The GuardianThe Guardian

Traditional, heavy warfare has returned to Europe with Ukraine conflict

By Dan Sabbagh

06 Mar 2023 · 5 min read

Editor's Note

Military planners came to believe that future conflicts would be economic or fought in cyberspace—and conventional warfare would be obsolete. Ukraine has changed that calculus, reports The Guardian.

It was Boris Johnson who declared, in November 2021, four months before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that “the old concepts of fighting big tank battles on the European landmass … are over”. Today, dozens of destroyed Russian tanks dot Ukraine’s eastern Donbas fields near Vuhledar, smashed, rusting emblems of a traditional heavy warfare that has returned to Europe.

Events have moved fast since Russia invaded last February, but it is worth restating how far planning for conventional war had gone out of fashion before then. Although it was recognised that Russia was a threat, the dominant military thinking was that the goal of authoritarian regimes was “to win without going to war”, as then chief of general staff Sir Nick Carter said in September 2020.

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