Analysis after 13 months of war: significant losses among Kiev troops, doubts about the ability to organize the long-awaited spring offensive
Ukraine needs experienced soldiers and weapons to plan the spring counter-offensive in the war with Russia. After 13 months of conflict, the picture has changed. The quality of Ukraine’s military forces, once considered a substantial strength over Russia, has degraded over the course of a year of war, in casualties and casualties, which has reduced the number of the most experienced on the battlefield. So much so that some Ukrainian officials doubt Kiev’s immediate ability to organize the long-awaited spring offensive.
The analysis, by the Washington Post, points out that according to the estimates of “US and European officials, up to 120,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or wounded since the invasion of Russia began, compared to about 200 thousand on the Russian side. Moscow has a much larger army and about three times as large a population on which to draw conscripts. Ukraine is keeping the number of its victims in the strictest confidence, even from its staunchest Western supporters.”
“Aside from figures – continues the US newspaper – the influx of inexperienced conscripts, brought in to fill the losses, has changed the profile of the Ukrainian forces, which also suffer from a shortage of basic ammunition, from artillery shells to mortar shellsaccording to military personnel on the ground.”
“The most valuable thing in warfare is combat experience,” the newspaper wrote, quoting a battalion commander of the 46th Air Assault Brigade, identified by his call sign only, Kupol, in line with Ukrainian military protocol. “A soldier who has survived six months of combat and a soldier who has just come off a firing range are two different soldiers. Like heaven and earth. And there are only a few soldiers with field experience“, added Kupol. “Unfortunately, they are all already dead or injured.”
A palpable pessimism, albeit mostly tacit, that from the front lines reached the halls of power in Kiev, the capital. Ukraine’s inability to carry out a much publicized counter-offensive would also fuel fresh criticism of the United States and its European allies, in particular “for waiting too long, until forces had deteriorated, to deepen programs of training and supply armored fighting vehicles, including the Bradley and Leopard tanks”.
The current situation on the battlefield – notes the newspaper, quoting a US official – “may not reflect a complete picture of the Ukrainian forces, because Kiev is separately training its troops for the imminent counteroffensive and deliberately keeps them away from the fighting in course, including those for the defense of Bakhmut”.
Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential office, assures that the state of the Ukrainian forces does not affect his optimism about an imminent counter-offensive. “I don’t think we’ve exhausted our potential,” he says. “I think in every war there comes a time when you need to train new personnel, which is what’s happening right now.”
And the situation for Russia could be worse, continues the Washington Post, which recalls how during a NATO meeting last month, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace stated that 97% of the Russian army was already deployed in Ukraine and that Moscow was experiencing “World War I levels of attrition”.
Kupol – reports the newspaper – explains the choice to speak motivating it with “the hope of ensuring better training of the Ukrainian forces by Washington” and in the hope “that the Ukrainian troops for an imminent counter-offensive will be more successful than the inexperienced soldiers now they garrison the front under his command”. “There is always hope in a miracle,” she said. “Either it will be a massacre or it will be a professional counter-offensive. There are two options. In both cases there will be a counter-offensive.” It remains uncertain how much increased Western military aid and training will affect such an offensive. A senior Ukrainian government official quoted by the Washington Post calls the number of tanks promised by the West “symbolic”. Others privately express fears that promised supplies will not reach the battlefield in time.