The Many Campaigns of Ukraine
Multi-Dimensional Maneuver Under Modern Conditions
For many observers of the war in Ukraine, the ongoing Ukrainian campaign to fight through the Russian Surovikin Line is a primary focus of attention. And while this may constitute a significant military activity in its own right and is probably the Ukrainian main effort (we don’t know for certain that it is), this southern campaign is but one of several concurrent and inter-related military campaigns being overseen by the Ukrainian high command.
Before exploring the complex construct of Ukraine’s many campaigns, we should take a moment to explore exactly what a campaign is.
According to the US Joint Doctrine on planning (Joint Publication 5-0, Joint Planning), a campaign consists of “a series of related operations aimed at achieving strategic and operational objectives within a given time and space.” Generally, campaigns are guided by campaign plans which provide the coordinating mechanism to employ tactical actions to achieve the strategic objectives that have set during the planning for a campaign.
To that end, campaigns consist of a series of military endeavours planned to be undertaken within a given time and space. Importantly, campaigns are generally categorised as either offensive or defensive. As B.A. Friedman notes in his book, On Operations:
Every campaign will be a mixture of both offensive and defense, as neither exists without the other. Nevertheless, one or the other will dominate. Offensive and defensive operations both exploit space, but each does so differently. The offensive typically exploits space via maneuver, while the defense typically does so through mass.
A couple of other points are worthy of noting before moving on to an examination of Ukraine’s ongoing campaigns:
First, in the modern era, campaigns are generally joint in nature. While one domain or military service many predominate, there will almost always be a mix of different service capabilities in the combat, combat support and logistic elements. They will have activities in the physical and non-physical domains.
Second, to the maximum possible extent, the campaigns will be interrelated. Each will have an impact on the conduct and outcomes of other campaigns. To that end, higher level strategic planning and coordination is essential in the development, execution and adaptation of individual campaigns.
Third, the various campaigns that might be undertaken must be prioritized. No nation can afford massive concurrent campaigns that use huge amounts of resources. During the Second World War, one of the pacing items that drove the priorities for different campaigns was the availability of LST amphibious ships. In the modern era, issues such as ammunition availability, cyber and electronic warfare support, engineer and air defence support, will play a similar role. This prioritisation will influence the timing and orchestration of different campaigns.
Finally, each campaign will have an objective or end state. In some way, this will be connected to higher, strategic level objectives. And on the way to this end state, there are likely to be an array of decisive points or conditions that will underpin the achievement of the campaign end state.
The doctrine of multiple nations goes into great detail about the actual design of campaigns. As US joint doctrine on this topic notes, “operational design is the analytical framework that underpins planning…it supports commanders and planners in organizing and understanding the operating environment as a complex interactive system.”
The development of campaign plans covers issues such as phasing, defeat mechanisms, resources, risk management, lines of operation, sequencing, contingency plans and many other aspects that are designed to assist in the execution, measurement and adaptation of campaigns.
Over the past 18 months, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have – by necessity - had to develop the capacity to plan and execute military campaigns and operations on a scale that has not been seen since the US operations in Iraq in 2003. These Ukrainian campaigns, taking place in the north, east and south of their nation, in the skies above, in the Black Sea and in the information and cyber domains, possess an inherent complexity that can be difficult to appreciate in their totality.
What are these campaigns, and what might Western military institutions learn from them?
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Futura Doctrina to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.