SSN Commentary

Ukraine’s Military Medicine Is a Critical Advantage

Policy field

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University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Originally published in Foreign Policy on October 31, 2022.

Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine has prompted more than $100 billion in aid since February, several votes at the United Nations, and the transfer or sale of high-tech weapons systems from the United States to Ukraine, including the HIMARS rocket launch system, Switchblade 600 drones, and MANPADS air defense systems. But another, more prosaic part of the West’s aid to Ukraine is having a significant effect on the conflict: medical supplies. Military medicine is a largely overlooked contributor to military effectiveness, but its effects are playing out in real time on the battlefield.

From better field sanitation to mechanized and air evacuation, as well as modern body armor, armies today that take advantage of these changes can not only save lives but also preserve the strength of their forces. In World War I, for example, injured U.S. soldiers could wait hours to be evacuated to a field hospital just a few miles away; during the war in Afghanistan, by contrast, injured U.S. military personnel would be evacuated to the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, or even back to the United States within a day or two.