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Ukraine Prepares for Defensive ‘Total War’

Focus on ‘Whole of Nation’ Capabilities and Resilience

Ukraine has been updating its strategic documentation and overhauling its defence and security apparatus since 2014. The adoption of a new National Security Strategy in September last year prompted development of further documents: the new Military Security Strategy (MSS) was adopted on 25 March by the President of the Republic.

The novelty of the MSS, which should not be confused with the Military Doctrine, lies in the introduction of an entirely new approach to Ukraine’s national defence, which is reflected in the introduction of a completely new term in the Ukrainian official language – the ‘comprehensive defence’ of Ukraine. This is understood to be a set of measures aimed at resisting and preventing aggression in the three traditional operational domains – plus cyberspace – and in “imposing one’s will in the information space,” including hybrid warfare, with the aim of inflicting “unacceptable losses” on the enemy.

The document is quite sober, recognising the “existential military threat” that weighs down Ukraine and noting the “growing deficit of financial resources and imbalance of Ukrainian military capabilities in comparison with Russia.” It describes the three phases of ‘comprehensive defence:’ 1° the use of all military capabilities, covering “all kinds of special operations, including in the territory of the enemy;” 2° focused on deployment of the military reserve, conducting fully-fledged mobilisation and “deployment of the resistance movement on the temporarily occupied territory;” 3° engagement of additional units made up from the mobilised population and reservists that, together with pressure from the international community, should contribute to a “cessation of hostilities on favourable terms for Ukraine.”

The information warfare component, including cyber, is high on the agenda, ‘information’ and ‘cyber’ being mentioned 21 times. It describes possible scenarios in enabling comprehensive defence ; among them, for obvious reasons, is “the escalation of the armed aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.” But armed aggression from other states or coalitions of states, or even “Ukraine being drawn into an international armed conflict, in particular, between the nuclear states” are not ruled out.

Ukraine’s fresh approach towards national defence is focused mainly on national capabilities and resilience, and can be perfectly described with the Latin adage “Si vis pacem, para bellum – If you desire peace, prepare for war.”

Denys Kolesnyk in Paris for MON

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Publish date

03/29/2021

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