The Napoleonic notion that God is on the side of the big battalions has taken a big knock in the first 50 days of the Ukraine war. The Ukrainian defenders round Kyiv have shown that the Almighty doesn’t line up with Russia’s cumbersome battalions if they can’t manage smartphone app technology.
The local Ukrainian defence spotters used iPhones, apps and even the Find My feature on AirPods looted by the Russians to pinpoint lumbering armoured columns to be smashed by Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drones or shoulder-launched Javelin and NLAW rockets. Small squads of professional and amateur fighters guided by apps perfected ‘shoot and scoot’ ambush tactics — breaking Russian resolve and discipline.
It is not clear whether they could win by surprise now the Russians are using overwhelming numbers in the decisive battle for the Donbas. What if the Ukrainian command doesn’t oblige to give battle at the place chosen by Russia’s generals? The Ukrainians have shown they can be unpredictably disruptive, using ambushes and feints, and dominate the information and propaganda space.
This puts Moscow on the defensive — with wild and false counter-narratives such as the supposed uncovering of a huge biological warfare factory in Mariupol set up and run by the US, UK and Germany. Moscow now alleges the Moskva cruiser was sunk by Norwegian missiles under UK training.
In Putin’s paranoiac thinking, Russia is already in a defensive war led by the Nato ugly sisters, the UK and US. As Ukraine has been rewriting the rules of war with smartphone tactics, a rewriting of rules of peace and diplomacy is overdue.
We need to take a different approach to alliances like Nato and the UN, with the imaginative realism now shown by frontline allies like Finland, Sweden and Poland. Reluctant allies like Germany and Italy may need to undergo rehab for their unhealthy addiction to cheap Russian fossil fuels.
Above all, the UN Security Council should be put into special measures. Currently it is chaired by permanently veto-wielding Russia. It is a black oxymoron beyond satire, and a real threat to global peace and harmony.
Robert Fox is Defence Editor