Ukraine’s Counteroffensive: What to Know


Even President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine now says so: The nation’s long-awaited counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territory has begun. After months of defending in opposition to a barrage of airstrikes, Ukraine is on the offense, in search of vulnerabilities alongside the 600-mile entrance line and even launching strikes on Russian soil.

However after days of generally intense battles, it has been troublesome to determine the state of play in Ukraine. Why can we not have a greater concept of whether or not the counteroffensive is succeeding? It’s sophisticated, for quite a lot of causes associated to how wars are fought. Right here’s why.

Navy historical past has lengthy proven that it’s a lot more durable to take territory than it’s to defend it. That is partly why Russian troops didn’t make it to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, final 12 months after President Vladimir V. Putin despatched them throughout the border.

Their convoys acquired slowed down and have become sitting geese for Ukrainian troops armed with shoulder-fired missiles. Their air drive largely cowered on the border due to Ukraine’s cell air defenses, and their incapability to conduct mixed arms warfare (when all components of the army know what the others are doing and coordinate) meant Mr. Putin’s plans to take all the nation haven’t come to fruition.

However he did handle to take territory in jap and southern Ukraine. Since then, Russian troops have been utilizing their time as occupiers to dig in and construct fortifications to defend.

Now it’s Ukraine that’s counterattacking, and the Russians have been making ready.

“Russian fortifications in Ukraine are essentially the most in depth defensive works in Europe since World Conflict II,” the army analysts Seth G. Jones, Alexander Palmer and Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. wrote in a paper launched final week by the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research. “The Russian army has constructed trenches, minefields, dragon’s enamel and different limitations to sluggish Ukrainian forces throughout offensive operations.”

Which means that advancing Ukrainian troops have to search for areas the place Russian defensive strains are weak and poorly strengthened earlier than making an attempt to punch by means of, army consultants say. On the similar time, Ukrainian troops should strive to not let weak spots coax them into venturing too deep behind enemy strains earlier than they’ve ample reinforcements.

Throughout World Conflict II, Germany used strengthened concrete pyramids to repel Allied tanks. The overall concept was that rows of the evenly spaced constructions — some with land mines nestled between them — would drive tanks into positions the place they might be extra simply focused.

The pyramids have been known as dragon’s enamel as a result of, at about three to 4 toes tall, they resembled a fanged mouth.

Satellite tv for pc imagery confirmed this 12 months that Russian forces had erected dragon’s enamel barricades between anti-tank ditches and trenches by means of jap Ukraine and towards Crimea.

That’s already occurring. U.S. officers have confirmed that Ukrainian troops have suffered casualties and gear losses within the early preventing. Little info is out there on Russian losses, however the officers identified that attackers usually endure heavier preliminary casualties than dug-in defenders, for the explanations outlined earlier.

On D-Day, as an example, German casualties have been estimated to be 4,000 to 9,000 killed or wounded, whereas Allied casualties have been documented at about 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed lifeless.

Movies and pictures posted final week by pro-war Russian bloggers, which have been verified by The New York Instances, confirmed that not less than three of the Ukrainians’ German-made Leopard 2 tanks and eight of their American-made Bradley preventing autos had been lately deserted or destroyed.

No. Two U.S. officers mentioned on Monday that the primary thrust of the counteroffensive had most likely not begun. The majority of the 9 Ukrainian brigades that have been skilled over the previous 12 months and a half by American and allied international locations have but to interact within the struggle, one of many officers mentioned.

“After we see massive, armored formations within the assault, then I feel we’ll know the primary assault has actually began,” Frederick B. Hodges, a former prime U.S. Military commander in Europe, mentioned in an e-mail. “So far, I don’t assume we’ve seen these massive armored formations, i.e. a number of hundred tanks and infantry preventing autos.”

He added {that a} Ukrainian tank battalion was meant to have 31 tanks, and an armored brigade would have some 250 armored autos of various varieties. Such a big preventing formation could be simply noticed by satellite tv for pc imagery.

“After we see two or three of these brigades centered on a slim entrance someplace, then I feel we will say that the primary assault has began and the place,” Basic Hodges mentioned. “However even then, that isn’t sure. The Ukrainian Basic Employees will wish to maintain the Russians guessing concerning the location of the primary assault for so long as attainable.”

The Allies did the identical factor on D-Day, holding secret the whereabouts of Operation Overlord and misdirecting the Germans, who thought the offensive was extra more likely to occur within the north of France, close to Calais, than in Normandy.

Probably, however it could be onerous. Trendy warfare comes with satellite tv for pc imagery obtainable to adversaries. Ukraine can’t sneak 150,000 troops to Russian strains, because the Allies did in Normandy.

“The Germans would have been in a position to see that by means of satellites” if such know-how had been obtainable, Mr. Jones, of the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research, mentioned in an interview. “So that you don’t have that possibility.”

What Ukraine does have, he mentioned, is what it’s doing proper now: launching assaults in varied websites, in search of weaknesses but additionally forcing the Russians to attempt to defend in a number of locations.

What’s extra, Mr. Jones mentioned, Ukraine has its personal satellite tv for pc imagery.

“What we’re seeing proper now, I feel, is the Ukrainians testing for the weak spots within the Russian strains,” he mentioned. With some poorly defended areas, “there undoubtedly is the likelihood for the Ukrainians to punch by means of crappy fortifications and poor Russian forces which might be defending these areas.”


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