The six-month Ukrainian counter-offensive liberated 14 villages and dozens of square kilometers of territory, mainly in the Zaporozhye region. The occupiers failed to be expelled from a single major city. What is the reason for this sad balance and what are the future prospects of the attacked country?
Among the declared goals of the expected Ukrainian attack, prior to its launch in June, were the liberation of Crimea, the interruption of the land connection of the peninsula with Russia, the return of Melitopol or the Tokmak communication hub. Now it can only be stated that the counter-offensive as a whole failed. On the other hand, the Russian attack near Avdijivka on October 10 can be considered the de facto end.
Given the political events in the US and some European countries, the failed mobilization of Western industry and the general exhaustion of Ukraine, a significant military advance by Kiev is not likely in the near future. It probably won’t happen before the second half of next year.
Causes of failure
As an example of the overconfidence of Ukrainian planners, we can use the field fortifications and massive minefields built in the occupied territories at the time when General Surovikin was the commander-in-chief of the Russian troops. Fortifications had long been easily visible, the extent of minefields was obvious from aerial and satellite images, and historical precedents for overcoming defenses in depth were well known.
Nevertheless, when planning the counter-offensive, the Ukrainians did not sufficiently take any of the above into account, on the contrary, the Russian fortifications became a target of ridicule. But now “mines” are in first place among the arguments why the thing failed.
Even before the start of the counter-offensive, experts and journalists who closely followed the preparation of new units criticized the Ukrainian approach. This mainly concerned the small ability to carry out coordinated all-army operations (with the cooperation of different types of troops), but also the limits on the level of cooperation of units. Failure to support the initiative of junior officers also proved to be a problem.
Ukraine’s response consisted of confident statements that its soldiers were better, not worse, soldiers than those serving in NATO forces. As the icing on the cake came the notification that Ukraine does not have air superiority on the battlefield.
Kiev did not listen to the advice of the West and switched to infiltration tactics of small infantry formations, modeled on the German offensive on the Western Front in 1918.
However, even the Russian Air Force was clearly underestimated in Kyiv’s plans. This applies both to the military air force, with many combat helicopters still written off in the spring, and to tactical aircraft. They began to use glide bombs significantly more, which greatly increased its previously disastrous effectiveness.
NATO itself has relied so much on its own air superiority for decades that it has come to underestimate the integrated ground air defense of maneuver units. (These are means that do not defend a certain territory, but the soldiers take them with them.) This was also reflected in the situation on the current European battlefield. The Alliance does not have enough anti-aircraft missile systems and anti-aircraft guns on mobile chassis with acceptable cross-country ability, so it cannot even provide them to Ukraine.
Read also: The end of requests for weapons: Ukraine wants to become an arms power with the help of the Czech Republic
Meanwhile, air defense problems have been further exacerbated by the mass deployment of unmanned assets, which Russia is acquiring through the conversion of commercial Chinese drones, imports from Iran and, increasingly, its own production. As far as defense against drones is concerned, it is practically non-existent.
However, instead of adopting the Western concept and improving it where necessary, Ukraine preferred to think that it understood things better than the allied experts and, thanks to the courage of the soldiers, did not need their advice. This arrogant attitude is embodied by the commander of the ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyj. As it turned out, his style did not work well on the battlefield.
In summary, the main reasons for the failure of the Ukrainian counter-offensive are:
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