome History back, bang or no bang:

    “Only American power can keep the natural forces of history at bay”: Read Robert Kagan on why U.S. involvement in the world is more essential than ever before.

    It’s almost endearing: Natural Forces vs American Power! Strap in for the ride, Dr. Strange now works for State Dept

    https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/robert-kagan-free-world-if-you-can-keep-it-ukraine-america?utm_source=twitter_posts&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=tw_daily_soc

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    1. Lola,
      Thanks for the link. Seems like Kagan, Nudelman & Co. have “learnt nothing and forgotten nothing”. The following, from Ayn Rand, also applies:
      ““(S)He is free to make the wrong choice, but not free to succeed with it. (S)He is free to evade reality, (s)he is free to unfocus (her)his mind and stumble blindly down any road (s)he pleases, but not free to avoid the abyss (s)he refuses to see. Knowledge, for any conscious organism, is the means of survival; to a living consciousness, every “is” implies an “ought.” (Wo)Man is free to choose not to be conscious, but not free to escape the penalty of unconsciousness: destruction.”
      With the fall of Soledar, the impending fall of Artemovsk, and the death of untold thousands, it will be harder to peddle such delusions.
      Ishmael Zechariah

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      1. Should the Kiev regime and/or collective West not change course, there’s a good case for seeking the Kiev regime’s unconditional surrender.

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