In 105 days the Finns defeated a Soviet force ten times as large and with orders of magnitude more tanks, artillery and airplanes. The tactical and operational victory by the Finns demonstrates that a weaker force can defeat a stronger one, but only by fighting and operating differently and not simply fighting in the traditional, accepted ways.
The Winter War highlights the importance of situating campaign assessment within appropriate historical context to ensure the right conclusions are drawn. It also demonstrates that tactical setbacks, rather than successes, provide the obvious and crude necessity for strategic and operational review and adjustment. The current Western predisposition to analyse ‘successful’ tactical actions to inform the development of strategy is a frustrating example of our failure to understand this. It is all too easy to focus on what has been done well at the tactical level–as in the case of the ‘gallant’ Finns. However, the more difficult intellectual experiment is to review a campaign in its totality–to examine whether tactical actions were linked to a strategy that achieves the political objective and overall victory.
The Molotov cocktail is one of the most visible icons of civil resistance in the modern age. Whether it is on the streets of Kyiv, Athens, or the latest site of any G20 meeting, the Molotov cocktail is one of the variables modern media will seize on to determine whether a mass demonstration is a protest or a riot. The image of fires burning and bottles being hurled through the air are eye-catching because they are asymmetric, providing average civilians with potent lethality to challenge even the most heavily-armed riot police.