As Vladimir Putin embarks on his plan B – a massive military operation to try to take over at least a small part of eastern Ukraine to justify his badly started war – I thought: who could give him the best advice right now? I went with one of America’s top professors of grand strategy, John Arquilla, who recently retired as Distinguished Professor of Defense Analysis at the US Naval Postgraduate School. When I called Arquilla and asked him what he would say to Putin today, he didn’t hesitate: “I would say, ‘Make peace, you fool.'”

This is also known as the first hole rule: when you’re in one, stop digging.

Arquilla didn’t rip his phrasing out of thin air. After the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, it quickly became apparent that the Germans could not contain the Allied beachhead. Thus, after the failure of a German counter-attack near Caen on July 1, the highest German commander on this front, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, telephoned Berlin to report the debacle to the Chief of Staff of the army, Wilhelm Keitel, who then asked him: We do?” – to which von Rundstedt famously replied: “Make peace, fools! What else can you do?”

The next day, von Rundstedt was removed from his post – much like what Putin just did, bringing in a new high-ranking general, the one who helped crush the opposition movement in Syria with unbridled brutality – to lead phase two of his war. It didn’t work out for the Germans, and without making any predictions, Arquilla explained why he thought Putin’s army might also meet very stiff resistance from the under-equipped and under-armed Ukrainians in this new phase.

It starts, he argued, with everything new about this war between Ukraine and Russia: “In many ways, this war is the Spanish Civil War of our time. During this war, many weapons – such as Stuka dive bombers and Panzer tanks – were tested by the Germans, and the allies also learned things before World War II. The same is being done in Ukraine when it comes to next generation warfare. »

Arquilla recently published a book on next-generation warfare, “Bitskrieg: The New Challenge of Cyberwarfare.”

“In this book, I described the three new rules of warfare, all of which I see being employed by Ukrainians,” he explained. “The first is that many and small beats big and heavy. The Ukrainians operate in squad-level units armed with smart weapons, and these are capable of disrupting much larger formations and attacking slow, noisy helicopters and the like. So, even though they outnumber the Russians, the Ukrainians have many, many more action units – usually between eight and 10 soldiers.

Arquilla said these small Ukrainian units armed with smart, precision-guided weapons like killer drones, anti-aircraft weapons and light anti-tank weapons “can take out much larger and more heavily armed Russian tank units.”

The second rule of modern warfare unfolding in Ukraine, he said, “is that finding is always worth flanking. If you can locate the enemy first, you can eliminate them. And especially if the enemy consists of a few large units, such as a 40-mile-long convoy of tanks and armored personnel carriers, you will smash them with your small squads, without having to outflank them with a force of equal size.

I asked Arquilla why Ukrainians are so good at finding. (I’m guessing they’re getting reconnaissance aid from NATO.)

“Ukrainians use small drones very well, especially Turkish drones, which are great,” Arquilla said. But it is their human sensors – the informal Ukrainian observer corps – that are devastating the Russians. Grandmas with iPhones can trump satellites.

“The Ukrainian observer corps is made up of babushkas and children and everyone who has a smartphone,” he said. “And they called the places where the Russian units are and where they are moving. And so the Ukrainian forces have this great advantage in finding the Russians in this great country, and that gives their small units with smart weapons “real-time actionable intelligence.”

The third rule of new age warfare unfolding in Ukraine, Arquilla said, is that “spinning always beats soaring.” He explained, “War is no longer just a numbers game. You don’t need big numbers to overwhelm the opponent with lots of smart little weapons. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the videos of these Russian tanks and columns, where all of a sudden one tank is shot down in the front and then another in the back so the Russians can’t maneuver and then they just get picked up.”

Since this is the next phase of the war and the Russians are not stupid, surely they will adjust in phase two, right?

The Russians will continue to use heavy bombardment, Arquilla explained, “and they will be even less reluctant to do so in eastern Ukraine than they have been in its western territory. But the rubble makes the conquest more difficult. Remember Stalingrad. The Nazis bombed Stalingrad, Russia in the Stone Age of World War II, but then had to try to move through the rubble in small units to secure it and were unable to do so.

So look for the Russians to adjust some tactics. “The Russians have shown an ability to learn and adapt,” Arquilla said. “In the First Winter War against the Finns – from 1939 to 1940 – the same kind of thing happened to the Russians when they first invaded Finland. They were beaten by the Finns using these tactics small team. The Russians then fell back, they reorganized, and then they came back a bit smarter and ended up overwhelming the opponent. My understanding is that the Russians actually activated their units more naval infantry, who are used to operating in smaller teams, so expect them to be more infantry-heavy and less tank-heavy in the next phase.

That said, he added, the Ukrainians “should always have the advantage in terms of the search problem, and they are already used to operating in these very small units. The Russians are much more centralized. One of the reasons so many generals have been killed is because at the tactical level they don’t have people who can make those quick decisions in a firefight; only general officers can, so they had to get down close to the front and do things that US Army lieutenants and sergeants do on a regular basis.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the conflict in Ukraine is Russia’s apparent lack of cyber warfare. “The Russians used cyberspace-based attack tools to disrupt Ukrainian command and control, but this had little overall effect due to the highly decentralized operations of the Ukrainian regular defense forces and militia,” explained Arquilla.

At the same time, the Russians seem reluctant to launch a major cyberattack against infrastructure in the United States and against other NATO countries assisting Ukraine, for fear that doing so now would allow NATO to familiarize itself with Russia’s most advanced computer tools and build defenses against them. Russia must save its cyber weapons for a big war with the West. Thus, Arquilla observed, “it may be that when it comes to strategic cyber warfare, the prospect of all sides facing mutually assured disruption may actually produce a kind of cyber deterrence.”

As for Russia’s vaunted air superiority, Arquilla said, “we’ve already seen how vulnerable their jets and helicopters are to Stingers. This will not change in the next phase of the war.

In summary, Arquilla said, “I’m not saying the Russians are going to be kicked out of eastern Ukraine. I try to answer the question: why have Ukrainians done so well? And that’s because they applied all these new rules of modern warfare.

And as they will surely continue to do, it portends another round of long, terrible, and mutually destructive wars in which neither side is likely to be able to administer a knockout blow. After that, who knows?

I still hope that fool Putin will eventually seek a dirty, life-saving deal, involving Russian withdrawal, some sort of independent status for the more pro-Russian eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, and no Ukrainian NATO membership. , but giving Ukraine a green light to join the European Union, as well as security guarantees against another Russian invasion.

May he arrive soon.

“The longer the fighting lasts, the tougher the Ukrainian resistance – thanks to the methods of warfare they pioneered – the greater the risk of escalation,” Arquilla said. “But Putin bullied Russian civil society into submission. And the Russian army, so embarrassed by his relatively poor performance, is unlikely to turn against him. So he probably thinks he’s in no rush to defuse.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how small wars become big wars.

“I recently re-read Barbara Tuchman’s ‘The Guns of August’ – about how the great powers fell in World War I – Arquilla said. “It’s a cautionary tale that remains relevant.”