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September 1, 2022: Ukraine’s responses to the sudden Russian 2022 invasion taught it and NATO allies valuable lessons on how best to adapt to wartime conditions. Ukraine had already learned much about the differences between how Russia and NATO countries fought wars after the 2014 Russian attack that took Crimea and Donbas. Ukraine had already decided to turn west, not towards Russia, for economic development, and the 2014 war convinced Ukraine that abandoning their Cold War era Russian (Soviet) military practices was also a good idea. Russian doctrine still stressed centralized control and little or no innovation at the front lines. Ukraine adopted the more innovation-tolerant Western model and that proved to be a lifesaver when the Russians invaded in 2022.

Ukraine had to quickly absorb hundreds of thousands of volunteers and get them some essential training as well as effective weapons. In the months before the invasion the Ukrainians were already receiving new weapons and equipment from NATO countries. Ukrainian troops quickly learned how to deal with unfamiliar weapons and equipment. Cell phone videos were found to be the most effective way to quickly distribute lessons learned with new weapons and equipment. Ukraine had an edge over Russia, and most NATO countries, when it came to software development capability and soon came up with new apps and systems that did things no software available to NATO countries could do. Ukraine’s ability to use locally-developed and NATO supplied UAVs was also impressive. Russia lost the UAV aspect of the war and is still struggling to compete.

The Ukrainian ability to spot the most useful Western weapons and quickly use them in decisive ways was also impressive and encouraged the Americans to send more of these weapons. These were mainly guided missiles and artillery shells, which crippled the Russian superiority in artillery.

Ukraine also implemented effective special operations and partisan warfare in Russian-occupied Ukraine to the extent that Russia now considers this form of resistance a major problem. While NATO gave much useful aid to Ukraine, the Ukrainians provided many valuable lessons in return.

 


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