Ukraine War: Is it being fought akin to WWII, big armies facing each other? Or is it being fought akin to Vietnam, insurgents endlessly harassing the invader?

And the casualties were horrendous and the gains minimal.

I don’t really think we can extrapolate what a modern near-peer conflict would be like, based on Iran-Iraq. There were a lot of oddities in that war that makes it a bad choice for looking at what a modern war might be like.

My suspicion is that if near-peer forces were fighting each other, and one didn’t dramatically outnumber the other, we’d see something worse than what we’ve seen in Ukraine, at least in terms of military losses. It would be very high intensity fighting with lots of losses on both sides- they’d go at it hammer and tongs, with all the bloodshed that would entail.

But the good news is that it’s unlikely, although not impossible that any developed nation is going to actually end up fighting that kind of war anytime soon. The Russians aren’t going to be in any shape to go invading anyone anytime soon after this Ukrainian war is over, and any war vs. the Chinese is likely to be predominantly a naval war. Nobody else seems interested in wars of aggression otherwise.

It’s sort of intermediate; what Bret Devereaux terms Mobile Warfare in his essay: Collections: How the Weak Can Win – A Primer on Protracted War – A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry . When you have enough of a conventional military that you aren’t quite reduced to pure guerrilla warfare but are too weak to seize and hold territory against any counter-attack, what Devereaux terms Positional Warfare.

To an extent, virtually all first-rate militaries have since World War One been evolving away from frontal slugfests and towards operations geared to mobility and combined arms, as a response to the overwhelming devastation modern firepower can deliver. This has been referred to as the “Modern System” of combat. And it relies on several things sorely lacking in Russia’s prosecution of this war: mobility, effective combined arms, and critically tactical flexibility by commanders on the front.

Don’t forget that, once “current hostilities” are ended, Ukraine will again be eligible to join NATO. And in the current environment, I suspect that the rest of the alliance would vote to welcome them in.

Long distance precision weapons have changed required tactics. But some remain the same.
The long range precision weapons in this case destroyed things that are required to sustain a defense. All areas of Ukraine were in range of these weapons. So the Russian forces do not need to advance in great numbers or force to take out those targets. It does not even require air force planes. This is a change from WW2 tactics. Forward airbases are costly to get and defend. Long range precision weapons lessen that cost in defense and large supply requirements of a stationary high value target such as a forward airbase
The Russian Ukraine war has some very complex issues regarding the conduct of the war and the desired aftermath. So other than the obvious thing I mentioned above, the rest of how this war is conducted is a very specific thing that will likely be studied for some time.

The tactics for taking cities that contain large forces is still a terrible equation. Civilian versus enemy losses. This is also a confused situation in this war. Depending on the morality of the defenders and attackers. In this instance the Russians have quite overwhelming supply and position in the east. But in many cases consider the civilians to be their own. Very complex for both sides.

Taking a city is still brutal. Technology has not made it that much cleaner or distant unless you have the distant firepower and decision to use it fully. Mass casualties of the defenders and civilians or mass casualties of your own forces. Horrible decision either way. Russian forces have encircled many places entirely and tried to wait out the defenders with various levels of attack. But it seems the destruction has been terrible none the less.

Perhaps a common element is the inability of either side to obtain decisive air superiority. I goes without saying, the side with air superiority can basically rain down destruction on the opposition; neither side could do that with Iran-Iraq and neither can in Ukraine.

The major difference is the level of technology. Neither Iran nor Iraq could easily replace most of their advanced weapons that they lost; whereas Russia has its (moderate?) industrial capability, and Ukraine relies on the West for a vast resupply effort that is essentially unlimited. (Although I did see a military type on CNN complaining about the poor logistics of resupplying front line Ukrainian troops. Those western supplies still have to make it to the eastern front now.)

Essentially Iran-Iraq devolved to the level the sides could support with minimal external input - basically, a WWI level trench warfare. I’m presuming the eastern Ukraine will become more like Afghanistan against the Soviets (deja vu!) or Vietnam. It will be the ability to constantly harass an enemy attempting to hold an area, and the ability to target incursions successfully until the force is worn down, as happened with the attempt to take Kyiv. However, the ability of each side to operate remote vehicles is different (less concern about being shot down, more willingness to operate potential “suicide” missions). Plus there is the ability to use very small, low cost drones to gather intelligence. The smart battlefield weapons also make a huge difference.

What I think will be decisive will be the ability to take out heavy artillery. I wait to see what each side has for that. The technology exists to track artillery back to the source and target it. The question is whether either side can deploy that tech effectively.

… or possibly more like August 6-9, 1945 than anything else we’ve seen. Which continues to be the reason everyone tries to avoid direct conflict between the two.

I think only the latter has any relevance for modern war, if only since that’s two long service professional militaries going at it, which is the type of almost all contemporary Armies.
Israel v Arabs were two heavily conscript Armies, despite modern weapons and tactics.

Have they though? Outside of nuclear armed variants, long range guided missiles are essentially big artillery shells. The Kalibrs and Iskanders have been fired by the thousands and haven’t made a decisive impact;.

I think people are making the mistake of thinking that the Ukrainians are fighting some kind of guerilla war, and that’s not correct.

They still have a command and control structure, they still have units in the field, etc… The thing is that they’re not squaring straight up and trying to counter Russian force with similar Ukrainian force. Instead, they’re basically harassing, delaying, and only standing to fight when it’s advantageous, like in cities and built up areas (massive advantages to being the defenders). They couldn’t really do this without extant and mobile forces who are able to communicate, move, and share information.

Over time, this basically wears the Russians down without actually decisively defeating them in a battle. It forces them to go slowly, expend a lot of fuel and munitions, and generally screws with their ability to sustain an advance. It’s also corrosive to morale, which is apparently already calamitously low in the Russian forces.

The reason they’re fighting in the cities is because they’re a massive force multiplier. Basically they’re hugely advantageous to defenders and very hard to attack. So it makes sense that the Ukrainians would want to fight there- much more bang for the buck, so to speak.

But they don’t want to fight in the fields outside the cities; the Ukrainians don’t have the same advantages there, so they do stuff like hit convoys with small infantry teams, or call in artillery on them with drones, etc…

Another thing the Ukrainians have done successfully is use their AAA assets to deny the Russians control of the air. That’s really the surprise to me; I had figured that the massive Russian superiority in aviation forces (225 aircraft to 3800) would be a very telling thing, but apparently they can’t apply that advantage very much, due to cruddy training, lack of flight hours, lack of precision-guided munitions, and no real skill at air-defense suppression (SEAD/“wild weasel”).

In the ways that count, the Ukrainians are fighting a very smart war, while the Russians are not.

I don’t doubt that the Ukrainians are employing guerilla tactics when useful but l agree with you that that is not the primary manner in which they are fighting.

If they fight outside the cities, they lose. But while an urban battle may be bad for an agressor, its ruinous for the city. Thats Armies generally want to ensure their enemy doesn’t get anyway near their urban centre’s, getting your major financial, economic, commercial and cultural centres flattened is something one would wish to avoid, unless the alternate is worse.
The Ukrainians were lucky the Russians seemed unwilling to reduce the Kyiv region with heavy long distance fires, notably thats a courtesy they haven’t extended to Mauripol,

Absolutely. Based on commentary here and elsewhere, I get the impression that people are thinking this is some sort of guerrilla war vs. the Russians with plucky Ukrainian civilians blasting Russian tanks from behind playground equipment and stuff.

But it’s predominantly the Ukrainian military doing the fighting- I read an article the other day that pointed out that one of the five reserve armored brigades of the Ukrainian Army has finished its spin-up cycle and is entering the battle near Izium. An armored brigade is a LONG way from a rag-tag guerilla force, that’s for sure.

I think it’s the lack of decisive battles that has people a bit confused; they’re expecting to read about armored clashes and fighting with more well-defined lines and advances/retreats like say… the Battle of the Bulge, or the fighting around the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War.

I think that’s the case; being destroyed by superior numbers in open terrain is worse than fighting within the cities and winning. Worked near Kyiv, it’ll probably work elsewhere.

Crimea has been lost for a while now.

And Ukraine can indeed win the war, all they have to do is make it too costly for Russia. Attrition, financial, reputation, and morale. If, for example, mass desertions start happening, things can go downhill really fast.

Ukraine is also getting mucho outside material aid, and even volunteer troops.

Mostly true, but Ukraine is getting Western volunteers.

I suspect that part of any peace deal would be that Ukraine not join NATO.

I suspect strongly that “deferred maintenance” and corruption also have played a part.

The real question as I see it is what happens when that occurs. I mean, let’s say that the Russians fail to actually take and hold the Donbas. The Russians will have failed at pretty much every strategic objective at that point. Does Putin withdraw? Does he consolidate the gains they’ve made so far and go to the negotiating table? Do they re-arm, reinforce and attack again later on? Does he do something crazy to get the offensive moving?

I have a feeling that something is coming that doesn’t involve the Russians steamrolling the Ukrainians or the Ukrainians driving the Russians out. I’ll be damned if I know what that’ll be though.

Putin needs to show he “won”.

If Ukraine (for example) just agrees to give up their claims to Crimea (which is pretty much a done deal anyway) and not join NATO, then Putin can say he won, and Ukraine has given up nothing, in reality.

But if Putin doesn’t get something, it will be bad.

The problem is lack of supply. Russia (indeed, all countries) have a limited stock of functioning guided munitions available. Most accounts seem to indicate they’ve already burned through a good chunk of that stock and replacing them is time-consuming and expensive. Even more so as the Russian arms industry is not self-sufficient in high-tech material like computer guidance chips. This is where economic sanctions bite.

I’d caution against that notion, for somewhat similar reasons to those listed above. Much of what Ukraine is getting in terms of aircraft and armored vehicles are sill functioning cast-offs - either decommissioned or soon-to-be decommissioned gear. Stocks of that sort are not inexhaustible. And nobody, not even the U.S., can afford to denude existing stocks of advanced munitions forever. Eventually use outpaces supply. Even simply unguided artillery shells can’t be spit out in high enough rates for unlimited high-intensity warfare.

It’s foreign emergency supply and a decent native arms industry with significant support vs. a much larger and complete arms industry under economic embargo. We’ll just have to see how it pans out, but I’m not inclined to predict either way.

It might be mostly the regular Ukrainian military doing most of the actual fighting, but there’s a lot more than just fighting to waging war. And from what I gather, the Ukrainian military is doing an exemplary job of coordinating with civilians on all of the non-fighting parts. I suspect that this war will go into the textbooks for that, and that the world’s military planners are taking lots of notes.

From what little I know, Crimea seems pretty vulnerable - in terms of access and water supply. Has Ukraine taken steps to further isolate that region, making it more intolerable for Russians there?