Russia’s war against Ukraine has peeled back the veneer and revealed the rot within Moscow’s military machine. Kyiv’s impressive battlefield successes imposed major losses on Russia in terms of territory, manpower, and materiel. The tide has turned in a brutal war of attrition. Russia’s gains are being reversed ever so slowly and at significant cost to all sides. But Ukraine has not won yet, and it still has far to go in terms of regaining control of its territory as winter approaches. There are a variety of scenarios about when and how the war ends. Overall, based on the counter-offensives this past fall, one should be more optimistic than some senior U.S. military officials are about Ukraine’s prospects for greater success early next year.
Even though the war will continue into next year, and perhaps beyond, it is time to begin assessing longer-term implications for modern warfare, especially in Europe. It is not too early in this age to draw inferences about how the character of warfare is changing. How can NATO and the United States adapt to best ensure Europe’s stability and advance U.S. interests?
There are two major issues in answering this question. The first is the ongoing debate about how shifts in military technology impact the balance between offense and defense. This debate has obvious implications for force structures across the West that should inform NATO’s security posture and investments. The second issue involves the overall balance of power in Europe and how NATO and the United States should be postured to best preserve stability. The implications of these shifts argue against increases in heavy tanks for the U.S. force structure and favor a posture along NATO’s frontier that is defensively oriented. This “hedgehog” approach is part of NATO’s past. An offensive posture that fails to take into account the changing character of warfare is counterproductive to regional stability and U.S. strategic priorities, which are increasingly at risk in Asia.
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Dr. Frank Hoffman is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, Center for Strategic Research at National Defense University. The views expressed are the authors own and do not reflect those of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.