For the reader unaware of the Ukraine war, it has been taking place since 2014 until the present day. This is a conflict being waged by the Russian Federation led by Vladimir Putin against the free peoples of Ukraine.
The war is being waged for many reasons, such as the expansion of NATO since the end of the Cold War in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union/USSR in 1990.
There are many diverse reasons for this conflict, ranging from geopolitical to national security and from the perspective that this war for Russia may be its last war due to only having 7 million able-bodied men to fight modern industrial warfare.
Fighting a modern war requires not only able-bodied men but also the necessary technological and industrial development that makes modern warfare possible. It is modern warfare, and the mass style Movements of World War II shall be discussed in this article as to why Tanks are not featured heavily in this conflict.
In the popular imagination when it comes to tank warfare, the popular imagination goes back to the blitzkrieg tactics of the Second World War, where the Germans outmanoeuvred the British and French armies winning the battle of France in 1940 and the conquest and subjugation of Poland in 1939.
Lessons of World War II
The tank was developed during World War I from 1914 to 1918 or from 1914 to the Treaty of Versailles signed in 1919. Historically, the war is remembered from 1914 to 1918, but the blockades of Gemernone ports continued until 1919 due to fear that the war may continue.
To understand the Ukraine War and the lack of tank warfare, it is first necessary to look back at tank development and why that technology was created to overcome the fixed and entrenched positions of trench warfare during World War II, which continues to apply to modern fixed defences in the contemporary 21st-century.
For tanks to be effective in combat, they need the support of infantry and a robust supply chain that sends ammunition and fuel to the front lines, which the Russians did not have during their invasion in 2022.
Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, the Russians have been pushed out of northern Ukraine and are focused on fighting in the defensive frontlines around Donetsk, Lyschanks, Izium and Bakhmut.
Eastern Ukraine and the region are perfect for tank battles due to their flat terrain, and some of the biggest battles in tank mechanised warfarin happened during World War II on the ground, similar to the combat zones in Ukraine.
The reasons why the Russians were unsuccessful can be seen during World War II and the German and Soviet invasions of Poland. During the invasion of Poland in 1939, the Germans had the advantage of the best technologically some of the most advanced tanks on the planet, combined with air superiority and the element of surprise.
In contrast, the Russian Federation does not have this advantage because United States intelligence agencies were able to monitor the Russian military’s movements, ensuring that the Ukrainians would not be surprised by a Russian advance.
In 1940 the Germans invaded Holland and Belgium to bypass the Maginot Line fortification, which stretched along the shared French and German border of the Rhineland.
The Germans chose to bypass the defences because, despite the superior mobility of modern mechanised armies, they still could not destroy entrenched positions that had been heavily fortified.
To be successful on the battlefield, the ability for tanks to manoeuvre and not enter killing fields where fixed artillery positions, minefields and other defences can destroy them.
Tanks work best with infantry support and air superiority so that the Air Force can remove obstacles for tank divisions. Ultimately tanks work best with the power of manoeuvre.
The British expeditionary forces or the French military did not heavily outnumber the Germans in 1940, but the Germans’ ability to use speed won them the battle for France.
Operation Barbarossa and War in the East
In 1941 Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, named after the mediaeval German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa from the 12th century; during this operation, the German invasion of Russia in terms of military equipment was evenly matched.
The Germans were so victorious because they had superior experience, having conducted lightning war or blitzkrieg during the 1939 conquest of Poland and the 1940 battle for France, which saw the defeat of France and the evacuation of the British expeditionary forces at Dunkirk.
The Germans used the flat ground and the fact that the Russians did not prepare adequate defences to stop the German advance having the Germans overrun Kyiv and most of Ukraine and advance until the gates of Moscow through failing to take the city.
The Soviets had more planes and tanks during Operation Barbarossa and repeatedly during the eastern front side of the war between the Allied powers: the United States, the British Empire and the Soviet Union.
The Axis powers were Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy led by Benito Mussolini and the Japanese Empire. During engagements between Nazi tank divisions and Soviet Red Army forces, the Germans were often outnumbered from 5 to 1 or 2 to 1 and, towards the war’s end, 10 to 1.
One of the critical technologies of the time was the radio, and in modern battles and warfare, technology is king.
The ability to have communications with all assets in and out of the combat zone leads to more success on the battlefield because the infantry division can call on air support to destroy the enemy’s tank divisions.
The ability to communicate and coordinate is the ultimate force multiplier and a concentration of force that can lead to an inferior opponent inflicting massive damage on the superior enemy regarding numerical advantages seen repeatedly during the Ukraine war.
One great battle during Operation Barbarossa was the Battle Brody, the biggest tank battle in history, where the Soviet Union destroyed 200 German tanks out of 730 tanks.
In turn, the German tank divisions destroyed 800 Red Army tanks out of the total of 2800 tanks that were in the combat zone. The Red Army learned from these mistakes during the battle of Kursk in 1943, a German counter-attack.
The Russians won the battle due to having prepared defences and numerical superiority.
Statistics from the United States show that tank losses during World War II were caused by anti-tank guns 29%, other tanks 25%, tanks lost due to mins 22%, self-propelled guns 13%, lost to bazookas 6% and 3% due to other causes.
Thank Battles Outside of World War II
During the fourth Arab-Israeli War of 1973, the Syrian army rushed its tank divisions into Israel, but the Israelis, despite being unprepared fortified the positions on the Golan Heights.
The battle took place over 30 miles. With the ability to prepare their defences, the Syrians lost 260 tanks out of a total force of 750 tanks.
This shows that using fortification and time to prepare and equip defences will mitigate the effectiveness of tanks. In many ways, the tank’s ability has been overstated and overused in the popular imagination tanks are an effective tool of warfare.
Still, the artillery, mines and other warfare methods should never be overlooked. From 1990 to 1991, during the First Gulf War and 2003, the Second Gulf War witnessed the American war machine decimate the Iraqi army twice in both conflicts.
During both wars, American casualties and of its allies were shockingly low compared to the Iraqis, primarily due to the superior technologies of the West, particularly in the art of communications.
The United States expanded resources into what it calls joint all domain command and control, a web of systems that networks all US forces together.
The best example of this doctrine happened during the 2003 Iraq invasion; during the Baghdad push, an Iraqi tank division intercepted a single platoon of American soldiers.
The Marines should have been killed, being only equipped with light machine guns and other light weaponry, including armoured Humvees Marines in communication with neighbouring aircraft, which enabled them to call in an airstrike, which destroyed the advancing Iraqi forces.
This kind of network communication is helping Ukrainians to successfully fight the war in Ukraine due to American expertise, American intelligence, American logistics and American methods of warfare being used to fight the Russian Federation.
The United States is providing everything to the Ukrainian war effort apart from boots on the ground, so we are seeing Ukrainians fighting a war in a predominantly Western style which is only highlighted in a total war in a purely conventional sense without the use of nuclear weapons Western militaries will kick the Russian ass according to the geopolitical analyst Peter Zeilhan.
Sources and Bibliography
Imperial War Museum How Britain Invented The Tank In The First World War link
Britannica Persian Gulf War 1990 to 1991 link
Britannica Iraq War link
The Infographics Show Why France Is Preparing for a Large Scale War link
Binkov’s Battlegrounds Why haven’t we seen WW2-style mass tank offensives in Ukraine? link
Imperial War Museum What Was Operation ‘Barbarossa’? link
Donate To Ukraine Links
Come Back Alive link
Nova Ukraine link
The $1K Project for Ukraine link
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