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Defense expert Colijn draws these lessons from the battle for Eastern Ukraine | NOW

Defense expert Ko Colijn has been providing Dutch people with information on armed conflicts for over forty years. For NU.nl he follows the battle in Ukraine and answers our (and your) questions. This time the question is: what lessons has Colijn drawn so far from the battle for the Donets basin?

Some experts say Russia needs eight times more troops to occupy Ukraine than it currently deploys. Even more optimistic Ukrainian sources tell the West: “If you give us the right weapons, we will throw all Russians out of the country in October.”

Colored information. There is more reason to declare a kind of stalemate: no one can win this war. Nevertheless, Russia is already the moral loser and has to face some remarkable lessons.

Lesson 1: Whoever rules in space can thwart a plan A (but not yet claim the overall victory)

It was hardly noticed in our country, but in the list of ‘Russian failures in Ukraine’ it should also be mentioned that the expected wave of cyber attacks was rather disappointing. What’s hot, on the eve of the old-fashioned invasion with soldiers and tanks, Putin tried to completely shut down the internet in Ukraine. The Pentagon asked Elon Musk to lend his Starlink satellite system. Musk already has almost 2,200 of these artificial moons orbiting the world and thought: if I spread an infinite number of terminals over Ukraine, they can continue to use the internet via my satellites.

Besides keeping everyone well informed, the Ukrainian army also benefited enormously, because stopping tank and truck convoys with drones was a piece of cake. The Russian plan A (the encirclement of Kyiv and the assassination of Zelensky) seems to have failed because of it. We should also attribute the killing of the eight Russian generals to the internet-controlled drones.

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US General David Tremper, Director of Electronic Warfare at the Pentagon, poured in the military’s top magazine Defense News even a tear (“eye watering”) to the success of Starlink.

In Russia, Elon Musk is now accused of colluding with the ‘Nazis’, and in China, the military state news site claims China Military Online that Starlink is actually already a Pentagon aerospace branch and is calling for countermeasures.


Lesson 2: Russians thought they were winning with ground soldiers, cannons and tanks, and underestimated the plane

The biggest miss on the Russian side is the downright poor performance of their aircraft. These limit themselves to simple ground support for ground troops and carry out bombing raids on Ukrainian targets on the basis of unilateral and rigid orders. But they didn’t direct the battle, did no intelligence work, carried no extra fuel or food, and flew so low that they could be shot down quite easily with Stingers (shoulder missiles). In one piece in The Atlantic two experts don’t give a damn about the Russian air force.

Lesson 3: Images, but also reality? Probably yes, but Ukraine is also in charge in the information war for the time being

Last month we also saw footage of a sunken Russian landing ship and drone-attacked Serna-class patrol ships off the Ukrainian Serpent Island, after shooting down a second shipwreck from the flagship Moskva. According to British intelligence, perhaps crucial for controlling half of the Black Sea and access to Ukraine’s last port: Odesa. Vital to the country’s exports and even half the world’s grain supply.

The images come from satellites of Maxar, a CNNagency that has shown all kinds of Russian and Ukrainian maneuvers, with surprising sharpness and quality. Can you find out what kind of images the US government services have – and the intelligence it can share with Ukraine at will.

Or drone footage of a Ukrainian counter-offensive near Kharkiv, which drove the Russians there and is said to have pushed them back to just 30 kilometers from their own national border. And drone footage of burnt-out military vehicles and an abandoned Russian army pontoon bridge on the Siversky Donets River.

What one side (Ukraine) calls a counter-offensive, the other (Russia) calls a tactical withdrawal (offset with an additional missile strike).

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