CoveTalk | 2 DIV PME Series – War Transformed: Lessons from Ukraine

With President Putin’s February 2022 declaration of war on Ukraine the world changed overnight. It has caused a shifting of alliances, re-drawing the lines between European security and NATO, the return of nuclear weapons risks, as well as Russia’s impacts on global energy and food insecurity. Furthermore, the continuance of Russia’s war further exacerbates their status towards a pariah state and will test China’s positioning with their ‘no limits’ partnership agreements, prompting warnings from the US about furthering their support to Russia. As Rajan Menon points out in his article in the Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies, it was widely expected that Ukrainian forces would quickly capitulate to a significantly larger, and arguably better equipped, Russian military; however, fortune does not necessarily favour the larger battalions. Ukrainian forces have survived against these odds and maintained their own values and identity whilst adjusting their strategy, politics, and diplomacy to retain vital global attention and support. It is for these reasons that the Ukrainian use of strategy is worthy of further study. The bottom line is that Russia’s actions are, and should, be giving all military professionals pause for thought on how this is causing strategy and war to transform.

One such military professional who continues to contribute to the professional military dialogue and push our understanding is Mick Ryan. Recently, he wrote for the Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies on the Ukrainian strategy of corrosion. Typically, military strategy is focused towards either annihilation or exhaustion, arguably other offshoot strategies include assurance and deterrence through denial or reprisal as well as reconstruction. In his article, Mick Ryan points out that the strategy adopted by Ukraine isn’t necessarily fixed to the myopic binary of either annihilation or exhaustion, but instead they have chosen a third way. This third way has seven elements: 1) a theory of victory, 2) integrated civil-military actions, 3) a global influence campaign, 4) foreign support, 5) national mobilisation of people and resources, 6) fighting a just war, and 7) constant learning and adaptation.

Mick Ryan explored this topic in the 2 Div PME Series at the Randwick Barracks Officer's Mess held on 29 August 2023.


MAJGEN (Retd) Mick Ryan is a highly skilled leader and strategist with more than three decades of experience working in senior roles in the Australian military and beyond.

Mick's work reaches a global audience, and he is a recognised expert in leadership, institutional strategy, technology, organisational adaptation and change management, institutional reform, as well as personnel development. A prolific writer and speaker, Mick's expertise in thinking about and preparing for the future is sought after by institutions in Australia, the United States and beyond.

Mick has a distinctive mixture of experience and skills, underpinned by a foundation of seeking excellence in himself and those he leads. He is known for leading dynamic organisations to overcome adverse circumstances and solve challenging problems. Whether it involves leading the reconstruction efforts for an entire province in Afghanistan or managing institutional change, Mick is most comfortable when leading, or being part of, a diverse team that is focussed on solving complex problems.

While he has his deep experience in institutional leadership and delivering organisational transformation, Mick's first love over his 35-year career has been investing in people. In this technological era, many forget that it is people upon which companies and institutions are founded. To that end, Mick has a deep and abiding commitment to leading and personally investing in people, being an exemplar for continuous learning, and for being their most passionate advocate.

Mick is highly sought after as an in-demand keynote speaker and he has addressed forums, conferences and educational institutions across the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, Indonesia, India and Australia.

Mick is also an adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, and a non-resident fellow at the Low Institute in Sydney.

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