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NEWS | Oct. 17, 2022

THE KHERSON RUSE: UKRAINE AND THE ART OF MILITARY DECEPTION

In ancient China, the general Sun Tzu counseled that “all warfare is based on deception.” Could that still be the case millennia later—after an industrial and then a digital revolution have left contemporary battlefields awash with intelligence sensors and digital technology that can offer commanders unprecedented levels of situational awareness? Advancement in thermal imaging can highlight targets concealed to the naked eye, while near constant real-time observation from constellations of satellites and seemingly ubiquitous unmanned vehicles can inhibit maneuver, deliver precision strikes, and provide timely indications and warning. Voluminous twitter threads and uploads of data, metadata, and even curated datasets provide a surprisingly granular understanding of the battlespace, and internet platforms like Google Maps can indicate traffic congestion along main motorways caused by an invasion. This may lead some to consider the fog of war practically dispelled, and, as a consequence, military deception a tool of a bygone, less transparent, and less sensor-laden era. But analyzing recent Ukrainian victories would correct this erroneous point of view. In early September the Ukrainian military accomplished the most major feat of arms in the Russo-Ukrainian war (thus far) with deception at its foundation. Some principles are timeless.

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