Bucking Basic (Western) Beliefs: Ukraine is in far worse shape than portrayed – Ukrainian officials claim their forces are ready to launch a “million-man offensive” against Russian forces next month, while retired U.S. generals talk confidently about the war ending on Ukraine’s terms by the end of this year. But an unemotional and realistic assessment of the war’s most likely trajectory paints a different picture.
Wars are inherently violent, chaotic, and unpredictable. Trying to predict how a war will turn out is a challenging task because there are so many variables that could change over time, each with the potential of altering the course of the conflict. Yet that does not imply that it is impossible to make reasonably confident assessments. If one considers the most critical fundamentals at play on all sides of the conflict, it is possible to chart several plausible endings.
This assessment will be the first of three articles that considers four different outcomes to the war through the end of 2022 that available evidence suggests are the most likely possibilities. Two of the outcomes are possible, one is possible but unlikely, and one emerges as the most likely – most of which are unpalatable to Ukrainian and Western audiences.
Ukraine War Scenario One: A Stalemate
In this scenario – held by a sizable portion of western analysts – the war drags on into the winter, deteriorating into a stalemate. Russian striking power is eventually whittled down to the point they can no longer sustain even the incremental advances that have characterized the Spring and Summer offensive. Russia will complete its capture of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk in the Donbas’ northern shoulder, but owing to cumulative losses to stiff Ukrainian resistance, they will not be able to complete capture of the Donetsk Oblast and won’t be able to launch offensives against either Kharkiv or Odessa.
As Kremlin leaders begin to recognize the likelihood that they would not be able to sustain the offensive to complete capture of all of Donbas, they will order their troops in all parts of occupied Ukraine to begin building strong and elaborate defenses along the forward line of their all advances: to the north and northeast of Kharkiv, from its forward positions in the Donbas, and forward of the Kherson front in the south.
Ukrainian troops would likewise begin building defensive works on its side of all three fronts in an effort to prevent an unexpected resumption of the Russian advance. Meanwhile, Kyiv would aggressively recruit and train replacements for the substantial losses they have suffered since February. Raising and training scores worth of new battalion tactical groups (BTGs). At the same time, Zelensky’s government will be aggressively working with Western partners to accelerate and expand the amount of modern heavy weaponry needed to eventually equip those new BTGs with kit sufficient to conduct offensive operations.
On the other side the line, Russia would likewise continue efforts to recruit and train additional soldiers, drawing from existing service personnel from its navy or air force, national guard forces, or new recruits. Moscow would maximize its industrial output to either produce new offensive gear, repair tanks and other armored vehicles damaged during the war or modernize equipment from its storage facilities so as to enable the new troops to return to the offensive in 2023.
Concurrent with all this military preparation and rebuilding, Kyiv and Moscow would engage in some degree of diplomacy to explore the possibility of a political solution that could end the war. Neither side would desire to keep fighting because of the cost in blood and treasure to its side. But unless or until one side calculates that it cannot win, a negotiated settlement during a stalemate is unlikely.
The more probable course is that each side will continue to rearm and retrain with an eye to starting an offensive of its own at the earliest moment in 2023 they conclude sufficient strength has been achieved. All during this phase, we are likely to see something like what happened during the eight years of stalemate from 2014 through the start of this war when low level artillery duels played out, along with sniper fire to keep reminding the other side that the war is not over. But there will be no serious offensive operations launched in the near term.
Ukraine War Scenario Two: Russian Capture of Kharkiv & Odessa
Between now and early fall, Russia not only captures Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, but all of the Donbas. Yet, the Ukrainian Armed Forces remain a viable force, preventing any immediate Russian breakthroughs into the Ukrainian rear areas beyond the Donbas. Zelensky’s forces avoiding a force-wide collapse, however, doesn’t mean they will have sufficient capacity to effect a stalemate.
Once Russia finishes the Donbas off, the most likely next target would be Kharkiv. To take that city, which had a pre-war population of almost 1.5 million, Russia will have to produce considerably more troops than what they have produced to date. As was graphically demonstrated in the opening rounds of this war, if Moscow tries to invest Kharkiv with insufficient troops, they will likely suffer enormous casualties and fail to capture the city. Whether Putin desires to take the risk politically or not, to have a real chance at capturing Kharkiv, he will have to mobilize considerable numbers of additional troops, at least 100,000 (but more likely double that).
Fighting in cities will again give advantages to the defenders as Ukrainian troops did in the opening rounds. Unlike the push last February, however, Russia has learned lessons from both its failures and successes and will not make the same mistakes that plagued it the first time (especially the employment of armor without infantry support and trying to force entry to the city without massive artillery support). Additionally, in this scenario, Russia will be starting from a position where it has severely depleted the Ukrainian manpower before the operation beginning – and most importantly – will invest the city from three sides (south, east, and north).
As with Mariupol, Russia will collect intelligence from multiple sources to try and identify where the majority of the UAF defenders are and then target that area with a relentless bombing campaign, possibly lasting weeks. While the artillery preparation is underway, the Russian Command may choose to use its maneuver forces to close off the western side of Kharkiv to cut it off from the outside, so no supplies or replacements get in, and no wounded can get out. Alternatively, they may also “leave the back door open,” so to speak, and offer the defenders an escape (as happened in Severodonetsk).
If Ukrainian defenders choose to stay and fight, then the battle will get ugly quickly. Russia has clearly shown that they have no qualms about methodically leveling a city with withering artillery and rocket fire, along with drone and air strikes. Once the city is cut off from all outside support, Russian forces will begin closing the ring, block by block, until they take the city. Kharkiv was one of eastern Europe’s most beautiful and historic cities. If this scenario plays out, it will be reduced to a shell of its former self, as was Mariupol before it.
But as the Battle of Donbas is currently demonstrating, the greatest loss for Ukraine may not be the city per se, but in the additional loss of the troops they assign the duty to protect it. Already Ukraine has lost many scores of thousands of troops. If the remainder of the Donbas falls, Ukraine will have even fewer effective soldiers to defend the rest of the country. If Russia completes the destruction of Kharkiv, they will also destroy another major percentage of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF).
So long as Russia retains the manpower advantage – and it is important to note that in a war of attrition (which this scenario would definitely be) – Russia has literally millions more military-aged men from which to draw. Ukraine can’t even match Russian losses one-for-one, much less suffer a greater number of losses (which would be likely if Russia is able to hold back its ground forces while its artillery, rocket, and air forces pound away on the UAF).
If Kharkiv falls, Ukraine will have even fewer troops left with which to defend Odessa. If Russia were to mobilize enough men, it is conceivable that they could invest Odessa even before Kharkiv was completely captured. But whether simultaneously or sequentially, if Russia moved on Odessa they would almost certainly employ the same strategy they’ve used countless times already in this war, surround the city, cut off its defenders, and then crush the city with saturating firepower.
If Russia were to successfully take both Kharkiv and Odessa (after having taken the Donbas before), then Russia would essentially be in control of all of Ukraine east of the Dnieper River. It would be likely at this point that Putin would seek to force a settlement on Kyiv, declaring that Moscow would keep all the territory it had conquered up to the Dnieper but would agree to let the authorities in Kyiv retain control of the capital city and all of western Ukraine. If Zelensky still refused, Putin would face some complicated options.
He could either threaten to move his entire force on Kyiv – and with the casualties sustained in the loss of Kharkiv and Odessa, Ukraine would not have any hope of preventing Russia from seizing the city – or he would unilaterally declare he had accomplished all his objectives and move to annex all the territory, establishing a defensive line on all his western-most territory. Once the fighting gets to that point, however, Ukraine will have effectively lost the war. The chances of it ever regaining any lost territories would be virtually nil.
Consequences – and Next Possibilities
If either of these scenarios plays out over the remainder of 2022, Kyiv will be in bad shape. Even in the “better” option of a stalemate, the damage done to Zelensky’s troops and country will be incalculable. There would be the theoretical possibility that Ukraine could mount an offensive in 2023, but even that potential comes with a major caveat: all the while Ukraine was rebuilding its strength, Russia would be deepening its defensive works along the frontlines and likewise rebuilding its fighting power. Ukraine would then have the same monumental task of attacking into prepared defenses that Russia had back in February.
If scenario two plays out, however, Zelensky’s position will be markedly worse. He will have lost nearly half his country and an irreplaceable majority of his trained and experienced troops. It is possible to mobilize many hundreds of thousands of new troops, but years of experience and training can’t be replicated; it has to be built, and that will take years. The Ukrainian government would be faced with the ugly choice of either trying to continue the fight into 2023 – with the prospect it would continue losing even more territory and men – or seeking a negotiated settlement from a position of weakness.
Ascribing a value to the level of probability as to which is more likely, scenario one would be a “2” whereas scenario two would be closer to “3.5”. The reasons: For Ukraine to achieve a stalemate between now and the end of the year, two things have to happen simultaneously. It’s not impossible for Kyiv to produce a stalemate, but it will be very difficult.
First, Ukraine would have to find a way to reverse their alleged 20-1 deficit in artillery, their reported 40-1 deficit in artillery ammunition, and find a way to reach air parity so they can both defend against Russian air and threaten Russian ground forces with airstrikes of their own. To date, the West has sent less than 150 howitzers and about a score of multiple rocket launchers – not enough to offset daily combat losses, much less close the gap with Russia.
Ammunition is an even bigger problem, as some Ukrainian gunners complain that often they can’t fire the weapons they do have for shortage of shells. It is enormously difficult to conduct any mobile tactics necessary to defeat an attacking force if the defenders remain outgunned so badly. If Ukraine is unable to reverse the ratios, even a stalemate becomes very difficult to achieve.
The chances for Russia to capture Kharkiv or Odessa are also tall orders. Though they do have firepower advantages over the defenders, it will take far more troops than Russia has thus far allocated to the so-called “special operation” to invest a city the size of Kharkiv. For that to happen, Putin will have to abandon his reticence at calling this what it is – a war – and engage in a large scale mobilization. Without at least 100,000 additional troops (and more likely 200,000) earmarked for the seizure of these cities, he will almost certainly be unable to capture either. If Putin doesn’t mobilize, the best he can do is continue to make incremental gains around major Ukrainian urban centers.
In the next piece, we will examine two other scenarios: the first, Ukrainian combat losses pass the point of sustainability and their defenses completely collapse, and the second, Western support is strong enough to equip Ukraine for a large-scale counteroffensive. Spoiler alert: the first scenario is theoretically possible, but very unlikely; the second is virtually impossible.
Expert Biography: Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis.
July 22, 2022 at 11:19 am
It all comes down to what the US and its allies are able and willing to do in support of Ukraine. Our manufacturing capacity is limited, and it is evidently impossible to supply Ukraine with the massive amounts of weaponry that would be necessary to roll the Russians back to the border. Only a collapse of the Russian society, government, and military would allow that to happen. While possible, it does not seem likely. Absent that, the best that the Ukrainians can hope for is to stop the Russians and settle into a stalemate.
Are the western allies willing to even do what it takes to supply Ukraine over the long haul? Today, they are all sincere in affirming that they will. We’ll see. Time marches on, and stuff happens. It is very likely that we will see one or more new crises over the next few months (there is ALWAYS a new crisis every few months), and these will prove to be a distraction. Ukraine will not totally pass from view, but the present sense of urgency is likely to fade. I doubt that any of the allies would cut Ukraine off. However, at a certain point, they may have to tell them that they can only do so much, and that limit has been reached. When that point is reached, Ukraine’s hope of a reversal will truly be over.
July 22, 2022 at 11:21 am
The war will end when biden (or austin) decides to send USAF fighters & bombers to takr part in the fighting.
The USAF planes will roll back russian forces advancing in donbass thus confronting or slapping moscow with the dire prospect of seeing russian-speaking inhabitants in east ukraine getting wiped out via an ottoman-empire-armenian-massacre type pogrom.
To forestall the anticipated wholesale slaughter of russian-speaking peoples of donbass, RUSSIA WILL HURL RS-24 ROCKETS at NATO air bases in europe thus ending US intervention and setting up or initiating the curtain raising act of launching ww3. In 2022.
July 23, 2022 at 1:45 pm
You sure do have a lot of faith in an institution that can’t defeat a bunch of goat herders with no navy or air force.
July 22, 2022 at 12:25 pm
Davis reminds me of Comical Ali with the acrobatic display his reasoning shows. For the scenario he pushes for (Ukraine officially giving up 20% of its territory so that Odessa and Kharkiv are not razed to the ground), he expects Putin to be able to declare war and send even more conscripts to die. However, if Putin does what Davis believes Putin will do, that in itself is a sign of defeat and will prove that the Russian military is a rotted, bloated cow that can be effectively countered by proper tech. In light of that, the topic of discussions at donor meetings will not be how many conscripts Putin can force into dying for his nebulous goals, but how the hell do we get more hi-tech tools to these Ukrainians.
July 22, 2022 at 12:28 pm
seems like a tough slog. I’m not sure Russia has any numerical advantage going forward other than artillery pieces. Ammunition supplies seem susceptible as well. Having lost between 1/3 and 1/2 of frontline equipment and at least 15,000 KIA this is one bad decision. Having three times the population is not a great advantage historically to conquer an adversary and Russia needs half its personnel to guard against its own people. Why is Russia moving T-62’s with a 4 man non automated turret instead of all the T-72’s in storage nevermind T-80’s and T-90’s? For such a large army why haven’t they moved more troops to the frontline?
Dr. Scooter Van Neuter
July 22, 2022 at 12:31 pm
Russia will unquestionably capture Kharkiv and Odessa. NATO is just pouring billions of taxpayer dollars and arms into a bottomless pit -the only people profiting will be the Ukrainian politicians headed to Europe with suitcases full of dollars.
July 22, 2022 at 12:44 pm
Dear Daniel you are either misinformed or on Putin payroll.
How do you explain the following:
Russia’s operational activities have consistently declined
over the last 4 months, while Ukraine’s. thanks to the support from the west, have consistently increased.
if you read the statements of US DOD officials, it is very clear that we will continue to escalate weapon supplies and sanctions “until Russia is no longer a threat to neighboring states
July 22, 2022 at 12:55 pm
Ukraine looks smaller on a map than it really is. Thus, the front is roughly 600 miles. (Anybody with a better figure, let us know.)
That 600 miles is huge because Russia simply does not have the manpower or equipment to advance simultaneously on the entire front. This is important because salients are always subject to flanking counter-attacks.
Thus, Russia is forced to pick its spots along the front for a concentration of forces.
Both sides have good to excellent reconnaissance.
It will be difficult to achieve surprise.
So far, the Russians have been running “the Green Bay Packers sweep of the 60’s”… you know what they are going to run, you just can’t stop it.
Ukraine has to match any concentrations of force in a rapid amount of time. They have to have weapons that can hit Russia’s first line of artillery. (Actually the farthest back from the Ukrainian front line.)
Russia simply can not be allowed to set up that line of their furthest range artillery unmolested ** this is key to their Cover Fire Doctrine **
Does Ukraine have the weapons to wipe out this first line of Russian artillery? Ukraine has to be able to either put up enough airplanes and/or HIMARS in a concentrated fashion to wreck that line of artillery (their present range artillery doesn’t seem to be able to do that) .
How much mobility do the Ukrainian forces have to be able to concentrate forces rapidly?
From the start of the war Russian cheerleaders were constantly talking about “cauldrons” or “boilers,” also called encirclement. A lot of this was wishful thinking… it didn’t happen at the large scale the Russian cheerleaders were discussing (small-scale, yes, thus, incremental advances). Otherwise, the Russians would have won the war in a month or two because the Ukrainian defenders would have run out of food, weapons, and men, and large surrenders would have occurred. Most of the time, the Ukrainians did have ability to resupply their front lines.
This is the key for Ukraine: Don’t let Russia set up their Cover Fire Doctrine offensive game plan.
If Ukraine’s military are ever able to disrupt Russian doctrine then stalemate would be possible.
July 22, 2022 at 3:53 pm
I’m not sure Russia is capable of combined arms. They are more likely to continue with their artillery barrage
July 22, 2022 at 2:19 pm
The Russians believe time is on their side (and there are many indicators which confirm this idea). I’m not so sure, it’s always preferable to win as quickly as possible for many reasons both military & political.
Thus, Russia may have to gamble, take risks to speed up victory or risk statement (which would be closer to defeat for them than the word “stalemate” implies.
What are those risks and is Russia willing to take the risks (“gamble”)?
Well, Russia did gamble for a “coup de main”, governmental collapse, at the start of the war with a modified blitzkrieg to Kiev, that also acted as a twofer by pinning down a portion of Ukraine’s military in western Ukraine (and to increase confusion in the rear of the Ukrainian military and political confusion & fear among the Ukrainian leadership.
The offensive gambit failed (And I think there was never any real chance of a coup de main, that was a head-fake from Washington to make the Ukrainian government look strong & resilient and gain political support among the American people.)
How the Russians got that so wrong will be discussed for many years (faulty intelligence from their many human intelligence sources in Kiev, probably).
But as staid & predictable as Russian Military Doctrine seems to be, the Russians have shown they are willing to take risks and gamble for a “big win”.
What’s the risk or gamble that might speed up the outcome of the war in Russia’s favor?
Taking offensive flanking maneuvers with armored columns which then pounds the Ukrainian defensive lines from the rear (most of Ukraine’s defensive fortifications seems to be able to take attacks from the rear without crumbling). But identifying where the Ukrainians didn’t have eight years to dig in would be a start.
While the Russians seem content to take incremental advances it doesn’t cause political morale to weaken in Kiev or Washington (and that’s half the battle).
It would also prove a thing or two to NATO leadership:
Does Russia have the capability to mount a full-fledged offensive combined arms maneuver to knock out sizable portions of Ukraine’s military (that is a question both Russia & NATO would want to know because that is the only way Russia would be a threat to NATO… NATO would not fight a static defensive line strategy (like Ukraine) and NATO would have air power parity or dominance and capability to smash Russian artillery that Ukraine will never have.
A war between NATO and Russia would not be what we are seeing now.
Has Russia learned from the early part of the war to effectively counter cover fire (protect) their advancing armor columns?
If the Russians think they have the solution, they might be tempted to gamble (throe the dice) on a more aggressive military doctrine to end the war as fast as possible.
from Russia with love
July 23, 2022 at 8:42 am
“The Russians believe that time is on their side (and there are many signs to support this idea). I’m not sure, it’s always preferable to win as quickly as possible for many reasons, both military and political.”
do you have any actual arguments? anything other than “I’m sure”?
I will give you factual arguments why Russia does NOT need to rush.
1) the special operation is carried out by limited forces. martial law has not been introduced in Russia. Russia did not declare war. there is no mobilization in Russia. The special operation is carried out within the existing military budget. no additional costs for the special operation are required. in fact, Russia can conduct this operation indefinitely without going beyond the military budget and methodically achieve the assigned tasks. The Russian military complex is organized in such a way as to provide long-term military companies, in contrast to the Western military complex focused on specific contracts. legacy of the Stalinist USSR?
2) a large number of weapons from NATO countries are being disposed of in Ukraine. for example, Poland has already lost in Ukraine the bulk of its tanks (more than 200) and about a third of its self-propelled artillery. NATO countries that were armed with Soviet aircraft lost their aircraft. these planes, under the guise of spare parts, are transported to Ukraine, assembled, put on them by pilots who have passed accelerated courses and are thrown into Russian air defense with a natural result. Every day Russia shoots down 1-3 “Ukrainian” planes. note that all this NATO weapons fall into the hands of untrained Ukrainian units in a country that has almost completely lost control of the sky. all these tanks, guns and aircraft are destroyed in the most comfortable conditions for Russia. sponsors of the war in Ukraine get something in return? only for money ? Poland received 20 Abrams tanks removed from storage. Germany only promises to give Poland tanks. 1 Leopard-2 tank per month in 2023. also removed from storage. Does this weaken NATO’s military capability? yes, and very strongly.
3) Western countries imposed economic sanctions against Russia, which caused an economic and energy crisis and a recession that had already begun. several European governments have already collapsed, even before a winter that promises to be very hard on the EU economy has arrived. all this will greatly affect the ability to restore the military potential of NATO.
everything suggests that Russia does not need to rush and needs (!) to conduct the operation at least until the spring of 2023.
BUT! the operation is likely to speed up by winter. Ukraine already has very serious problems with mobilization. Recently, a whole brigade from Western Ukraine simply refused to go to the front. 10 years in prison is better than a severed leg or a fragment of a Russian shell in the head. besides, it is already clear to many that Ukraine may disappear by 2024, and out of 10 years in prison, only 2 years will have to be served.
July 23, 2022 at 12:39 pm
Jim: “and there are many indicators which confirm this idea”
fRwl: “and there are many signs to support this idea”
Ok, I need an editor, you expressed it better than I did (sometimes, with a turn of phrase, there’s just a better phrase out there.
All joshing aside…
The last part of your comment raises in my mind something that doesn’t get discussed very much; how do the run-of-the-mill Ukrainians think about what is going on?
Do they get a say in this? It is their country after all.
I gotta think there are many Ukrainians who realize their country has been hijacked by a small group of corrupt actors, manipulated by foreigners, with an ideology of hate that doesn’t represent the feeling of most Ukrainians… although, more now because the “teabag of hate” has been “steeped” in the hot water of Ukrainian society.
As I understand it, Ukraine was not an ideological society before 2014, people wanted to improve their lives and wanted economic policies that benefited their lives and their children.
Zelensky fell to this ideology of hate, as soon as he “took the oath” and the prior president, Poroshenko, promoted hate for his whole term.
When will Ukrainians rise up to this “thug-archy” who are running their country into the ground for the sake of a rabid oligarchy which uses hate as an operating principle to manipulate society?
Seriously, I see all the ingredients present in Ukraine for a popular uprising overthrowing zelensky, and his gang of neo-nazi thugs.
After all what’s good for the goose is good for the gander (Remember the Maidan, 2014).
from Russia with love
July 24, 2022 at 8:13 am
Jim, 2014 is just the aftermath of what happened much earlier. in the referendum on the dissolution of the USSR, in the 90s, over 70% of the population of the Ukrainian SSR voted against secession from the USSR. but they spat on the opinion of these people. from that moment, and until today, nothing will depend on the opinion of the Ukrainians. By the way, only the Baltic republics voted for secession from the USSR.
now about Zelensky. Zelensky inspired his entire election program in Russian. he said that he would stop the war in the Donbass, he said that he would defeat corruption, he said a lot of things and perhaps even believed that he would do it … but his election campaign was financed by Kalamoisky – this is the man who financed the creation of the Nazi Azov regiment. when Zelensky became president, he suddenly discovered that all power structures were controlled by the Nazis. he discovered that no one cares about his decrees and decisions because they do not have the support of law enforcement agencies. there was such an incident when Zelensky gave the order to cease fire on the front line, but everyone spat on his order. Zelensky himself had to go to the front and persuade (!!!) the Nazis to cease fire. the president of the country is going to the front to persuade his army to carry out his order! apparently at that moment Zelensky realized that “if you can’t win something, then you need to lead it.”
is it possible in Ukraine a popular uprising that will replace the government? absolutely not. since 2014, the Ukrainian state has been arming those who are loyal to it and giving them a mandate for permissiveness. those who support Zelensky can kill, rob, rape, engage in fraud and they are not threatened with any punishment for this. and yes, these people are ready to fight for their right to kill and rob.
but what about the rest of the people? can they rebel against it? they have no weapons, the judicial system, if you can call it that, is not on their side. there are acts of disobedience, refusals to obey the decisions of the authorities, such as the refusal of an entire brigade to go to the front or the protest of women who did not let military enlistment officers into the village to distribute subpoenas to the army, but in the interior of Ukraine no one will overthrow the existing government with weapons in their hands. it’s not 2014 with police and batons. they’ll just come punished from the Kraken detachment and shoot all those who disagree with a machine gun. and they will be rewarded for it. the Nazis are organized and armed, the disaffected are unorganized and unarmed. all that remains for the civilian population of Ukraine is to wait for the Russians to come.
a coup in the Ukrainian government itself is possible, but this will not change the situation of ordinary citizens in any way. Zelensky has already entered into a direct confrontation with his former master Kalomoisky and robbed him of his citizenship.
ordinary citizens of Ukraine are now in an extremely difficult situation, but all we can do for them is to advise them to take care of themselves and wait for their release. those who are believers can pray for them, but I am an atheist.
July 24, 2022 at 3:32 pm
Thank you for your opinion.
July 22, 2022 at 2:27 pm
Interesting points. Of course, the big issue is who gets exhausted first. We will see.
But: the western elites who are really running the show only care about making Russia bleed. Suppose Russia takes the Donbas and digs in? Suppose Russia takes the Donbas and Kharkov and Odessa and digs in? So what? The Ukrainians will keep pounding the Russian positions and civilian infrastructure with artillery and precise long-range missile attacks. They don’t need to actually beat the Russians or retake territory, just make their occupation untenable. Russian retaliation won’t have any effect, because the western elites don’t care how many Ukrainians die or how badly Ukraine is trashed.
Projection: Putin is stuck to a tar baby. He can’t disengage, the western elites won’t let him. Ultimately he may have no options other than to either withdraw completely or take all of Ukraine (if he can).
July 22, 2022 at 3:56 pm
I am sure that the conditions for only the taking of Donbas are attainable by the Russian forces. If they reach, what is considered a culminating point, i.e. they need to lengthy pause in this conflict then that will be a pause this multi year conflict which started in 2014, with a flare up in 2022, and a third flare up sometime in the future.
Regarding Kharkiv & Odessa, I consider Odessa to be of greater strategic importance then Kharkiv. It eliminates Ukraine’s ability to resupply via shipping lanes. Odessa oblast has slightly less population then Kharkiv’s 2.6M verses 2.3M, based on demographic studies from 2021. But, the taking Odessa, would also involve taking Mikolaiv oblast, with a population of about 1.1M.
Based on this, there are are several other scenarios to look at. Stalemate plus some combination of either Mikolaiv then Odessa or Kharkiv in the north. Beyond that, the demographics, i.e. those who self identify as Russians in Ukraine does not support further operations, since the populations of the other oblasts will not be as welcoming of the Russian Army as the current occupied areas as well as Mikolaiv, Odessa and Kharkiv.
Additionally, the other question any analysis needs to take into consideration, is can the Ukrainian Army and government survive the ongoing onslaught. This introduces another scenario, collapse of Ukraine, akin to what happened at the end of WWI to Imperial Russia, first in February 1917, and again in October 1917.
July 22, 2022 at 4:41 pm
Daniel Davis in his derrotist way as usual. Too much pro-russian to have been an american officer…
July 22, 2022 at 6:46 pm
Sorry to say, but this author is either incompetent or has an agenda.
Perhaps a mix of both.
July 22, 2022 at 4:53 pm
dear Daniel: the russian army (yours?) has amply demonstrated that it is absolutely no match for any medium sized western army. Do you really think it can last until the end of the year with the current level of losses?
In my humble opinion, Russia either withdraws before November, or surrenders unconditionally in December, or collapses in January and disappears as a state and as a threat.
July 22, 2022 at 7:15 pm
Combat Power rule of thumb: 1 smart weapon/missile = 500 dumb rockets/rounds
It’s the “mature precision strike regime” that rules the modern battlefield.
The 1st World is ruthlessly using this war for intelligence by slowly adding 1 smart weapon system after another, and then watching the results to gain a better understanding of the new paradigm. This intelligence will save many 1st World lives in future combat.
Ukraine is both fortunate in that the 1st World is supplying them with smart weapons and other modern gear, and unfortunate in that they are the guinea pigs being sacrificed to understand the new paradigm.
Some recent results:
A handful of HIMARS forced an Operational Pause as Russia repositioned, doubling the length of their supply lines (strategically weakened).
Harpoons forced the Russian navy to give up Snake Island, and pull their warships even further back.
The just delivered 1,000 155mm Excalibur smart rounds will be closely watched to measure their combat effectiveness (this is the smart weapon equivalent of a week’s worth of Russian artillery fire at 60,000 rds/day).
Still to come:
HIMARS 300km range ATACMS missile
Long training times will preclude the combat testing of some weapons.
When the 1st World has gained enough info and bled the Russians enough to send the message to China, Iran, and other Authoritarians. Ukraine will be supplied with enough materials to gain the upper hand.
July 22, 2022 at 8:05 pm
Combat Power rule of thumb: One dumb weapon will kill you just as well as one smart weapon AND isn’t dependent on complexity of circuitry and programming. Remember Murphy’s Law?
July 23, 2022 at 1:02 pm
I do not think you know anything about combat. I do not think you know anything about modern military tech either.
So far, Ukrainians had demonstrated the difference between Russian Grads, Uragans, etc. (which are of WWII quality only bigger): they fire on the area, i.e., on civilians or dug-in stationary defenses; HIMARS fire on very specific targets. Firing some 50,000 rounds a day allowed you, Russians, to move 20 km in 5 months in Ukraine’s East at a very high cost in lives.
And now, have a look at the difference 6 HIMARS made in days. The map shows Russian strikes on Ukraine, those are red dots. Compare before and after the application of HIMARS.
from Russia with love
July 24, 2022 at 8:33 am
Are you seriously? you want to say that if, from the moment HIMARS supplies begin, we stop marking Russian artillery strikes on the map, then HIMARS will look like a very cool MLRS? read the reports of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. the intensity of the blows has not decreased and is even increasing. Are you one of those people who think that if you close your eyes, then others can’t see them?
“Report of the Russian Ministry of Defense on the progress of the special military operation on the territory of Ukraine 24.07.2022
The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation continue a special military operation in Ukraine.
? Aircraft of the Ukrainian Air Force stationed at the Kanatovo military airfield in the Kirovohrad region were struck by a strike of high-precision long-range sea and air-based weapons.
? In the seaport of Odessa, on the territory of a shipyard, sea-based high-precision long-range missiles destroyed a Ukrainian warship in the dock and a warehouse of Harpoon anti-ship missiles supplied by the United States to the Kyiv regime. Also, the production facilities of the enterprise for the repair and modernization of the ship structure of the naval forces of Ukraine were put out of action.
? As a result of the fire destruction of the positions of the 108th and 109th battalions of the 10th mountain assault brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the area of the settlement of Verkhnekamenskoye of the Donetsk People’s Republic, more than 70 percent of the personnel were destroyed.
? In the city of Nikolaev, high-precision weapons of the Russian Aerospace Forces attacked the weapons and ammunition depots of the 28th mechanized brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the 123rd territorial defense brigade on the territory of a diesel locomotive repair plant. More than fifty personnel, more than three thousand artillery ammunition of various calibers and 10 armored vehicles were destroyed.
Operational-tactical and army aviation, missile forces and artillery continue to strike at military facilities on the territory of Ukraine.
? Per day hit:
▪️nine command and control posts, including the joint command post of the Kakhovka group of troops in the village of Zhovtneve, Mykolaiv region,
▪️two command posts of the 54th and 65th mechanized brigades of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the areas of the settlements of Kurakhovo in the Donetsk People’s Republic and Novodanilovka in the Zaporozhye region.
? In addition, seven warehouses with ammunition and fuel were destroyed in the areas of the settlements of Reznikovka, Ostroye of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Galitsinovo, Nikolaev region and the city of Nikolaev.
Russian air strikes destroyed two units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, up to a company, two US-made M777 howitzers near the city of Nikolaev, and near the city of Nikolaev, the Bukovel electronic warfare complex.
? As part of the counter-battery fight, three platoons of Grad multiple rocket launchers in the area of Grigorovka, Verkhnekamensky and Seversk, two artillery platoons of Msta-S self-propelled artillery mounts, eight artillery platoons of Msta-B guns, 18 artillery platoons of D20 howitzers were suppressed , as well as nine artillery platoons of Gvozdika self-propelled artillery mounts at firing positions in the areas of the settlements of Paraskovievka, Opytnoe, Veseloe, Razdolovka, Bakhmutskoye, Vodyanoye, Serebryanka and Kamyshevakha of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
?Russian air defense systems shot down five Ukrainian UAVs in the areas of Korobki, Pyatikhatka, Kherson region, Topolskoye, Kharkiv region, Shcherbaki, Zaporozhye region, and the city of Donetsk in a day. In addition, in the areas of Novonikolaevka, Zaporozhye region, Makeevka, Donetsk People’s Republic, and Alekseevka, Kherson region, ten shells from Uragan and HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems were intercepted.”
from Russia with love
July 23, 2022 at 9:06 am
funny 🙂 what you wrote indicates that it’s all over for Ukraine.
you write about what impact Western precision weapons can have on the situation on the front in the future, but at the same time, Russia is already using precision weapons. applies all the time of the special operation every day.
for you, the hit of HIMARS missiles in the Russian ammunition depot is an event, while for the Russian army, the daily routine looks something like this:
“In the village of Apostolovo, Dnipropetrovsk region, as a result of a strike with precision-guided weapons of the Russian Aerospace Forces at the temporary deployment point of the 406th artillery brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, up to two hundred personnel, nine artillery pieces and military equipment were destroyed.”
“During the day, 12 command posts, four warehouses with rocket and artillery weapons and ammunition in the areas of the settlements of Nikanorovka of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the city of Nikolaev were hit, as well as manpower and military equipment in 226 districts”
this is for the last day and this is only part of the report of the RF Ministry of Defense for the day and this happens every day.
July 22, 2022 at 9:27 pm
You’ve written the same article many times. It appears that your personal feud with US generals is such that you would rather have Putin win than those same generals proved right.
Russia has a lot of problems:
Not only have rocket strikes destroyed huge amounts of Russian ammunition, but Russia has been forced to move its rail unloading points further back in order to protect them. This requires more trucking, which Russia doesn’t have. Already we’ve seen footage of tanks and MRLSs having to drive themselves back to the rail depots to be rearmed.
According to one Russian blogger, of every four armoured vehicles that arrive at the front from the reserve, three have to be stripped to make the fourth functional.
The guns are wearing out. One Russian soldier complained to his wife in an intercepted call that their barrels were curved and misses are measured in kilometres. You look at fields pockmarked with shell holes. No Ukrainians could possibly have been taking cover there. Either Russia was just randomly throwing shells around, or the guns can’t really be aimed anymore. For that dumb shell to kill you, it has to be in the right place.
Nadin Brzezinski predicts a “logistic collapse” in the Russian Army by August, similar to the Russian Army after the 1917 offensive, and that most of the troops will be walking home.
July 23, 2022 at 1:44 pm
I would love to understand the author’s reasoning why Russia wouldn’t attack Odessa first. Doing so would allow it to landlock Ukraine and defend separatists in Transnistria. The Dnieper is an obvious natural barrier but that doesn’t seem to change the fact that the taking of Odessa would be a far more important strategic and tactical victory for Russia.
Neil Ross Hutchings
July 23, 2022 at 3:42 pm
I’m looking forward to the next two articles. Predictions almost always end up being wrong, but I appreciate reading the range of scenarios from someone who understands military strategy and to some degree the terrain of the battlefield. What seems certain to me is that the Russian military will want to try to shorten the length of the frontlines before winter. The Kherson frontline appears secure with or without the bridge(s). At some point Russia may choose to take out all the bridges on the Dneiper and cut the flow of supplies to the UAF. Why this hasn’t been done is likely an indicator that Putin may still have desires to take the whole country. Davis seems to indicate that Kharkiv is the only important target left in the east and that if it falls, so falls the east. Perhaps a move by Belarussian troops in the north and an encirclement of Kharkiv and the Dneiper River will provide the required shortened frontline for winter. I believe the Russians previously needed over three million troops to overcome German defenses on the right bank of the Dneiper in WW2.
Neil Ross Hutchings
July 23, 2022 at 6:50 pm
One final comment. Can anyone state a reason why CIA Director Burns would, three days later, publically contradict the Ukranian government’s claim of 38,000 Russian deaths, with a statement that likely only 15,000 had died? Of course, none of this was highlighted in the MSM.
August 20, 2022 at 1:43 am
God bless people in the world.
Few months ago, Democratic newspapers in East Asia said that Ukraine was close to defeat Russia.
But we can see from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement that Gorbachev and Putin’s socialism war is slowly taking over Europe, America, Africa and Asia, becoming the future danger to people in the world.
If we could avoid mistakes of McNamara and socialism, psychology, futurology, computer science, and political scholar, maybe we will stop socialism war in this winter. We shall pray to God.
God bless America.