The first men to go to war with men from another tribe no doubt went to that first battle with the weapons they used to hunt. We have no record of that first battle, but we can safely assume it involved spears, clubs and probably rocks. It is possible that the throwing rock was developed just for these battles, as the thrown rock is much more effective against men than animals. The throwing rock is probably the first weapon developed just for killing other men.
One day a group of men decided to raid the territory of another tribe and they were met with a terrifying new weapon, the bow and arrow. Again, we have no idea when this happened, but logic says there was a first time use for the bow in war. A group sorted out how to launch a small version of their spear at an animal. This was much safer than getting up close and personal. The next logical step was to use this cool new weapon against invaders from another tribe.
Maybe it was the sling or maybe it was the bow, but most likely it was the fear of projectile weapons that led to the shield and the use of it. Shields are useful against spears, but they limit offensive ability. Again, we will never know, but most likely there was a first battle where the shield was used. The guys with bows were stunned to see this new terrifying weapon. Instead of raining death down on their enemy, their enemy was able to advance under the cover of their shields.
We are seeing this playout in Ukraine. The Russians are probably the world’s best at tank strategy. They have a lot of them and they have always been at the top in terms of tank technology. Russia is a land power, so it makes sense that they are the best with the dominant weapons of land warfare. In the Second World War it was the T-34 that beat back the Nazis and drove them back to Berlin. It remains the most popular tank in the world, despite being 80-years old.
The terrifying counter is the anti-tank weapon. The concept is pretty simple. You launch a missile at a tank that can penetrate its armour. The trick is either in hitting the tank from beyond its range or getting close enough to hit it from a blind spot. This is where the modern anti-tank weapons have become so important. The Javelin system allows a team of two to get close, fire from cover and take out a tank. The weapon is cheap and it can be used by the dumbest infantrymen.
The effects of this weapon are clear in Ukraine. Instead of leading with their armour, the Russians have been forced to use artillery and cruise missiles to soften up the line of contact and then use infantry to clear the way for tanks. This has not made the tank obsolete, but it has forced a change in its use. It now has to be deployed initially as a stand-off weapon, like an artillery piece. Instead of being the tip of the spear for ground forces, it is now a follow on weapon.
As an aside, this is a good example of the knock-on effect. Since the anti-tank weapon neutralizes the tank, the counter is the use of artillery. In the second Chechen war and now in Ukraine, the Russians are relying on their massive artillery advantage, which is turning the defensive positions into rubble. In other words, the Ukrainians will still lose and they will have their cities reduced to dust. The anti-tank weapon is making war bloodier and costlier to the civilian population.
The West thinks this is all good news, but there is bad news for the Global American Empire in Ukraine. For starters, the Russians have had the chance to test their S-400 surface-to-air missile system against serious opposition. It turns out to be as lethal as advertised, able to take out aircraft from over 250-miles away. It is cheap, mobile and easy to deploy in a wide range of conditions. It is to American air power what the Javelin missile system is to Russian tank warfare.
The American way of war is to gain air superiority and then pound the enemy from the sky until their mobility and communications are broken. Then the ground forces come in to attack the weakened enemy positions. The S-400 suddenly turns those 100-million dollar aerial weapons platforms into expensive target practice. Since these systems are cheap and getting cheaper, they will proliferate. It is why America threatens every country that buys them with sanctions.
That is not the only bad news. The Russians have been testing what the media is calling a hypersonic missile. The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal air-to-surface system is probably not a hypersonic weapon, given the technical issues involved with the technology, but that does not matter. It is fast enough, lethal enough and cheap enough to pose a serious problem for a sea power like America. The ability to strike a relatively small target from over a thousand miles away is a game changer.
The reason this is important is it means those carriers America relies upon to project air power will quickly become expensive target practice. Some have argued that this has already happened with land-based anti-ship weapons, but that is disputed. This new system ends the debate. If America wants to deploy carriers to protect Taiwan, they will soon need to find a way to make them invisible. Otherwise, they are billion dollar monuments to man’s innovative nature.
Of course, these innovations that are neutralizing the strengths of great power militaries are not new. The grinding deadlock of the Great War was due, in part, to the ability of all sides to neutralize offensive weapons, other than artillery. Both sides were left to pound one another from extensive trench systems. In this age, it means both sides are left with stand-off systems like missiles. It also makes the use of nuclear weapons more attractive as a way to break the deadlock.
This being the modern age, the trenches will be virtual. America launched the equivalent of a race to the sea by breaking all promises and declaring financial war on the Russian economy. The Russians have responded but have yet to launch their best financial weapons. China and India are now joining the fight, America has announced sanctions on China in response. Instead of trench war, this century’s great war will mean barriers to trade and capital.
Instead of reducing Europe to a moonscape, it will bring about a global depression that will set off unknown consequences. The world will have a food shortage this year due to the halt of agricultural products from Russia. Energy prices are rising, which will amplify the inflation pressure. Like the Great War, we are about to enter a test of wills where all sides try to bring the other to the breaking point economically. Washington is betting you can starve longer than Russians or Chinese.
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