“The world you are being commissioned into has the potential for a significant international conflict between great powers. And that potential is increasing, not decreasing,” Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the cadets at the 2022 commencement ceremony in West Point, New York.
“And right now, at this very moment, a fundamental change is happening in the very character of war. We are facing right now two global powers, China and Russia, each with significant military capabilities, and both who fully intend to change the current rules based order,” Milley said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is teaching the world that “aggression left unanswered only emboldens the aggressor,” Milley said.
“Let us never forget the massacre that we have just witnessed in Bucha nor the slaughter that occurred in Mariupol. And the best way to honor their sacrifice is to support their fight for freedom and to stand against tyranny,” Milley said.
The urban character of the war in Ukraine is something Milley sees as a characteristic of future battlefields, which will be “highly complex and almost certainly decisive in urban areas against elusive, ambiguous enemies that combine terrorism and warfare alongside conventional capabilities — all embedded within large civilian populations.”
Weapons technology will also change dramatically in future decades, Milley said, and the shift will be as radical as the change from musket to the rifle, the rifle to the machine gun or from sailing to steam ships. And the technological edge is no longer automatically in America’s favor.
“You’ll be fighting with robotic tanks and ships and airplanes,” Milley said. “We’ve witnessed a revolution in lethality and precision munitions. What was once the exclusive province of the United States military is now available to most nation states with the money will to acquire them.”