There is no historical evidence that an invading force can control a country and its citizens. The reason is very simple, no one likes to be invaded or to do what they are told, how to behave, live and work by invading forces.
I know this first-hand from my time fighting the communist Yugoslavia forces in the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990s.
Every military has its own modus operandi, tactics and methods on how to win the war. What they can’t fully predict is how the citizens of the country will behave, act or resist invaders.
The most common mistake of any military machine is the fact that they take for granted past success in prior conflicts.
To understand how the Ukraine situation may develop, let us define what guerrilla warfare is. According to guerrilla warfare is “Type of warfare fought by irregulars in fast-moving, small-scale actions against orthodox military and police forces and, on occasion, against rival insurgent forces, either independently or in conjunction with a larger political-military strategy.” However, in reality guerrilla warfare has many shapes and forms especially in today’s social media and internet of things environment.
Not all guerrilla warfare is successful. For example, Greek communist guerrillas lost their war (1946-49) due the fact their lost support from their own citizens. On other hand, in the Vietnam war, guerrilla tactics were adapted to terrorist actions against civilians and political opponents controlled by North Vietnam HQ.
The Ukraine war on the other hand is different in many ways. Firstly, it is an independent country being invaded by Russia, without any declaration of war, meaning we have a kinetic clash between regular forces (army, navy and air force).
Those clashes are transferring onto urban areas and as we see an increasing number of Russian casualties it will increase the demand for them to use stronger, bigger calibre and more powerful weapons.
By using more destructive weapons, civilians will be highest casualties and that in turn triggers passive resistance to become active resistance.
As Russia progresses into Ukraine, Russians will try to utilise media and exert psychological influence on Ukrainian citizens in order to pacify them through food aid, medical and offers to return lives into some type of normal. That is where all problems start.
The military is not the police. They cannot police every corner, field, building, classroom or indeed what Ukrainians think. They will try through some of their methods and, remembering Ukraine was part of USSR from the mid-1920’s, they share a lot of cultural history, families from both sides and many other commonalities. This historical viewpoint is what Russia is counting on. However, Ukraine is now an independent country and happy to be out of Russia’s sphere of domination.
Through my personal experience, I witnessed a well-resourced military armada with its paramilitary units struggle to control conquered territory. When a military juggernaut is not able to reach its key objectives when facing smaller forces, it is often due to the fact they face determined forces who fight to the end and inflict higher casualties on the enemy.
I saw how an invading force acts when they feel insecure and morally destabilised. This will be a key element in the Russian – Ukrainian war. With every kilometre travelled and every long day spent in Ukraine, Russian soldiers will face “home fatigue”. This is where they miss family, friends, kids etc and that starts to have a big impact on soldier’s minds.
On the other hand, the Ukrainians are literally fighting for their family, kids, friends, homes and country, as well as their lives, making them a more formidable opponent.
Ukraine will win the war
There is the saying that war ends in three ways. The invading force wins, the defenders defeat the invaders or through peacemaker deals and negotiations.
The Ukraine military, guerrillas and civilians are learning a lot about Russian military modus operandi and their tactics, which gives Ukrainians a winning edge.
The Ukrainian army and other units will adapt themselves to the terrain and Russian army tactics.
Eventually every war ends. Ukraine will prevail, maybe not in this current moment, but through ongoing support from the rest of the world, NATO and sanctions.
The biggest element will be guerrilla warfare and the citizens of Ukraine who will utilise all types of weapons and tools to make the invading Russian force insecure, afraid and morally destabilised.
Although urban warfare is something I personally would like to avoid, having experienced how horrific it is first-hand, I have no doubt that asymmetric warfare (where one side’s military power is significantly different to the other) will be crucial in the Ukrainians winning eventually.
What war in Ukraine means for Australia?
Fortunately, Australia is a long way from any direct impact of the military operations, unlike say Poland where they can hear the fighting and refugees are fleeing in large numbers. As a supporter of Ukraine, it is at risk should hostilities escalate. For example, as a consequence of the post World War II Russian occupation of the Kuril Islands, 1,300 km northeast of Hokkaido in Japan, and its recent move to send defence missiles to these Pacific islands. In a recent article, the author described how the Russian military is beefing up their defences and as well stocking up with offensive weapons (missiles).
Australia is part of the Quad Alliance that comprises US, Australia, Japan and India. In the context of the Ukraine war, a possible escalation of the conflict between Russia and Quad alliance could result in sending the Australian Navy to assist Japan protect itself from missiles on the Kuril Islands.
Finally, even without major hostilities engulfing Australia, the large numbers of Ukrainian and Russian nationals who now call Australia home, may result in a rise in domestic tension in certain areas.
This post was written by Mario Bekes