RAND Experts Discuss the First Year of the Russia-Ukraine War

February 2, 2023

In this Call with the Experts podcast, Jeffrey Hiday, director of Media Relations at RAND, is joined by RAND experts Ruth Harris, director of RAND Europe's Defence and Security Group, Dara Massicot, senior policy researcher, David Ochmanek, senior international/defense researcher, Barry Pavel, vice president of RAND’s National Security Research Division, and John Tefft, adjunct senior fellow. In this call, they discuss the Western alliance providing aid to Ukraine, the expansion of NATO, the latest weapons systems and their capabilities, likely areas of upcoming fighting, prospects for an end to the war, and broader implications for global trade, diplomacy, and China-Taiwan tensions. This call was recorded on February 2, 2023.

Transcript

Narrator

This audio presentation is from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis.

Jeffrey Hiday

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this Media Call regarding the approaching one year mark of the Russia-Ukraine War. I'm joined by four experts at the moment. We hope five, shortly. Ambassador John Tefft, who is the former U.S. ambassador to Russia and Ukraine, now adjunct senior fellow here at RAND, Dara Massicott, a senior policy researcher, Dave Ochmanek, a senior international defense researcher, and Barry Pavel, vice president of our National Security Research Division, and hoping that very soon we will get Ruth Harris on board. She's the head of our Defense and Security group in RAND Europe. Good morning, everyone. Our aim here is to gather folks who are tracking the war from a variety of perspectives and to take stock of the past year, discuss where things may be headed. So in that spirit, let me start off by asking a fairly simple question, which is, what has surprised you most in this year of conflict; has surprised you most? John, could I start with you?

John Tefft

Yes. Thanks very much, Jeff. I've thought about this question a little bit, and I guess I come out with a statement that I was surprised by the failure of the Russian military in all of its aspects, including the people at the top. Many of the people on this call know about many of the problems that existed, but that they would all come together in such a catastrophic failure, I think surprised almost all of the analysts that at least that I talked to. And, you know, they're trying to repair that, but there's problems built into the system and then there's new problems generated by the way the war has gone.

Jeffrey Hiday

Great. Thanks. Dara, how about you?

Dara Massicot

Sure. Just to echo some of what Ambassador Tefft said, I think for me watching this unfold, at least in the initial phases of the invasion, it was surprising that Russia would depart from a lot of their operational concepts, a lot of their doctrine, a lot of their behaviors that we've seen in recent conflicts, and really do quite a lot to minimize their own advantages and, and really play up their own weaknesses that we knew about. And the second thing that was that was really surprising to me was how rapidly Western support would pivot in support of Ukraine, whether that's major weapons systems delivered or the types of intelligence that senior officials have gone on record saying that we provide to them. I was surprised to see that. And I think what happens in that context is that when you meet with Ukrainian will to fight and with the backing of the West, it really changed the battlefield dynamics in a significant way.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thanks Dara. Dave?

David Ochmanek

Yeah, I agree with my colleagues. I think everybody who studies the Russian military is really surprised at its poor performance. And it's been across the board really. When we've been war-gaming potential Russian aggression against NATO, we give the Russians credit for a modicum of competency to do maneuver and fire and things like that, and they just haven't done it. But one side note, as an American, we take for granted the importance of freedom and independence. And to see the Ukrainian people determined to defend that for themselves is a reminder to all of us how important that is. I think it's very impressive.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thanks, Dave. Barry, what do you think?

Barry Pavel

I agree with all my colleagues, too. I mean, I think the one sort of finer point I might add on the Ukrainian side is, you know, many have projected — I'll use the term it might be too far, but a revolution in military affairs at the operational level enabled by networked cost effective capabilities, you know, that the obviously the Ukrainians have used in force; uncrewed capabilities and a very agile system that's extremely cost effective in terms of ratios between the Ukrainians and and the invading Russian forces. And we've all watched this play out in real time. And it's really been startling and amazing to watch that, you know, policy briefs were written, you know, a few years ago on how this might play, you know, how this kind of revolution might have an impact. And we're seeing it. I mean, that might be overstating it, but I think it's it's really important. And we'll talk later about the lessons for other potential conflicts.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thanks. I'd be asking Ruth to jump in, but she's still having trouble connecting. So we'll come back to her when she gets in. Just to look a little more forward, let me ask each of you, what kind of resolution can you picture at this point to the conflict? What might the ingredients of some resolution be to this war? Dara.

Dara Massicot

I think based on how the Russians are digging in at this point in eastern Ukraine through a network of defensive positions and trenches, multiple lines deep, excessive minefields, I think it's going to be really costly for the Ukrainians to evict them fully from all areas of occupation. So I, that being said, I just don't see the Zelensky government ever wanting to sit down and negotiate with the Russians for some type of territorial concessions. So I'm not sure where that leaves it, if it's a temporary frozen conflict or frozen front lines for a while, but I see a military reality and I see a political reality, and they're not really aligned at this point. So it's difficult to make.

Jeffrey Hiday

John, how are you seeing it?

John Tefft

Yeah, I think it's I agree with Dara. I, I kind of thought from the beginning here that Putin is so dug in on this. This is something he's not going to budge on or is only going to budge at the very last minute if he's under intense political pressure at home. I just think that, you know, it's worth thinking through what a negotiation would look like of the military realities on the ground and Putin's determination. The Ukrainians determination to keep fighting on this doesn't augur well for any kind of future. I worry also about some kind of a cease fire armistice followed by a some kind of negotiation. When I was ambassador in Georgia in 2008, everyone will remember that, you know, first the president of France and then Condi Rice came and negotiated a cease fire agreement, and the Russians haven't implemented anything that they agreed to basically in that ceasefire. So, I'm really skeptical about that. It may be we're in for a frozen conflict, but that's, I don't think the Ukrainians are going to want to do that. They'll keep persevering, but it's going to be hard for the reasons that Dara just mentioned.

Jeffrey Hiday

Barry.

Barry Pavel

Sure. I think I have a sort of threefold answer. One, I agree with my colleagues. I sort of say, you know, the bumper sticker is, you know, heat and freeze. I think we're going to see a very intense battle sometime in the next two to three months. You know, timing is unpredictable. This this whole question is unpredictable. But, you know, I think we'll see, we'll see a lot of heat and friction in the next sixty to ninety days. But then I do think that leads to a freeze, you know, for all the reasons that we all know. Secondly, I think that means the industrial battle is really important. You know, can Ukraine's Western allies, you know, manufacture and supply Ukraine with what it needs faster than Russia can do, can do so itself, or by drones from the Iranians or other suppliers. So I think the industrial battle is second. And then third, and, you know, I would like to hear John's view on this, but, you know, no one has ever underestimated Russia's ability to suffer. The Russians are better at suffering than any people on Earth from, you know, centuries of history. And so, you know, I don't think that's going to leverage Putin or the Russian leadership into a more vulnerable position just from the sanctions and the other restrictions that the West has put on them.

Jeffrey Hiday

John, are you going to take a bait?

John Tefft

Sure. I'll always take the bait. I think that it's really more about the elites in Russia than it is popular opinion. Although I thought the latest Levada polls showed that you've got now a quarter of people in Russia polled who will answer the phone, which is a significant factor because a lot of people won't even talk, according to what I understand from my Russian friends. A quarter of them disapprove of the war, which is I think it's maybe stable, but it's been slowly growing. I think the key is what's going on in the elites and that's one of the hardest things to decipher, because they're, for good reason, they're keeping their heads down. But there's lots of indications that there's growing dissatisfaction with what this is doing to Russia, not just short term but long term.

Jeffrey Hiday

Ruth, I think you may have managed to join us by phone if you want to come off mute. The two things we were covering up top here are the biggest surprise for you in the first 12 months and then any how you view any potential resolution. Could you weigh in on one or both of those?

Ruth Harris

Yeah, sure. I mean, one of the I mean, obviously you can tell by my accent I'm British, so I'm going to come to this from a very British, you know, UK perspective or a slightly European perspective. And I think one of the biggest surprises was that much of the world was surprised by what the action is in Ukraine. Certainly one country that wasn't surprised by it was Ukraine. And I think we should reflect on that, on our systems, our understanding, our intelligence, our reading of Russia and what it says, what it means to say, who we think it's speaking to in the light of that. And I think that's a very important lesson for us to understand about our ability to read culture, how we view strategic culture in different countries. And that's something to reflect quite hard on. One of the more pleasant surprises, one might argue, that I think if we reflect on there's good reason for it, but I think initially is a surprise, is the incredibly innovative and adaptive way that Ukrainian forces have used modern technology. And largely, I think as a result, there's been a young army, a young military who are not hindered by doctrine that's, you know, got in its way, which I think is something that longer-standing armies including the British one have done and tried to get out of that now, but have fallen over that in the past. And I think that's something that we need to reflect on. There is a quote that goes, you know, in war, we innovate in peacetime, we just adapt. And I think this is a really good example of innovation in wartime and that we need to look at how do we get out of our own way in order to allow us to use technology quickly and to adapt on the battlefield. And I think that's a really positive example of what's happened in Ukraine and I'll finish with that point.

Jeffrey Hiday

Okay. Thanks, Ruth. And sorry for the challenge you had getting on board. Good to have you.

Ruth Harris

Not your problem. Me, I think.

Jeffrey Hiday

Could be. Let's move on to my third, and final question, after which happy to open it up to everyone online. And when we do that, you can do so via chat or raising your hand or just appearing online. This is — I'd like to ask our experts to reflect on aspects of the war that may be overlooked, that may deserve more attention, particularly some example of how the war is affecting the rest of the world. Dave, could I ask you to start?

David Ochmanek

Sure. And I'll pick up a little on what Ruth just said. There's been a lot of speculation among people I work with here how the Chinese might be taking away lessons from what's happened in Ukraine so far with their friends in Moscow. And I think and hope that the lessons they're taking are positive ones from our perspective. The ones I would recommend to the Chinese leadership are, first of all, that wars unleash forces that cannot be predicted and cannot be controlled after they're undertaken. And so it's a roll of the dice to commit aggression against your neighbors. I think and hope the Chinese must be somewhat surprised by the solidarity of the Western countries in supporting Ukraine, particularly after four years of America First talk in this country. The extent to which that solidarity is actually hurting Moscow, I think, has yet to be fully determined. I think some of us are disappointed that the sanctions so far haven't been as biting as we had hoped they would be. So, it would be important to try and tighten that vise so that the Chinese see that there are economic and political consequences to aggression, as well. I think, I hope the Chinese leaders are impressed with the will to fight being shown by the Ukrainians, as I mentioned before, and perhaps reflect that the Taiwans, having had a couple of decades of freedom, would show a similar resistance to Chinese aggression. And then finally again, what Ruth said, the leverage provided by fairly inexpensive, fairly low tech systems to a defender creatively applied can be pretty powerful. So fairly simple things like the Javelin anti-tank weapons, the switchblades, the stingers, the MLRS Himars can make life very difficult for an aggressor, even if that aggressor is, in principle, better equipped and outnumbering the defender. The saliency of that lesson will be driven home only by the extent to which the United States and its allies are able to actually provide more of that stuff to the Taiwans. I hope we will see a substantial increase in our military aid along those lines going forward.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thanks, Dave. Ruth, let me let me ask you the same about anything you think is particularly overlooked about this.

Ruth Harris

Sorry. Things that have been overlooked, is that the question?

Jeffrey Hiday

Yes, and that may have some affect somewhere else in the world. Some aspect of the war that you think might deserve more attention.

Ruth Harris

I think one of the biggest aspects of the war that I think is probably something that we're really kind of just getting our heads around is the kind of food security aspect. I think, you know, we know, we know it's there. We know it's true. We know it's one harvest and that has had complications around it. But I think the second, you know, second, third harvest, it's not just the fact they can harvest the grain this year. They've not been able to sow it. They've not been able to, you know, to prepare the ground, to do all the things they have. So the situation is just going to get worse and worse. Now, that has economic implications for Ukraine, for sure, but it has implications across the world. And yet there are countries that are filling the gap around this. But I think that it's on the periphery. It's not really significant in terms of volume, and there's enough resilience to have managed a year. But when we go into year two year three of this and let's hope we don't, right, but if we think about being practical, even if a country, even if the war were to end, being able to generate that is very difficult. And I think even the number of people available to farm and are focused on security. And I don't think we've really touched on the longer term implications of the security around this and what that means for wider security across the globe, because if we reflect on the places that Ukraine gave grain to are areas that have a real fragility in it in terms of climate change, in terms of other security issues, including Yemen, including Bangladesh, you know, these are areas that suffer anyway. And I think it could get lost in the noise of a conflict. Now, I know that's not this isn't a very hard security question or answer I've given you, which I could give you more of those, but I think it's something that is likely to be overlooked.

Jeffrey Hiday

No, that's a great one. Thank you, Ruth. Would any of our other panelists like to weigh in on this, Dara and and then Barry then John.

Dara Massicot

Thank you. Yes, I would say I think selection bias is a real thing. A lot of the videos and pictures that we're seeing on Twitter are — someone is making the choice to share that, whether that's Ukrainian or other actors, and it's the same on other Russian social media. There's a selection bias there. No one's ever going to show videos of their enemy doing a good job or themselves doing a bad job. So we just we get this very distorted view of what's happening and it's sometimes hard to make sense of what the truth is. Other things that I've noticed, and maybe this is a cautionary tale, as we move forward — the absence of something that we can see publicly doesn't mean that it's absent from the battlefield. And so by this, I mean, some of the early narratives that took place were that Russian electronic warfare wasn't present and wasn't effective or cyber actions really weren't a factor. Or, you know, the Russian air force was missing in action. With time, we know more about those things. And I think there's a lag time in terms of what the Ukrainians are willing to share at certain times because of operational security. But over time, we learned that things that are different from those early conceptions. Russian electronic warfare was quite powerful, but it was employed very poorly. Russian cyber attacks were numerous and sophisticated, but Ukrainian defenses were also. VKS was an active member in the early part of the war. It just wasn't something that was easily seen from social media. So I would I would just caution that as we move forward, there's things that we can see and understand and there's a lot going on that we aren't able to see in real time. Thank you.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thanks Dara. And I, you know, based on a question that Sydney flagged for us, I think we'll come back on that cyber question in just a bit. But but sticking to this point, Barry?

Barry Pavel

Sure. I think I'll just pick up on on two points in terms of sort of broader effects. I mean, I mean, I think the reality of a large scale war being possible, I think, has really shaken the international system and in many ways stimulated new behavior among all parties. I'll start with China, Taiwan, and pick up on Dave Ochmanek's very good points. But the one that I really worry about there is the nuclear weapons effect. You know, I hope that Xi Jinping does not take away from this, that if you rattle the nuclear saber, that will deter the U.S. and other allies from coming to a country's defense like Taiwan. So, I do worry about that a lot. On the positive side of the ledger, I think across the U.S. Global Alliance network, in particular in both the Indo-Pacific and in Europe, you have seen a massive turnaround and stimulation of defense efforts, of increased defense spending across Europe and NATO. The same in the Indo-Pacific. We just saw a very significant turnaround by Japan — sixty percent increases in its defense budget, very significant capability priorities, and at least the stated intention of Germany to do so, you know, in the immediate aftermath of the war. These are nothing short of revolutions in the way the two largest powers in both those regions are thinking about defense. All startled by, by the reality of war. And then I would also add that, you know, that the Taiwan effort, as Dave was talking about the porcupine strategy, the anti weapons, anti-tank, anti-ship, etc., I think that's also significant. So this is a positive effect, I think, in terms of helping to deter future efforts across the U.S. alliance network.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thank Barry. John we'll turn it to you and then we'll be opening it to a lot of questions that are — we're getting.

John Tefft

Thanks Jeff. A lot of the good points that I was thinking of have been made. I would just add one more thing that I'd really like to see more of. I think the press has done a pretty good job of reporting the war, especially the military side. As I remember Ukraine and I was there during the Yanakovich period, so it isn't a very good comparison in some ways, but I've just been amazed at how there's the Zelensky government and the people of Ukraine have organized themselves to fight this war and all of the things that go with that. Lots of analysis of how they've done this militarily with the weapons and things we've given them. But on a societal basis, it's really amazing how they do things. You see these attacks on apartment buildings and within minutes they've got people there — fire units and first responders and others — but organizing the military for long term training and the rest. So, there's lots of examples that I've seen that it frankly has — it surprised me, given the Ukraine I know which is a firsthand at least over ten years old. But it's a pretty amazing story. And there may be broader conclusions or lessons for other countries when they look at this, not just for fighting wars, but for national mobilization and organization. It's been pretty, to me at least, very impressive.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thanks, John. Maxim, you've had your hand up for a while. If you would like to go first.

Maxim Adams

Hello. Thank you for your expertise. My name is Maxim Adams. I'm with Voice of America. Sorry, my colleagues, when they learned that I'm going to attend this, they were like ask this and ask this because we're, Voice of America, is preparing this special for anniversary, obviously. So my first question is about international fighters in Ukraine, International Legion. There were lots of talks about them at the beginning of the war. I'm interested in sort of evolution, what happened to them, Where are they at this point? What do we know? Do we know the numbers? How many of them are still fighting in the Ukraine? I spoke already with Kastus Kalinouski Regiment and with the Russian Legion, and according to them, their numbers doubled or even tripled since the beginning of the war. So anything you can share on this topic would be very helpful.

Jeffrey Hiday

Who wants that?

Dara Massicot

I can take a stab at it, although I'm not sure I'll be super helpful. But I do have a recommendation for someone who would be. My colleague Molly Dunnigan at RAND, she is following these kind of issues very closely. She's not here with us today, but we can certainly put you in touch with her. My understanding of the Ukrainian side is that in the beginning of the war, it was there was not a lot of regulation on it. And anyone who wanted to come and fight, who had some type of background, they would allow in, I think they realized that wasn't always leading to good outcomes. People would get inside Ukraine and it would be very different than what they experienced and it became more problematic than helpful. And I think that they've tightened up their procedures for who they will admit now. On the Russian side, I have less insight into the makeup and the numbers. But again, I highly recommend Molly and I'm sure Jeff and Dianne would be able to connect you with her.

Maxim Adams

Thank you. My second question is, what happened? Do you know what happened to Russian so-called Wonder Weapons — their deadly armadas and the SU57? Why we never saw them in the battlefields in Ukraine?

Jeffrey Hiday

That may be Dara again.

Dara Massicot

Yeah, I think the armada, there weren't that many in terms of numbers. And the Armada actually has many technical problems with it. Its engines and some of its transmissions are highly problematic. So I don't know that they want to take that kind of burden on and have that be a major PR issue. The SU57, I would assume that it's also maybe a logistics issue and the fact that it's single digit platforms right now in the force. But I agree these things have been absent.

Maxim Adams

Thank you. And finally, about the Wagner Group. So, in your opinion, is there — what is the advantage of Wagner Group over the Russian regular army, if any? And do you have the statistics of how many Wagner Group fighters were killed in Ukraine?

Dara Massicot

I don't have the statistics of the numbers, but again, I recommend Molly for that. In terms of the advantages that Wagner has had, I think the maximum utility for them has has been reached and now it's going down over time. They were an important stopgap for Russian manning problems, particularly in the spring and the summer, until mobilization started really coming through in large numbers late fall. And now we're seeing those personnel be committed to the battlefield and Wagner's role is now changing. I think it's also happening simultaneously with a power struggle in Moscow, as well. Wagner has been helpful. There's two tiers of them. There's the professional tier and then there's the convict tier and other volunteer groups. That lower echelon is being used in frontal assaults, the human wave attacks, and they're taking high casualties. So it has been an important stiller. When Russian conventional forces in the early part of the invasion and afterwards were really getting quite damaged, Wagner stepped in. I would I think moving forward, though, we're going to see that role decline over time.

Maxim Adams

Dara, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Jeffrey Hiday

John?

John Tefft

I would just mention that I saw this morning on the Carnegie Politika website a really good piece on the politics of Prigozhin and Wagner, putting it in the larger context of the political struggles that are going on inside of Russia that Dara had mentioned. So I'd recommend that to everybody to take a look at; Tatiana Stanovaya of Carnegie Politika.

Maxim Adams

Thank you.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thanks, John. Let's circle back to the point Dara made earlier about cyber warfare, electronic warfare and Sydney I can pose this for you. You're welcome to come on. But Sydney Freedberg has a question about how in 2014 there was Russian electronic warfare jamming Ukrainian army communications and in 2022 Russian cyber crippled ViaSat. But since then, Russian cyber electronic warfare seems to have been quite ineffective and even off the shelf remote controlled quadcopters remaining operationally viable. What's happening? Has Ukrainian cyber defense gotten that much better with Western help, or are the Russians attacking skillfully and Ukrainians are just moving too nimbly to a robust commercial ecosystem? I think, Dara, that might be one for you?

Dara Massicot

Sure. And so I'm not a cyber expert, but I have been doing some some research into this lately. One of our best here at RAND is named Quentin Hodgson, and I highly recommend him. But from what we can tell, the there's two stories here. The Ukrainian side decided to implement a significant number of policies and create cyber defense teams over the last eight years. They do have an organic capability to cope with some of these attacks. They are also being augmented with Western firms in Europe. They're also being augmented with support from Microsoft. Microsoft has said that they're helping them cope with cyber attacks free of charge, I think, until the end of 2023. So that's that's a significant boost. So there is a significant amount of cyber defense going on. There was also a significant amount of Russian attacks going on. And a data point I like to cite, I think it was one of the senior NATO intelligence officials, David Cattler, who discussed how in one year Russia's used more types of attacks than, you know, it's taken six to eight years globally to see like things like wiper attacks and things like that. There was a period of time where Russian attacks were pretty sophisticated. The Ukrainians were able to bat them away either on their own or with help. Over time, since the summer, Russia has now shifted, by my understanding, to a higher quantity of attacks, but they are they're less sophisticated. So it's they're making some choices here, like instead of fewer numbers of more sophisticated attacks, larger numbers of simple attacks. In terms of the electronic groupings — I'm sorry, Sidney. I only heard a little bit of that.

Sydney Freedberg

Does that mean — does that suggest they've run out of zero days or they've run out of sort of stux time to do a Stuxnet style clever infiltration or just brute forcing it because that's all they have time for? They've run out of the tools they had stocked up?

Dara Massicot

That's the impression that I get from reading some of the conferences about this and some of the, you know, the folks that have gone in and looked at the code. Things are getting sloppier over time, probably because there's a high op tempo and they don't have time to sit there and spend months and months and months to create that type of access and get in. There's also maybe a shift to tack going for like modems and things like that instead of trying to go for like centralized computers. So there's definitely a shift in their TTPs on this front. But again, I highly recommend Quentin. I'm barely literate in these kind of concepts.

Sydney Freedberg

Sure. When watching the tactical EW jamming, as well, that's a whole issue unto itself. It's akin to cyber, but technically very different.

Dara Massicot

Yes. And, you know, I was struck by there was a Ukrainian commander a couple of months into the war — he said that Russian electronic warfare was as technically, it was as technically powerful as we feared. It was that their force employment was so bad in the beginning. So, you know, they were maneuvering in very quickly. They weren't able to bring it in with them. There was a lot of electronic fratricide happening because they didn't really tell anyone until two to three days ahead of time that there would be a war. They have resolved a lot of those force employment problems to that. And they also added air defense on top of it. Some of the smaller issues like going after quadcopters, I think it's still difficult for them, but the Ukrainians have had to change their abilities, TB2s and other types of UAVs like that, because of Russian electronic warfare figuring itself out.

Jeffrey Hiday

There are a couple of questions here that touch on other Russian capabilities, particularly air fighter jets and long range missiles. And Ruth, I want to flag for you in case, because you're on the phone, I can't see you or chat with you, but I certainly welcome you to weigh in either on that last question about cyber or in these next two questions having to do with these air assets. Same for you Dave Ochmanek. Andre from La Presse asks, what could convince Ukraine's allies to supply it with fighter jets and long range missiles? And Sven from R&D in Germany asks how you rate the strength of the Russian air force, plus the strength of the Ukrainian air force? And is it the deficits of the Russian air force why Russia cannot achieve air supremacy, whereas the good air defenses of Ukraine? And and what about the delivery of ATACMS? So first, just pause in case Dave or Ruth would like to weigh in on either of those. Any of those.

David Ochmanek

Yeah. Go ahead Ruth, please.

Ruth Harris

Oh, okay Dave. Sorry. And then you can mute me again so I don't have the background noise, if you like. Yeah, I think that in terms of aircraft, one of the things that we would —look, airfcraft aren't safe bits of equipment, you know, whatever we'd like to think, they're not. And and what, what certainly in Europe and the UK don't want to have is, is a situation where they've, you know, supported or given and fostered aircraft equipment and it's not used in a safe way and causes more problems. It can lead, you know, aircraft move quickly, things respond quickly that the speed of response, the the agility, etc. require fast thinking. They require close coordination with the battlefield. You can have — an incident can escalate out of control very quickly when you add a fast jet in the mix. Helicopters are different, not the same with a fast jet. And I think that it's not just the flying of the jet, the servicing, the jet, the landing, the fuel, all these other things, but it's the battlefield coordination that becomes far more complex. Now, this is not to say people aren't able to do it or learn it or use these skills or — but it's it adds another level of technical complexity which makes countries a little nervous in terms of coordination. How do you coordinate that air anyway? It's not just a case of giving people a bunch of fast jets, it's how you coordinate that and how you how you manage it now. But you know, it's not I don't think, in the UK, it's not a will not to give equipment. Certainly not. And the UK public support for Ukraine is really very strong and the UK has some stamina in in supporting wars like this. It doesn't walk away from it. So I think it would be wrong to construe any hesitance in giving this kind of equipment to something like that or political inability to make a decision. There are real technical difficulties with it. I just kind of — I'm just declared that I have 25 years in the Royal Air Force. So I come at this with some knowledge about how to coordinate air into the battlefield.

Jeffrey Hiday

No, no, that's awesome. Thanks Ruth. Dave?

David Ochmanek

Yeah, A couple of thoughts. One, Ruth is absolutely right that particularly providing close air support from aircraft to troops on the ground is a very highly developed artform and not one that most air forces in the world have mastered. However, fast jets like the F-16 can be important for the Ukrainians if and as the Russians are able to exhaust Ukraine's stock of surface to air missiles, which right now are being expended in large numbers to shoot down drones and cruise missiles. And so while a decision to provide Ukraine with F-16s or with other types of fourth generation aircraft would not result in a quick fix. We're talking months before there are pilots and maintainers probably could master the operation of those aircraft. It would be and is potentially an important capability for the air defense of Ukraine. With regard to the performance of the Russian air force, we know and Derek can weigh in on this, the Russian air force has never placed a great deal of emphasis on suppressing surface to air missile systems or the so-called integrated air defense, because NATO's air defenses are pretty weak. NATO's ground based air defenses are not formidable. And moreover, the Russians don't rely very much on their air force to provide fire support to their troops. That's why they have the world's largest inventory of artillery. So it's not entirely surprising to see the Russians reticent to employ their fighter aircraft over Ukraine because they have not, in fact, suppressed Ukraine's air defense. We're bolstering their air defense over time, putting an extra layer of air defense into Ukraine with fourth generation fighter aircraft would be a hedge for that. With regard to Andre's question, I don't know how you convince Western governments to do things, but I can talk to the operational utility of long range missiles. The candidate system in question is the Army — U.S. Army tactical missile system ATACMS. That is launched from the same vehicles that the himars uses. So mastering that weapon system would be very straightforward I assume for the Ukrainians. What ATACMS would do would be to give them for the first time the ability to strike targets at scale well beyond the operational rear of the Russian forces. So himars, dimlers, give them the capability, give the Ukrainians the capability to strike things immediately supporting the battle — troop concentrations, logistics dumps, headquarters, nodes of line of communication. ATACMS would allow them to reach 100 or 200 miles further, deeper into Russia and offer the Ukrainians a means for imposing costs on Russia that go well beyond their capabilities today. And perhaps that would be a way to perhaps deter the Russians from continuing to attack, particularly civilian targets deep inside Ukraine.

Jeffrey Hiday

If anyone else on our side wants to weigh in, go for it. Otherwise, I'm going to carry on with some questions we have online, and so, everyone can feel free to answer questions, ask questions in the chat, or raise your hand. You know, what we've just been talking about touches on some of your questions Paul Handley from AFP. I mean, you were asking about modern war being high tech, but there also clearly being a lot of importance to old, quote unquote old fashioned tanks and trenches. And Paul was asking what this war might tell the U.S. and NATO about how to plan for the future, how they must plan for the future, what weaponry and technologies are going to be important, which ones have proven less effective, and then also gets into the issues of communications, surveillance technologies, and A.I. Who would like to weigh in there? Dave?

David Ochmanek

Thanks, Jeff. This is what we do. Yeah. So clearly, the future of force development for NATO or our allies elsewhere is going to be a mix. We have been impressed with the capabilities of some of these smaller precision guided weapons and nontraditional weapons and so forth. But there's still an important role for tanks on a battlefield in which a Russian ground force might be operating against you — an important role, certainly for the United States and its allies for combat aircraft. One of the long standing rules of thumb for combat is that precision fires can give you a hammer. But that hammer is only effective when it has an anvil. And heavy ground forces provide the anvel. Think about how in Operation Allied Force against Serbia in 1999, NATO air forces had complete superiority over the battle space, but they were unable to meaningfully attrit Serbian ground forces that were harassing people in Kosovo because there was no NATO ground force there to enable them to locate, to force the enemy to concentrate, to create lucrative targets for fighters. So NATO's future force structure is going to have to have some heavy ground forces component in it. We want our aircraft to be effective. But but increasingly, those forces will need to be supported by less traditional, what we call enablers; swarms of drones to do reconnaissance and targeting; machine learning to do automatic target recognition at the forward edge on those drones; loitering weapons, perhaps runway independent UA — unmanned aerial vehicles to do strike; and good old fashioned things like concrete to help you harden your air bases against attack by precision guided weapons.

Jeffrey Hiday

Dara?

Dara Massicot

Yeah. So, you know, one of the points I'd make about the way the Russians are doing this, so far, the Russian air force has only lost single digits percentage wise, of its entire air force. They are deliberately choosing to hold it back. Because Ukraine is creating somewhat of a contested or denied air space in some areas to them, the Russians are also imposing that on the Ukrainians. It's hard to for both sides to work out here. There's a few lessons. One, Soviet and Russian air defense systems are highly effective. And to the extent that China uses them and similar systems is something to think about. The other thing in terms of drawing lessons from this is the Russian military culture is heavily, heavily dominated by the army and the army's way of thinking. And we see that playing out in Ukraine, where Russia is not exactly using its advantages which come from air power. They are making it deliberately subordinate or they're withholding it in favor of the army. And now we're reaching the phase of this war where we're starting to see human waves. These are old tactics. These — sometimes I ask myself, what century am I looking at here with the Russians. They are not — they are choosing to preserve platforms. They are not providing a lot of close air support to their infantry on the ground. I don't know that that's necessarily a lesson for us to learn, except for this is how the Russian military is stuck conceptually right now.

Jeffrey Hiday

Great comments. Dave?

David Ochmanek

I suspect Stinger has something to do with Russian reticence to commit their attack helicopters in support of the ground forces.

Dara Massicot

It does. It absolutely does. And again, this goes back to force employment in the early days. If Russia was following its strategy, they would have let the air force do its job and go after Ukrainian targets for about a month, really before committing serious ground forces. But in this particular war, based on the assumptions they were working with, they committed them at the exact same time. And so the Air Force was essentially taken off of its mission, which was attacking fixed targets, which is something that they could reasonably be expected to do. And they were immediately being retasked to support the Russian army. And that's when we started seeing them getting pushed into the stinger envelopes, being attacked at higher levels from Ukrainian air defenses. So a lot of this comes down to force employment decisions. There's a great report on this. It's from RUSI. Justin Bronk is one of the lead authors. Highly recommend.

Jeffrey Hiday

Just to follow up, maybe for you, Dave, is, Paul asked if there are any lessons here for the Taiwan conflict? And I think you touched on that up top, but if you if you want to touch on it again, that would be good.

David Ochmanek

Yes, absolutely. So we know that from the standpoint of American analysts and defense policy officials, the Taiwans have not made best use of their limited defense resources in the past. There's been a tendency to spend a lot of money on high profile visible systems like F-16 aircraft, like surface combatants that are not likely to be effective in a war against China simply because they're not survivable. So helping the Taiwans embrace investments in things that will be more resilient on the battlefield, more difficult for China to target and yet very lethal. We're talking things like harpoon anti-ship missiles, we're talking MLRS/HIMARS, we're talking Stingers, NASAMS, sea mines, things of that nature, I think will be very important to stiffening their defenses going forward.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thank you. Ruth, I'm going to pause here in case you wanted to reflect on anything that's just been said. If not, I will carry on. Alright. Heather from USNI News asked about the Black Sea. What surprises have we seen when it comes to the Black Sea? Does the Black Sea have a larger role to play in the conflict going forward? What about — what do we expect from the Russian navy as the conflict continues?

David Ochmanek

I don't know that we have a naval expert in the group, but I'll just point out the obvious that the same incompetence we saw displayed by the Russian ground forces in Ukraine itself, we also saw with the Black Sea fleet. And people who understand the engagements that the Ukrainians have made against the Moskva helicopter carrier, which was the flagship of that fleet and other fleets have commented that the Russians weren't using basic defensive tactics to protect those vessels. They were sort of arrogantly hanging around off the coast, sort of daring them to be struck. And the Ukrainians took them up on that.

Jeffrey Hiday

Yeah.

Dara Massicot

Yeah. Yeah. So the Black Sea Fleet is really the only branch of the Navy that can fire precision strike at Ukraine through the caliber system. The Turks shut straits, so Russia cannot bring in more surface ships or submarines to come augment that capability. There's not actually, let me back up. The Black Sea Fleet has a certain finite number of calibers that it can launch at any time based on the limitations on how many each submarine or each service ship can fire. So the Ukrainians are trying to cut down on Russia's ability to fire salvos at them. And they're — over time, we see them targeting the Black Sea fleet. It's a handful of ships — single digit. So it's a spectacular, risky operation, but they keep trying to do it. And there's some logic for it. The caliber systems have been a little more accurate than some of Russia's other, like the Kh-101, for example, I think the caliber is slightly more accurate. So as much as they can attrit down that precision strike, Russia can't backfill it. They can't bring in more assets into the Black Sea.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thanks, Dara. Neil MacFarquhar from The New York Times is wondering about the overall status of mobilization in Russia. Dara, this one may be for you. To what extent did the first round get the Kremlin the troops that it wants? Who is actually fighting the war? In the first months there was a lot of commentary in Russian social media about the lack of training. Does the lack of similar mean training is happening? To what extent has it been able to replace the army it lost in the initial months? It's often stated Russia has the edge over the long run just because it has more men, even the Ukrainians are more motivated. Any signs that's playing out?

Dara Massicot

Yes, so I have some thoughts and then I'd like to at the end, turn it over to John for some of the political aspects of this decision. Yes. If you've been following my Twitter account, I've been pretty pessimistic on Russia's ability to mobilize an actual competent fighting force. They were able to get in the numbers. They made a push for 300,000. It seems like they got something fairly close to that. The initial wave of people that they were ingesting were immediately put on the front lines to fill in all the gaps in these very damaged broken units. Those individuals did not fair very well. They were put into a situation that was not made for them to be there. As other mobilized forces began to be adjusted and move forward, we see them in some cases putting them in the front where they're not supposed to go hiding out in trenches. In other cases, they are using them for rear support. And there's some type of rotational aspect of this going on inside Ukraine, but I don't have perfect visibility into it. To the back end of your question about would they do another mobilization, I think they would. I think they'll need to to either to replace what they are losing, how they're fighting right now in areas like Bakhmut is very casualty intense. They're doing essentially human waves to to make progress here or small squads storming operations in many cases. There is a large population pool that they could pull from. If you take everybody who's served in the military only for the last twenty years or so, because the age limit is way up there now, that's millions. It's in the millions. The question is, and this is where I defer to John's expertise, is whether or not the Kremlin thinks that they can pull this off again without tipping everything over into the streets.

John Tefft

That's one of those $64,000 questions. It's just one of the things I've been trying to follow to the extent I can. I think by September 30th, when Putin annexed the four oblasts and then announced the first mobilization, in a way that was kind of a crossing the Rubicon for him, because I think the fact that before them, they called this a special military operation and tried to keep it, if you will, out of sight, out of mind for the ordinary Russian. You know, we'll take care of this. Don't worry about it. That's changed. And obviously now you have debates on the TV that the right wing guy is going after the military and fights between Prigozhin and the military and the FSB, plus all of the soldiers who are coming home dead. You know, we've seen some examples that have gotten reported in Sarata and other places where you've had a large number of soldiers lost. The government, the Kremlin is trying to depict this just as the same kind of thing as the World War II, where the Russian people stuck to it, endured suffering and sacrificed for the motherland. But it's hard for me not to think that there's a lot of people, and I'm not just talking about the intellectuals and the elite politicians, there's a lot of people who are saying to themselves, what is this? What are we getting out of this? Now, they're not going to put their heads up right away, obviously, to do this. But I suspect there's a lot of discussion going on among ordinary people about the value of this beyond what perhaps we know. And just to kind of illustrate Dara's point about how we've gone back to the future, I happened to watch last night the Netflix production of All Quiet on the Western Front. And if you want to see wave attacks and unbelievable slaughter for two and a half hours you can tune in and watch that. It's — it reminded me of how horrific that was and the impact that that had on Western societies for decades after the war took place and still does.

Jeffrey Hiday

I'm not sure how appealing that is, John, but thanks for flagging it. That's all the questions that have been posed. We have we can take a few more minutes. I think, at least in theory, our experts committed to staying here with us for the top of the hour. All right, Sydney, you reminded me. Sorry. Is there a risk of a 1917-style collapse in the Russian army given the attrition and mass mobilization? It's probably for Dara.

Dara Massicot

I'll share some thoughts from the military side, but then obviously want to defer also to my colleagues from their perspectives. I think the closest we actually came to that was when the Kharkiv axis collapsed last fall. I think hat was September. It seems like a lifetime ago, but it wasn't. It was only a few months ago. That was kind of a uncontrolled that was an uncontrolled collapse when the Ukrainians did their southern counteroffensive in Kherson and they also pressed up against really weak, really spread out Russian units and panic took over and they they left. And that was not something that was particularly planned or controlled by the Kremlin. I think that a situation like that can cascade very quickly as panic and rumor and everything else spreads. And again, at that point, Moscow tends to do this. I mean, you all have been following them for so long. When there's an unexpected situation that's bad, Moscow goes silent. And, you know, after that happened, there was this silence and that's when you started to see a lot of really intense critiques coming out on social media, on regular Russian media about what are they doing up there and is anybody in command? And they filled the silence with a really pointed critique of the operation. Right now, I don't see the same ingredients there. The front lines are becoming more dense over time. The fighting is being localized in certain places. I think it would be hard for the Ukrainians to get that kind of breakthrough and punch through in Kharkiv like they were able to. It is still possible. Russian soldiers are not being treated very well. They're being treated very badly inside Ukraine. So it just remains this ambient, ambient tense situation that we're monitoring very closely. But I defer to my colleagues about the 1917 question.

Jeffrey Hiday

Any colleagues want to add there? Okay. And Ruth, I'm not seeing you on my screen, so I can't, I can't tell if you're still with us, but obviously, if you are and want to weigh in, feel free.

Ruth Harris

I'm still with you. I'm still with you. I'll weigh in if I need to.

Jeffrey Hiday

Okay, good. Thanks. Paul Hanley from AFP is asking how bad are the industrial issues for resupply and stockpiling in NATO and the U.S.? The industrial issues; resupply and stockpiling.

David Ochmanek

I don't have a precise answer to that, Paul. We don't do a lot of research on the defense industrial base directly here, but we know that the United States, despite the fact that we produce some of the world's finest military hardware, particularly weapons and munitions, expendables, precision guided weapons are surprisingly not available in huge numbers. And there are sort of deep seated reasons for this. I recommend to you a report by my former colleague Stacie Pettyjohn at CNAS, that she put out. It's called Precision and Posture. The services over the years have used munitions accounts as bill payers when budgets are going down. And we know with the Budget Control Act that happened for several years. So we don't have a robust capability to rapidly ramp up production above baseline levels and we're certainly seeing a demand for those weapons. Again, gimlers, the javelins, the NASAMS, the stingers, they're far above what was anticipated. So my gut is and I think Stacie would probably support this, it's not a question of weeks or months, but perhaps years before we're going to see a substantial and sustained increase in our ability to produce it at scale.

Jeffrey Hiday

Thank you, Dave. Dara, John, Ruth, anyone else want to weigh in there? If not, I'm inclined to wrap this up. Of course, Barry. I saw...are you good? Okay, So I think we'll wrap this up. Dianne Saenz is on the line and you can send an email to media@rand.org and Leah Polk or Dianne Saenz or I will be happy to patch you in with someone. Thanks very much to John, Dara, Ruth, Dave, Dara for joining us and for everyone. And we will leave it there. Thank you. Have a great day.

Narrator

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