Expert analysis of the Ukraine conflict from a former member of the U.S. Army special forces: Ukraine’s much-anticipated counteroffensive in the country’s south appears to be starting, with the primary aim of liberating Kherson. Intelligence officials told the media that the Ukrainian military is carrying out shaping operations to prepare the battlefield for the offensive.
Natalya Humeniuk, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s southern military command, announced the military launched offensive operations in multiple directions in the south of Ukraine.
“All the details will be available after the operation is fulfilled,” she added.
The Army’s Center for Lessons Learned defines a Shaping Operation as “an operation at any echelon that creates and preserves conditions for the success of the decisive operation through effects on the enemy, other actors, and the terrain.
“Shaping operations set the conditions for the success of the decisive operation by synchronizing the effects of surface fires, air support, attack aviation, non-lethal fires, obscurants, and obstacles that delay, degrade, disrupt, or destroy enemy forces.”
Ukraine has been carrying out shaping operations for the past few weeks. They have used U.S.- and NATO-provided artillery and precision missiles to strike Russian headquarters and command centers, supply lines, troop concentrations, artillery positions, and weapons depots.
One must keep in mind that any “reading of the tea leaves” comes courtesy of open source media, so the scale of the operation has yet to be determined. But all indications point to Ukraine trying to take the initiative.
Artillery and Resistance Operations Set Stage
On Tuesday morning, Ukraine’s long-range artillery – an asset they did not have early in the invasion – was targeting Russian barge ferries beside the Antovsky Bridge and appeared to hit it. The bridge was already impassable to vehicular traffic.
This new artillery has definitely helped the Ukrainians, and it has taken a toll on Russian troops. Military analysts have said that Russia’s Battalion Tactical Groups are deploying at less than 100% strength, with some units reportedly at only 50%.
In its daily intelligence assessment, the UK’s Ministry of Defense tweeted that, “The Southern Military District’s (SMD) 49th Combined Arms Army has highly likely been augmented with components of the Eastern Military District’s (EMD) 35th Combined Arms Army. Most of the [Russian] units around Kherson are likely under-manned and are reliant upon fragile supply lines by ferry and pontoon bridges across the Dnipier.”
Ukraine’s special forces are taking advantage of their training with U.S. and UK counterparts to organize and operate resistance networks inside areas that have been taken by Russian forces. The U.S. Special Operations Command developed the “Resistance Operating Concept” in 2013 after the Russian invasion of Georgia.
After Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, the value of the Concept was realized, and the Ukrainians began to change how its special forces operated. The Resistance Operating Concept provides a blueprint for smaller forces to resist takeovers from larger ones. It emphasizes unconventional warfare carried out not just by Ukrainian special forces, but by resistance cells of ordinary citizens. The government published “The Foundations for National Resistance,” which spelled out the formation and development of organized resistance networks.
Reports of Russian Retreats
Ukrainian forces have at least initially pushed back Russian forces, but it is far too early to draw any conclusions from this.
Humeniuk said that “under the pressure of our actions, the enemy began to retreat. It is currently recorded that the enemy has withdrawn from some of its positions.” But she too expressed caution, as the operation has only just begun.
The UK Ministry of Defense tweeted, “From early on 29 August 2022, several brigades of the Ukrainian Armed Forces increased the weight of artillery fires in front line sectors across southern Ukraine. Ukrainian long-range precision strikes continue to disrupt Russian resupply. It is not yet possible to confirm the extent of Ukrainian advances.”
However, the Royal United Services Institute in London told NBC News that early indications are that “Ukrainian forces have broken through the first set of Russian defenses in places around Kherson.”
Expert Biography: Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. A proven military analyst, he served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer in the 7th Special Forces Group. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.
August 30, 2022 at 10:48 am
Revealed just recently, Ukraine has built wooden HIMARS which has drawn sea launched precision missiles to kill a tree! Seems like everyone in the russian army is drunk, stupid or both.
August 30, 2022 at 10:55 am
Not sure about that. Ukranians are unrealible. They themselves can’t even tell what sets them apart from the russian they are supposed to kill. Is it faith? No. Is it the language? Barely. Is it the cyrilic script they are using?
Those who can tell the difference are the only ones that will make the difference. That’s the point, Ukraine or not
August 30, 2022 at 11:44 am
It seems now that the Ukraine infantry is non existent. Which,
I gather, is the cause NATO wouldn’t accept them to join in 20 tries they made for the past 30 years.
Russia knew this, so it was easy work for them to brand those who would actually fight as “nazis”.
The tech works. but if a top notch sniper can’t find a target for a month, the problem is elsewhere
August 30, 2022 at 12:08 pm
If Ukraine now has the initiative this is a shocking development. Short of a mass draft I do not see how Russia gets it back.
Scooter Van Neuter
August 30, 2022 at 1:51 pm
The trickle of NATO weapons doesn’t offset the continuing erosion of Ukrainian forces and the massive number of arms and bodies Russia still has in the region. Localized skirmishes may give Western media something to trumpet, but the big picture remains bleak for Ukraine.
August 30, 2022 at 2:07 pm
It seems like one-third of the articles on this site have something about “sweating” in their title.
August 30, 2022 at 9:59 pm
Putin is desperate to not call for general conscription, because he does not want to upset his friends in Moscow. This leaves Putin’s only option to use up the unfortunate Russian army, which is degrading fast to the extent that he has had Wagner mercenary troops to fill in for lacking Russian army numbers. As well Putin has been scraping the proverbial barrell, by recruiting various non Russian ethnicities and criminals from jails. Quite simply it is clear that the Russian army has been hollowed out by Putin’s ukraine invasion.
Training of Russian recruits has been neglected, so that the lacking calibre, has to be contrasted with Ukraine troops who are receiving training in western countries. The Kherson, region is easily cut off from Russian supply lines, and has in fact been cut off. The odds are heavily in favour of Ukraine, in the Kherson, region, so it will be a “slam dunk”, success.