The images from the Russian invasion of Ukraine seen on social media, YouTube, and cable news show an unprepared country suddenly facing their worst nightmare. As hundreds of missiles rain down on cities all across the country, helicopters drop troops at airports outside Kyiv, and convoys of heavy armor roll across the border, there are a few important lessons preppers can all draw from these events.
Lesson One: Don’t Fall Victim to Normalcy Bias
Don’t believe it when someone says, “It can’t happen here.” This is probably the most important lesson a prepper can learn.
How many times has someone said, “Why, I’ve lived here 25 years and it never flooded before!” as if that would magically protect them while they live in the 100-year flood zone? We are preppers. We prepare for the worst. That should include preparing for the unexpected. We should be doubly prepared when the threat is obvious.
The Ukrainian president didn’t call up reservists until the day before the attack; he clearly didn’t take the threat seriously. According to an Associated Press article in the Portland Press Herald:
It was an attack few Ukrainians anticipated would happen, certainly not on this scale. For weeks, their president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and his advisers downplayed the possibilities of a Russian assault, even chastising the United States and European countries for constantly warning that an attack would happen. There were no evacuation plans or other elements of a comprehensive strategy to keep Ukrainians safe and secure in the event Russian tanks rolled in.
I heard a Ukrainian minister on Thursday say something like, “Who can believe we are fighting a war like this in the twenty-first century?” It is bad they didn’t believe it could happen. It is shocking that 18 hours after the attack started, that attitude still exists. Denial should have ended when the first cruise missile hit.
As a prepper, you must be to adapt and address the situation as it exists, not as you wish it was. The best way to handle denial is to get over it quickly.
Plan for the Worst
Preppers should live their lives based on the “Hope for the best but plan for the worst” rule. For Ukrainian citizens, that should have meant hope and pray they do not invade, but plan for it and get out of town before they fire the first missile. Or, if you are a serious patriot, hide weapons and ammunition and plan how you will strike back. If an old lady can walk up to Russian soldiers in a park and yell at them, a civilian could snipe at them from the rooftop.
Russian Troops crossed into Donbas 24 hours before the full attacked was launched. Imagine the advantages of bugging out and casually driving across the Polish border 24 hours before the rest of the country suddenly did the same thing.
I’ve also heard it said, “Expect the worst and you will never be disappointed and may be pleasantly surprised.” I’m not saying you need to go around and preach doom and gloom, but we’re not preppers because we expect it to be sunny and warm every day.
Failing to plan for the worst is probably why the Ukrainian generals didn’t position more forces at the airport outside of Kyiv, why they didn’t start blowing up Russian tanks the minute the cross the border, why they didn’t launch a counter artillery attack, and why they didn’t blow up bridges on the main roads Russian troops were using. It’s like they forgot the lessons of WWII. The soldiers are putting up a stiff resistance, but with better planning and coordination, it could have been far stronger.
Don’t Believe Your Government
How many of those Ukrainians we saw jamming the highway out of town were lulled into a false sense of security by their president and other leaders downplayed the threat? It should have been obvious to anyone thinking person that Putin was planning to invade. The Russians started building up troops in October and frequent news coverage has highlighted the threat of invasion since Thanksgiving.
Look at the many times our government has lied to the American people. Sometimes they do it by omissions–like withholding information on COVID booster shots. Sometimes they do it in the Interests of national security. Some politicians lie to make themselves look good and cheat to fill their pockets. This is not new; it’s been going on since they elected the first caveman clan leader. Don’t believe your government or take the word of the politicians within it. Always do your own research, look into things yourself, and then make whatever decision is best for you and yours.
Don’t Trust Bad Actors
Is there anyone out there that thinks Putin is a good guy, other than a few oligarchs in Russia whom he has made rich? He is a dictator in a country where they arrest protesters, assassinate people they don’t like, and imprison leaders of the opposition party. He has been in power for decades and clearly is used to getting what he wants when he wants it. Why would you believe him when he says they don’t have plans to invade Ukraine?
This entire scenario is akin to the point in the movie when the trusting underdog accepts the villain’s promise not to harm him and then is forced to witness the villain killing his family. Who in their right mind trusts the villain to keep his word?
But it isn’t just Ukrainian leaders who were fooled. French President Macron was scheduling so-called “peace conferences” with Putin just days before the invasion. He later said Putin was being duplicitous, which sounds better than admitting Putin pulled the wool over the French President’s eyes.
Don’t wait for the Other Guy to Strike First
In a survival situation, the concept of fair play should go out the window. Your objective becomes survival, not avoiding a future lawsuit. In a post-SHTF scenario, you don’t have to wait for the other guy to strike first. If Canada started building up forces along their Southern border, do you think we would sanction them? Or would we line up our tanks and soldiers on our side of the border? Would we discount their threats, or would we stage a preemptive attack in those nice clusters of vehicles and helicopters lined up in a row?
If you are in a survival situation where you are facing seven guys and have only six rounds in your shotgun, shoot the leader. If he is wearing body armor, shoot him in the inner thigh or crotch. Not only will that put him down, it will make him scream, which will unsettle his cohorts. Likewise, if you are surrounded by a pack of wolves or wild dogs, shoot the alpha dog first. Throwing the pack into disarray is the only thing you can do to gain the upper hand and potentially break up their attack. If that doesn’t work, at least you will have the advantage of surprise. Action beats reaction. So keep shooting until they turn and run. If they don’t, at least you will have made them pay a high price.
Ukrainians who left at the last minute are like Florida residents who don’t think the hurricane will be as bad as the experts predict. Here’s another paragraph from the above-referenced news article:
By Thursday, the fears of a nation could be seen in the long queues at ATMs, gas stations and grocery stores to stock up on food and necessities. The fears could be seen in the massive traffic jams of cars filled with families desperately trying to leave the city. And they could be seen at the bus station, where passengers–carrying what little they could stuff in small suitcases–waited in snaking lines.
If these people were prepared, they would have cash on hand, extra gasoline, and plenty of stored food. They could hunker down and avoid waiting in lines while the aircraft dueled overhead and missiles rained down around them.
I am going to go out on a limb and predict that within a few short weeks, Ukraine will surrender. As part of the agreement, they will promise not to join NATO, agree not to host nuclear weapons, allow Russia to open a few military bases on their land, and give up the Donbas region. Major parts of their government will resign (or be arrested and never heard from again). They will be replaced by Russian puppets who will promise “free and fair” elections a few years down the road.
By using precision munitions, Russia is keeping civilian casualties down. They are trying to cut off Ukraine’s head, not destroy the country. We have also not heard any stories of Russian soldiers raping and pillaging. I think Russia will withdraw most of its forces after the surrender and things will return to “normal” for most of that region, albeit with a much more Russian-friendly government in place. Then, changes that favor Russia will take place, but slowly, at a pace that is easy to ignore until it is too late.
In a year or two, most of the sanctions will be removed. Russia will start long-term planning on what they will take over next. (Look out, Finland.)
Perhaps NATO will wake up and bolster their forces. Perhaps they will choose to concentrate on green energy instead of green tanks. After all, politicians are affected by the normalcy bias, too. In 2029, who is going to remember what happened in February 2022?