You are here

Anil Thomas asked: What lessons can be drawn from the Russia–Ukraine war to realign India's conventional capability?

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • Vivek Chadha replies: The Russia–Ukraine war has lasted more than six months. However, from the perspective of drawing long-term lessons from the war, it may still be considered premature. The ongoing trajectory of the war has indicated inadequate clarity regarding Russia's terminal objectives or for that matter, even a strategic timeline that Russia may have assigned to its senior military leadership. Therefore, with inadequate clarity on some of these issues, drawing conventional lessons does become a challenge.

    Similarly, when one does draw lessons from conventional wars, these must ideally be contextualised to the circumstances and conditions of the countries involved. There has been a tendency in the recent past to co-relate the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine with the Indian context. However, India finds itself in a very different threat environment in contrast with Ukraine or Russia. In China and Pakistan, India has two adversaries which are nuclear weapon powers. Of these, Pakistan has clearly failed in its four previous attempts to make any substantial headway through conventional means. Its present economic conditions and internal challenges do not suggest conventional war as a suitable option. China, despite having a vastly more potent force, does not have the kind of power differential with India to force major gains in a conventional war. It is more likely to lose than it could potentially gain through such an endeavour. However, in the given context, certain initial lessons regarding the war in Ukraine, as mentioned below, can tentatively be ascertained and considered as useful takeaways:

    • The Russians seem to have suffered undesirable losses as a result of assigning strategic objectives which were beyond their capability to achieve during the initial months.
    • The Russian assessment of the Ukrainian ability to withstand their offensive seems to have been incorrect. There was possibly hope of early capitulation of Ukrainian forces, which yet again did not take place.
    • There were clear indications of inadequate cohesion amongst forces that were initially deployed by Russia. This was seen during the Special Forces landings and employment of armour. It becomes an important lesson for any country involved with restructuring its forces.
    • The employment of armour in built-up areas has thrown up questions regarding its efficacy under such conditions which constrain its deployment.
    • A factor that will possibly be discussed in future will involve the ability to hold ground by forces under hostile conditions, wherein, sub-conventional forces can continue to make such an operation costly in terms of constant attrition.
    • The employment of force multipliers like drones and handheld weapon systems has thrown up options against an adversary desirous of fighting a conventional war at a much lower cost.
    • Posted on 22 August 2022

      Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.