WorldAtlantic Council: Ukraine's military needs reorganization to defeat Russia

Atlantic Council: Ukraine’s military needs reorganization to defeat Russia

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Building a new military structure in the midst of war is difficult, but Kiev can accomplish the task by the end of the year, writes Richard Hooker, former special adviser to the U.S. president and director of the U.S. National Security Council for Europe and Russia, for the Atlantic Council.

Ukraine entered the war with 38 infantry and armored brigades and 9 artillery brigades organized along Russian lines. Each of these brigades consists of about 4,000 soldiers under the command of a colonel. Unlike Western forces, Ukraine does not use the higher-level division and corps structures common in NATO, but instead relies on “regional” commands.

Because of this, Kiev lacks combat personnel capable of integrating air and long-range forces, logistics, intelligence, and the highest levels of command, argues Richard Hooker, former special assistant to the U.S. president and director of the U.S. National Security Council for Europe and Russia at the Atlantic Council.

Atlantic Council: Ukraine's military needs reorganization to defeat Russia
Atlantic Council: Ukraine’s military needs reorganization to defeat Russia

He points out that the current structure of Ukraine’s armed forces poses problems with control coverage and prevents Ukraine from conducting large-scale operations. In Hooker’s view, it would be better to transform the regional commands into true corps headquarters commanded by three-star lieutenant generals with subordinates on the battlefield, and to establish a division headquarters under a two-star major general as an intermediary in the command level.

Both of these new structures must incorporate the support structure (artillery, air defense, aviation, technical forces, logistical services, medical units, and intelligence) that play a critical role in success in modern warfare.

In this way, four regional corps can be created, uniting 2-3 divisions (including territorial defense forces), taking into account terrain and threats. Ukraine also needs a fifth reserve corps with at least three armored and armored infantry divisions to go on the offensive and launch counterattacks.

It would become an “armored fist” led by the most experienced and successful commanders who have led decisive operations to push the Russian army back from Ukrainian territory. To coordinate these army corps, Ukraine must create an army headquarters headed by the commander of Ukrainian ground forces.

Women can play an important role in reforming the military structure

Hooker notes that many of the basic elements needed to build such a structure are already in place. Kiev just needs to reshape them and build them up for combat use.

These structural formations need not be large, as in the United States and NATO. And key positions can be filled, at least in part, by officers who can no longer serve on the front lines because of injuries or their age.

Quite a number of women are already serving in Ukraine’s armed forces. They, too, can play an important role in reforming the military structure. With the help of staff officers who have already received Western training at military academies, and with support from NATO and the EU, these new structures can be deployed by the end of 2022. And they can begin conducting their missions in late spring 2023.

The longer the war lasts, the more Ukraine will have to replace battlefield losses with new recruits. Unlike Moscow, Kiev can draw on virtually its entire personnel pool. Commanders will be tempted to send partially trained soldiers to the front. However, this should not happen if Ukraine wants to build combat-capable forces.

It would be better, Hooker said, to temporarily withdraw the affected units to rest and reinforce them with fully trained fighters. Units need not be fully equipped in peacetime when essential weapons and combat vehicles are needed. In this case, the selection and training of officers – NCOs, lieutenants, captains – is of paramount importance.

Overall, careful use of human resources can maximize the effectiveness of Ukrainian forces on the battlefield. Hooker points out the problems that have already occurred in Ukraine. Some retired officers have been reassigned to serve at checkpoints.

And at least one graduate of the Royal Military College at Sandhurst is serving in territorial defense. By carefully blending the civilian workforce, Ukraine can identify recruits with skills that can be converted to military specialties while maintaining a workforce for critical sectors of the economy.

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