The Washington PostThe Washington Post

Ukraine's war of attrition draws parallels to World War I

By Ishaan Tharoor

14 Aug 2023 · 4 min read

informed Summary

  1. The war in Ukraine is a mix of modern and traditional warfare, with drones, hypersonic missiles and AI algorithms being used alongside earthwork defenses and trenches.

The brutal war raging in Ukraine is a profoundly 21st-century conflict. Drones buzz around its battlefields. Hypersonic missiles plunge into unsuspecting targets. Satellites disperse the fog of war. Algorithms generated by artificial intelligence help guide artillery. Footage captured on mobile phones proliferates on social media, giving the conflict an almost visceral, real-time feel to people thousands of miles away. Online armies of partisans catalogue atrocities and circulate evidence of triumphs.

And yet for all that's new about Ukraine's desperate fight to repel Russia's invasion, the war is increasingly offering grim reminders of the past. In images that recall battles more than a century ago, soldiers squat in earthwork defenses, surrounded by terrain shelled into a moonscape. For two months, Ukraine's forces have embarked on their long-anticipated counteroffensive, pushing at Russian positions in the south and southeast of the country. As has been widely reported, the campaign has progressed slowly, with Ukraine's new Western-furnished mechanized divisions bogged down by layers of Russian defenses, including vast minefields, "dragon's teeth" concrete barriers, antitank ditches and lines of barbed wire.

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