The Russia-Ukraine Conflict and the (Un)Changing Character of War


  • Paul Robinson University of Ottawa


Over the past 30 years, studies of war have repeatedly promoted the thesis that fundamental changes are taking place in the character, or even the fundamental nature, of war. If this was the case, we would expect these changes to be observable in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Yet they do not seem to be. This article analyzes the conduct of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and compares it to theories concerning the changing character of war. It concludes that very little, if any, of that theorizing applies. Despite the use of modern technologies, the war in Ukraine is strikingly old-fashioned. Military planners are likely to conclude that they must prepare for the possibility that wars of the future may look very like wars of the past, in other words, that they may be prolonged wars of attrition, and that the outcome may be determined by which side is able to mobilize the largest army and the greatest firepower. 

Author Biography

Paul Robinson, University of Ottawa

Paul Robinson is a professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa and the author of numerous books on Russian and Soviet history, military history, defence policy, and military ethics. His book Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich: Supreme Commander of the Russian Army (Northern Illinois University Press, 2016) won the Society for Military History's Distinguished Book Award for biography.






Special Issue: War in Ukraine