Saturday, October 27, 2018

Ukraine’s army needs ‘higher mobility, better command structure to beat Russia’

October 26, 2018 (KyivPost) Ukraine’s Armed Forces need to master the doctrine of mobile warfare and ditch outdated and ineffective Soviet-era command structures to be able to withstand a full-scale attack by Russia, retired British Army Colonel Glenn Grant said during a panel discussion at the Lviv Security Forum on Oct. 26. According to the expert, the development of Ukrainian army is hamstrung by Soviet thinking and combat doctrines dating from the Cold War.

Retired British Army Colonel Glenn Grant

The Soviet army in its time was preparing for another type of warfare,” Grant said.
The Soviets expected armored vehicles and troops to drive forward – and that basically the ones in front would die. And because they were going to die, you didn’t actually need very many people in the staff, you didn’t need much in terms of radios, you just followed the lead until you found the enemy, and you attacked as hard as possible, and lots of you died.
Because Ukraine’s armed forces still have a similar command structure to that, Ukrainian forces at the battalion level do not have enough commanders to lead troops in combat in a proper way, and this needs to change, Grant said.
Furthermore, at the battalion level command is also over-centralized, and too much operative decision-making is concentrated on a very few top-level commanders — another outdated Soviet-era approach that does not match the realities of modern warfare.
We have a joint headquarters for the Donbas,” Grant said. “But we don’t currently have a joint headquarters for Azov and the south coast, for Kyiv, or for coordinating battlefield reserves should Russia attack seriously.
So who is going to command the battle? At the moment it will be (Chief of General Staff) Viktor Muzhenko, on his own in staff headquarters, which is impossible. No human being can do that.
Ukraine’s top military command is currently investing heavily in training its troops to deploy to the Azov Sea coast within an hour to counter any possible Russian amphibious assault there.
But, as Grant noted, the enemy would not deliver its deadly strike where it the Ukrainian command expects it.
What happens if they go to the other side?” he said. “To take that very small (area) between Moldova and the sea? That’s not an hour away from Azov, that’s three, four, five, seven hours. For armored vehicles, it’s a day-and-a-half’s drive. You need people that are actually thinking about this, and identifying how to do that — proper headquarters.”
Along with setting up a decentralized and responsive command structure always vigilant for threats, Ukraine also needs to become a highly mobile military power, Grant said.
There has to be a focus on mobility, mobile troops,” Grant said.
And this is important because when you have an operational focus on mobility, it drives the other things – the communications you need, the equipment you need, the training you need, and the people you select. You’ve got to have commanders that are flexible, that think quickly at all levels.
So far, Ukraine’s military leadership has trained its troops only to meet the challenges of static warfare in Donbas, which has now lasted nearly as long as the  trench slaughter of World War I from 1914-1918. But, sooner or later, the Donbas stalemate will have to be resolved somehow – and the Ukrainian army must be also prepared for a highly mobile war, Grant said.
Every time Russia is beaten, it is beaten by mobility. It has never been beaten by head-on fighting, ever.