The Unconventional Military Tactics We Learned From The Ukrainian War 2022

On 24 February 2022, Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine. Russia didn’t mention that it is going to conduct a full-fledged military manoeuvre against the Ukraine, rather it named it’s military operations against Ukraine as a “special operation.” Since the very starting of the Russi-Ukrainian War 2022, the IADN emerged as the few handles around the world which was able to provide direct insight on the ongoing crises. The article is based on the war data IADN generated for effective conclusions which can guide further research endeavors.

Playing Deception at the Local Level

In the late years of 2000s, a new type of laser designated Target Acquisition (TA) system made its debut in the arms market and all forward battalions of the Indian Army wanted this system. In simple words just by putting a laser at a designated target, a missile was able to automatically manoeuvre itself towards it but a thing as simple as reflective paint can still be called deadly vis-à-vis new technology under TA regime. As per some reports, Russian over the ground workers who were operationalized by Russian forces before the initialization of the invasion operations made these target marking.

A good and underrated tactic which Ukrainians used to delay Russian invasion was to remove street sign boards to make it difficult for the Russian troops to navigate themselves at the local level. The google further temporarily disabled google maps service data in Ukraine. As per Reuters, a professor at California’s Middlebury Institute of International Studies said Google Maps helped him track a “traffic jam” that was actually Russian movement towards the border hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the attack.

The social media further flourished new ideas of taking upon invading Russian troops and their assets through localized solutions. Such in one of the forwards it was outlined how to use localised Molotov to disrupt forward movement of Russian tactical assets.

The irregular warfare has always been a part of the traditional warfare with some or the other form, the most ancient tactic is the participation of the mercenaries and third party in the regular war waging efforts. The Russo-Ukrainian war 2022 has again got the prevalence of private armies and mercenaries into limelight.

We saw images of people in large groups stopping Russian armoured movement. Civilians with no arms and ammunition experience were officially given weapons to fight the impending Russian Forces. Civilians where posed as soldiers on T.V. The common people started confronting regular Russian troops through their slangs and sentences which could have direct impact on the moral of the forward Russian soldiers. In one such video a woman was seen confronting armed Russian soldier, abusing him calling for their death on this soil. Many such videos got viral from the warzone as the war was mostly fought in the urban terrain from which we can make a conclusion that there would be a lot new lessons we can learn from this war in the subject of urban warfare.

Untrained Civilians carrying rifles as seen on the T.V. by a local.

There were also reports about the Ukraine that it was not allowing foreigners to leave the country or making it difficult to undertake evacuation missions in order to utilize people of foreign origin as shield instead in order to invite international attention and people’s sympathy to the ongoing war.

Social Media is a Double-edged Sword

Today most of the popular struggles across the world is born from the social media. The social media can now be considered as mother of all popular movements in the modern world. By saying so the importance of the regular media cannot be undermined but the advantage to social media in comparison to regular media is that the social media allows people of any background to present the perspective in a more easier form, hence allowing developing a generalised outlook towards an event, no matter whether anyone is directly getting affected from it.

Hence, every state today is trying to get hold of the social media, as every state today see social media as the key towards influencing public perspective. As the internet becomes widely available around the world, one of its main benefiter are the social media networks.

The audio, videos, photographs and text about the war move seamlessly between platforms such as Whatsapp, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. This flexibility provided impetus to demonstrations originating through social media, today social media directly influences the minds of the state leaders as well as the governance systems around the world. Therefore, the phenomenon of weaponizing the social media is not strange to hear. It would not be wrong to say that this war itself started with a cyclone of influence operations.

Most of the state institution today emphasis on waging influence operations through social media which later gets the attention of the regular media. In the ongoing war we see that both the nations and allied countries tried to influence the public mind through false information, hoax, irrelevant comments and theories. Both the blocks tried to influence each other through media supporting efforts on grounds through influence operations- Russia in particularly used to display its firepower through leaked photos and videos in order to caution the Ukraine from the very starting point of the war, similarly, Ukrainians continued to share pictures of destroyed Russian armoured vehicles and aircrafts to showoff its prowess and resilience. Both the regimes tried targeting the efficiency of the respective governments with continued allegations. The Russian Presiden Putin himself started the war by acclaiming that Russian war efforts is against ongoing bullying and genocide committed by Ukrainians.

Victim Card is Still Relevant in IR

In the modern day international politics, the success in the war is not an assurity towards achievement of political objectives. It is a possibility that even the country who might loose the war could emerge as victorious on the table as the loosing country might got popular support, sympathy from the comity of nations.

In this war we saw how international sports tournaments were used to spread awareness regarding the ongoing war. The football teams with signs “no war” gave a lot of international appeal. We saw Elon Musk tweeting about availability SpaceX starlink internet in Ukraine. The EU minister tweeting about Russia’s Bio-chemical war reserves which it can use against Ukraine calling for more sanctions on Russia. The civil society across the world couldn’t seen more active as it was during this time.

As the international mood set against the Russian invasion, the non-military offensive started to gather around in terms of economic sanctions, shunning business with Russia, use of national taxation regimes to discourage Russian private companies in foreign, shunning of diplomatic ties, direct/indirect military aid to Ukraine Etc.

FIFA Suspends Russia, Ejecting It From World Cup Qualifying

The trend to gain sympathy out of failure in the IR has its own limitations. Most important aspect to see was India’s stand about this war, India’s continued absenting from the voting at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) gave a clear signal that national interest comes prior to the international trend. This is besides the fact that there was a lot of pressure from the western bloc consisting mostly the NATO countries to make India shun its status quoist foreign policy with Russia however India has made its stand clear that this war must end and a demand for immediate ceasefire among the two countries.

Exploiting Limitations of the Armoured Warfare

The war showed us that the small missiles are still deadly. The portable guided rocket launchers – ATGMs like Javelin, Stunga, Corsar, NLAW, Milan and MANPADs like stringer, strela, mistral and other missiles have put most of the Russian frontline military assets like tanks, fighters and helicopters in a tough spot. Even unguided rocket launchers like M72 and common RPGs had a significant impact on the battlefield.

It was reported by the UK Defence Intelligence Department that logistics failure coupled with staunch Ukrainian populace resistance continued to frustrate Russian advancements. Russia has reportedly lost more than 650 tanks and about 3,000 other armored vehicles and heavy equipment so far in the invasion of Ukraine. The increased number of losses can also be attributed to the increased supply of ATGMs to the Ukraine. As per the New York Times the United States and NATO have pushed more than 17,000 antitank weapons.

This is normal as warfare is ever evolving, today armoured warfare may not be as lucrative choice for offensive operations as it was during the world wars but technologies keep on changing there was time when tanks were seen impenetrable then the era of fire and forgot missiles came, as a result tanks armoured around the world armies were strengthened with Explosive Reactive Armours (ERA), they were made more rigid by making them able to swim across rivers and withstand CBRN environment.

The top-attack ATGMs like Javelin was an invention which has the ability to exploit the only possible weakness in the tank design that is to hit a tank from above resulting in jack-in-the-box effect. In order to overcome the difficulty posed by armoured vehicles from the ATGMs, already many experiments are done to have miniaturized lasers, better ECCM EW systems and developing hardened structures over the tank vault which can withstand the missile affect on tanks and armoured vehicles that means tanks in future might have the ability to form a real-time protective layer from ATGMs and other sort of missiles when on manoeuvre.

Cyber Warfare is Hyped

Cyber operations is an attempt to deter, delay, disrupt, dissuade and degrade opponent’s operations prior to a conflict or in peacetime or during a conflict. In the initial phases of the war it was understood that the Russian Federation will opt for a short-term engagement and within few weeks the war will be over however the Russo-Ukrainian war 2022 may find its mention in the list of some of the largest military operations after the world war 2. This war is also a test for various concepts of operations which were introduced or re-developed after the Revolution of Military Affairs (RMA) post 1990s.

Since then a lot of new technologies and concept of operations have started influencing battles around the world. The information warfare domain under which we find mention of cyber warfare has been widely discussed as the new form of destructive warfare however we have not find any significant cyber operations actually taking place in this war this coms besides the fact that the American experts in end number of instances raised serious warnings regarding Russian cyber warfare capabilities.

There were a number of cyber attacks on high-value targets. New malware were distributed through phishing campaign as alleged by the western media. However, we still not see a full-fledged cyber warfare which could have caused shock and awe effect.

Some analysts have warned that Russia may be withholding its sophisticated capabilities both in kinetic and non-kinetic domain of warfare. Russia may be cautious in its approach as some of the best cyber weapons lose effectiveness after their first use because they exploit previously unknown vulnerabilities that can be quickly patched. Similarly, there could have been doubts regarding western countries role in the domain of cyber warfare, as Russian elites might have understood that being in a non-contact domain of warfare, the Russia could have face an orchestrated cyber attack by NATO countries as an unacclaimed retaliation. It is to be noted that most of the Russian ICT infrastructure is outsourced, rather indigenous, therefore for Russia there is a high level of dependency in this sector. Hence, Russian president Vladimir Putin recently announced to bolster Russian IT security infrastructure as Russia continue to remain a prime target of cyber attacks.

Here, we must understand the limitations of the cyber warfare. The cyber warfare is a considerably new domain of warfare, the cyber domain is said to be a low end threat since it may not guarantee required results. The cyber domain of war by itself is not sufficient to force victory. For cyber operations ‘non-contact warfare’ is a good term to use, while countries would like to win victories without much cost but it would be poor strategy to plan the force structure on this assumption. The ultimate victory with no doubt would still be decided only by the boots on the ground in a real conflict situation.


  • Shantanu K. Bansal

    Founder of IADN. He has more than 10 years of experience in research and analysis. An award winning researcher, he writes for the leading defence and security journals, think-tanks and in-service publications. He is a senior consultant at the Indian Army Training Command (ARTRAC), Shimla. Contact him at:

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