- Adrian Ghobrial
- Correspondent, CTV National News
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Published April 14, 2023 12:52 p.m
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is well into its second year. While valiant, brave and committed, Ukraine’s army is David to Russia’s Goliath military force.
Expelling Russia from Ukraine and bringing an end to this deadly, costly conflict will take more than NATO tanks and the determined hearts of Ukrainian fighters, according to a new report exclusively obtained by CTV National News.
Three retired NATO soldiers, who’ve spent the last nine months in Ukraine training its military, have co-authored what they’ve dubbed the « White Papers. »
The lengthy report outlines a Ukrainian military command structure that, at times, is in disarray and a crumbling military communication system that could result in losing « generations of Ukrainians » if intervention in military tactics isn’t taken.
Two of the authors are former high ranking members of the U.S. Special Forces. The third, who spoke to CTV News on the condition of anonymity, is a former major with the Canadian Armed Forces. In an effort to conceal his identity, CTV News has agreed to refer to him as Matthew.
Speaking on a sunny spring day from the safe confines of Toronto, Matthew states frankly, « They (the Ukrainian army) have had huge losses with their junior officers. It’s well documented. » He’s also points out by releasing the White Papers, « We’re striving for the better outcome. We’re not striving to criticize the Ukrainian military. »
However, the report does challenge some of the tactics used by the Ukrainians and their command structure in the fight against Russia.
The White Papers are broken down into multiple sections. One section titled « Lack of Combined Arms Operations » highlights the lack of co-ordination between Ukraine’s armed units, which the report says is resulting « in greater losses of life and equipment as well as failed operations. »
The White Papers also include the criticism that, at times, tanks aren’t being used in tandem with ground forces. Stating « military aid, such as tanks, are used as mobile artillery and not in combined operations with infantry, » and « infantry will watch as the enemy maneuvers and stages in front of their defensive positions just outside of effective artillery range. »
Matthew believes « for this (Ukrainian army) to work, the whole chain of command has to be reading from the same playbook, and that doesn’t happen. »
The White Papers state Ukraine’s military command philosophy for training « is based on the legacy Soviet model » calling it a « commander centric system with no delegation of authority in training, planning, and especially operations. »
The result is painfully slow decisions on the front lines.
« They can’t engage targets of opportunities the way we (NATO forces) could, » notes Matthew.
Retired NATO Commander, and Canadian Armed Forces veteran, Maj. Gen. David Fraser believes there’s « a clash of civilizations going on inside the Ukrainian defence force. Which means you’ve got the Soviet-era Ukrainian leadership now confronting the western trained rank and file. »
Fraser adds « we’ve now got two (military) philosophies now clashing at the same time they’re fighting a war. »
CTV National News questioned Ukraine’s prime minister about the claims made in the White Papers during his meetings in Toronto this week to drum up support for additional military aid from the Trudeau government.
« We realized this strategy and now our army is created according to the NATO standards, » replied Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
Shmyhal admitted the « Russian army is a Soviet style army, never will a small (Ukrainian) Soviet army beat a big (Russian) Soviet army. The only way to win this war is to have a strong standardized NATO army in Ukraine. »
Matthew agrees, but doesn’t believe NATO standards are being widely practiced by commanders and infantries. Wary of feeding the Russian propaganda machine, going public with the White Papers wasn’t a decision made lightly, according to Matthew.
« If you can fight better, then you can end the war faster, and if you end it faster, there’s less casualties and damage on the nation of Ukraine. »
The authors of the White Papers are adamant military aid such as tanks and heavy artillery are an essential tool. Though, without systemic change, the timeline and the outcome of the war becomes less clear.