While Ukraine continues to prepare its spring offensive, preliminary lessons learned from Russia's war suggest that cyber ops have proven more combat multiplier than combat power.
Ukraine at D+432: Waiting for the counter-offensive.
The long-anticipated Ukrainian spring offensive remains under preparation.
Ukrainian forces say they've made minor tactical advances in Bakhmut, where fighting remains intense. Unconfirmed reports from Ukraine's Defense Ministry describe firefights between Russian regular forces and Wagner Group mercenaries as internal tensions remain high: "With no significant achievements on the battlefield, the russian Armed Forces and “Wagner Group” PMC are increasingly attempting to find someone to blame for the defeats," a Facebook post from the Ukrainian General Staff said. "They shift the responsibility for their own tactical miscalculations and losses suffered onto each other. As a result, a fight between russian [sic--the Ukrainian government habitually lowercases "Russian"] Armed Forces and PMC Wagner mercenaries broke out in the settlement of Stanytsia Luhanska (Luhansk oblast) recently. It escalated into a shootout with participants on both sides killed as a result."
Turnover in Russian military logistics leadership.
The UK's Ministry of Defence devoted this morning's situation report to the dismissal of the Russian deputy defense minister responsible for logistics. "On 27 April 2023, Russian military-linked social media claimed that Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister, Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, had been dismissed. Mizintsev held the military logistics portfolio, and had only been in post for eight months." The move appears to be a response to problems producing enough munitions to sustain combat. "Mizintsev’s sacking was not immediately confirmed, but speculation about his future highlights how logistics problems remain at the heart of Russia’s struggling campaign in Ukraine. Russia does not have enough munitions to achieve success on the offensive." And logistical shortfalls continue to represent the greatest self-imposed obstacle to effective combat performance. "Paucity of ammunition drives internal divisions, most notably between Russia’s Ministry of Defence and Wagner Group. Russia continues to give the highest priority to mobilising its defence industry, but it is still failing to meet war time demands. While Russia’s political leaders persist in demanding success on the battlefield, Russia’s logistics professionals are stuck in the middle."
Preliminary lessons from cyber operations during Russia's war.
Breaking Defense offers a summary of expert opinion on the early lessons being drawn from the cyber phases of Russia's war against Ukraine. Widespread fear of a "cyber 9/11" or a "cyber Pearl Harbor," that is, a decisive, crippling, bolt-from-the-blue attack in cyberspace, has proven unfounded. "[T]he strategic lesson for the US, several independent experts said, is that this kind of drawn-out cyber conflict is a more likely model for future wars than the sudden-death visions of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” or “cyber 9/11″ predicted by US officials for over a decade." While cyber operations have been and are likely to remain an important part of future wars, they're unlikely to be decisive war winners, nor are they likely to produce significant operational-level victories. In this respect, we note, they resemble their older cousins in electronic warfare: valuable as combat multipliers, but not bringing an overwhelming advantage. (It's perhaps worth noting that while the attack on Pearl Harbor and the terrorist actions of 9/11 achieved operational surprise, those who carried them out wound up eventually losing the war.)