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Geopolitics

For Ukraine, It's Time To Shift To Guerrilla Warfare

Ukraine cannot win the war against Russia's superior military power. But it can at least try not to lose it — with methods like those used in Vietnam or Algeria. Last week's sinking of the Moskva warship was a perfect example.

Two members of the Ukrainian military walk on the debris caused by Russian shelling in Kharkiv

Ukrainian military walk amid the debris from Russian shelling in Kharkiv last week.

Jacques Schuster

-Analysis-

Moscow's major offensive has begun in Donbas. The Russian military machine now appears ready to waltz mercilessly over eastern Ukraine, bringing death and terror.

Can the horror of the images that have been spread for weeks be surpassed? We have to assume so with an army like Russia's, which has made wanton murder and cruelty its trademarks.

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Let there be no illusion: Ukraine will not win this war. Moscow's military power is overwhelming — no matter how clumsily its invasion was planned. Even if Germany were to supply all the weapons it possesses to Kyiv, the Ukrainian army would not be able to defeat the Russians.


At least not in the sense in which European kingdoms defeated one another in the past, imposing humiliations and cessions of territory on the defeated, or at least demanding reparations for the endless suffering and damage the defeated unilaterally inflicted on them.

None of this is possible against the nuclear power of Moscow with its formidable conventional firepower as well.

Lessons from Vietnam and Algeria

But this realization that it can't win does not necessarily mean that Ukraine will lose the war.

What Ukrainians can achieve is to spoil the invader's attacks and make it impossible for him to exploit their own conventional-military inferiority and weakness to subjugate them.

Appear weak when you are strong and strong when you are weak.

This may sound modest, but it is hardly the case. The Vietnamese showed how it was done against the Americans, and before them the Algerians in the war against France. Both followed the fundamental lessons of guerrilla warfare.

One of those lessons is: know when to fight and when not to. A second: stubbornly dodge every decision as long as the enemy remains stronger, and accept no decision as final until a counterattack is successfully won. A third: appear weak when you are strong and strong when you are weak.

This strategy has the confusing property that the seemingly weaker side always wins and the apparent superiority turns out to be powerlessness; to the repeated dismay and embarrassment of the conventionally trained military and military policy experts.

Ukrainian military men in guerrilla structure in Odessa

Some Ukrainian military men in guerrilla structure in Odessa, Ukraine, 31 March,2022

ANSA/ZUMA

The right weapons

It is easy to see that this will take a lot of time, a lot of hard and bitter and terrible war time. And weapons!

But these too must be chosen wisely. In the current debate over the delivery of heavy war supplies, the question of strategy gets short shrift.

Does it make sense to supply Leopard tanks when the Ukrainians can only lose open tank battles against the Russians? Wouldn't it be more effective to provide them with the best anti-tank missiles the West has?

In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Egyptians almost succeeded in wearing down Israel's state-of-the-art armored forces with missiles. Why shouldn't something similar be possible in Ukraine today? Last week we saw the lesson of the Ukrainian missile attack on the Russian warship "Moskva," where there was no need for another warship to sink the enemy's great asset.

In this case, the Ukrainians used the strategy of guerrilla warfare. It will not lead to a Ukrainian victory parade in Moscow, but, hopefully, it will throw off every laid plan of the invader.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Kharkiv Revisited: Inside Russia's New Assault On The "Hero City" Of Ukraine

The nation's second-largest city, Kharkiv was quiet for weeks after Ukrainian forces took control. But now it is again under attack as Russia pushes to capture the city that's considered the "gateway" to Ukraine. Die Welt reports from the frontline.

Damages due to Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Alfred Hackensberger

KHARKIV — "Come, I want to show you something," Denys Vezenych says, opening the door of his dental office.

The 40-year-old begins to tell the story in the waiting room: "It was April 16 when the Russian artillery shell hit. The windowpanes were broken, the walls had holes everywhere and the roof was destroyed. But I renovated everything."

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The repairs cost him several thousand euros. "You have to think positively, because life goes on," he explains with a smile. But this attitude is not so present generally in Saltivka, a neighborhood in northeastern Kharkiv. The dental practice may be like new, but the rest of this area in the northeastern Ukrainian city is completely destroyed.

The Russian army has done a great job in its three-month offensive on Ukraine's second largest metropolis. Countless flats have been burned out, the facades of houses have been shot to pieces, entire shopping centers have been bombed. Debris still lie in the streets everywhere.

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