After weeks of warfare, Ukrainian forces have reportedly had little success displacing Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine, and both personnel and equipment have sustained severe damage.
Now, with a hopeful start to a Western-backed retaliatory offensive and the approaching challenges of difficult weather due to the winter season, tough times lie ahead. The conditions will get considerably more difficult due to rain and muck.
“Progress is being made,” said Seth Jones, senior vice president and director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies’ programme on international security. This is the start of August. The reality is, it’s not clear how much territory the Ukrainians can reclaim in a short period.”
Amid high hopes, the counteroffensive began in the early days of summer. NATO’s strategy, which emphasised synchronising attacks between ground forces, artillery, and air power, resulted in the training of more than 60,000 troops by the United States and its Western allies.
Numerous Stinger missiles were delivered by the Pentagon, while other allies sent contemporary vehicles and tools.
The swift gains were reminiscent of experiences from the previous downfall when Ukrainian forces had recaptured a large part of northern Ukraine because Russian soldiers had retreated chaotically.
The war initiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2022 as an unlawful, unprovoked invasion has been extremely bloody and costly.Over 9,300 Ukrainian nationals have died and more than 16,600 have been injured, according to the UN. Estimates vary for Russian and Ukrainian military casualties. American officials estimated this spring that Russian casualties totaled around 200,000, with 40,000 fatalities. Leaked classified documents by an American airman suggested that around 125,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed, with roughly 17,000 in combat.
The Pentagon has promised over $44 billion in military assistance to Ukraine.The war has shown to be a strategic error for Putin. Ukrainian resolve dashed their hopes of swift victory in days or weeks. The conflict revealed flaws in Russian training, equipment, and leadership.Instead of dividing NATO, the alliance added Finland to its ranks, extending its border by another 800 miles with Russia. Sweden is now ready to become the 32nd NATO nation.According to Western sources, Ukraine would require greater aid in its counteroffensive, including cutting-edge fighter jets to breach Russian defences in occupied territory, to break the impasse and support Ukrainian success.
According to American officials, Ukrainian forces have made minimal gains in eastern Ukraine’s 600-mile front in this heat, which were not officially announced. Recent days have seen some potential significant gains.
However, very little ground has been taken so far. In most places, progress is measured in tens of miles in a stretch of hundreds, an American officer who was not authorized to speak publicly said. It’s not much, given that Russia illegally controls about 20% of Ukraine’s territory.
A source said that one of the brightest spots, southeastern Zaporizhia region in western Ukraine, where Ukraine has committed resources and troops, remains the most optimistic place.
According to an assessment by the Institute for the Study of War on Thursday, there is, however, a likelihood of progress being marked by pauses and periods of failure.The official stated that Ukrainian soldiers have gained ground near the abandoned town of Bakhmut, which was a site of intense fighting during the cold months
Why has Ukraine not advanced more?
According to Jones’ analysis, Russian forces spent the winters and springs preparing extensive defenses. They dug massive trenches as the first line of defense, constructed berms, and built tank obstacles known as “Dragon’s Teeth” on the ground, which can withstand artillery fire.
American officials mentioned that Ukrainian soldiers have encountered “hundreds of minefields.” Navigating safely through minefields is challenging even under optimal conditions. Many Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured in the artillery exchange, and numerous western armored vehicles have been destroyed or damaged.
Jones clarified that the slow progress isn’t surprising and doesn’t imply a lack of Ukrainian resolve or Western strategy.Counterattacks by Ukrainian ground forces are hampered by a lack of aircraft support.The Ukrainians fly a few Soviet-era planes, which are no match for modern Russian combat jets and air defense.
Jones emphasized, “I don’t want to discount the possibility of success in a given area.” However, recapturing 19% to 20% of Ukrainian territory currently under Russian control will be difficult.
The official voiced optimism that the Biden administration will keep supplying Ukraine with millions of dollars’ worth of weapons, equipment for demolishing mines, and air defence every few weeks.The need for air defence is urgent, particularly in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing use of drones and missiles to attack civilian targets.
Sustained ammunition resupply is also vital. Ukrainians have been firing around 10,000 artillery shells at Russian soldiers daily. Cluster munitions, which scatter small explosives, have stirred controversy since the Biden administration approved their inclusion in previous military aid packages. These munitions, banned by over 100 countries, can kill or maim civilians.
Jones noted that the two crucial absent elements in the defensive arsenal are advanced fighter jets like the F-16, which could provide cover for Ukrainian ground troops, and the Anti-Tank Guided Missile System (ATGMs), with a range of about 200 miles, which could reach key Russian supply and command posts. The $44 billion in military aid is still a wise investment in spite of this.
He declared that “America has managed to weaken one of its most significant adversaries without losing a single American soldier.”
Ukrainian pilots are ready to begin training on the F-16, which American allies have committed to providing at some point this month. Initially, the official said, the ATGMs were on Ukraine’s wish list, but White House approval for sending them isn’t imminent. The White House and Pentagon have hesitated to provide advanced weapons like the F-16 due to concerns that Russia might escalate conflict and attack nearby NATO countries. The Ukrainian government has promised that it won’t launch an armed attack against Russian territory.
Armed Services Committee member Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congressman D-Conn support sending both weapon systems.
Blumenthal said, “It’s an essential and long overdue step.It’s not doing anything different. It’s more artillery. This is deeply necessary for the security of the Russians, trenches, and dragon’s teeth.It’s a formidable and effective defence.