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By Dan Carlson
Prairie Ponderings 

Lessons from Ukraine


March 30, 2022 | View PDF

Opinions on the significance of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine vary from a regional dispute to the brink of World War III. But one thing most astute observers will admit is that the ongoing war on Europe’s eastern flank has been highly instructive.

We learned this week that U.S. Green Berets had been in Ukraine training its soldiers in recent years. One area of instruction focused on how to effectively resist a superior armored force with small, highly mobile, well-armed units. This training, combined with Western powers supplying shoulder-fired Javelin anti-armor and Stinger anti-aircraft systems, has proven its worth. Every day we see new videos posted of destroyed, damaged or captured Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers. While we must keep in mind that material we are seeing has been decidedly biased to favor Ukraine, and that many of the videos online are fake, official estimates of Russian losses from NATO and Western intelligence sources reveal even the most conservative estimates of Russian casualties are alarming. Lesson learned? Numbers of defenders are less important on the modern battlefield when resistance units are well-equipped, organized and fighting on familiar terrain.

Be assured the war in Ukraine has bought Taiwan some time. Prior to the Russian invasion, many experts had predicted China would invade Taiwan before the end of this year. It still may, but three factors make such an invasion increasingly unlikely. One has to do with basic weather and oceanography. Strong seasonal ocean currents between China and Taiwan team with a likelihood of major typhoons and other bad weather to disrupt supply lines and limit invasion options to a short few weeks each year. That window is closing.

China is also witnessing how training by U.S. Special Forces is effective is slowing down a superior invading force. We learned earlier this year that such training has been underway in Taiwan for some time.

Thirdly, China has reportedly been alarmed by the unity and swiftness with which the rest of the world has economically isolated Russia. While China is a far larger and more interconnected player on the world economic stage than Russia, its internal economic structure is far more fragile than most people know. A similar reaction by world powers to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would swiftly cause great pain to China’s people and economy. Lessons learned? Modern warfare’s battle fronts include economic and cyber warfare to the extent they constitute two new fronts of battle.

Yet another lesson learned from the Russia/Ukraine conflict is that every nation needs an individual right to keep and bear arms. We’re seeing civilian militias both bolstering local law enforcement efforts and helping slow Russian advancement through hit-and-run attacks and sabotage. One of the first things the Ukrainian government did when its nation was invaded was hand out AK-47s and other small arms to citizens vowing to stand and fight. Good luck getting those back after the war ends. Lesson learned? Every nation needs responsible armed citizens.


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