Matthew Gordon-Banks

The Ukraine Offensive

We are now 19 days into the Ukrainian counter-offensive. It has so far failed to live up to its western & Kiev billing. I do not expect the Russian military leadership will be surprised.

 

The offensive had three main objectives. Firstly to show the world, especially Ukraine’s western backers, how strong Ukrainian forces are and how weak Russian forces are. This was intended to increase support for Ukraine and decrease Russian standing in the world. Secondly to make substantial territorial gains; even cutting off the corridor to Crimea, or to at least make it so thin that Ukrainian artillery, such as they have, could control most of it. A third objective was to hurt RuAF badly with moderate own losses. None of the objectives have been achieved, not even close.

 

This failure is no surprise since it was impossible for Ukraine to get those things in place which ensures a successful offensive. They lack air superiority, they lack superiority in soldiers and weapons, they lack better logistics and reconnaissance, strategic and tactical surprise and good motivated units.

To succeed Ukraine would have to be able to concentrate a strong attack formation at weak spots in enemy lines and break through with those forces.

 

RuAF knew where the UkrAF would attack and had prepared significant defensive positions for half a year. Russia has air superiority and the ability to discover and destroy enemy troop concentrations and supply depots far behind the frontline. Good Russian reconnaissance makes strategic, and often even tactical, surprise nearly impossible. Russia also has a clear advantage in artillery.

 

Russian air superiority and good reconnaissance makes Ukrainian attacks very hard. Especially since there are enormous amounts of mines everywhere.  The UkrAF also seems to lack good Air Defence at the frontline.  Russian aircraft losses have been very low.

 

When Ukrainian ground units attack they must attack through mine fields since they cannot demine them in advance due to Russian fire control. Ukrainian forces cannot concentrate in huge numbers since they will be discovered in advance if they do that. The Ukrainians have to rush through the minefields with limited resources and hope that their follow up reinforcements do not get obliterated by Russian air power and artillery.

 

If the Ukrainian forces are strong enough RuAF withdraws  and their old positions become an artillery trap. After a while the newly captured Ukrainian position is transformed to a moon landscape and Russian forces counterattack. Mostly they succeed in recapturing lost territory and the Ukrainians withdraw. Sometimes Ukrainian units hold on to newly captured positions and move the frontline one or two KMs but at too high a price.

 

During these 19 days Ukraine has fought an uphill battle, which seemed doomed from the start. The result is probably clearly higher casualties among the Ukrainians, than the Russian side. This means that UkrAF becomes weaker in comparison to the RuAF. That is one goal not achieved. If the other goals where successful you could accept normal losses, but that is not the case.

 

Ukrainian territorial gains, both on the Southern and Eastern fronts has been minimal and nothing indicates that will change. That, in combination with high losses, especially losses on video, destroys all possibility of a propaganda victory.

 

Now Ukraine must try to hide the failed counteroffensive by denying its existence and downplaying the losses. Ukraine and its supporters still dominate western media so they might have some success there. But doubts will grow even in the west, that the war is winnable and worth spending huge resources on.

The plain fact is, that Ukraine has been losing this unwinnable war for some time.

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