• Retired Australian Army Maj. Gen. Mick Ryan advocates for a change in Ukraine's war strategy.
  • Ryan suggests Ukraine needs to push its narrative in Western media to counter Russia's influence.
  • He highlighted the importance of Ukraine's drone development and Black Sea leverage.

A retired general and warfare strategist is pushing for a change in Ukraine's strategy after returning from a grim visit to the war-torn country.

"The most important insight from my visit was confirmation that Russia now has the strategic momentum in the war," explained Mick Ryan, a former Australian major general, in a Friday post for The Interpreter, a publication partnered with the Australia-based Lowy Institute.

Russia has gotten over the "shock of its early failures," he said, drawing his observations from recent conversations with government and military officials, think tanks, and journalists. The Russian military has changed its warfighting capabilities, and the defense industry has been kicked into gear.

"Now," Ryan said, "it appears capable of generating the human, materiel and informational resources to subjugate Ukraine in a way it was not capable of when it began its large-scale invasion in February 2022."

"Russia is now a more dangerous adversary than it was two years ago," he wrote. "This calls for change in how the war is fought."

Ukrainian troops on a BWP infantry fighting vehicle prepare for combat towards Lyman in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on March 17. Foto: Jose Colon/Getty Images

For starters, Ukraine's partners need to shift their thinking, and for Ukraine, that means coming up with a vision for victory that it can implement.

Another issue is strategic communications. Ryan has noticed a major shift in attention from Ukraine to other conflicts. Ukraine, he argued, must push its narrative to get through to Western media and dispute Russia's declarations of expected victory.

The Kremlin has made a continuous effort to influence Ukrainian partner nations with its narratives and in doing so, it has caused some in countries like the United States to believe the war is a distraction from "real" problems the country should be dealing with instead of helping Ukraine, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War reported last month.

"Ukraine needs to discover a new voice that explains the importance of its defence, why Western support is vital, and that Russian narratives about inevitable victory are wrong," Ryan said, adding that "while confronting Russian misinformation activities is the responsibility of all democracies, Ukraine's strategic messaging must evolve."

Russian Army soldiers ride their armoured vehicle to take positions and fire from flamethrowers toward Ukrainian positions at an undisclosed location in Ukraine in a photo released by Russia's military in April 2024. Foto: Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

He also detailed how during his trip, a Kyiv official told him how there was no clear plan as to how Ukraine would win the war.

A win for Ukraine is dependent on the aid it receives as well as its defense strategy. Ryan said NATO and other partner nations should consider switching their perception of providing support from "defend Ukraine" to "defeat Russia in Ukraine."

US officials have made it clear that Russia has the edge. It has rebuilt its wounded military and is cultivating clear battlefield advantages.

Earlier this month, Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said that Russia has "almost completely reconstituted militarily" and US European Command's Gen. Chris Cavoli supported that assessment on Wednesday, adding that Russia's "overall capacity is very significant still, and they intend to make it go higher."

Cavoli also said that Russia's current artillery advantage compared to Ukraine is 5:1, but this could increase to 10:1 in a matter of weeks while Ukraine waits for US aid.

Troops with Ukraine's Da Vinci Wolves battalion train for assaults on April 8. Foto: Kostiantyn Liberov/Libkos/Getty Images

Although Ukraine and its international partners have more work to do, Ryan said Kyiv has made immense progress over the course of the war especially in targeting Russian ships in the Black Sea and oil refineries at home.

Ukraine's ability to adapt to new threats and emerging challenges has allowed it focus on new research and manufacturing capabilities. Ryan noted in his article the importance of Ukraine's drone development and use.

"Ukraine now produces hundreds of thousands of small drones as well as thousands of large drones with increasing range and larger warheads," he said.

Commenting on the strategic strikes, Ryan said that "this capacity, which is improving in its reach and effectiveness, will be a key part of future Ukrainian operations."

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