Recent Russian developments in the Donbass lead to an inevitable question: whether the indiscriminate tactics deployed by the Kremlin there will be a model for future attacks.
With reports of large numbers of troops, artillery and rocket launchers massing across the border near the Russian city of Kursk – in an area on the border with Ukraine’s Sumy province – this is a matter of urgency.
While much has been made of the painfully slow and dangerous pace of Russia’s latest offensive in the Donbass, the speed of territorial gains is not the only measure.
The Russian tactics that shaped the battle in Donbas also posed a severe dilemma for Ukraine’s defenders – to hold their position amid rapidly mounting losses, or to withdraw and risk giving the attackers momentum.
While other parts of the 300-mile-long front line in eastern Ukraine lack some of the same vulnerabilities that existed around Sievierodonetsk — which was at the center of a Ukrainian outgrowth that Russia exploited — in any future offensive, the Kyiv Kremlin is likely to provide the same force. . Options, trying to expand their response.
Perhaps the first and most pressing issue – if and when Russian forces completely captured Severodonetsk – is whether they then attempt to cross the Seversky Donets, after the disastrous attempts to cross elsewhere were targeted by Ukrainian artillery with deadly effect.
Whether or not Russian forces attempt to cross the Siverskyi Donets River – a natural barrier – in Sievierodonetsk or elsewhere within Ukraine, Russian forces appear to be preparing for a new push north amid evidence that they are regrouping near the Ukrainian town of Izium for regeneration. Their stalled efforts against Slovyansk, and the rebuilding of a railway bridge near Kupyansk to facilitate the movement of troops and equipment into the area.
What is more difficult to assess is the level of attrition on both sides, and what effect this will have on further attacks and Ukraine’s ability to defend and counterattack.
While the British Ministry of Defense incurred many Russian losses during the war – most recently increasing losses among junior officers – Russian gains in Donbass seem to tell a different story, for the time being at least. Mounting anecdotal evidence indicates that Ukraine suffered heavy losses during the recent fighting in the east, largely from shrapnel, and there are reports of problems with equipment and supplies.
What may be true is that, despite evidence of new Russian preparations, the difficulty of the fighting and heavy casualties may limit Russia’s ambitions beyond control of the Donbas River, the south, and the main coast.
Michael Clarke of the Royal United Services Institute wrote in The Times earlier this week: “After nearly a hundred days of war, the Russian offensive in Ukraine is finally beginning to look more coherent, if not wise or strategically sustainable.”
Former Australian General Mick Ryan predicted a protracted war, with the idea that Russia or Ukraine was on the verge of exhaustion. In a lengthy Twitter thread looking at the current military situation and possible course.
In April and early May, after Ukraine’s victory at the Battle of Kyiv, a degree of victory crept into the Ukraine war narratives. But as the Russians have recently shown, by concentrating their forces on smaller areas of Ukraine, they can achieve tactical victories.
Neither side has demonstrated the ability to strike a decisive strategic blow against the other. Despite demonstrating their superiority in influence, strategy, and global leadership, the Russians continue to generate combat power to attack them in the east.
“While the Russians and Ukrainians lost personnel and equipment in the hundreds (if not thousands), none of the countries were exhausted. The Russians have reserves of manpower and equipment in stock. Ukraine has huge amounts of military aid flowing across its borders.”
Despite constant Russian bombardment around Kharkiv and in the south around Kherson, where two limited Ukrainian counterattacks were halted, the Russian goal in both regions – according to the Ukrainian General Staff – is to strengthen defenses and supply lines and disrupt Ukrainian forces where they have managed to advance.
Elsewhere, however, as a US think-tank, the Institute for the Study of War, notes: “Russian progress remains limited and is unlikely to pick up pace in the near term, particularly as Russian forces continue to prioritize attacks on Severodonetsk at the expense of Severodonetsk lines. other efforts.