19.2 C
New York
Saturday, June 3, 2023

Buy now


Ukrainian counteroffensive looms

“Secondhit hard spine! shouted the man in Russian, berating his colleague. “What, you never cut off your head?” The video showed what appeared to be a Russian soldier with a knife beheading a Ukrainian soldier alive. “Put it in a damn bag,” demanded another voice, “and send it to his commander.” A popular Russian far-right account posted the video on the social media site Telegram on April 11, sparking outrage in Ukraine. “Everyone must react,” said the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. “We won’t forget anything. Mr Zelensky’s army would soon retaliate.

Hear this story.
Enjoy more audio and podcasts iOS or android.

Your browser does not support

The Ukrainian counteroffensive will take place in the coming days and weeks. Almost no one knows exactly where and when it will arrive. On April 6, Ukrainian security chief Oleksiy Danilov noted that only five officials had all the details. But the Russian army was ready. On April 12, Britain’s Defense Intelligence Service said Russia had completed the construction of a three-tier defense line 120 kilometers (75 miles) along the Zaporozhye province front in response to the Ukrainian offensive on Melitopol, including The Dragon’s Tooth anti-tank obstacle extending southeast along the pHwy 37 from Shyroke. The conquest of Melitopol would help Ukraine cut off Russia’s land bridge between the Donbass and occupied parts of Crimea.

Ukraine’s offensive force consists of at least a dozen brigades (some sources say as many as 18), nine of which are armed and supplied by Western allies (a brigade often has thousands of men). Together, the nine would have more than 200 tanks, 800 other armored vehicles and 150 field artillery pieces, according to U.S. intelligence documents leaked on the Internet in early March and widely circulated in April. It’s a formidable force, but has some glaring weaknesses.

Most of its vehicles are unarmored. The number of guns is relatively small – the 21st Brigade appears to have only 10 guns. It is worth noting that the latest equipment is distributed among the various units, rather than concentrated in a few units. Ukraine may change its order of battle based on leaks, but it cannot disband and reorganize brigades that may have been training and preparing together for weeks or months.

One problem for Ukraine is how to surprise. If it were to build up forces at specific locations, Russia could detect these preparations and fortify its defenses accordingly. Mick Ryan, a retired Australian major general, pointed out that this makes deception all the more important. Ukraine will have to conceal troop staging areas, artillery positions, headquarters and logistics centers. “It could also mean that we’re going to see a lot of smaller mini-offensives instead of a couple of big ones,” Mr. Ryan said, “just to confuse Russia’s targeting cycle and deceive them about the main Ukrainian effort.”

If Ukraine can surprise, the next question is whether it can break through Russia’s defenses and send more troops quickly through the gap. It will require a mobile air defense system to deter Russian aircraft; it’s unclear whether it will be sufficient. It would have to cross rivers and minefields—obstacles that had consumed entire Russian brigades in the east—and a formidable network of Russian trenches and fortifications (see map). “There is no military effort more difficult to plan, coordinate, and execute than the Combined Arms Breakthrough Barrier,” Mr. Ryan said.

In theory, precision artillery could quickly destroy prepared fortifications, says Ben Barry. IISS, a London-based think tank, pointed out that the UK used such systems to destroy bunkers in Afghanistan. But this required expert synchronization of artillery, infantry and armor so that the troops were neither advancing too soon, with the fortifications intact, nor too late, as the Russian rear echelons had reinforced the positions of the barrage.

Military analyst Franz-Stefan Gady said that so far, Ukrainian forces have mainly engaged in sequential operations — first artillery fire, then ground advances — rather than these more demanding coordinated operations. Part of the reason, he said, was the rigidity of Soviet-style commanders and the lack of extensive combined-arms training. Improving command and control in Ukraine has been a priority in recent weeks for Western officials helping to train and advise Ukrainian generals in Germany.

The timing of the attack was also uncertain. Weather is a factor. U.S. intelligence analysts estimate that the land in eastern Ukraine will remain muddy until early May. Kits are another. A third of the Western Supply Brigade will not be fully equipped and trained until the end of April. Mr Barry said Ukraine’s general staff could launch a staged attack, with some brigades thrown in after they arrived, but would likely choose to “save everything for the big bang”. This can maximize pressure on Russia’s defenses. Waiting too long may also allow Russia to dig deeper and replenish ammunition.

calibration problem

Western officials familiar with Ukraine’s preparations are not sure how all will play out. They say it is vital that Ukrainian troops have the confidence to move forward. Russia’s layered defense was designed to lure advancing columns into a “kill zone” covered by anticipatory artillery. If troops panicked, they could be destroyed. But there are also fears of the opposite: that the unexpected collapse of Russian forces puts Ukrainian forces on the edge of Crimea, able to blockade the peninsula, attack Russian ports and bases there, and prevent Russian ships from entering the Sea of ​​Azov. Large numbers of Russian troops may also be trapped in the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions.

Such a humiliation is considered unlikely – a leaked US assessment predicts only “negligible” gains for both sides this year – but not impossible. Many Ukrainian officials welcomed the move. But some in the West worry that a rout would put Russia’s stability at risk and make it harder for the Kremlin to accept any negotiations that might follow. They say it is far better for Vladimir Putin to order a semi-voluntary retreat, as he did on the west bank of the Dnieper in Kherson province last November. The aim is not to defeat Putin militarily, but to convince him that reclaiming lost ground will require waves of politically risky mobilizations.

But it’s not easy. Putin is believed to still firmly believe that time is on his side. He has reinforced each defeat since January, launching a futile offensive around the town of Bachmut, wasting tens of thousands of mobilized recruits.this diameter evaluation, first by Washington post, saying that even if Ukraine were to inflict “unsustainable losses on the Russian military,” Russia would prefer a new mobilization rather than negotiations. On April 12, the Russian parliament passed a new law allowing the Ministry of Defense to issue electronic rather than physical military service summons, making it easier to recruit dragoons. On April 18, Mr. Putin personally visited Kherson province. Another round seemed inevitable.

The Ukrainian counteroffensive could last through the spring, and possibly even into the summer. CIA, a think tank. But he warned that running out of ammunition and personnel in the process could be a “high water mark” for Western aid. The coming months could be a decisive period in the war.

Read more of our recent coverage of the Ukraine war.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest Articles