Kent Üniversitesi

War, Ukraine and Strategy

War, Ukraine, and Strategy

By Hakan Ercan

(Ret) Rear  Admiral (LH)

Following the Russian occupation on February 24, 2022, the people of Ukraine have endured significant hardships, including the loss of lives, homes, and loved ones. Their lives and aspirations were abruptly disrupted, prompting reflection on the necessity of a strategic mindset.

A strategic approach involves the art of creating power (force), developing it (time), and using it (space). It comprises three essential elements: "force, time, and space." No individual element, irrespective of its significance, can autonomously lead to goal attainment. Unity and mutual support among these elements are essential for the realization of the ultimate objective. Moreover, national strategy should be primarily rooted in "national politics." Renowned leader Atatürk has articulated national politics as follows: "First and foremost, preserving our existence by relying on our strength and working towards the genuine happiness and prosperity of the nation and the country; refraining from imposing unattainable demands on the nation or causing harm..."

Applying Atatürk's national policy principle to the Ukrainian scenario, it is evident that the political goal of NATO membership, which Ukraine sought to achieve, was subjected to obstruction by a formidable neighboring state, with the potential to precipitate war and jeopardize national survival, along with regional and global security. Regrettably, similar distressing events unfolded in Georgia in 2008 and Crimea, Ukraine in 2014. These risks cannot be dismissed due to Russophobia or external influences. Calculating risks takes precedence over merely focusing on opportunities.

However, the Ukrainian administration, seemingly equating close dialogue and cooperation with the West as adequate power and opportunity, committed a significant "strategic mistake." Given the apparent threat in its vicinity and the ongoing instability in the eastern region, it becomes evident that the "time and space" elements of the strategy were unsuitable for NATO membership. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian administration excessively relied on "force (foreign support)," disregarding the additional elements of strategy (time and space). Consequently, this led to a historic disaster for the nation. Nonetheless, with a strategic mindset, it would have been possible, albeit with low probability, to pursue a strategy of winning without fighting (leaving the matter to time) or, at the very least, anticipate the impending disaster and maintain a safe distance. Prevention incurs lower costs than mitigation.

PS: This article was first published in Cumhuriyet newspaper on January 12, 2024. It is republished in English on the KENTUSAM website with the permission of its author, Retired Rear Admiral Hakan Ercan.

Bu makale ilk olarak 12 Ocak 2024 tarihli Cumhuriyet gazetesinde yer almıştır. Yazarı Emekli Tuğamiral Hakan Ercan’ın izniyle İngilizce olarak KENTUSAM sitesinde yayınlanmaktadır