Paper: War in Ukraine Shows Land Warfare’s Crucial Role

Paper: War in Ukraine Shows Land Warfare’s Crucial Role

Ukrainian soldiers train with U.S. troops in 2019.
Photo by: Army National Guard/Sgt. Anthony Jones

As it looks for lessons from the Russia-Ukraine war, the U.S. military should take stock of its preparedness for large-scale conflict and act decisively to remedy any shortfalls, according to a new paper from the Association of the U.S. Army.

“The Russia-Ukraine War One Year In: Implications for the U.S. Army,” published as part of AUSA’s Spotlight series, highlights several observations after a year of brutal fighting in Ukraine and discusses how the U.S. Army can prepare for the future.

“The United States requires an Army that is funded, structured and trained to provide decisive land power to the joint force,” write authors Charles McEnany, a national security analyst at AUSA, and retired Col. Daniel Roper, AUSA’s director of National Security Studies.

“The Russia-Ukraine conflict demonstrates that high-tech means of waging war have not replaced land warfare,” they write.

In recent years, analysts have “devoted much focus to modern, high-tech systems and hybrid, asymmetric and nonlinear warfare that deemphasize large-scale combat,” the paper says. However, “Russia’s war in Ukraine has been primarily conventional. As General Christopher Cavoli, commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, put it, ‘The great irreducible feature of warfare is hard power. … If the other guy shows up with a tank, you better have a tank.’ ”

The war also has shown that “the ascendency of fires, enabled by pervasive surveillance, underscores the imperative of the Army’s long-range precision fires and layered air and missile defense modernization,” McEnany and Roper write. Also evident is the importance of “large, resilient stockpiles of pre-positioned precision and conventional munitions” to U.S. strategic responsiveness, their paper says.

Another observation is that the Army’s multidomain task forces “appear well-suited to the battlefield characteristics on display in Ukraine,” the paper says. The task forces were created as joint, theater-level assets to bring together lethal and nonlethal capabilities to provide long-range precision effects like cyber, electronic warfare and intelligence and long-range fires.

The Army also needs 3% to 5% annual budgetary growth to transform its land warfare capabilities on pace with the other warfighting domains, the paper warns.

“The Army has lost nearly $40 billion in buying power since 2019, despite accounting for about two-thirds of global U.S. Combatant Command requirements,” the paper says. ”As the land domain is often decisive, this leaves the joint force without the range of capabilities to deter adversaries or to prevail in sustained conflict.”

Entering its second year, the war should remind Western countries of the “diligent effort necessary to maintain deterrence,” McEnany and Roper write. “If there is one clear ‘lesson’ that Western nations can confidently draw from the current war, it should be a renewed commitment to prevent a future one,” they write.

Read the full paper here.