My time in Ukraine, as much as time on other deployments, h...NEXT
Serge AJun 2, 2022 (0)
Ukrainians may be on the front lines in the war with Russia, but the general populace is as clueless about military operations as is the rest of the world. Should military news be delivered to the people of Ukraine, in Ukrainian, in real time? Should secrecy trump openness? Does news of an impending battle dilute the value of surprise?
In some cases, Russian attack plans should be made public as soon as possible in order to save lives. Information is power, and you can never be too empowered when it comes to protecting your life and those of your loved ones. A good example is the recent preemptive evacuation of civilians. The Ukrainian government identified likely targets and tasked the National Patrol Police with organizing personnel who then moved non-combatants to safer regions. In Ukraine, all patrol police are national, meaning they report to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kyiv.
But where is safe? Russian missiles are capable of striking anywhere and everywhere in Ukraine, the largest country that lies entirely within Europe. A missile launched from temporarily occupied Crimea can reach Lviv, and for reference, that's like saying a missile launched from New York City can reach Miami or Chicago. People may understand that risk, but when they opt to stay, it is because they fail to realize that far more dangerous than long range missile strikes are the multiple rocket launcher systems that the Russian military possesses in abundance. These shoot as many as 60 self-propelled mid-range rockets in a matter of seconds, which means you can expect as many as 200 shells in less than a minute, mostly shrapnel units that explode right before or right after they reach the ground, spreading thousands of sharp pieces in every which way. Yet, some civilians decide to stay. The police try to explain the risk, but the people who stay usually answer that they have nothing but their land and their house, and without them, then they have no life anyway. So they stay, unprotected, and if they're lucky they survive the Russian multiple rocket launch systems. The police have no time to teach them how to shield themselves, because their job is to get as many people out as possible. The police wear armor that was engineered to stop pistol bullets, not shrapnel. I personally donated 12 Class 5 bullet proof vests to the police evacuation crews, which they share among shifts. Information is key here, but how do you get it to the people in such a short amount of time? In the recent evacuation, the government did all it could in the short amount of time it had, but still, some people chose to stay.
Thank-you pictures are personal, so I blurred the faces of the officers. I never asked for a photo, but they sent me one anyway. I cherish it. It makes me feel good that my gift, from the trunk of my car, was able to lower the risk, even if ever so slightly, to people who risk their own lives to save others.
Western politicians split hairs about the effective distance of the missiles for Ukraine, seemingly oblivious to the advantage that the longer the effective distance, the more preemptive power they have, and the more Ukrainian lives they can save. If you can stop the enemy 200 miles away from a town, it means there's more time to evacuate people, more time to persuade them to leave, more time to explain the reasons why, and more time for the evacuation crew to escape danger. In this case, sharing information is key to helping people survive.
On the other hand, some information should remain secret. Russia spent years preparing for this offensive, establishing spies in Ukraine who had ample time to learn the language and get Ukrainian passports. The two countries share almost 1,500 miles of border, and with a Ukraine population of 40 million, it was easy for Russian spies to integrate. These people have been activated like terrorist cells and Internal Security Service, Ukraine's equivalent of the FBI, is working round the clock to identify and arrest them.
In this case, publicizing war tactics would hurt the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Not only do the Russians track everything that happens from open sources from Russia, but they also have spies who supply them with information about missile strikes. The Russians do the best they can to get the missile coordinates of any site they deem worthy of a missile. Most of the time they go by old maps and flimsy information. They strike, but there is no telling if the missile destroyed the intended target until Russian spies integrated among civilians report back if the missile hit its target. If not, they correct the coordinates and the Russian military recalculates and strikes again.
This is why the exact location of missile strikes and explosions should not be reported now, and perhaps never, not even in the long-awaited peaceful future. Please, dear reader: If by any chance someone sends a video or a picture of a Russian fire strike in Ukraine, under no circumstances share it. Furthermore, remind the sender that sharing it might lead to tens if not hundreds of deaths. You who live a world away may think this is nonsense, but please consider that your friend or buddy may have a relationship with the Russian military or may have a relative in Russia who would love to get his hands on this information. Therefore unknowingly, you are aiding terrorists. The point is, do not share missile strike information with anybody, even if you do not give coordinates. The Russians are just across a very long border, and their special forces are very good at recognizing the area from pictures.
This kind of information should not be shared with anyone outside active military personnel. For Ukrainians in the line of fire, imagine that you are home, you hear missiles in the air and an explosion and then another one. There is total confusion and silence in the media. You are sheltered, hiding from the attack, but all that comes next, sometimes hours later, is the air raid alarm canceled message. You have no idea what was destroyed. The next day, you get official information that an infrastructure site was damaged, with 10 people dead and 35 injured. You want to know more, but you also realize that the more you know, the more lives are at stake.
Serge A is of Ukrainian descent, grew up in Brooklyn and is volunteering in Ukraine as a legally armed member of a Territorial Defense Group. He was a columnist for the newspaper at Pace University which he attended as an undergrad.
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