UnHerd: Ukraine is running out of battlefield options

10:56 10.05.2024 •

“The situation looks very bad”. NATO’s Stoltenberg & confused Ukrainian Zelensky.

As the Polish analyst Konrad Muzyka — a reliable commentator in a war dominated by grifters and propagandists — has observed, “the situation looks very bad and is not expected to improve in the coming weeks,” adding that “we have reached the point where the situation on the front is the worst since March 2022. The numerical advantage of the Russians is constantly growing, as is the number of attacks. Ukraine did not survive the darkest hour. It’s just about to start.”

While Ukrainians rightly blame the ebbing supply of munitions from the West for much of their current predicament, by allowing Russian artillery to outcompete the Ukrainian weight of fire fivefold, this crisis also has causes much closer to home. Against American advice, Ukraine frittered away much of its materiel and precious manpower in the doomed defence of both Bakhmut and Avdiivka, and then persisted with its ill-judged summer southern offensive long after it was clear the operation would end in failure, notes UnHerd.

Having failed to mobilise enough new troops from its increasingly unwilling population to make up losses, Ukraine’s strategy of battlefield attrition, though costly for Russia, is primarily attriting  own army. Elite units such as the 47th Mechanised Brigade — raised then trained in the West as the planned spearhead of the southern offensive — are exhausted and undermanned, losing combat effectiveness as they are rushed from one Russian assault to another in an effort to plug the gaps. While the West can, over the course of years, produce enough munitions to stabilise the front, it cannot produce more Ukrainians.

Worse, it is not yet clear if the ongoing Russian push in the Donbas is the main effort, or if a larger offensive, perhaps in the northeast, is yet to come this summer with the Russians apparently maintaining a fresh operational reserve of two army corps and hinting — perhaps for disinformation purposes — at a looming battle for Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv. While sprawling Kharkiv would be a major challenge for a Russian army that has so far found urban operations slow and costly, the threat alone forces Ukraine to deploy troops sorely needed elsewhere to man the lines. The situation has been worsened by Ukraine’s baffling failure to construct fortifications equivalent to Russia’s dense and deadly Surovikin Line.

The “best case” scenario offered for Ukraine by sympathetic analysts, of denting Russia’s advance while simultaneously building up new forces for an offensive push next year, already looks improbable. Ukraine direly needs whatever men and materiel it can scrape together at the front, right now. While a total Ukrainian collapse does not yet look imminent, the choices available to Kyiv are narrowing every day: recapturing Russian-held territory, still the West’s stated strategy, is a non-starter, while the defence of what Ukraine still holds is increasingly challenging.


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