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  • Brandon Hitzel

The Art of War: Why Russia Failed to Achieve a Gulf War Style Victory in Ukraine

Analysis post on the Russian military performance in Ukraine while comparing to the Gulf War Conflicts in Iraq and Kuwait.

 

I didn't think Russia would invade Ukraine. While there were reports coming out daily from United States intelligence that the order had already been given it was hard for many to fathom it would get to this level in 2022. However now that we are almost 2 months into the conflict I felt compelled to put my thoughts down in a post regarding the conflict. Its been very sad what has transpired in eastern Europe since February, but do not forget there have been and still are active conflicts happening for years around the globe, and its very sad to see so many people gone from them. Therefore I preface this with - "A peaceful solution is always the best."


As a student of military history I started noticing similarities to the Russian invasion of Ukraine to some of the recent conflicts of the Operation Desert Storm (1991) and Iraqi Freedom (2003) aka Gulf War 1 and 2 respectively. We haven't really seen a large scale invasion since these two operations so it's interesting to see new and old equipment and techniques being utilized. I would go out on a limb and guess part of the Russia strategy and assumptions could have been based on information derived from these operations.


It's clear though now the Russian (RU) performance has been lack luster, and when comparing their strategies to results of the United States (US) and their coalition forces in the Gulf war its hard to believe that the Russian outcomes are more inline with the Iraqi opposing forces than that of the attacking Coalition forces, which Russia probably saw themselves as. I find there to be similarities of certain events between both conflicts. In this post I will look at certain stages of the battles to compare and contrast and talk about the outcomes of the invasions.



Pre-Invasion of Ukraine map 2022 source Indo-Pacific news
Pre-Invasion of Ukraine map 2022 source Indo-Pacific news

Operation Desert Storm 1991 source wikipedia
Operation Desert Storm 1991 source wikipedia

 

Objective


I don't want to get into politics here or why Russian would invade. Its clear that Russia wants to exert control over Ukraine (Ukr) and possibly perform a regime change. I personally thought and tweeted about RU wanting to link their occupied Donbas regions with Crimea which would also give control over the Sea of Azov and more control of the Black Sea. Some analysts were calling it the the "land bridge to Crimea". And I'm sure you like many analysts had theories like creating a buffer zone in eastern Ukraine, or taking all the land east of the Dnieper river. There was also the statements of the Russia president Putin about "demilitarizing and denazifing" Ukraine and talks of reuniting them with RU. In other words its complicated.


During the Gulf War 1 with Operations Desert Storm it was clear after Iraq had invaded its smaller neighbor Kuwait, that the global Coalition lead by the United States needed to force the Iraqis out and liberate Kuwait. With Op. Iraqi Freedom, although controversially not supported by the international community, the US and the "coalition of the willing" had made it clear regime change in Iraq was one of the main goals due to various reasons like weapons of mass destruction, hence invasions were necessary in all scenarios.


In Desert Storm it was stated that the secondary objective would be to destroy as much of the Iraqi military as possible so there isn't a repeat of Kuwait. Likewise the Russians probably would prefer their smaller neighbor less equipped, so destruction of forces aligns with the "demilitarizing" objective.


It seems to me like the Russians somehow thought they could achieve a fast victory with some of their objectives based on where their troops ended up post-invasion, thinking that the Ukrainian Army would collapse and surrender, perhaps much like the Iraqi Army did in the Gulf war. That scenario playing out would have helped RU pacify their neighbor.


Keep in mind Desert storm's active land operations lasted the famous 100 hours post-invasion before the primary objective Kuwait was liberated. Also Iraqi Freedom took about 2 weeks to travel a few hundred miles to capture the Iraq capital of Baghdad and about 4 weeks to fully occupy the country.


 

Force Build Up and the Beginning


One of the interesting characteristics of the Ukraine conflict is it's classification by Russia as a 'Special Operation'. Seemingly not fully committing militarily based on the political objectives they had outlined. Although it was clear they had built up a substantial force of over 100,000 troops along the borders of Ukraine as outlined in the below map. The fact though is that ~2 weeks into fighting it didn't appear they had built up the necessary forces to truly achieve their objectives or keep their forces properly supplied. Analysts stated that the attackers had built up around 100 BTGs or Battalion tactical groups which is the primary Russian formation. More on these BTGs later.


Map showing Build up of RU forces pre-invasion source wikipedia
Map showing Build up of RU forces pre-invasion source wikipedia

 

In 1991 and somewhat in 2003 it was very clear that the US and allies were building up substantial forces - upwards of 500k support and combat personnel in GW1. One reason for this was that the Iraqi Army was reported to have a very large army on paper so the Coalition wanted to match or exceed that. Its often talked about that attackers need higher ratios of forces versus the defenders like a 4 to 1 advantage for example.


Much like RU recently the paper to paper comparison was very weighted in their favor. The Ukrainian army wasn't told to fully mobilize publicly until after the invasion from what I gather, so we can only guess how much preparation was actually done before the war started.


In the eastern Donbas areas we know there were a lot of Ukrainian units already present and entrenched since the separatists took over the region in 2014. Battle group to battle group the Russians outnumbered their Ukrainian counterparts.


Gulf War Iraqi positions pre-invasion source pbs.org
Gulf War Iraqi positions pre-invasion source pbs.org

Iraq in GW1 had built up sizeable defenses along the Kuwait-Saudi Arabian border because they knew that is where the attack would be sourced from. Many tanks were dug in along large defense lines with barriers like barbed wire and sand berms. The coalition reacted by secretly moving forces to the west of Kuwait to position for a flanking attack (nicknamed the left-hook or hail mary play). Similarly, even after the previously shown pre-invasion map's glimpse in time there were more forces in Ukraine's neighbor Belarus that RU would use to invade closer to the capital. Although known to western intel it seemed like this was a sort of flanking attack from the main Axis RU wanted to use in the east and south.


Russia attack axis from Belarus source wikipedia
Russia attack axis from Belarus source wikipedia

By doing this Russia could shorten their supply lines and have less distance to drive to reach Kyiv.


One of the interesting similarities I noticed was in the East of both Desert Storm and Ukraine-Russia. During the beginning of Op. Desert Storm the coalition positioned amphibious landing forces off the coast of Kuwait city and performed fake landing exercises on TV to deceive the Iraqi forces into thinking part of the invasion would come from the eastern coastline. The allies wanted to "pin" or keep some of the Iraqi forces defending east, so their left hook of VII Corps from the western flank would have less resistance due to less enemy forces positioned there. This would give a higher probability of success for that strategy (#1 in the map below which also outlines the allied battle plan in 1991). I've talked about deception operations in other posts if curious.


Desert storm coalition battle plan source https://kc-johnson.com/history-3445-gulfwar
Desert storm coalition battle plan source https://kc-johnson.com/history-3445-gulfwar

The Russians seemed to have a similar strategy in the East of Ukraine. From the 2014 revolution there have been separatist areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine. Now these forces aren't officially Russian (though are clearly aligned with), but the attackers seemed to utilize them as a pinning force to keep the defenders from redeploying to other areas of the invasion such as to the North or South. Troops there didn't seem to advance out of those areas until weeks later.


The current narrative is that the Russians want to trap a large Ukrainian force in that area, so it was clear the forces there were positioned to hold the defenders in place in the East. Perhaps they were studying the Gulf war and this part of the battle map fit the strategic narrative?


Ukraine invasion map source inews.co.uk
Ukraine invasion map source inews.co.uk

Recently that eastern pincer has been made more clear with Russia saying these areas were their focus "all along". I thought at first that the North could be a feint since I originally thought the east and south were the primary objectives, but we will probably have to wait post-conflict to really find out. The general consensus from what I gather is that the attack from the North was a committed attempt to take Kyiv.


Morale


Both sides in the Gulf war conflicts knew an invasion would come, just not when. This fact somewhat prepares the soldiers before battle. It gives them time to cope with the fact of what is going to happen and time for leaders to explain and justify the means, along with planning strategies to ensure all levels of command are prepared.


In the Book the Art of War Sun Tzu said this regarding treatment of troops:

“The secret of getting successful work out of your trained men lies in one nutshell—in the clearness of the instructions they receive.”

Interestingly enough though, many of the attacking RU forces did not know they were invading Ukraine. They had been on training exercises for multiple months, out in the field, so their readiness materially might have been present but mentally it was not. Moreover, we'd find out they were told they would be welcomed and would be liberating the country. Some soldiers weren't even told where they were going until they crossed the border! As a result soldiers were seen surrendering in the first day and by the first week's end there were images of equipment and vehicles left behind. This was the beginning of the many blunders that would plague the RU operation in Ukraine.


Control of the Air


One of the most iconic themes of Op. Desert storm was the 6 week long air campaign that decimated Iraqi infrastructure and combat strength. This helped solidify the coalition fighting power in their favor. Thousands of sorties were flown decimating armored formations, command and control infrastructure, utilities and other military targets. This essentially blinded the opposing force and drastically decreased their capabilities. This is what allowed the allied forces to secretly move to the west as mentioned in the pre-invasion. Its also likely a contributing factor to why casualties were low vs projections.


Coalition aircraft in 1991 source wikipedia
Coalition aircraft in 1991 source wikipedia

In Iraqi Freedom the Air campaign pre-invasion only lasted a day or so, the US wanted to move in more quickly to surprise the Iraqis since it was assumed they would think the air campaign would last weeks like it did in Desert Storm. This appeared to be what the Russians adopted because as soon as they started with the missile strikes their forces moved across the border in a "surprising" manner. It seems though that their strategic target selection along with the heavier use of precision guided missiles vs tactical aircraft had a minimal effect on the Ukrainian fighting capabilities. This might have been due to various reasons, like lack of RU Air force readiness, the special operation status or they thought they could achieve victory by keeping a lot of that infrastructure in tact (liberators narrative).


Nevertheless its clear that although Russia had deployed thousands of missiles, the Ukrainian command and civilian infrastructure was largely intact day 1 and still operational in many areas on day 20, 30, 40 etc. It seems without a full commitment from the Russian air force early on the attackers failed to inflict any heavy disruptions on the defenders. Even if they did succeed in targeting the command and control of Ukraine it seems the tactical coordination of the defenders has exceeded that of the attackers, therefore the attackers should be making extra efforts.


There was also a lack of full air control and dominance by Russia we would have expected in a "Shock and Awe" or Blitzkrieg style campaign like what was seen in 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was clear RU failed to achieve aerial superiority or destroy enemy air defenses early on which means they could not support ground forces at the tactical level as they moved into enemy territory. We did not see many large aerial showcases outside of small helicopter air attacks and pairs of SU-34 or SU-25 ground attack jets, let alone aircraft in a combined arms support role which is necessary for a modern, professional, fast moving assault.


Drones


The Gulf War was first characterized with footage of targeting pods of laser and GPS guided munitions. It was one of the first conflicts that showcased the video game-like technology of the 1980s and 90s. We are seeing some of that in the 2022 conflict as well, but notably up until recently it was the Ukrainians, not the Russians showcasing their capabilities. The extensive use of Turkish made TB2 drones by the defenders has not only shown how relevant drones are in the 21st century, but here also how the RU attackers haven't effectively controlled the air or defended against it. Based on a few videos I've seen the defenders are using various types of drones to effectively spot for artillery and provide vital recon.


The Russian ministry of defense did end up releasing some aerial attack footage of their own in recent times, so it has been confirmed Ukraine is taking losses but the main motivator for releasing the footage is likely in order to try to help their narrative of their performance.


Ukraine drone targeting a Russian convoy 2022
Ukraine drone targeting a Russian convoy 2022
US strike on Iraqi military building in 1991
US strike on Iraqi military building in 1991

There are recent reports that the flagship of the Russian Black Sea fleet was sunk by an anti-ship missile and that a drone was used to distract the crew of the ship. Even if it wasn't hit by a missile the fact it sunk is major morale booster for the defenders. If it was indeed hit by a missile it shows that air operations also mean early warning and shoot down capabilities which it appears Russia forgot to implement? If a Drone distraction led to the sinking of that ship it was like sacrificing a pawn for a queen in chess.


Maritime Ops


Speaking of the Black Sea there was talk of an amphibious operation happening near the coastal Ukrainian cities Odessa and Mariupol in those early hours of February 24th. I was thinking something like its "really a land, sea and air campaign here, they're really going all in". Yet the landing never happened. Maybe it was because they knew they would be on their own without proper support - ground forces miles and miles away, or maybe it was a deception like in the GW1.


After all though we really didn't see much from the RU naval branch. It was much like they were trying to demonstrate each branch's proficiency with their part of the mission but ended up not executing at all. We have seen evidence of Kalibr cruise missile launches as well as a beach landing behind their own lines, but I'd argue if they had committed more and actually been able to execute early on in the maritime/coastal theater they might have taken Mariupol at the beginning. Because after a few days passed the Ukrainians began building more defenses on the coast and reinforcing around their cities which would make things more difficult for an attacker.


Lastly, there was also a video showing a Russian landing ship which was docked being rocked by an explosion and possibly sunk.


Cyber Ops


As I follow the cyber domain heavily I was a bit surprised we didn't see more effective activity there. Pre-invasion there were cyber attacks on civilian targets such as banks and websites. There was also an incident of Ukrainian government websites defaced with warnings to be scared and such; however this had little operational impact and was characterized as an attack of low sophistication. Additionally there were also reports of special malware used to specifically target Ukrainian devices, but again it appears to have little operative gain other than giving IT admins headaches.


With all the talk of RU cyber capabilities I would have expected more DDoS attacks, outages, and information gathering, as is my deduction that the attackers had poor intelligence which lead to some of their mistakes. Intel gathering can be a key aspect of cyber tactics, but as we know the RU capabilities are heavily focused on malware/ransomware, so is it that reason possibly the "special operation" did not receive better support from the cyber forces?


Conversely, although we don't know 100% how, it could have been the USA's cyber capabilities that aided them in predicting the invasion would happen with multiple releases of information prior to the invasion. This shows the different focuses between RU/USA in my opinion.


I did notice a satellite internet provider Viasat had an outage in Europe around the start of ground operations. It appeared it might be related like perhaps Ukraine uses them for military communication etc. which is why they were targeted. I found conflicting reports one of reported Ukrainians saying it was a great loss in communication and also an official report that states government entities were unaffected. I think it wasn't as disruptive to Ukraine as the attackers thought it would be.


You might have noticed as well there is a decent amount of evidence that the invaders are using unencrypted radios, you can go online apparently and find websites that are streaming the intercepted communications. I think this is probably overlooked aspect on the part of the RU military investment and some have said probably why we haven't seen more jamming or electronic warfare. Either way it can prove to be a tactical nightmare if your opponent is able to listen to your plans and movements.


In the 1991 there wasn't as much of a reliance on the internet as their is now, despite this the US was able to feed disinformation to try and persuade the Iraqis to think a certain way, much in a cyber-like manner. Since most of the Iraqi communications had been destroyed they held press conferences with fake information knowing the opposing commanders would probably be watching it and influence their decisions based on it.


 

Operational Victories and Defeats


Although Russia had built up substantial forces in multiple areas pre-invasion it didn't appear they utilized them as effectively as they could have. We witnessed many videos of tanks and armored personnel carriers driving down roads, but we didn't see the large armored advances or employment of combined arms expected from the Battalion tactical groups. I heard commentators calling out tanks unsupported by infantry and infantry unsupported by tanks etc. Sometimes even having conscripts as forward echelon units alone moving up roads in small platoon elements. That's not to say there isn't a large amount of vehicles, there are hundreds of mechanized tanks, artillery, and APCs deployed into Ukraine (and many that have been destroyed).


The Russian BTGs are supposed to be self sustaining, able to adequately support their mission, yet we haven't seen the results that would be expected. I have seen some footage of BTGs in action albeit under attack by artillery or drone etc. Ground is still being taken but I don't think the cost to the attackers has really been a worthy investment and won't be long term.



Tip of the spear? Russian MRAPs destroyed source (Sergey Bobok/AFP)
Tip of the spear? Russian MRAPs destroyed source (Sergey Bobok/AFP)

Contrast that with the large attack of 1991 or the lean fast moving force of 2003, we can clearly see a delineation of force employment. Part of that might have been because in 1991 there were substantial static defenses the coalition needed to break through which they succeeded in doing in a matter of hours. The US Marines and Arab-allied forces were so successful in breaking the fortified lines in 1991 that the US command pushed the flanking attack up a few hours to start earlier.


Unlike the Russians who likely predicted few causalities (which could be why we didn't see large heavy maneuvers), the coalition assumed there would be mass casualties as they attacked, so their force size and employment of heavy armor units in the forward formation reflected this. (Eastern/Western doctrines aside)


The terrain of the desert obviously favors mass armor formations vs the forested landscapes of Ukraine, but understand the point made. Plus Ukraine does have some flat open spaces from what I've seen. Its also somewhat puzzling to me that they would attack in the winter; due to the cold, the mud, the weather, it all makes fighting and moving more difficult.


I've seen pictures and videos of countless RU vehicles - sometimes even high end T-90 Tanks or Pantsir air defense systems - stuck or abandoned, some pundits have pointed out this could be from poor maintenance or morale, but its clear the mud is not an army's friend; therefore I don't think it was wise for the attack to start during this time. Below is one of the many photos of the superb Ukrainian civilian recovery efforts.


Lost Russian Tor (SA-15) system found by farmers source Twitter
Lost Russian Tor (SA-15) system found by farmers source Twitter

Furthermore, its strange that the invasion in 2022 started the same day as the invasion in 1991. Russia invaded on the 24 of February while the coalition began the ground campaign on 24 February 1991 as well. Is this a sign from the architects of the Russian campaign? Perhaps not, but its interesting I think.



US armor forces moving in 1991 source wikipedia
US armor forces moving in 1991 source wikipedia

The above photograph illustrates the large movement of forces across the desert. What coalition forces were able to achieve likely will not be replicated anytime soon. The sheer size and scale of hundreds of tanks hitting each other head on hadn't been seen since world war 2. With Battles like "73 easting" where multiple elite enemy 'Republican Guard' divisions were engaged and destroyed in a few hours, the secondary objectives of destroying the Iraqi military forces seemed achievable.


Whereas in Ukraine, the armed forces of the Russian Federation are barely figuring out how to encircle the Ukraine forces in the East as they regroup after withdrawing from the North.


Urban combat wise we are seeing the RU ground components employ their artillery more to destroy the cities while trying to figure out the best way to proceed to capture the city. They've failed to capture of the cities Kharkiv and Mariupol even though they've laid siege to them for a number of weeks. I would speculate it would be because RU trains mainly for territorial or 'Active' defense vs. urban warfare, or as some people have pointed out because they don't have adequate manpower.


Air Assaults


As the map showed previously you might have noticed that as a part of the coalition's flanking maneuver in Gulf War 1 there were airborne forces that advanced ahead of the main ground echelons to setup forward bases. These units would be the initial screening force to secure terrain ahead and also setup forward refueling and supply points - remember a lot of the enemy had been dwindled down from air strikes, so having light elements move in wasn't as much of a problem. This strategy helped the coalition advance a great distance across the desert.


RU air assault 2/24/22 source youtube.com/watch?v=v4_tq3ZfFzE
RU air assault 2/24/22 source youtube.com/watch?v=v4_tq3ZfFzE

We saw on the initial day a large but arguably not large enough, helicopter assault launched from the North in Belarus onto Antonov airport just outside of Kyiv. It succeeded tactically but ended up failing strategically. It appeared that the goal of this 'wall of skill' was to capture the airport and setup a forward supply and invasion point where more troops could be air lifted in and where ground forces could have a forward resupply or staging point.


Although this type of air assault is a common strategy it likely had many assumptions such as the control of the air and the time table at which the ground force would advance. We saw both a lack of control of the air to support the assault and execution in bringing in more troops and supplies along with the ground force becoming bogged down early. This led to a subsequent defeat in the attempt to advance in the Northwest toward the capital Kyiv. There were also rumors hundreds of Russian Airborne were killed when large il-76 transport planes were shot down in relation to this objective, however I never found any evidence of that but that would be an alarming operational defeat in addition to what already happened.


Moreover, there are also many videos of RU attack helicopters being shot down. We've seen a few KA-52 and some advanced Mi-28s being downed which should be an unacceptable outcome of the recent air operations. This again shows the effectiveness of the Ukrainian infantry who are being supplied anti-air stinger missiles to help thwart these air assaults.


I also noticed heavy employment of Russian airborne units aka VDV with the ground invasion. I speculate their usage might be because they are more mobile and better trained than most RU ground units. Unlike the US the RU airborne forces do field many mechanized type vehicles like the BMD series - this is one way you can know they are airborne units in pictures/footage.


Else perhaps they were thought to be less inclined to abandoned the mission vs other units. Either way I find this a bit troubling as airborne units usually have less armor and also supplies/logistical capacity. I would have expected them to be used for specific objectives like the Antonov airport or more of supporting motorized or mechanized forces instead of being used to take large areas or cities alone.


This might lead back to the assumptions Russian commanders made about the short fighting time table and the Ukrainian military's fighting abilities along with the amount of armor and artillery they would employ. Blunders indeed.


Speed and Efficiency


In Op. Iraqi Freedom the US forces largely employed a Blitzkrieg strategy or a fast moving armored force that breaks through, decapitates the head quarters and encircles large units to achieve a fast victory. Then behind that is a larger mass or follow up army to clean up and capture the units that were bypassed by the fast moving forward attack.


US advance on Iraq in 2003 source wikipedia
US advance on Iraq in 2003 source wikipedia

You can see on the above map that units from V Corps advanced rapidly North, bypassing cities and going straight for Baghdad. Leaving some units behind to guard their column's advance. This was achieved in roughly 2 weeks of fighting. These units advanced farther and faster than presumably any other fighting force before them. They did take some losses before victory but not at the level we are seeing the attackers have in Ukraine.


You've probably heard that its often thought that if the leader can be taken out that the rest of the pieces will fall soon after. This same type of objective was likely given to the RU forces in Ukraine. However after weeks of fighting for the capital of Kyiv the Russians have recently pulled out from the North. Although much closer than that of US forces in 2003 to their capital city objective, with shorter supply lines, they failed to achieve a fast victory.


Logistics was a large factor in the Russia failure. There were videos 3 days in which showed attacking infantry foraging for food from the super markets. Many analysts talked about the lack of supply seen on the attacking side. Although the US did have a brief pause in their advance in 2003 after a week or so of fighting, probably to resupply and regroup, the RU advanced completely stalled for what seemed to be weeks. There was long supply lines shown to be stopped for days on end, some speculate this also shows how poor the RU "push model" is or how they are dependent on train systems. The supply "push model" is where ammo and food etc. are pushed to the front for forward units with a calculation on what might be needed, however the US used more advanced tracking techniques and a "pull model" in Iraq and do presently where units can request exactly what they need which is a more efficient system.


Glimpse at RU convoy outside Kyiv source MAXAR/Reuters
Glimpse at RU convoy outside Kyiv source MAXAR/Reuters

An underestimation as well made by the RU planners was the amount of material support the West would provide to Ukraine. The fact that thousands of man portable missiles like Javelin and medical supplies etc. are being delivered so quickly to the defenders is definitely having a positive effect for their efforts. It's interesting how fast the West and Nato have pivoted to provide supplies into Ukraine where it seems the attackers are having the opposite results logistically thus far.


Destruction and the Information War


As I mentioned previously its very sad the outcomes of War. Back to 1991 when the allied forces had largely destroyed most of the Iraqi formations in combat, they left 1 road out of Kuwait open to allow them to withdraw. After the coalition successes this caused a large amount of Iraqi vehicles to crowd the only available road as they retreated. Consequently many of the Iraqi vehicles were destroyed by air power or abandoned on what became known as the "Highway of death". I think the RU forces saw themselves as the coalition from 1991 but it ended up their results were closer to that of Iraq - being expelled from occupied territory and taking heavy losses.


There's countless posts from open source intel researches reporting hundreds of RU material losses along with many pictures of destroyed Russian equipment. It seems the RU advances across the front have turned into many "Highways of death".


Destroyed Iraqi retreat source warhistoryonline.com
Destroyed Iraqi retreat source warhistoryonline.com

By these posts being able to seen around the world, its definitely helped boost Ukrainian morale, likely having the opposite effect on the aggressors. That is of course if the Russian population can even see them, social media was largely blocked in Russia to help the propaganda being fed to the citizens. I was hoping we'd see citizens rise up to effect change however it seems those movements have been squashed there domestically.


The Ukrainians being able to have internet has definitely helped them dominate the information war globally which is interesting as Russia is usually known for "fake news" and having known strategies of disinformation. Civilians were posting movements of the invaders everywhere to assist in intelligence gathering and more recently have shown how bad the destruction the Russians have caused to their country.


The President of Ukraine Zelensky has had countless press conferences and broadcasts to help boost morale and draw international support. There were even viral posts like the "Ghost of Kyiv" a pilot who shot down multiple aircraft in the opening days, however it was proven this was purely fictional. In addition, there is also a digital army of hackers targeting Russia. These hackers targeting Russia have utilized some unique techniques to try and inform or persuade citizens to their cause like printing anti-war information from compromised printers or by hijacking cable systems and broadcasting Ukrainian songs and the national anthem.


Some have even said that this showcase of information sharing is revolutionary.


To that end I provide with my own Art of Cyber War quote:

"Its clear the civilian internet is a key component to winning the information battle, and the ability of the average citizen to affect outcomes in the cyber domain should not be underestimated. The digital hand grenade's blast radius is world wide."

Destroyed RU vehicles 3/1/22 source (Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters)
Destroyed RU vehicles 3/1/22 source (Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters)

RU T72 series left behind in Ukraine 2022 - Source Twitter
RU T72 series left behind in Ukraine 2022 - Source Twitter

Iraqi T72 "Lion of Babylon" abandoned 2003 - source wikipedia
Iraqi T72 "Lion of Babylon" abandoned 2003 - source wikipedia

 

Other Odd Similarities and Maps


There are a few other items I want to touch on before we conclude this post. This was one thing that got me started thinking about this post and the Gulf Wars comparison. I was watching the news and it seems Belarusian (a Russian ally) president Lukashenko was giving a press conference or presentation to some of his commanders using a Ukrainian battle map. I recalled back in 1991 when General Schwarzkopf gave his famous press conference. Of course Belarus was saying "Everything is going according to plan" which it seems it was not, whereas in 1991 the presentation clearly showed the masterful strategy and execution of the plan.


Lukashenko press conference on Ukraine
Lukashenko press conference on Ukraine

Notice on this map above as well that it appears to show an attack vector from the lower left corner of Odessa into Maldova. Does that allude to that there was a plan to initially land maritime troops there? I think it might.

Schwarzkopf press conference GW1
Schwarzkopf press conference GW1

Then in another twist of bizzarro world fashion it appears there was another event but this time comparing to Gulf War 2. After about a month or so of combat operations US President George W. Bush gave his "Mission Accomplished" speech where he concluded that the major combat mission of Op. Iraqi Freedom had concluded successfully. It seems Russian President Putin wanted to have this same moment.


George Bush Mission Accomplished speech 2003
George Bush Mission Accomplished speech 2003

I'm not sure if the Russian event was planned in advance because if it was then that would make some of my comparisons more conceivable. Either way its clear that the RU government wants to ensure there is no question that things are going smooth and victory is near.


Russia rally 3/18/22 source wash. post/reuters
Russia rally 3/18/22 source wash. post/reuters

The Situation Room


Here are a few maps of how the situation has unfolded from different perspectives:


Western Sourced Battle Map 3/31/22
Western Sourced Battle Map 3/31/22

OSINT sourced map 4/1/22
OSINT sourced map 4/1/22

RU sourced Battle Map 4/2/22
RU sourced Battle Map 4/2/22

OSINT sourced Battle Map - Current Situation 4/16/22
OSINT sourced Battle Map - Current Situation 4/16/22

Notice how the North and North East no longer shows Russian presence. Both sides likely redeploying and refitting for a show down in the East and South. The Ukrainians do have an opportunity to really shock the world if they can do something like a strike through the Russian lines into Mariupol to relieve them or do something like a raid across the border in Russian Territory. Time will tell what will happen though.

 

In Conclusion


The Ukrainian forces have been able to achieve what many thought would not be possible. They've defended well against a seemingly superior military who has made a few mistakes which haven't done them any good. Whether the Russian commanders utilized Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom as a blueprint is unknown, however its clear their outcomes are likely not what they planned. From what I've observed, this cumulatively has changed the opinion of many around the globe of the Russian Military. I just can't help but think the initial phase with air, land and sea was more to try to show the world "look we have modern military capabilities" but with poor coordination and command it seems to have had the opposite effect and shows a lack there of.


From the information war to control of the air to logistics - war is a multifaceted operation that shouldn't be taken lightly. Things often don't go as planned but how the army adapts is important. No matter the objectives there will be operational defeats and Victories. One would think that how you train is how you fight, but it doesn't seem like the Russians are fighting like they train here. And with the recent setbacks it seems many of the Russian objectives haven't been achieved. After all many planners and computer models said Russia would be victorious in around 72hrs, perhaps this is one reason I feel their strategy to have been geared towards achieving a Gulf War style Victory. Nevertheless its clear that earlier in 1991 and 2003 the preparations, strategy and execution were superior which led to better operative outcomes.


Even if Russia managed to capture the whole of Ukraine we will definitely see large scale insurgency which will cause even more losses for the occupiers, this is what happened for years after the takeover of Iraq following Operation Iraqi Freedom, so the endgame doesn't look good either way. Again it's still a "special operation" so we can't fully judge as some analysts have cautioned, but its clear there will be a lot of lessons learned on both sides. I don't foresee a true "Mission Accomplished" moment for the Russians themselves unless they can somehow get something positive out of this campaign.


This is my first post on my blog where I do not focus exclusively on the Cyber aspect as I have in other posts. Thanks for reading and please subscribe and feel free to provide feedback.




Would you like to know more?

The War in Ukraine: An Operational Assessment

Early reporting of the Russian invasion

Documentary on Desert Storm

Invasion of Ukraine Wikipedia

Good Ukraine War Map

Gulf War Wikipedia

2003 Invasion of Iraq Wikipedia

Russian Military Strategy

Assessing the Russian Military Campaign in Ukraine


 

#defense #ukraine #artofwar #informationwar #strategy #analysis #artofcyberwar







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