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Lessons for India from Russia’s military intervention

When talking about a national security strategy, it has to be preceded by a national diplomatic vision, itself in harmony with and an expression of our social, economic, educational, and technological aspirations 

April 01, 2022 / 04:29 PM IST
Russian forces bombarded the outskirts of Kyiv and a besieged city in northern Ukraine on March 30 after promising to reduce attacks there. Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 and is targeting cities with weapons strikes. Facing stiff resistance, Russian troops have failed to capture any major city in the month since invading Ukraine. Instead, they have bombarded cities, laid waste to urban areas and driven a quarter of Ukraine's 44 million people from their homes. (Image: Reuters)

Russian forces bombarded the outskirts of Kyiv and a besieged city in northern Ukraine on March 30 after promising to reduce attacks there. Russia has launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 and is targeting cities with weapons strikes. Facing stiff resistance, Russian troops have failed to capture any major city in the month since invading Ukraine. Instead, they have bombarded cities, laid waste to urban areas and driven a quarter of Ukraine's 44 million people from their homes. (Image: Reuters)

The oft-quoted Clausewitzian ‘war is politics by other means’ dictum escapes even military experts when they cite ‘heavy Russian losses’ and ‘stalled offensive’ without following the corresponding diplomatic developments. If the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expanding to its borders by Ukrainian inclusion was the primary Russian concern, it has prevented just that when Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia on March 29 proposed Ukraine to be a non-aligned, non-nuclear state which will not host any foreign military bases.

Not to mention how Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had been open to dialogue and not joining NATO in his addresses right from the beginning. The Russian objectives of coercion through a surgical, restrained, and least-invasive campaign has been achieved.

For one, military victory is nothing without political victory. Vietnam, and Afghanistan serve as shining examples of the United States overkilling vastly inferior enemies with devastating air raids, drone strikes, while scoring a raft of tactical victories. However, their opponents swept the country on both occasions after US departures, baring the utter futility of employing such overwhelming force.

In Ukraine, the US Air Force and US intelligence officials’ counter claims about mass civilian casualties and urban devastation as not being matched by any ground assessment. They criticise observers for expecting Russia to ‘mirror’ the US-style operations with massive air raids and strategic bombing. Neither a total Russian defeat, nor total Russian victory would have kept the Ukrainians amenable to negotiations.

Announcing ‘drastically cutting’ military operations around Kiev and Chernigov following the talks, meant Russia never meant to take the capital, with the goal being securing Donbass by pushing the Ukrainians to the administrative borders of the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk. Then building a contiguous zone from the east to the south, by securing Mariupol was the second, where the Ukrainian military was tricked into focusing on Kyiv with Russian disinformation leading it to believe that was the objective. Russia already holds Crimea which had declared its independence in a 2014 referendum.

Lessons For India

For India, the lesson to learn is that merely building a capable and advanced military wouldn’t guarantee victory. Russian commanders ran separate campaigns with vastly different tactics in the west, south and east of Ukraine, because they were clear on the political objectives of the civilian leadership; while retaining considerable autonomy.

Thus, meeting the Indian military’s long-running demand for a formal and public national security/defence strategy for overriding political direction to its military campaigns is the first step. India has one of the most tactically- and operationally-capable militaries in the world and far from being a pushover, even in its current form. Thus, achieving civil-military cohesion should precede equipment modernisation.

The 2017 joint doctrine is an example of a singular military effort towards inter-service synergy without being led by a political vision. The US’ Theatre Commands were created by the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act. China reorganised its military into five commands as a part of the Xi Jinping Thought enshrined into the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) Constitution.

For military modernisation, India needs an integrated industrial, and scientific effort with military participation, along with consultations with the higher technical education sector. The push for semiconductor self-reliance, for instance, warrants the coming together of the ministries of defence, space, industry, and education. Russia’s robust defence industrial sector can still churn out tanks to replenish those lost and abandoned in Ukraine, now preparing to withstand export controls that will prevent the flow of many basic aviation and aerospace components.

Russia’s central bank surprised Western observers as it was prepared for sanctions, having begun de-dollarising since June 2021, and eliminating USD from its Sovereign Wealth Fund. Now, it has turned the tables by demanding oil and gas payments in rubles, and this has raised its own currency’s value. NATO nations such as Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey refusing to join anti-Russian sanctions, while India and China considering non-dollar oil trade revealed a massive diplomatic, energy, trade, monetary, and economic policy victory.

No sector of the economy is detached from the other. When talking about a national security strategy, it has to be preceded by a national diplomatic vision, itself in harmony with and an expression of our social, economic, educational, and technological aspirations. Regardless of whether the Russian military intervention is justified or not, its whole of nation approach rings very close to the nationalism espoused by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Parth Satam is a journalist who has been covering India’s defence sector for more than a decade. Twitter: @ParthSatam. 

Views are personal and do not represent the stand of this publication.

 
Parth Satam is a journalist who has been covering India’s defence sector for more than a decade. Twitter: @ParthSatam. Views are personal.
first published: Apr 1, 2022 04:29 pm