March 24, 2023:
The war in Ukraine is seen as the model for future wars. It is a conflict between major powers (Russia versus NATO backed Ukraine). Both sides have access to modern weapons and military technology. From the beginning Ukraine was seen as the underdog, outnumbered and outmatched by superior Russian forces. The Ukrainians were determined, tenacious and resourceful and that’s how Ukraine defeated the initial Russian attack and soon began fighting back and driving the Russians out of occupied Ukrainian territory.
The Russians reacted to these unexpected setbacks by reverting to their traditional form of total war. This included lots of attacks on civilian infrastructure and civilians in general. This behavior was particularly brutal in Russian occupied Ukrainian territory where civilians would not cooperate with Russian demands that they accept Russian rule peacefully. That led to violent reprisals against civilians, including taking children from their parents and sending them to Russia for “vacations and healthcare”. About 14,000 Ukrainian children have disappeared into Russia and many of the younger ones have been adopted by Russian couples to be raised as Russians. As evidence of the atrocities piled up, often in the form of discovering mass graves of civilians executed by the Russians when the Ukrainians regained Russian occupied territory, the ICC (international criminal court) indicted Russian leader Vladimir Putin for war crimes and issued a warrant for his arrest. Putin is not likely to visit any country that honors ICC warrants. Putin may never be arrested, but the ICC warrant lasts forever since there is no statute of limitations on capital crimes. As a result of this sort of bad behavior, Ukrainian soldiers took to referring to their Russian opponent as Orcs
Murdering Ukrainian civilians was not the only form of brutality used by the Russians in Ukraine. There were also brutal tactics involving Russian troops. This included the extensive use of prisoners (or “zeks”) as untrained infantry for attacking Ukrainian positions. The zeks were promised freedom if they agreed to six months of military service in Ukraine. They would be paid well and their families would receive death benefits if they were killed. Most of them were killed and when word of those losses got back to the prisons, recruiters found fewer zeks willing to join.
Similar brutal behavior applied to Russians mobilized (often forced into the military) to replace heavy losses in Ukraine. In peacetime Russian could depend on volunteers and conscripts to meet manpower needs. With a war on, there were few volunteers and conscripts were not supposed to be sent to a war zone. Protests from Russian mothers of conscripts had an impact (as it had in past wars like this) and the government went after older men, especially if they had prior military service. These were the Mobiks and they were not treated any better than the zeks. Avoiding military service and being sent to Ukraine became a widespread activity in Russia.
The Ukrainians were more resourceful in dealing with their Orc problems, relying a lot on innovation and technology to kill lots of orcs while keeping Ukrainian casualties down. Ukraine contained a lot of software developers and inventive people in general. This quickly led to all sorts of innovations, often involving locally developed software and weapons or aircraft. Ukraine built its own UAVs and equipped them with novel sensors and fire control systems.
The latest development involves working with NATO nations to develop a data collection and analysis system that will enable Ukraine to accurately predict where the Russians will attack next and act accordingly. This is actually nothing new as similar systems were used nearly two decades ago in Iran and Afghanistan by American forces to successfully predict where roadside bombs were and the location of those manufacturing and placing these bombs. The new system is based on the work done since the 1990s by Palantir, one of the pioneers in this field, especially the use of Predictive Analysis. This is a system that uses known data on the enemy to develop estimates of what they will do next. This sort of thing has been around for a long time and became more useful as more data became available and new software allowed that data to be analyzed and acted on in real-time. Now such systems can not only predict but also show what the enemy is doing right now and recently. NATO is participating because they have the financial resources to get this done quickly and Ukraine is in the midst of a war where the new system can be tested realistically.