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Ukraine’s AI battlefield

Ukraine’s AI battlefield

Saturday marks the two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Over the course of this bloody war, the Ukrainian defense strategy has grown to a full embrace of cutting-edge artificial intelligence. Ukraine has been described as a “living lab for AI warfare.”

That capability comes largely from the American government but also from American industry. With the help of powerful American tech companies such as Palantir and Clearview AI, Ukraine has deployed AI throughout its military operations. The biggest tech companies have been involved, too; Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Elon Musk’s Starlink have also provided vital tech to aid Ukraine’s war effort.

Ukraine is using AI to analyze large data sets stemming from satellite imagery, social media, and drone footage, but also supercharging its geospatial intelligence and electronic warfare efforts. AI-powered facial recognition and other imagery technology has been instrumental in identifying Russian soldiers, collecting evidence of war crimes, as well as locating land mines.

And increasingly, weapons are also powered by AI. According to a new report from Bloomberg, US and UK leaders are providing AI-powered drones to Ukraine, which would fly in large fleets, coordinating with one another to identify and take out Russian targets. There is no shortage of ethical concerns about the nature of AI-powered warfare, as we have written about in the past, but that hasn’t stymied President Joe Biden’s commitment to beating back Vladimir Putin and defending a strategically crucial ally.

Reports about Russia’s own use of AI in warfare are murkier, though there’s some evidence to suggest they may be using the technology to fuel disinformation campaigns as well as build weaponry. But Ukraine might have an advantage: Recently, Russia’s fancy new AI-powered drone-killing system was reportedly blown up by, of all things, a Ukrainian drone.

Ukraine’s stand against Russia has been called a David and Goliath story, but it’s also a battle evened by technological prowess. It’s a view into the future of warfare, where the full strength of Silicon Valley and the US military-industrial complex meet.


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