Glen Grant. 2023 – a time and chance for military change in Ukraine

By Glen Grant

Twelve months into the post 24 February invasion the ZSU have produced amazing combat results. They have delivered a performance far beyond anything anyone could imagine. They have surprised  the Russian government and the international community. Ukraine will win this war but this has been at a great cost in blood for the country – as the Chief of Defence Zaluzhny told the Economist – the military is bleeding. This loss should cause the government, parliament, and military leadership to rethink hard about some of the current military policies and laws. It is not simply good enough to order people to die. Ukrainians will do their best in battle because they are fighting for a free Ukraine, but soviet leadership attitudes and methods are no longer appropriate.

There should be a clear government aim to reduce dramatically the number of people killed in the front line by trying to doing things better. This war could easily continue for another two to four years. It is both dangerous and wrong to continue to trade Ukrainian motivation, bravery, and blood for victory when there are things that could and need to be done differently. As the first year of this stage of the war approaches, the leadership should study hard how things are done in the whole realm of defence and assess where new directions and policies can deliver better operational results. There are many examples of best practice policies in NATO countries  to be copied. Results may not come immediately, but the process of study will itself produce new ideas and thinking. I suggest that even one life saved is worth the effort.

Despite the victories and amazingly stubborn defences in places like Bakhmut, not all is good with the management of the Ukrainian conduct of war. That is both natural and inevitable and should be expected. But lessons from war must be analysed and learned quickly. Poor results when they occur, which they always will, must be faced honestly and not glossed over with fine self-congratulatory words and speeches from government. There is growing public criticism on social media about many aspects of the Ukrainian operations ranging from tactics, leadership, laws like 8271, bureaucracy, training, and procurement, to the human rights of the families of the deceased and missing. And there are even more areas of concern to both the armed forces and society than those I mentioned.

Despite the maxim of “we trust in the ZSU” this organisation cannot be perfect having grown and changed so dramatically in such a short time. If it is possible to improve things then there should be no reason to continue with policies and practices that add extra risks of death to troops, damage morale and may even have longer term adverse political consequences.

Possibly the biggest problem for the ZSU leadership is developing a new army culture. A culture of every life matters. Every day the army is filling up with more people with no previous military background. They were civilians just weeks and months ago. Many are mature with strong business and professional backgrounds. They have limited tolerance of the top-down way of working common to the pre-24 February army. The “I am the chief you are a fool” attitude of some commanders still today, does not sit well with them. It is also not what society wants or expects. This expectation of change is especially so for those who have held leadership positions in business or have higher education. Of course these people must adapt their working culture and habits to the complex ways of the army, but at the same time the senior defence leadership must also understand that many of those they command will not act easily like an unthinking army of followers. Like the Finns in the winter war, they wish to be an “intelligent” force allowed to use their brains, different skills, self-motivation, and initiative and to be led intelligently not blindly ordered. They know when they see corruption, laziness, and stupidity. This cultural divide is proving problematic in many areas of the army and TrO as more and more casualties are taken, and people judge that many commanders are simply not good enough. And as casualties increase further the composition of the army will become more and more “civilian” and reflective of society than of the original army. Then the cultural issues and intolerance of poor commanders will increase.

A further challenge from this is that there is an increasing difference in leadership abilities within the system. The best are getting better daily and more western in their approach, but some commanders remain Soviet to the core. The worst commanders who lack character, training and skills are increasingly turning to bureaucracy and rules to avoid responsibility and to cover up their obvious gap in leadership abilities.

This article addresses some of the potential key issues on the clear understanding that the war is not going to go away and is likely to get worse with even greater demands upon the ZSU, particularly the front line soldiers. It  offers the defence policy makers a range of possible solutions for improvement.

Geographical command boundaries

Fighting along geographical lines with clear operational boundaries and commanders is one of the least understood of NATO standards. In short, every unit from even the most basic infantry section upwards must have clear geographical boundaries. There must never be any chance of doubt about the left and right, back and front boundary of any fighting organisation. These must either be marked on a map or given verbally using distinct visible boundaries like roads or rivers. Every single piece of ground on the front line and behind must be owned by someone and they must be clear what their responsibilities for that ground are.

These boundaries denote the unit ownership of that specific area of battle space. The written (battalion and above) or verbal (below battalion) orders given to the commander should be clear for each area and the senior unit commander within each area is then king of that place. Anyone joining that area must be under command of that commander by order unless there are clear written orders from above saying otherwise and explaining exactly why. At present this does not always happen, and people die because of this lack of boundary clarity. Battalions can often find themselves with other organisations crossing their boundaries but with no prior communication about who, why and when. I spoke to one battalion staff member over Christmas who said that their battalion had fired on our own special forces twice and nearly fired on another unit. These units had entered the battalion territory without prior communication or liaison.

Blue on blue is the least of the problems. In Soledar battalions were added to the defence mix with limited geographical discipline or logic, and apparently with no discussion with the commanders of existing brigades. Without clear boundaries no commander can be sure of the geographical extent of their orders, the liaison requirements with neighbouring units and with the artillery. So, commanders cannot be sure of their units’ authority to fire or fly drones diagonally across boundaries, manoeuvre, advance or retire. Just adding new units to the battle without this clarity increases risk of failure.

Any lack of geographical clarity is not just dangerous but at every level the lack of knowledge about who commands an area and what resources are available clearly leads to sub optimal performance over the whole organisation. Whilst the best commanders realise the importance of this, many are too new and untrained to grasp the full significance of the dangers for battle of unclear boundaries and the importance of unity of command. Senior commanders must take this matter seriously and physically check that boundaries at all levels are clear to all. They must also ensure that there is a single commander in any area (usually the brigade commander) and that other non-army units like GUR, SOF, SSU, National Guard, Border Guard, Territorial or volunteer units, marines and the new drone units respect the rules and act always as one army organisation not following their own tasks and ambitions. The most recent battles show that there is an urgent requirement for new military policies and training of commanders about the geographic deployment rules, and command and control arrangements of troops in battle. Responsibilities for ground and commanders’ orders at all levels must be totally clear. Today they are often not and this causes unnecessary blood to be spilt.

The geographical boundaries must not be drawn too tightly around the unit. All units need room to manoeuvre so they can attack the enemy from the sides when they need and have room to change positions. Their battle space should also extend not only forwards into the enemy area but also to the rear. This is to be clear who owns the logistic areas and what space a unit has to manoeuvre and withdraw when needed.

A second challenge is that there should be no (NONE AT ALL) independent units on the battlefield below brigade size. If they must be in a particular area then they should be allocated to a brigade and under command of the brigade commander whoever they are. The brigade commander should be given clear orders of the extent of his authority with that unit. Where needed after any regrouping the geographical boundaries and orders of that brigade must be immediately changed to suit the new circumstances. This policy should apply to units of all types, arms, and services.

One army concept

To add to the above the ZSU lacks a policy of “One army concept”. It may appear to be so de-jure but it is not de-facto. There are simply too many organisations working separately from each other and even at times in opposition. This creates pockets of “first, second and third “divisions of quality where some units are equipped and trained properly, and others are not. One serious problem today lies with TrO that is simply treated as second class in many respects, especially selection of commanders and unit training even though they de-facto form the national operational reserve. Brigades are today in the front line without being properly trained or resourced. This lack of a common concept encourages organisational arrogance where some parts of the military system are considered better or more important than others and are both treated and act so. This attitude risks sending soldiers and volunteers to their death early because the system has not valued them sufficiently to prepare them properly for the realities of battle. A future military one army policy should be that anyone in uniform must be commanded, trained, and equipped to the same basic quality as all others. A policy and law change is needed to ensure that TrO is not left playing a second-class game as it is now. It needs full and proper integration with the ZSU now. No matter how they started, today they are too vital and valuable for anything less.

Another problem concerns GUR and SOF that have unclear and conflating roles. GUR runs centralised intelligence, but this is separate from the army organisation it is there to support. There is no proper army J2 organisation so intelligence is simply often not given to those who need it in a form that can be used. Upwards intelligence from units is equally problematic. Additionally, SOF are supposed to be (and were trained by US to be) the deep attack organisation working behind the lines to disrupt and destroy. But in the absence of proper deep attack doctrine for SOF, this role has been taken by GUR. SOF are often being used as light infantry wasting years of expensive US training. Clear law, policies and doctrines are needed for decentralised army intelligence and deep attack, and to provide clarity of roles for both these organisations.

Command and Control – The rule of fives.

There is much academic evidence that for success no person should be expected to manage more than five complex subordinated organisations. In the western militaries this logic has not changed. In Israel they even consider three subordinate commands is sufficient.  This  policy stays despite the ideas from business of using flatter organisations and the introduction of electronic command systems. There are many reasons. One of these is the need for commanders to retain close human contact with those they command, not only one level, but two levels lower. This contact is vital for morale and passing command “strength of purpose”. This activity takes time. It is also vital for commanders to see people face to face to judge them, for leadership quality and ability, for tiredness and for their personal strength of purpose. Then they must recommend the best for further harder tasks or replace those not good enough. The second reason is to reduce information overload before decision making. Too many subordinate units means too much information. The third and arguably most important point is that the commander must “see the ground” before he judges how to fight the battle and what resources he needs to allocate to his subordinates. Too many units, too many commanders to judge, and too wide a geographic span of command provides too much information and simply overwhelms the thinking of senior people. Too many units to command also means poorly considered or rushed orders by stressed commanders. When there is quality time, the leaders two levels lower get to know what their Commander is thinking and wanting, and they learn to think two levels up (and the Commander two levels down) making chances of misunderstanding overall goals smaller. The junior commanders also learn from more discussion the logic from where the commanders original orders came, their thinking and the wider goals. The orders they receive are anchored in understanding allowing the subordinate commanders more chances of tactical innovation.

What this principle means is that in many areas like Bakhmut where there are many brigades there should be a single intermediate divisional level commander between the brigades and the regional headquarters with sole individual responsibility for success or failure. This principle of a senior commander on the ground commanding 3-5 brigades should logically be applied for all complex battle areas. The best commanders should be chosen for this. Thinking long term, perhaps these commanders should also be given international refresher training before they command. Officers like US Gen Ben Hodges would be happy to do this, but he is never asked. In the past these headquarters would have been divisional level. As the battlefield grows more complex there should be policy discussions about the need to reinstate them or at least some for key battle areas to gain greater command focus.

Commanders and leadership

There appear to be two levels of challenge about leadership and commanders that need policy discussion.

a. At the tactical level battalion and below there are both outstanding, and bad commanders, but no clear doctrinal policy guiding them how to operate in the field. NATO policy and historical lessons learned are that commanders should mostly operate forward with their troops and that the Chief of staff or XO should manage the command post and be the link between the commander and troops and the next higher HQ. If anyone doubts the arguments for this logic, they should watch the film Aliens. Its ideas are remarkably close to our current C2 capabilities and show clearly that commanders who lead from command posts can be overloaded with minor detail and are dangerously less capable of giving orders that reflect the reality on the ground.

It is unclear why some officers are chosen to command. The quality of Ukrainian commanders has regularly been praised and criticised equally on social media by those who are being led. The policy should be that those commanders who can get results with limited loss of troops must be promoted to more serious command roles – they are the most precious metal of the country. Those who are incapable of leading from the front and give unprofessional style orders that cause heavy casualties and do not reflect the ground truth should be quickly removed to other work. They are not the commanders Ukraine needs to win this war.

b. Key to battle management is the senior command ability to delegate to, listen to and take note of the concerns of junior commanders who are really doing the fighting. The NATO standard is that the commander actually physically involved in the battle (i.e., being shot at) is king. He may even be a sergeant or even a private soldier who has been forced to take command because of casualties. All other commanders senior to him of all ranks must be in support of them. They have to make the life-or-death decisions. Where humanly possible senior commanders must provide the intelligence, moral and physical resources for the battle commander to win. Senior commanders should not try to second guess the fight nor try to give orders that do not fit with how the battle commander sees the problem.

The battle commander under fire being king and not the most senior officer is a NATO standard and policy that some commanders are clearly finding it difficult to understand and implement. It goes against all their training and education. This needs direction and support from the highest levels as this is what the NATO instructors are expecting and teaching.

c. Commanders are responsible for training their troops at all levels and for the quality of that training. Commanders and staffs who do not have the knowledge and ability to conduct training of subordinates should not be commanders. Commanders who waste training time demanding unnecessary time-wasting reports should not be commanders. Training saves lives, reports do not.

d. At all levels of command trust is the key component. Fighting soldiers must trust their leaders and their orders if they are to fight to full effectiveness. This is vital. Trust is the most valued commodity for an army when you want people to fight and die for you. A present this trust is under strain. This is natural after 9 months of war and many deaths. Trust is gained and kept by two-way honesty and the leadership listening to front line needs and reality and acting upon it. Trust is reinforced by realistic and common-sense orders, by personal contact of leaders with those they command and by openly supporting them. Trust and openness is also vital with a society that is supporting the ZSU with critical needs.

The recently signed law 8271 is a serious challenge to the issue of trust. It goes against the natural course of justice in many ways. Whilst many think it is vital for control and discipline they should also recognise that creating a soviet type law to demand people do things that they may not be able do without dying, is also a rapid way to raise questions about their trust of Ukrainian society. This trust issue is especially important when units have not been resourced properly for the fight. It also raises questions about the very ethos and values that the government claims differentiate it from Russia. Trying to convince both society and soldiers that all is well when it is not, for example suggesting “wedding” drones are not needed by units is equally dangerous. The current policies and leadership activities suggest there are some poor communications and fractures between parts of the leadership and the front line that need serious political discussion and careful healing. This cannot be passed off as a Russian fake news problem. It is real.

2023 – time to make the ground troops invincible.

Two things are needed as the basics of the ground forces, more close support artillery (and mortars) and properly trained and equipped infantry. The first is strongly in the hands of the international community. Even with limited new heavy equipment, the second could be improved with a stronger policy focus on developing the soldier as the key Ukrainian capability.

The current battles and changes of tactics by Russia and especially Wagner are worrying because they play directly upon the weaknesses of the Ukrainian infantry. They are using sheer numbers to overcome defences across the whole front. This was used before by Russia in WW2 when storming Berlin and huge numbers of Russians were sacrificed. They will do so again. The combat strength of Ukrainian infantry units must be solved with urgency before another wave of Orc mobilisation occurs. Ukrainian infantry need to be properly equipped to fight this sort of war. Their rifles should be for self-defence only. The troops need to be more strongly equipped with unlimited wedding drones, radios and internet, night sights for every soldier, 60mm mortars, grenades and grenade launchers for platoons, a full 81/82mm mortar company for each battalion, unlimited short-range missiles, AFAKs, uniform and safety equipment for every soldier and of course, far more small arms ammunition. All this needs to be managed and organised internally by Ukraine with an urgent industrial production and procurement at national level. And also, there needs to be more focus upon these “enablers” in the speeches of leaders and Ramstein meetings not just big ticket items like tanks and planes. Equipping the infantry properly for battle should not be left only to the volunteers and international community because the requirements will NEVER be met in this way. It is possible to create large scale industrial production within Ukraine because other countries in a similar situation have managed it in history in similar circumstances. But this project needs to be organised by the best industrial brains in the country urgently (not using these skilled people as cannon fodder as now) by totally and different thinking about this priority and means of procurement.

Kill bureaucracy.

A policy decision is needed to stop the current military system working from soviet style documents, rules, and regulations. Examples are everywhere. These papers slow down and even break natural processes that should be common sense in war. As the wife of former Estonian President Ilves told me this week “when you unplug common sense, there is nothing!” This is a direct and URGENT leadership issue and is causing unnecessary deaths by delay and military frustration. The main documents need rewriting for use in war and a new law passed immediately with the key element being placing “critical responsibility to act properly to save life above the need to follow paper rules”. This should be obligatory for every member of government and the armed forces. Inspection should be directed towards improving efficiency and speed and accuracy of response not following rules. This argument is not new. Much of the work on how the army should function better was done by Gen Zabrodskyi in defence committee meetings pre-Covid. Sadly, this work, like that of the creating the military police and better military law support, was shelved by the parliamentary managers.

A typical delay was reported to me last week of drones having been purchased from abroad. They need a signature for release from MOD to the unit that purchased them. This was not done for 4 weeks. This four-week delay means that soldiers die for lack of drones. A policy is needed to speed up activities like this to a turnaround time of 12 hours maximum. Similar comments about drones have been raised openly in Ukraine media, One recent quote “In Ukraine producing drones for the army is an almost impossible task, it’s the path of suffering and humiliation. Where to start liberating domestic industry from the game of stupid rules and harmful prohibitions”

Training and education

Training policy is the most important development needed for the army in the coming year. Soldiering quality and saving more lives can only be developed by adequate and highly focused training at all levels from soldier to general. Training must be continuous, and every opportunity used to improve individuals and teams. It is no myth that the best training is war but as we can see that is also highly expensive in blood. The cost to the country of acting like this is too high. We are losing future commanders and battle winners, and suffering injured and dead soldiers’, military morale, lost equipment, and vital social cohesion. It also is politically divisive because it appears that the national leadership do not care about the people they send to war. This dismissive attitude is not healthy, and the policy must be that no person ever deploys to battle without proper training for their role.

Lessons learned from the front line are vital to be passed on to every soldier and to the instructors teaching both at home and internationally. The policy must be that the S3 cell in the army HQ must be working on lessons daily with real urgency and send out red warnings to all Brigades whenever tactics change successfully on either side. The policy should also be that a red warning triggers changes in equipment requirements for units and then urgent procurement should be actioned within 24 hours. And to teach lessons does not mean that soldiers must be always withdrawn from the front line. Training can be developed and passed by using normal social media tools and apps that have huge capacity for this. The Russians are doing this already. A well-functioning lesson learned process should stop nonsenses like the wedding drone speech as Minister would get (and deserves) better quality information..

One fundamental area of training policy that needs urgent action is the need for units to be given collective training. To understand this, it is the difference between players in an orchestra playing in a four piece quartet or the whole orchestra playing a full evening of different composers. In the larger NATO countries collective training is regular at battalion and brigade level and in major exercises even division. If the new equipment is to be used properly effectively then manoeuvre warfare must be practiced properly. This means the mobile headquarters with all arms and air together moving across new large areas of countryside not just in training areas. The battle plans, physical reconnaissance, orders, fire support on the move, and communications processes need hard practice from top to bottom and back again. Without this the value of using the new tanks will be suboptimal and perhaps even wasted. Centralised control will not work to breakthrough properly. Command must be fully delegated right down to leading tank crews. This must be rehearsed and tested first at brigade level, not just firing on the range.

The basic training for Ukrainian infantry soldiers today is limited and well below what any western country does now. It is much less than that given to soldiers in previous less sophisticated wars. It is vastly less than the Kyiv metro drivers or teachers receive for example. The policy of how long and what is taught needs to be rethought and the courses made longer, more comprehensive, and harder. International support should be sought for this. Also, the best brigade commanders should be fully involved by telling what they see is missing from their troops. A new policy should lay down what skills are needed by all ranks. If there are not sufficient good instructors available, then either some should be withdrawn from the front line or more foreign legion volunteers publicly sought for, or both. The TrO must be included in this.

Soldier basics should at least include learning all infantry weapons, personal battle discipline, tactical team drills for all battle scenarios up to platoon level for urban and rural areas, both on foot and in vehicles, mine awareness, learning and practicing the orders process, communications, and combat medical. Training to fight at night is vital. The suggestion that there is not enough time is mathematical nonsense – simply recruit the soldiers earlier so they can have longer courses. We know these soldiers are needed now and more will be needed in future so change things. Better trained soldiers = fewer deaths. Many soldiers are now being trained internationally but the process and training for basic soldiers should be expanded to ensure that also all commanders at all levels are trained before they deploy.

A policy of creating mobile training teams to sit close to the front to update units out of battle with the latest lessons learned should also be considered. Some brigades have created their own teams but at least, all brigades and battalions need a training officer and a small support team. There is scope here for using those who have been injured in war and cannot fight. One arm or leg missing does not stop teaching.

One foreign legion officer commented to me recently that when he speaks to the Ukrainian officers and sergeants it feels like they come from different armies. This is a colossal problem for delivering successful operations and tactics. Now it is chaos from the mix of Soviet system, NATO, and improvisation. Also, many platoons are commanded by sergeants and sometimes even by the best soldier. They have had no preparation for this complex command role. These people must be trained properly. If they cannot be removed from the front for short courses, then the doctrine and tactics must be put on-line so they can read in quiet moments. The policy is clear, Ukraine needs a unified school and unified body of doctrine and training for junior officer training. This is so that all platoon, company, and battalion commanders speak the same military language and use the same analysis and orders tools.

The Defence College has still not reacted and adapted adequately to the war on the delivery of new education requirements. This war needs totally new thinking and if the war is long re-education of many officers of ALL ranks. Much of the same old thinking exists at the college. The policy must be to change both the courses and the instructors. Vital for long term health of the defence system are new short intense courses for example stressing national and international defence, new ways of doing battle, developing IT into battle winning systems, and how to integrate society successfully into the military to make it better. The old courses and many instructors need to be removed and new officers, international and local volunteers fresh from the war engaged to deliver training. This needs a law change as the current military education laws for lecturers are designed to maintain the peacetime status- quo.

A small addition to training comments. Hard physical fitness is vital for combat soldiers. It cannot be stressed enough or trained enough. Fitness keeps people alive as they can move better and faster on the battlefield. When in Kyiv recently I saw many soldiers in uniform but none doing physical training. That is seriously unusual in war – seriously unusual and wrong.

Changes to the HR system

 Use of civilians

It suggested there be a priority policy now to replace all military that are not doing front line tasks with civilians “joining” the ZSU or using TrO volunteers with comparable (or better) related skills. This includes HRM, recruitment, intelligence, logistics, planning, IT, financial planning, and many other non-fighting staff appointments throughout the whole country. This policy can free up countless officers and soldiers who can be used for purely combat and training posts. This action needs imagination, better HR processes and a wider value for money approach to the war. Using civilian skills was done successfully by both US and UK in previous wars even to the level of a US industrialist being made a Lt General so he could change the way weapon procurement was managed. Those who think this is foolish should ask themselves how supermarket chains and banks keep working at high rates in places like Kharkiv and in many areas of the grey zone and how quickly they got business back into Kherson. The ZSU needs to capture and utilise many of the people who have this ability.

Command selection

Selection of commanders is arguably the most important human factor in any war. Real commanders with leadership, intelligence, integrity, physical and moral courage, and luck are rare. All too often commanders have been selected by nepotism within military clans, by education or even by corruption but not by results and performance.

It should be the most important task for the commanders and staff at every level to identify those officers and potential officers who can get battle results with few casualties. There needs to be a policy now to set up a process through the command chain that identifies potential commanders for promotion and those who are not fit to command. These must be removed and replaced before they do more damage.

There are also NATO standards that staff appointments like Chief J7 (Training) are not commanders but staff. They should not make command decisions about training requirements. Commanders should only do one job. They should either be appointed to command operations (and nothing else) or to command the creation and training of units for operations. The reason they should not do both is that the requirements of each require 100% concentration 24/7/365 and exhausting leadership. There is not sufficient time for success in duplicate roles. Arguably the army commander must be full time training troops or full-time creating units but not both. Today he appears to do both roles. Somewhere there will be weakness and we do not see his best full time.


Perhaps the biggest lesson since 24 February is that what we are doing for procurement and delivering industrial assistance to the ZSU within Ukraine works at a sub-optimal level. We need a complete rethink of procurement and industrial support policy. The current system is still mired in Soviet practices and unimaginative thinking. Officials need to read the methods taken by UK in WW1 when Lloyd George was given the task of delivering support for an army even bigger than that of Ukraine now. A new Ministry of Supply was created for war led by a senior minister and staffed by the best civil industrialists of the age. Every aspect of need was purchased or negotiated on open ended fixed price contracts (with built in fixed level profit). Industry was left to do what it does best, produce things. In both UK and USA where industry was given a clear task to deliver a product like aircraft, vehicles, and ammunition, they overperformed many times. How MO works in this area needs to be examined properly to identify what laws, rules, regulations, and practices can be changed to increase efficiency and effectiveness. It is suggested that how procurement is organised for war needs rethinking from first principles, a senior business leader put in charge, and new business-trained and experienced civil staff engaged.

At present defence weapon procurement is also hamstrung by the monopolistic reliance upon Ukroboronprom to produce things. They are not designed as a company for war. The conglomerate of companies has proven painfully slow to deliver what is needed and most not at all. It has many high-class technical people within some companies who can-do world-class R&D but they are not geared for mass production. So doing what it has shown it can already do is where Ukroboronprom can best be focused. It should not be involved in general business areas because the organisation is not designed or staffed for delivering rapid business support in war. It cannot move as quickly as new defence businesses setting up in the country or foreign businesses that would give more support if they were directly engaged and paid. Working through Ukroboronprom for weapons or ammunition is visibly not the most efficient or effective way to deliver requirements. A policy of more open and direct relationships with Ukrainian and international defence companies is required.

I hear the comments about not having enough money to do things in Ukraine with industry. In the US war of independence senior politicians were sent abroad as ambassadors to try and borrow serious money to fund the war and to make weapons. Ukraine needs to do the same. But money will only come when there are transparent business policies, plans on how it will be used, and investments are protected. This needs much more directed government activity than now. This work also needs an understanding of the requirement to appoint high class diplomats to all supporting countries like the ambassadors to US and Australia, not the most recent dire and totally inappropriate selections.


Drones are the key enabling tool in this war for Ukraine. They should be treated with the same value across all levels of fighting as for example the need for rifles for each soldier. We need a serious industrial policy for the supply of both surveillance and attack drones as there is for artillery ammunition in most western countries. The general staff are now setting up drone attack companies for the forces. Quality soldiers have now been selected to train at a college.

But there is still a serious need for a deployment policy of these units that reflects combat reality. Drones are now a vital tool, but they have limitations. They need to be used effectively not only for killing targets but more importantly for assisting successful operations. When drones are commanded centrally and not under command brigades there is a serious chance that this expensive resource is used to kill every enemy seen (juicy targets) and not only those targets that affect the progress of the plan.

It remains an undisputable fact that only infantry soldiers can take and hold ground – not drones – they are merely a commander’s tool in the process. Therefore, drone troops must always, always, always be under command of brigade or battalion commanders and in support of their plans not the reverse.

And drones are not all the same. Each level of command needs appropriate level drones for the tasks they have been set. This means clarity of drone capability and numbers required at each level of combat to ensure the correct drones and numbers are purchased. The capability requirements are totally different at each command level and when drones are wrong or absent then they can be misused. The new organisation of attack drones will do little to assist the company and platoon level requirements for local surveillance wedding drones.

When there is a shortage of wedding drones at the tactical level then there is a danger of having to use strategic drones to destroy low level tactical targets. This is highly wasteful in both military and economic terms and bad long-term value for money. A policy is needed to set up an “independent-from-MO” organisation for the requirements and delivery of drones and trained drone operators at all levels and not just for one type of organisation. This is probably best sub allocated today to an expanded Aerorozvidka who have the most comprehensive understanding of the defence needs and problems. At present this multi spectrum analysis of needs seems to be limited to experienced volunteers and NGOs. This is not best practice and reflects the failure of the defence system to understand the full value of drones to operations.

Drone warfare knowledge and training should also include counter drone warfare and technical support training in security measures for pilots. Currently the knowledge, skills, and equipment for using drones successfully in battle is still scattered around the army. This is sub optimal.


There are major weaknesses across the whole military medical system. It does not work. The lack of trained and qualified solders in combat first aid is criminal. The lack of proper tourniquets is criminal. Supporting volunteers are in despair at the lack of a proper training system and coherent support. The front line is basically overwhelmed by the challenges. The challenges are reflected in lack of IFAKS, limited and uncoordinated training for soldiers in battlefield medicine and poor policies at the national level for the support and funding for the seriously injured or even those needing basic medical drugs. No sick or injured soldier should ever have to worry about the level of support he will receive either on the battlefield, during transport to hospital, in the hospital, or after for recuperation. This support must also cover mental illness and law 8271 dangerously risks turning those who are mentally ill into criminals in the same way as happened in WW1. A strong national level policy for medical support is needed all run by the Ministry of Health. Military medical should be reduced to advice and action not leadership. The national medical system should be totally focussed upon war support until the effects of the war are over.

Family and welfare officers

Every unit needs a formal post of family and welfare officer and team. This is an important policy requirement for the future needs of society as the war progresses and needs changes to laws. The “officer” should be anyone military available of any senior rank, a retired serviceman or even a civilian volunteer. Their task is to be the formal point of contact between the unit, families, government, the ZSU, the local government and the medical system. It is important to have an officer in each unit who is away from the battle space and who can do the necessary documents for families when a partner dies or is critically injured. The critical weeks after a trauma are vital for the family to get immediate welfare and financial aid, especially moral support. The officer would have this responsibility.

The team should be housed in the barracks or in a local government office if the barracks is unsafe. The officer is the unit commanders formal and legal representative at home base and they and their team should represent and support the unit and their families and should be given legal authority to be given classified or sensitive information

A logistic system

The current logistic system (what system there is) is heavily centralised, sub optimal and piecemeal. In many areas of supply such as the supply of foreign equipment to units it has reached an amazing level of quality. In others like the supply of personal equipment to a soldier, medical supply, or vehicle maintenance, it still labours under soviet methods. The truth that logistics is broken in places can be judged by the fact that some units are seriously reliant upon NGOs and volunteers for large parts of their battle winning equipment and daily supplies. The current system is as far from NATO standard as it is possible to be. It needs steady reform based upon a set of coherent and “common to all requirements” principles and policies.The reality is that the policies for logistics need rethinking from first principles. The key area of supply should be simple and geographical, not as now supplies like food criss-crossing the country back and forth. Maintenance and repair must be close to the battle area not in Poland. Imagine that a brigade is a piece of equipment requiring electricity. When you move the equipment from room to room, you simply plug it into another electrical socket. Each area should have a socket of logistics and where needed an “extension lead” so that no brigade has to reach back further than one hours drive to get what it needs. The job of MOD is to produce the logistic power and the military logistics commander to ensure that power is always in the sockets near enough for all the devices. Where there are extreme distances then a logistic “socket” should be extended to bring supply closer to the unit. Every headquarters from brigade upwards should have a commander maintenance and physical support.The logistic power socket in this description should cover the basic elements of combat supply:

    1. Medical supply and evacuation.
    2. Unit combat supplies of food, fuel, ammunition, batteries, vehicle spares, and drones.
    3. Personal equipment of all types (With registering on IT with no paper required)
    4. Reach back ability for technical equipment for replacement and repair like phones, computers, and radios.
    5. Forward maintenance of all soft skin and armoured vehicles up to engine and barrel changes and minor body repair.
    6. Forward maintenance of technical equipment like weapon sights, drones, radios etc

The first policy to improve logistics should be to hire an experienced “defence systems engineer” to map out all the logistic processes and to seek  and recommend efficiencies. Estonia has an experienced systems expert in Jaan Murumets who works for MOD. Ask for him as part of their support. The second policy should be to decide on the best method of commanding and delivering geographical supply down to brigades and battalions.

If a policy of designing mobile “close support” logistics for the future foreign equipment and mobile battle is not produced for each brigade, then there will be problems.


The country and the armed forces must not be slaves to the current defence system. This defence system has expanded rapidly to meet Russia and has problems. Many policies, systems and organisations are not fit for this current war if it continues for long. The current amazing fighting by the defence forces relies far more upon the character and courage of the Ukrainian people than it does upon good defence management and organisation, or any lessons and skills gained through progressive and continuous training and operations.

Reliance upon courage as a war winner is far too expensive for Ukraine in the long run. Too much blood is being spilt and more could prove disastrous to the nation. It is better to analyse the weakest defence areas and improve policies, laws, systems, and organisations. It is also time to change some of the older generation that remain fixed in their ways of working, for younger, more agile and battle tested commanders. This is not to suggest that the older commanders have not played their part, they have. But now a new way of fighting is needed that values life and identifies how to use the scarce national resources to maximum by improved strategies and tactics.

Burnt Russian military equipment in north part of Kharkiv city. March 21, 2022. Photo by Nataliya Zubar

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  1. Ось i пройшли тi часи,
    Коли хохли годували Русь…

  2. Some aspect of Geographical command boundaries

    I tried to scrutinize all from the recommendations above.
    Everybody who has had the elementary tactical exercises in army including level below platoon really anderstand such elementary moments connected with distinction the segments of fire and its crossing.
    More over each of soldier have to know his personal sectors on the different stages of battlefield with potential or discovered targes are recognised in advance
    Such truisms are described in any battle statute of Army including the ancient demands of soviet army.
    But nowadays we can to observe so strictly different sircumstanses of combats where line of clashes are modified continuously.
    In addition to difficulties in operative management we have tio recognise the unsufficient supplying communication equipment and appropriate weapons to crossfire support the adjacent zones of neighboring subdivisions.
    That is why all efforts each of adversaries are directed toward flexibility and operative maneuver with spot support by artillery.

  3. Operation ” Pitting” UK and allies. NATO Standard officer Training, command and tactics 2014 to 2020. Ukrainian staff officers attended Sandhurst & British army training team Slovakia. On going training in UK 2021-2023. 6000 will be trained Ukrinian soldiers by May 2023. So progress has already been implimented. But clearly its war. So many will be trained in house. Its not ideal

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