More than a month after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Russian army has not only failed to win a military victory, but has suffered major defeats in public opinion and international relations.
International observers have gradually shifted from expecting certain defeat for Ukraine to praising its stubborn resistance, and some say it might even win the war. In view of this dramatic turnaround, as well as admiring Ukrainians’ will to resist, even more praise is due to the Ukrainian government and armed forces for successful psychological and intelligence operations, which demonstrate the importance of all-out national defense.
Although relations across the Taiwan Strait are not directly comparable to those between Russia and Ukraine, there are some lessons to be learned from the Ukrainian model.
First, the importance of establishing faith in key leaders.
Although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has often been derided as a “selfie president,” during the war his personal videos and sincere speeches have been straightforward and effective. Coming from the president himself, this has encouraged Ukrainians’ patriotism. It can be compared to Taiwan’s situation in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung’s (陳時中) leadership inspired the whole nation to mobilize against the virus.
Second, the pre-emptive use of military-civilian hybrid warfare.
Ukraine has repeatedly used hybrid warfare methods, such as proclaiming the supposed outstanding military exploits of the “Ghost of Kyiv,” the “13 soldiers of Snake Island” and the “Chonker of Donetsk”; setting up a hotline and Web site for people to inquire about Russian prisoners of war; and releasing videos of the “emotional outbursts” of captured Russian troops. These have all served to undermine Russian morale and foster anti-war sentiment in Russia.
The targets of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) hybrid warfare tactics against Taiwan, such as its cognitive warfare and psychological operations, extend beyond Taiwan’s armed forces to society as a whole. In response, as well as setting up integrated hybrid warfare Web sites to refute rumors spread by the CCP, Taiwan should encourage civic groups to learn about hybrid warfare techniques, thus enabling them to assist military forces.
Third, combining military and psychological operations.
On March 1, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that it would strike targets in Kyiv, namely the 72nd Main Center for Information and Psychological Operations (PSO) and technological facilities of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). Although the PSO’s exact mission and responsibilities are not clear, that it was named alongside the SBU highlights the importance of psychological operations in a war. Accordingly, Taiwan should reassess and strengthen the professionalism and capacity of its psychological operations and integrate them with all levels of the military, so as to use psychological operations to the greatest effect and strengthen overall national defense.
It is still uncertain how the conflict in Ukraine will end, but clearly if the Ukrainians had started out by expecting foreign aid, the war might have come to the quick end that Russia expected. As Sun Tzu (孫子) wrote in The Art of War: “The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.”
The ominous situation now prevailing across the Taiwan Strait makes it more important than ever for the government to make adequate preparations.
Wang Ruei-hong is a graduate student at National Defense University.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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