Leading into the future.
Strategy International · Think Tank & Consulting ServicesStrategy International · Think Tank & Consulting ServicesStrategy International · Think Tank & Consulting Services
(+357) 96 886 872
CY-2042, Nicosia

Ukraine and Israel-Hamas Conflicts: 10 Strategic Lessons

PUBL0127

Ukraine and Israel-Hamas Conflicts: 10 Strategic Lessons

The Ukraine and Israel-Hamas conflicts reveal modern warfare complexities, challenging traditional deterrence, highlighting low-cost weaponry, and influencing global alliances and strategic calculations for policymakers and strategists.

Introduction

The rapid evolution of global dynamics requires policymakers and strategists to adapt to the shifting landscape of international relations and military engagements. The conflicts in Ukraine and between Israel and Hamas offer critical lessons, highlighting the complexities of modern warfare and its profound impact on regional and international geopolitics. These conflicts not only reveal the intricacies of economic and military interdependencies but also underscore the limitations of traditional deterrence strategies, the effectiveness of low-cost weaponry, and the resilience of adversaries. Furthermore, the geopolitical ramifications extend beyond the immediate regions, influencing global alliances, economic sanctions, and the strategic calculations of nations worldwide. The lessons drawn from these conflicts are pivotal for understanding the changing paradigms of global security, the role of nuclear deterrence, and the emergence of new strategic alliances that challenge Western influence. This article identifies 10 important lessons drawn from global tensions created by the Ukraine and Israel-Hamas wars, providing insights essential for contemporary policymakers and military strategists.

“The conflicts in Ukraine and between Israel and Hamas underscore the limitations of traditional deterrence strategies and highlight the tactical advantage of low-cost weaponry in modern warfare

Lesson 1: Economic Interdependence Does Not Guarantee Conflict Prevention

The assumption that economic interdependence[1] could prevent conflicts has been significantly challenged by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Economic interdependence has been viewed positively, seen as a deterrent to conflict because the economic costs of war would outweigh any potential gains. Despite these theories, Russia’s actions in Ukraine serve as a stark counterexample.  Before the invasion, Russia was significantly economically intertwined with Europe, particularly through energy exports. The expectation was that the mutual dependency on energy would deter aggressive actions. However, Russia proceeded with its military aggression despite the potential (and eventual) severe sanctions and significant economic repercussions, including losing its main fossil fuel client: Europe.  Conversely, rather than purely deterring conflict, economic interdependence can also be weaponized[2]. This means that states can leverage economic connections to exert pressure or influence over others. The invasion has shown that Russia possibly viewed its energy supplies to Europe as a leverage point, rather than a mutual vulnerability.

Lesson 2: Western Military Power Is No Longer a Deterrent

The diminished effectiveness of Western military power as a standalone deterrent is illustrated by Iran’s actions against Israel and its allies’ actions against the U.S. Iran’s strategy has increasingly involved the use of proxy forces and indirect attacks, such as those carried out by Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. These tactics spread Western military focus thin and challenge the traditional models of deterrence which are typically state-centric and rely on direct confrontation.  Iran’s use of advanced technology, such as drones and missiles, in these proxy conflicts further complicates the deterrence landscape, as it allows Iran to engage in aggressive actions without direct repercussions to its state forces[3].  Finally, the change in U.S. foreign policy, such as the pivot to focusing on the Indo-Pacific region, has raised questions among Middle Eastern allies about the reliability of U.S. military support and may have emboldened Iran to test Western military response.

Lesson 3: Conflicts Sow Divisions in NATO Alliance Rather Than Unity

Divisions within the NATO alliance significantly affect its unified decision-making and response, particularly when considering the roles and actions of Hungary, Turkey, and Germany. The political alignment of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (Hungary) with Russia presents a challenge to NATO[4], as Hungary has used its position within the alliance to block initiatives like the Ukraine-NATO Commission, effectively aiding Russian geopolitical strategies.  President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has similarly strained Turkey’s relationship with NATO. The purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system starkly illustrates this tension[5], as the system is incompatible with NATO defenses and symbolizes a deeper geopolitical rift. Erdoğan’s actions reflect a desire to shift Turkey’s dependence from Western influence to a more balanced geopolitical stance that also includes Russia.  Germany has often been perceived as a reluctant military leader within NATO, especially regarding its contribution to security aid packages to Ukraine since 2022[6]. Also, despite being one of NATO’s largest economies, Germany has frequently faced criticism for not meeting the 2 percent GDP defense spending target set by the alliance[7].

“Economic sanctions alone fail to deter belligerent nations, as seen with Russia and North Korea, necessitating a reevaluation of global strategic and military policies”

Lesson 4: Economic Sanctions Fail To Deter Belligerent Nations from Pursuing Strategic Objectives

The failure of economic sanctions[8] to deter nations like North Korea[9] and Russia[10] from pursuing their strategic objectives, despite significant economic penalties, is an important miscalculation. Despite decades of severe sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear ambitions, North Korea has successfully developed a sophisticated nuclear program[11]. Economic sanctions, as a tool, have been largely ineffective. More recently, North Korea started to supply Russia’s military with missiles and ordinances[12].  Russia, similarly, has faced extensive sanctions from Western countries, especially following its actions in Ukraine. Nonetheless, Russia was able to adopt numerous countermeasures, including boosting domestic production, diversifying its economy, and strengthening economic ties with Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In 2024, Russia has emerged as a leading nation in terms of economic growth, with its GDP increase on track to surpass those of European countries and the United States[13].

Lesson 5: Allies Rely Too Much on U.S. Military Support

The defense capabilities of U.S. allies, particularly in scenarios involving belligerent nation-states as aggressors, reveal significant reliance on United States military support. The recent attacks from Iran have shown Israel needs substantial support from the United States and other allies to intercept a large number of missiles and drones[14].  Similarly, Ukraine’s defense against a larger and technologically superior Russian military has been significantly bolstered by extensive international aid, including weapons, training, and financial assistance[15]. It is important to note that despite Ukraine’s access to a substantial arsenal of Western weaponry, implementation of tactics developed with NATO assistance, and training from NATO members, it appears to be struggling in the conflict with Russia. This situation indicates that Russia adapted to engage effectively a conflict involving NATO’s tactics and strategies[16].  Finally, while NATO is a powerful military alliance, the levels of military readiness and capabilities vary tremendously among member countries, complicating the collective defense posture. Issues like dwindling military recruitment[17] and low reserves of ammunition[18] in many NATO countries suggest a gap in readiness that could be detrimental in a broader conflict scenario. This situation potentially places a disproportionate burden on the United States, which may have to handle a significant part of the alliance’s defense responsibilities in a widespread conflict.

Lesson 6: Weapons Production Is a Western Weakness

The ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East have exposed critical deficiencies in the Western military-industrial complex, particularly concerning the production capacities and supply chain efficiency[19] for crucial weapon systems. There is an ongoing shortfall in the availability of artillery shells, Javelin missiles, and other vital armaments, which is exacerbated by significant backlogs in manufacturing[20]. These supply chain vulnerabilities have become increasingly apparent as Western nations struggle to support allies in conflict zones without depleting their own military reserves.

Lesson 7: Effectiveness of Low-Cost Weapons

Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas conflicts underscore a significant paradigm in military strategy, where the volume and cost-efficiency of simpler weapons may sometimes surpass the tactical advantages conferred by more advanced, expensive technologies. This phenomenon is exemplified in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, where Russia’s deployment of abundant, albeit low-tech, military resources such as drones[21] and older armored vehicles has overwhelmed Ukrainian defenses that depend on a limited array of sophisticated technologies, including ATACMS, Patriot missile systems, Abrams tanks, and soon F-16 fighter jets.  Similarly, in the context of asymmetric warfare, the Houthis have effectively utilized economical, low-tech drones and missiles[22] to challenge major global shipping lanes, compelling Western powers to allocate extensive financial resources to intercept these threats with high-tech weaponry.

Lesson 8: Underestimation of Adversary Capabilities

The performance of intelligence assessments in accurately predicting and understanding the capabilities of adversaries like Hamas and Russia has shown notable gaps. These gaps include underestimating Hamas’ preparations for attacks and Russia’s ability to quickly replenish its military losses. More precisely, Israeli Intelligence agencies failed to anticipate the scale and sophistication of Hamas’ preparations for the October 7, 2023, attack. This shortfall stems from an underestimation of Hamas’ operational security and its ability to plan and execute coordinated attacks without detection[23].  Similarly, intelligence assessments underestimated Russia’s logistical capabilities, particularly its capacity to rapidly replenish troops and weaponry on the battlefield[24]. This oversight resulted from a misjudgment of the resilience and flexibility of the Russian military-industrial complex and its supply chain mechanisms. Furthermore, Hamas’ operations against Israel in October 2023 represent another instance where large-scale military maneuvers employing rudimentary weaponry[25] have successfully overwhelmed highly advanced defense systems.

Lesson 9: Nuclear Deterrence Is Shifting to Nuclear Coercion

The evolving role of nuclear weapons in global security dynamics is marked by increased deployments and a rhetorical shift toward a more assertive nuclear posture. This transformation reflects broader geopolitical changes and emerging security challenges. Nuclear weapons are now more prominently featured in the strategic calculus of several countries, influencing global power dynamics and deterrence strategies. For instance, the deployment of Russia’s nuclear weapons in Belarus[26] and the deployment of a U.S. nuclear-armed submarine in South Korea[27] highlight a trend where nations are either hosting nuclear weapons as a deterrent measure or directly expanding their nuclear capabilities such as China and North Korea. The political and military rhetoric regarding nuclear weapons has also shifted[28]. Increasingly, nations are openly discussing the use of nuclear weapons as a legitimate tool of coercion[29], moving away from the Cold War-era rhetoric where the emphasis was largely on nuclear arms as a means of last resort.

Lesson 10: New Strategic Alliances Are Challenging Western Influence

The evolving economic and military partnerships between nations such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea are reshaping global conflict dynamics and challenging Western influence in significant ways[30]. The cooperation between these nations is not merely reactive but part of a strategic positioning that includes shared technologies, intelligence, and military capabilities. These synergies allow for a more coordinated stance against Western economic sanctions and military actions[31]. As these countries enhance their military and economic ties, they develop a greater capacity to withstand pressure from the West and to project power in their respective regions.

Conclusion

The strategic lessons from the Ukraine and Israel-Hamas conflicts are crucial in understanding the complexities of contemporary global security. These conflicts reveal the limitations of traditional deterrence strategies, the challenges of economic interdependence, and the efficacy of low-cost weaponry in modern warfare. They also highlight the adaptability and resilience of adversaries, who often leverage asymmetric tactics and advanced technologies to counteract conventional military strengths. The lessons underscore the need for a multifaceted approach to global security, which includes strengthening alliances, enhancing intelligence capabilities, and reassessing the role of economic sanctions. Additionally, the emergence of new strategic alliances and the shifting dynamics of nuclear deterrence call for innovative strategies to address these challenges effectively.

  1. Nye, Joseph S. Review of Power and Interdependence Revisited, by Robert O. Keohane. International Organization 41, no. 4 (1987): 725–53. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2706764
  2. Henry Farrell, Abraham L. Newman; Weaponized Interdependence: How Global Economic Networks Shape State Coercion. International Security 2019; 44 (1): 42–79.
  3. Kahwaji, Riad. Iran’s strikes did little damage to Israel — but analysts say Tehran benefits anyway. Breaking Defense (04/17/2024). https://breakingdefense.com/2024/04/irans-strikes-did-little-damage-to-israel-but-analysts-say-tehran-benefits-anyway/
  4. Katz, Jonathan and Torrey Taussig. An inconvenient truth: Addressing democratic backsliding within NATO. Bookings Institute (07/10/2018). https://www.brookings.edu/articles/an-inconvenient-truth-addressing-democratic-backsliding-within-nato/

  5. Macias, Amanda. U.S. sanctions Turkey over purchase of Russian S-400 missile system. CNBC (12/15/2020) https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/14/us-sanctions-turkey-over-russian-s400.html

  6. Kirschbaum, Erik. ‘War scares us stiff’: Germany’s reluctance to arm Ukraine is rooted in its bloodstained past. Los Angeles Times (01/26/2023). https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2023-01-26/germany-reluctance-arm-ukraine-history-wars

  7. Bennhold, Katherine. German Defense Spending Is Falling Even Shorter. The U.S. Isn’t Happy. New York Times (03/19/2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/19/world/europe/germany-nato-spending-target.html

  8. Wrigth, Robin. Why Sanctions Too Often Fail. New Yorker (03/07/2022) https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/why-sanctions-too-often-fail

  9. Council on Foreign Relations. What to Know About Sanctions on North Korea. Council of Foreign Relations (07/27/2022) https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/north-korea-sanctions-un-nuclear-weapons

  10. Swanson, Ana. Why Sanctions Haven’t Hobbled Russia? (02/16/2024). https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/16/briefing/russian-sanctions.html

  11. Hershkovitz, Jon. How North Korea Is Building a Nuclear Attack Arsenal. Bloomberg (03/22/2024) https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-03-22/how-north-korea-s-kim-jong-un-is-preparing-for-war-nuclear-weapons-missiles

  12. Eckel, Mike. Report: North Korea Shipping Ammunition, Weaponry ‘At Scale’ To Russia. Radio Free Europe (10/17/2023) https://www.rferl.org/a/north-korea-supplying-weaponry-russia-ukraine-war/32641294.html

  13. Islam, Faisal & Hannah Mullane Russia to grow faster than all advanced economies says IMF. BBC (04/16/2024) https://www.bbc.com/news/business-68823399
  14. Lendon, Brad. How Israel and allied defenses intercepted more than 300 Iranian missiles and drones. CNN (04/14/2024). https://www.cnn.com/2024/04/14/middleeast/israel-air-missile-defense-iran-attack-intl-hnk-ml/index.html

  15. Mills, Claire. Military assistance to Ukraine since the Russian invasion. United Kingdom Parliament. (05/02/2024) https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-9477/

  16. Ryan, Mick. Russia’s Adaptation Advantage. Early in the War, Moscow Struggled to Shift Gears—but Now It’s Outlearning Kyiv. Foreign Affairs (02/05/2024). https://www.foreignaffairs.com/ukraine/russias-adaptation-advantage

  17. Detsch, Jack. NATO Doesn’t Have Enough Troops. Foreign Policy (04/10/2024). https://foreignpolicy.com/2024/04/10/nato-troop-numbers-russia-ukraine-war/

  18. Kjellström, Katherine Elgin and Tyler Hacker. NATO has a munitions problem, and Europe needs to step up. Defense News (02/01/2024). https://www.defensenews.com/opinion/2024/02/01/nato-has-a-munitions-problem-and-europe-needs-to-step-up/
  19. Castillo, Vincent. E. The supply chain hurdles of sending weapons into a combat zone. PBS (03/16/2022). https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/the-supply-chain-hurdles-of-sending-weapons-into-a-combat-zone

  20. MacDonald, Alistair, Doug Cameron and Dasl Yoon. The West Badly Needs More Missiles—but the Wait to Buy Them Is Years Long. Wall Street Journal (01/03/2024). https://www.wsj.com/politics/national-security/missiles-demand-threats-wait-to-buy-them-is-years-long-3332c151

  21. BBC. How are ‘kamikaze’ drones being used by Russia and Ukraine? BBC (12/29/2023) https://www.bbc.com/news/world-62225830

  22. Seligman, Lara and Matt Berg. A $2M missile vs. a $2,000 drone: Pentagon worried over cost of Houthi attacks. Politico (12/19/2023). https://www.politico.com/news/2023/12/19/missile-drone-pentagon-houthi-attacks-iran-00132480

  23. Martin, Peter, Katrina Manson, and Henry Meyer. Hamas Got Around Israel’s Surveillance Prowess by Going Dark. Bloomberg (10/9/2023). https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-10-10/hamas-outmaneuvered-israel-s-surveillance-prowess-by-going-dark

  24. Tammik, Ott. NATO Has Been Underestimating Russia’s War Machine, Estonia Says. Bloomberg (01/24/2024). https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-01-24/russian-ability-to-sustain-war-was-underestimated-says-general

  25. White, Christopher. Hamas terrorists went low-tech to avoid Israel’s high powered intelligence agencies, reports show. ABC News (10/10/2023). https://wpde.com/news/nation-world/hamas-terrorists-went-low-tech-to-avoid-israels-high-powered-intelligence-agencies-reports-show

  26. Detsch, Jack and Robbie Gramer. Russia’s Nuclear Weapons Are Now in Belarus. Foreign Policy (03/14/2024). https://foreignpolicy.com/2024/03/14/russia-nuclear-weapons-belarus-putin/

  27. Hyung-Jin, Kim. US deploys nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea in show of force against North Korea. Associated Press (07/18/2023). https://apnews.com/article/south-korea-us-north-korea-nuclear-0c6a71344452d5b12420c13fd66a5a1f

  28. United Nations. Nuclear Warfare Risk at Highest Point in Decades, Secretary-General Warns Security Council, Urging Largest Arsenal Holders to Find Way Back to Negotiating Table. Security Council (03/18/2024). https://press.un.org/en/2024/sc15630.doc.htm

  29. Associated Press. Belarus launches nuclear drills a day after Russia announces them amid tensions with West. (05/07/2024) https://apnews.com/article/russia-belarus-nuclear-drills-ukraine-war-144422347bb168878cebc0b78071dd99

  30. Kendall-Taylor, Andrea and Richard Fontaine. The Axis of Upheaval. How America’s Adversaries Are Uniting to Overturn the Global Order. Foreign Affairs (04/23/2024). https://www.foreignaffairs.com/china/axis-upheaval-russia-iran-north-korea-taylor-fontaine

  31. Reuters. Russian links with China, Iran and North Korea a threat, warns Finland. (12/12/2023). https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/russian-links-with-china-iran-north-korea-threat-warns-finland-2023-12-12/

Author

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

DISCLOSURE

All written content of this article on this site is the exclusive copyright and property of Strategy International (SI) Ltd and the author who has written to It.

To note, the opinions stated do not necessarily reflect the official policies of Strategy International.

No prior use in part or in its complete form, written, words, maps, charts or statistical, numerical information can be made, unless there is a written prior request and consent by the author and Strategy International and its legal representative.

All requests should be directed at [email protected]

Topics

Contact

Office address:

24 Minoos Street, Strovolos,
CY-2042 Nicosia

Telephone:

(+357) 96 886 872
MON - FRI

Mail for information:

We look forward to discussing with your organization our joint collaboration.

Contact us via the details below, or enter your request.

    error: Content is protected !