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Pandemic adversely affects army combat capacity – expert

The coronavirus has created a new reality for warfare, he believes.

Pandemic adversely affects army combat capacity – expert
Serhiy Zgurets
Photo: Max Trebukhov

The coronavirus pandemic negatively affects the combat effectiveness of the army. This contradicts the very structure of the army which must be compact and mobile, while the virus attacks structures that are concentrated, Serhiy Zgurets, a member of the board of the Ukrainian Security Studies Institute (USSI), director of the information and consulting company Defense Express, has said at an online roundtable organized jointly by Gorshenin Institute and the USSI.

"People who work together are more affected by this threat. That is, the pandemic reduces the combat effectiveness of the army, all units of all countries have already experienced this," the expert emphasized.

Zgurets listed the following challenges that affect all modern-type armies:

- measures of international cooperation are substantially cancelled, which affects the level of training. The pandemic will affect the structure of the army. "We will now hear more about the need to expand the medical units or units that carry out RBC protection, these areas will be quite relevant," the expert noted.

- The pandemic forces the army to perform police functions. And this carries the risks of restricting certain civil liberties and rights: "The question arises: which is more important? The potential of police armies or civil liberties?"

- The pandemic will increase requirements that countries have large mobilization and strategic reserves. “Because now the situation with masks and with security makes everyone pay more attention to their own potential,” the expert said.

Zgurets also noted: "It is possible to predict that defence spending will be reduced in the future, as the medical segment will begin to be a priority. And some countries will begin to rely on other areas to eliminate the consequences of the pandemic. But in any case, we will feel all this later, and now we are talking about the fact that we are in a unique situation. Our armed forces should, on the one hand, perform functions as a structure that should be powerful, protect us from the external aggressor, while the country should be so powerful as to ensure the functionality of the entire civilian population. And also of the Armed Forces."

However, the expert pointed out, Ukraine is in a significantly unique situation compared to other European countries, "because we have many more threats".

“The fight against coronavirus is, relatively speaking, a new operating environment for the army. This is a new reality in which warfare needs to be carried out. And here the main burden falls on the commanders. In addition to linear challenges, new ones appear - a virus as a threat, a certain list of steps to be taken to counteract it in order to ensure the ability of his unit to carry out combat missions in these new conditions, and this is not an administrative or medical task, but a military one, which is assigned to the commander. A commander must ensure trust, awareness of subordinates, controllability of units and find a way to bring information to his units on how to operate in these conditions without waiting for the information from the top or until doctors find tools that minimize risks. This is a new challenge for the military in a new operating environment," Zgurets said.

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