Learning from Ukraine: The Importance of Mass in Modern Warfare

The Ukraine conflict is showcasing the significance of new warfare technologies and tactics for the 21st century, underscoring a timeless principle – the importance of mass in warfare.

Russia’s incursion into Ukraine debunked several post-Cold War beliefs. These include the unchallenged spread of liberal democracy and the notion of the “End of History” as suggested by US academic Francis Fukuyama. The current era sees autocratic nations growing stronger as traditional powerhouses like the US, UK, Japan, and Germany witness a decline in global influence.

Ukraine stands out as an example of the changing face of warfare. Unlike the guerrilla tactics prominent in conflicts like Afghanistan and Iraq in the 1990s, Ukraine has witnessed a more conventional style of warfare. This shift caught many global powers by surprise, signaling a potential return to state-on-state conflicts.

Michta, commenting on the situation, emphasized that the scale required for modern warfare is beyond what most Western militaries are prepared for. While the West has focused on precision strikes and advanced technology, the Ukraine conflict has shown that mass still plays a crucial role, especially against a comparable adversary. Expensive, precision-engineered weapon systems are only advantageous when combined with large force numbers on the battlefield.

In a prolonged conflict, the ability to quickly replace lost resources and personnel becomes crucial. With adversaries likely producing simpler, more affordable systems, Western powers might struggle to keep up.

For nations like Australia, the lessons from Ukraine are pivotal. There’s a pressing need to boost the nation’s industrial base to ensure economic resilience, competitiveness, and a steady supply chain for the armed forces.

Dr. Ross Babbage stresses the importance of economic resilience and innovation for Australia, advocating for the creation of high-tech job opportunities and a vision for the country’s future.

To secure its place in the shifting global landscape, Australia needs a more long-term approach, breaking away from short-term objectives. The nation must reconsider its position as a “middle” or “regional” power and aim higher to ensure the best possible future for its citizens. Transparency, collaboration, and a shared vision for the country’s direction are essential moving forward.

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