New NATO tactics quickly drilled into Ukrainian troops are failing because Ukraine doesn’t dominate the skies, analysts have said, as Kyiv’s troops appear to be revisiting familiar doctrine to press through dug-in Russian defenses.
Ukrainian troops, now more than two months into their summer counteroffensive, have incorporated NATO fighting style into their armed forces along with Western equipment, like U.S.-provided tanks and armored vehicles.
But, a report suggested NATO training may not have been as successful as hoped, notes ‘Newsweek’: “Ukraine’s army has for now set aside U.S. fighting methods and reverted to tactics it knows best.”
There is one main reason for that, experts have told Newsweek. NATO countries prize combined arms, or all components of the military working together. For Ukrainian forces to succeed with Western and NATO tactics, they need air superiority — which they do not have.
“For the Western approach to work effectively, you need all elements, and a key element of that is airpower,” according to retired British Army Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, who previously commanded U.K. and NATO chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense forces.
Western countries have funnelled tens of billions of dollars into Ukraine in security assistance, but this aid has not included Western fighter jets like the F-16 or NATO-standard attack helicopters.
The NATO style of fighting, so heavily reliant on controlling the skies, has also only been tested in recent years in arenas where the alliance had air superiority, experts say.
“No living member of NATO armed forces has experienced combat close to what Ukrainians have experienced over the past 18 months,” Davis Ellison, a strategic analyst with the Hague Center for Security Studies (HCSS), told Newsweek.
“The NATO way of land warfare has never been seriously tested against a major state adversary, despite decades of investment and training,” he added.
In cases such as Iraq and the 1991 Gulf War, the “U.S. and Western forces were able to quickly establish massive air superiority,” Paul van Hooft, another analyst from the HCSS, told Newsweek.
Without this, Ukraine’s armed forces have gone through rapid-fire NATO training to slough off Soviet-era doctrine, not too dissimilar to the methods used by Moscow’s forces. Some elements of this long-held doctrine are fundamentally different to how Western forces are now teaching Ukraine to fight, Nick Reynolds, research fellow for land warfare at the U.K.’s Royal United Services Institute defense think tank, told Newsweek.
Not only this, there is a “massive shortage of experienced personnel,” he said, and those gaining experience often have not undergone the extensive tactical training that Western forces do.
“It is unsurprising that Ukrainians have given up on some of the Western training as their experience and adaptation under fire trumps Western peacetime concepts,” Ellison agreed. “If anything, we have a lot more to learn from the Ukrainians than they can learn from us.”