General Ginis: Cities will form the core of the 21st century battlefield

General Constantinos Ginis, honorary Chief of General Staff.

The war in Ukraine is mainly depicted in the image of destroyed Russian tanks inside or on the outskirts of Ukrainian cities, as a proof and a symbol of the determined Ukrainian resistance, which has exceeded three months. The impressive Ukrainian resistance is attributed to the high-tech weapons supplied to Ukraine by the Western countries that support it.

Historically technology has been the factor that has had the most decisive effect on changing the way war is waged. None of the parameters of politics, strategy, tactics, leadership, economics, ideology, etc., can better explain the evolution of the way war is conducted than technology, from the stone age to the nuclear and information age. However, high technology alone cannot be credited with or explain the result so far in the field, as Russia, despite heavy losses in personnel and material and operational setbacks, has managed to capture a significant portion of Ukrainian territory and continues in this direction at a slow pace.

Undoubtedly, advanced military technology is possessed by both sides, certainly Russia to a higher degree and Ukraine with the assistance of the Western world. For example, there is a wide discussion about the American Javelin anti-tanks and their impressive results on the battlefield, but it should not escape us that the Russians have equally advanced weapons, the Kornets, which played a pivotal role in the Israel-Hezbollah war, in Lebanon in 2006. Both sides have both reconnaissance and offensive drones, as well as missile systems. However, for understandable reasons, we could say, the effectiveness of Ukrainian and Western weapons is more emphasized.

To assess the role of technology in this war, we must approach it within the context of its conduct. Many expected when the war began on February 24, 2022, that large-scale fighting would take place on the undigested territory of Ukraine similar to that of World War II. However, Ukraine, appreciating Russia’s supremacy at all levels, decided to adopt a strategy of wearing down the opponent and fighting within the populated areas. On the contrary, Russia came prepared for a fight in the open field, or if you like with an army that was built for this kind of operation, for when war breaks out, you do not engage with the army you desire or the circumstances dictate, but with the one that you have.

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The choice of residential location is important, as cities are strategically important as political, administrative, economic and cultural centers, and an increasing proportion of people live in cities and are familiar with this environment. Many analysts believe that the urban environment will be the primary battleground of the 21st century. Fighting in this field is extremely lethal, three to six times more casualties, it also offers advantages to the defender as it degrades the technological superiority of the attacker.

It is time-consuming and laborious, as it forces the occupation from house to house and from block to block, while the destruction of structures and other obstacles, which protect the enemy, require large consumptions of ammunition and explosives, while the combatant needs two and a half times as much supplies (water, food, etc.). Finally, in this struggle there is also the third dimension both above and below ground. The opponent is everywhere, he is in front, he is behind, he is above, he is below, testing human endurance (physical, mental, etc.), so the fight now turns into a personal duel, where the dominant role is played by the fighter.

In this context, the defending Ukrainians, taking advantage of the aforementioned advantages of the inhabited place and the information on the movements of the Russian army provided by aerial (Ukrainian and Western drones), satellite (Western forces) and civilian systems, succeeded in adapting the their defense against the current Russian threat, as they did not have the need for wide troop movements, to make the most of their weapon systems and in general to be regularly one step ahead of the Russians.

Using high-powered anti-tank and drones against the Russian forces, who were forced to move over rough terrain to approach the cities, they succeeded in inflicting heavy losses on the Russian armored forces, forcing them to pull obsolete material from their depots to cover the gaps. their. Utilizing air defense systems and portable anti-aircraft weapons, they significantly limited the action of Russian helicopters and low-flying aircraft. While leveraging intelligence and missile technology they destroyed high-value Russian symbolic targets such as the cruiser Moskva, the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, with significant political, military communications and psychological implications. Of course, on the Russian side there is a corresponding use of capabilities.

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Ukraine’s use of advanced technology in the defense of populated areas enabled it to overturn the operational plan, weaken Russian forces and slow the pace of Russian operations and defend itself vigorously for three months, with the which territorial losses. On the other hand, the high technology that Russia has proven to possess, in the form of the struggle involved, did not enable it to achieve a rapid military success, according to its original plans, namely the occupation of Ukraine and the change of policy its leadership.

Therefore on both sides until now, technology while it has played an important role, has not been the decisive and exclusive factor in winning or ending the war. The manner of conducting the war, i.e. inside inhabited places, has emerged as the decisive parameter of the conflict, which has transferred the success and the final result to the shoulders of the traditional forces of the battlefield, Infantry and Artillery, with any technological support.

In conclusion, the war in Ukraine shows that cities will be the core of the battlefield of the 21st century, it creates a huge challenge for military leaders to adapt military capabilities to this new environment, it highlights the rifleman, the fighter rifle in hand, with improved equipment and information support and demonstrates that technological superiority alone is not the sure passport to military success and strategic victory.

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