War is dirty business

The Russia-Ukraine war has reminded us that war is indeed a dirty business.

Posted on Jan 23, 2023 by Prakash Kini (PK)


The Russia-Ukraine war has reminded us that war is indeed a dirty business. It has not only impacted the two countries at war but has also had a huge impact on the global economy as well as supplies and prices of fuel and food staples. The war has also brought us into a sanctions regime, where a good portion of world fuel and food supplies are sanctioned and are being transported using dark fleet. Several critical ports and shipping channels such as Odessa and the Black Sea are being blockaded. And the war is far from over.

The war has also accelerated the polarisation of countries into different factions. Skirmishes at the China-India border and even small movements in the China-Taiwan region gets the entire world on tenterhooks. It does not help that several countries today are nuclear capable.

In fact, the winds of war have been blowing since towards Q3/Q4 2021 when it was starting to get clear that the initial rites leading to at least a localised war were afoot, due to political instigation and political gains or personal glory and aspirations or both.

Source: Solera Advisors SIFT social listening tool

Today, regions such as the South China Sea and Indian Ocean are a few of the most sensitive spots in the world. These are in addition to hot spots such as Syria, Yemen, Palestine where conflicts spark quite regularly.

Multiple countries such as Poland, the Czech and other EU countries, South Korea, Malaysia, India and Australia which are either in or around these epicenters, are increasing their defense spending and tightening their defenses, in what seems preparations for the worst eventuality.

Many alliances, such as the Quad and Aukus, have also been formed in order to unitedly prepare, share intel to preempt and ultimately defend against such eventualities.

Source: CDR Salamander Blog

Moreover, modern warfare is not just kinetic warfare fought by our armies in far off battlefields, but it is being fought continuously in our backyards, in our cities and our media alike, and is multi-pronged such as financial, internet and media misinformation and propaganda, chemical, biological, radiological, psychological, cyber warfare, asymmetric warfare and any form of sabotage by field agents on essential services or supply chains.

“All warfare is based on deception. The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” - Sun Tzu, Art of War

New tech is already being introduced in defense such as advanced drones and lasers, bionic and super soldiers, hypersonic, quantum computing all underpinned by AI.

National security concerns quickly spread to multiple business and trade areas such as telecom and networking, security systems and automation of essential services and homes, social media and finance. Being connected, usually a boon, becomes a bane in dire circumstances.

The Russia-Ukraine war and political and financial instability in nuclear capable countries such as Pakistan also raise the risk of a nuclear and/or chemical misadventure or accident. This necessitates investments and drills in alerting systems and preparedness for such disasters.

The risk of polarisation and silos, and trade wars, pandemic and war created spare parts supply chain issues, is also resulting in an increased focus on indigenous development of defense equipment in countries such as India which traditionally have been major importers of defense equipment.

Several countries are also altering the processes of army recruitment including short term recruitment, minimum or maximum enlistment age and mandatory military service and drafting rules.

Let us get a little deeper on a few of these topics …

Cyberattacks through the Russia-Ukraine war timeline

During the Russia-Ukraine war, there have been strong rumours of cyberattacks not only in Russia and Ukraine but also on the US and rest of Europe. It is alleged that Russia launched over 2000 cyberattacks on Ukraine in 2022.

At one point the US Fed had issued an official cyber attack warning to its ports and critical utilities and food warehouses, warning them to tighten their cyber defenses.

Allegations of chemical warfare during Russia-Ukraine war

There have been allegations from both sides that chemical weapons have been used at different points in the Russia-Ukraine war.

Defense expenditure is rising globally

Source: SIPRI

One industry that seems to be defying the economic downturn and pandemic is the defense industry. Defense expenditure across the world is rising. Countries are plugging any vulnerabilities and holes they might have in their army, naval or air force. Investments in traditional equipment such as fighter planes, helicopters, missiles, aircraft carriers and submarines as well as military intelligence is rising as is in modern warfare tools such as drones and counter-drone missiles, cyber defense.

Source: SIPRI (2021 data)
Source: Statista (2021 data)

Here is a few defense investments & purchases in the works, since start of 2023 alone!

Debates around defense spending are being conducted in many countries such as the UK, some vote for higher spending considering the geopolitical climate, while others are criticising the “wasteful” spending on defense, as opposed to green energy, tax relief and other initiatives, especially given those very countries and its citizens are also going through severe financial troubles and are also at a risk of losing their energy and food security.

The frequency of war exercises and mock drills has also increased.

Allied countries are also spending on financing, training and equipping Ukraine to stay competitive in the continued war with Russia. Russia itself also stands a chance of emptying its own coffers on the war and going bankrupt and has come close several times to defaulting on its sovereign debt payments. As they say in war, there are often no winners and losers.

Military Recruitment

Many new ideas are being utilised for military recruitment. The US seems to be utilising social influencing to attract talent, while India’s Agniveer scheme which utilises the short term service idea has been met with mixed reactions. Changing demographics of several countries such as China and Japan, is also causing challenges in entry level military recruitment.

The Quad

The Quad (or Indo-Pacific Quadrilateral Dialogue), is a multilateral dialogue between Australia, India, Japan and the United States that got going, amidst great fanfare, in around 2007. The diplomatic and military arrangement has been widely viewed as a response to increased Chinese economic, military and maritime power. It has ebbed and flowed through the past few years. It has had its moments, such as the annual joint naval exercise called Exercise Malabar, the 2022 edition of which was held in Nov 2022. The Quad also had held a Quad Plus meeting that included representatives from South Korea, New Zealand, and Vietnam when the Covid pandemic had peaked. The Quad has also warmed up the channels and opportunities for improved economic collaboration, tech exchanges and trade agreements (e.g. Free Trade Agreement or FTA) between these countries.


Aukus, is a trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, announced on 15 September 2021 for the Indo-Pacific region. Under the pact, the US and the UK will help Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines. There are then other areas of cooperation such as AI, cyber defense, quantum, hypersonic. Canada seems to be interested as well. The French are not very happy with this pact, as it led to the cancellation of a huge French-Australian submarine deal.


People who have seen the recent movie Top Gun Maverick would have gotten a fictional taste of hypersonic flight, which goes above Mach 5. Several hypersonic defense equipment is being rolled out, some of which i.e. Russian Kinzhal missiles are alleged to have been used in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. Hypersonic missiles are also being called HGV or Hypersonic Glide Vehicles. China and US are aggressively testing their tech and close to battle ready. A few other countries such as India, Japan, Australia, France, Germany and North Korea are also in test stage. Early forms of 6G Wifi tech is being used for communicating with hypersonic missiles. Anti-hypersonic defense systems, which are the counter to hypersonic missiles and aircrafts, are also being developed, mostly using laser tech.

US Achieves ‘Key Milestone’ To Intercept ‘Russian, Chinese’ Hypersonic Missiles; GPI Program To Enter Next Big Stage

Hypersonic tech also makes previous tech obsolete in a matter of months.

Asymmetric Warfare

Asymmetrical warfare, unconventional strategies and tactics adopted by a force when the military capabilities of belligerent powers are not simply unequal but are so significantly different that they cannot make the same sorts of attacks on each other. - Britannica

It is alleged that Ukraine is able to hold its own in the war with Russia despite the Russian might because of its art of asymmetric warfare, and use of tech such as drones and Starlink communication.

Just like every new virus and mutation needs a new vaccine, these threats also need to be intercepted and countered, which leads to another set of new technology to be developed, such as the use of electromagnetism and lasers backed by quantum computing for making complex decisions at 1/10th or 1/100th of the time.

Quantum Computing in Defense

Proceed to these links if you want to know more about quantum computing: GoogleMITIBMQiskit and Nvidia. (I will leave a deep dive into Quantum Computing for another time)

Just like in industries such as cryptography, healthcare and finance, quantum computing is the next frontier in defense as well, where it is being used to make complex decisions much quicker with a lot more precision. This could be as an example, to precisely manoeuvre hypersonic missiles, or track their trajectories and intercept them i.e. in hypersonic defense solutions. Quantum computing can also be used to crack encrypted data due to the immense computing power at its disposal. As mentioned before, every new virus needs a vaccine, quantum cyber attacks need to be defended against by tech such as post-quantum cryptography.

Super Soldiers

A few Ukrainian soldiers who had lost their arms in war are getting advanced prosthetic limbs. Is the age of the bionic super-soldier already here?

Today’s soldier does not walk into battle alone, he/she is supported by on-the-body high tech weapons and devices including an exoskeleton, advanced powered armor suit, gas filters, Augmented Reality (AR) guns, drones, robots, even dogs and dolphins as well as a dedicated remote team who he/she is constantly in touch with using advanced satellite communication.

Where do we go from here?

As we read this, the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG) is meeting on the 20th Jan 2023 at the Ramstein air base in south Germany. This follows on the heels of a a set of allies’ meetings at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. The key decisions coming out of the UDCG meeting are awaited.

Defense experts and war gamers all over the world are charting out several scenarios, most of them terrifying, keeping in mind the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and other global conditions.

Here are a few of them:


Of course, keeping the horrors of war away for a moment, in the short term, increase in defense budgets may mean that naval shipyards which were quite sparse and empty will now fill up and defense and defense contractors and aerospace firms in general will get new orders.

Countries already hit by war such as Ukraine will also need a lot of funds to rebuild, which could seek the services of infra and engineering firms. These do provide equity investment opportunities for the opportunistic.

Moreover, the defense industry is usually an early adopter and funder of several cutting edge technologies, which could eventually be applied in the civilian space.

However, on the whole, let us all ensure that good sense will prevail and we can collectively halt things snowballing into an arms race, another regional war or escalation into a tenuous global war. This could put humanity back by a couple of decades, if not centuries.

Let us motivate countries to practise restraint, and truly use defense assets for defense, as a deterrent, and not for unprovoked offense, and that the assets in troubled nations do not fall into the hands of miscreants. Military alliances should focus on peacekeeping and defense preparedness as opposed to initiating or instigating violence. Sadly though, these are the very scenarios we will need to be prepared for.

Peace will help us deal with the other gargantuan issues plaguing us today such as food and water scarcity, the pandemic, recession and climate change.

I end this report with a couple of noteworthy quotes …

“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.” - Ernest Hemingway.
“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower.