Ukraine is the setting for what is a giant experiment of the next generation of warfare. Many of the West’s previous understandings of combat and war still weigh heavily in its planning. The U.S. spends and allocates resources toward whatever is necessary to adapt to the future of war. However, much of the focus is on technology alone. But, should this be an opportunity to look at new tactics, alongside technology, too? A sort of emphasis on Men, Weapons, Equipment, and Computer software.

The Ukrainian ministry of defense is beginning to develop standards of practice for cyber defense. However, many pro-western websites have been brought downThe Russian-backed separatists wage cyberwar on Ukrainian institutions, sometimes daily. It might not be far into the future when internet blackouts are accompanied with large invading forces. It’s only a matter of time until the Special Forces Qualification Course adds an MOS (Military Operational Specialty) just for cyber defense and warfare on top of the existing Communications Sergeant. Because understanding cyber will be full-time in a field that’s constantly innovating and changing.

Cyberwar and “Netwar” have been topics of discussion since the 1990’s. Included is the opening excerpt from a paper entitled “Cyber, Netwar, and the future of Cyberdefense.”

“Over twenty years ago, Arquilla and Ronfeldt warned that both “Netwar” and “Cyberwar” were coming, and could impact the 21st century security landscape as significantly as combined arms maneuver warfare had impacted the security landscape of the 20th. Since that time, the concept of cyberwar has received great attention, while the parallel concept of netwar has languished, even as its salience to global security has continued to grow. This paper suggests that just as cyber defense organizations have been required to confront cyberwar, netwar organizations, or netwar-savvy Cyberdefense organizations, are increasingly needed to counter Netwar.”

Why Ukraine Matters

Right now, there’s limited stated interest from the President-elect and his national defense team concerning Ukraine. But, Ukraine is an opportunity waiting to be explored. Ukraine is a major NATO non-ally and of strategic concern to the US, and Europe. For Europeans, the current debacle presents an existential threat to other NATO allies and European allies, such as Germany and France. For the US, the future of Ukraine is a problem the US will inherit.

More importantly, it could be the birthplace of the next kind of war perfected by the Russians and no one else. The US and its NATO allies cannot improve our understanding of the future of war without practicing it. Ukraine provides, via the Ukrainian soldiers, an opportunity to observe, learn and implement new strategies of warfare in the digital age. We’ve nearly perfected close quarters combat and special operations tactical raids. But, war and its strategies of our foes will adapt and move forward. Napoleon innovated warfare and it propelled and aided him toward conquering.

Featured image courtesy of OSNet Daily.