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Ukraine Needs a Miracle to Drive Russia’s Military Out of Kherson

HIMARS
HIMARS firing like the one used in Ukraine. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

At the end of July, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry released a stark warning for Russian forces in the Kherson region. The Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF), the statement said, were preparing for a large-scale counteroffensive, saying the Russians in Kherson had a choice: “retreat or be annihilated.” Like many other claims by Ukraine in the south, however, this threat has yet to be acted on.  A study of the geography and a comparison of the forces involved, however, exposes the reality that only a miracle could see Ukraine drive Russia from Kherson.

Actually, Kyiv would need closer to three miracles to pull an effective offensive there.

On March 2, just days into the war, Russia captured Kherson in southern Ukraine, making it the first major city to fall. Putin’s troops have held it ever since. Almost immediately, Ukraine declared their intention to retake the city. Over the past several months, various Ukrainian officials have claimed the UAF was either about to begin a counteroffensive to take back the city, or had already started it.

Here are just a few of the many headlines published in Western and Ukrainian media:

May 29, the New York Times claimed: “Ukraine Battle Expands as Kyiv Launches Counteroffensive;”

June 9, US News reported: “Ukraine Regains Some Territory in Counter-Offensive in Kherson Area;

June 29, Washington Post adds: “Near Kherson, Ukrainians regain territory in major counteroffensive;”

July 3, The Economist indicates: “Ukraine prepares a counter-offensive to retake Kherson province;”

July 28, Fox News headline: “Kherson cut off: Ukrainian counter-offensive gaining momentum in southern city;”

August 5, Ukrainian media claims: “Ukrainian army launches offensive in Kherson region (ukrinform.net)”

What becomes immediately clear in observing these headlines in the context of time is that beyond the written claims, the frontlines separating the two sides have wavered little more than a few miles in either direction. Meaning, in reality, to date the “offensive” has been little more than ink deep.

As I have previously detailed in these pages, there are fundamental military reasons why Ukraine is very unlikely to successfully launch a counteroffensive in the foreseeable future. Yet there is even more reason to question the feasibility of Ukraine attempting a counter-offensive in the Kherson region.

Many Western analysts have suggested that this summer marks a critical period for Ukraine’s war effort, and the claimed offensive in Kherson could be a make-or-break moment for Kyiv. If those are the stakes, then Zelensky should abandon the idea now, before an even greater disaster results. The reason: to conduct a successful military offensive, Ukraine would need to produce three successive military miracles. Spoiler alert: the chances of attaining even one miracle is unlikely in the extreme; there is zero rational chance for three.

HIMARS

U.S. Marine Corps Marines, Tango Battery, 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, fire a Multiple Launch Rocket System Family of Munitions (MFOR) rocket from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launcher at Camp Pendleton, Calif., on June 1, 2007. The HIMARS system consists of one launcher, two re-supply vehicles, two re-supply trailers and a basic load of nine pods (six rockets per pod) of MFOR rockets. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Seth Maggard) (Released)

To demonstrate why there is so little chance for this offensive to succeed, we will conduct a mental exercise to illustrate the compounding levels of difficulty. For the purposes of all that follow, let us for the moment say that somehow Ukraine was able to overcome every obstacle I articulated in my previous work that would be necessary even to launch the operation (marshaling sufficient manpower, tanks, air power, ammunition and other supplies necessary to sustain combat operations). Launching the offensive will only be the first of several monumental task.

Miracle #1: Russia Doesn’t Make Adjustments to the Offensive

One of the errors many analysts make in assessing Ukraine’s chances of successfully retaking Kherson is the usually unstated assumption that the current dynamics will continue to exist throughout the operation. For example, Ukraine has had some successes of late in interdicting Russian ammunition depots and damaging bridges over the Dnipro river with HIMARS rocket launchers. The hope is that Ukraine can block Russia’s ability to resupply its forces on the western side of the Dnipro, isolating the defenders.

Further, there is the unstated assumption that the number of troops Russia has allocated for the Kherson mission will remain static, even if Ukraine starts to have success. That will almost certainly not be the case. Putin knows how big of a blow it would be to his war if his forces lost Kherson. Thus far, Putin has avoided the politically risky move of putting his country on a full mobilized footing, choosing to keep life as normal as possible for the majority of Russia’s population.

But if his choice becomes having to take a political risk with his population or to lose a major battle, it is a virtual certainty Putin will order a mobilization and bring in as many troops as is necessary to prevent the loss of Kherson.

It must be kept in mind that Russia has considerable resources it could bring to bear which Putin has yet to activate. Russia has millions more military-aged men, its war-making industry is still fully functional (though it is diminished owing to sanctions), many hundreds of thousands of active-duty troops, and thousands of armored vehicles of every type in storage (though many are old variants). If Ukraine were to start winning the war, Putin could activate vast quantities of material and manpower; Ukraine has virtually no such capacity.

Miracle #2: Geography Doesn’t Matter

If somehow Ukraine overcame all the obstacles necessary to launch an offensive and then made miracle #1  happen that Russia didn’t augment its defenders, they still have to overcome two major challenges with geography.

First, UAF troops are currently in prepared defensive positions in the environs of Mykolaiv, about 30 miles to the west of Kherson. They have the protection afforded by some urban terrain in that city, dugouts built into the earth, trenches, and the benefit of overhead cover in the forests nearby. For Ukrainian forces to attack Kherson, they will have to leave the advantages inherent in the defense and cross nearly 20 miles of open steppe.

Russian gunners and drone operators will be watching and able to engage armored vehicles and infantrymen in the open, with only limited protection. Russia still has considerable amount of artillery in the Kherson region, ability to launch rocket attacks, and still a major advantage in air power. Ukraine would run the risk of being cut to ribbons if they ventured into the open. The Russians, meanwhile, would retain all the advantages of the defense, where they have reportedly been building considerable defensive works within Kherson and the region from which they could endure much bombardment while launching artillery strikes with near impunity.

Second, is the Dnipro river. While much media attention has been given to the success Ukrainian gunners have had in damaging several key bridges necessary to keep the Russian defenders supplied, less has been done to point out that those same bridges would be necessary for the offensive to move one meter beyond Kherson.  If Ukraine overcame every obstacle and successfully drove Russia out of Kherson, they would still need to cross the Dnipro to drive Russia out of the region.

If Putin’s troops were driven out of Kherson, they would certainly destroy the bridges on their way out (unless Ukraine dropped the bridges first). Russian artillery and rocket launchers further to the east of the Dnipro – along with other mobile armored forces in the area – would have little trouble preventing a forced crossing of the river by Ukrainian engineers. Without those bridges, Ukraine’s offensive won’t go much beyond the 15 miles they would need to attack to get to the river.

Miracle #3: Ukraine is Able to Successfully Drive Russian Troops from Urban Territory with Fewer Troops, Artillery, and Air Power than the Defenders

One of the enduring requirements of attacks since World War I has been the necessity of the attacking force having superiority in numbers of troops, numbers of armored vehicles, artillery, and air power. If Ukraine got the first two miracles – that Russia didn’t make any responses to a Ukrainian assault and that geographical constraints were mitigated – they would still have to find a way to do something that has likely never happened in a century of modern warfare: an attacking force defeating a defending force without advantages in troop strength, artillery, or air power.

The Germans learned the hard way you “can’t win a tank battle without air power” in their loss to the Soviet Army at the Battle of Kursk. Artillery has been near-decisive for the victors in World War 1, World War 2, the Korean War, Vietnam, and is having an outsized impact in the Russian-Ukrainian War of 2022. Historically speaking, it is nearly impossible for an attacking force to defeat a defending force if the attackers are inferior in field artillery. It would be a miracle if Ukraine were to defeat the Russians in Kherson without a clear superiority in airpower and field artillery.

The Harish Reality 

Every important historic battlefield determinant indicates Ukraine would fail if it tried to launch an offensive against Russia in Kherson. It is true that in wartime there is no such thing as “never.” There is no “sure thing,” no slam-dunk certainties, and no guarantees. It is theoretically possible that Ukraine could overcome every obstacle and still defeat Russia. But it’s also true, that battlefield miracles are rare, and vastly outweighed by the occasions when predictable, quantifiable military metrics presage the outcome.

Realistically speaking, it is as close to impossible for Ukraine to successfully pull off an offensive in Kherson as can be imagined. As this analysis demonstrates, Ukraine wouldn’t just need one miracle to succeed, they would need three. Betting the integrity and security of a country on going 3-for-3 in the miracle department may not be the best course.

While it is entirely understandable that Ukraine would be loath to make any deals with Russia that would almost certainly result in ceding some percentage of its territory, that may ultimately be the least bad option to the potential of continuing to fight, bucking the odds in hopes of a complete victory later, and possibly lose everything. The people and political leadership in Kyiv alone can make that call, but evidence strongly suggests making the best deal possible, even with the hated Putin, might be the wiser strategy.

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

Written By

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 @DanielLDavis1.

50 Comments

50 Comments

  1. a reader

    August 6, 2022 at 11:58 am

    Sorry if I missed this detail in the above material, but are Russian supply lines to Kherson still defensible with Ukraine’s new arms? And are Russian supply lines to Crimea still limited to sea and Kerch Bridge… has the overland coastal railway been restored yet?

  2. aldol11

    August 6, 2022 at 12:04 pm

    Putin’s troll is at it again, he has been wrong for 5 months and continues to be wrong

  3. Neil Ross Hutchings

    August 6, 2022 at 12:37 pm

    Excellent article and thanks for the historical context. I suspect the announcement of the counteroffensive has more to do with keeping western funding flowing rather than with actually driving Russian forces from Kherson. At some point one hopes that reality take hold in Kyiv, so that civillians from both sides have a chance to prepare for winter.

  4. pagar

    August 6, 2022 at 12:42 pm

    Ukraine will need divine intervention to survive Russian bombardment as it has lost hundreds of fighters during the last 24 hours.

    Once there’s no letup in the strikes, all of Biden’s seemingly miraculous assistance would be of no use, unless Biden provides some much needed B61-12 munitions.

  5. Goran

    August 6, 2022 at 12:43 pm

    It’s been said many times that before the deal with Putin is reached, ways of enforcing that deal have to be defined, as Putin’s word means jack. What would Davis recommend if Putin attacks again in two years? Fight or cave in again? And if he would suggest they fight (I hope he would, but we’ll never know), why wait two years for Putin to attack again and why not fight back today?

    p.s. on another note, it is interesting to see Davis switching from debating when will the Russian military take Odessa to whether Ukrainians can take Kherson. Somewhat of an indictment of his expertise I’d say. There was a time when Karen and Quisling were just names, a year from now, addressing an obviously uninformed person who’s embarking on defining military outcomes, as Davis, might just be a thing. “Don’t be a Davis” … it does have a ring to it.

  6. Joshua

    August 6, 2022 at 12:49 pm

    What does this author gain by pushing defeatist rhetoric 24/7 ?

    If Ukraine does succeed in repelling the invasion (as seems entirely possible) will you apologise Mr. Davis ?

  7. Stoni Borke

    August 6, 2022 at 1:08 pm

    Here were many negative assumptions and ideas. I will not make an article; however, you should mention the domestic resistant against mobilization and the danger of exposing the lie about this so called “special operation”. In addition, the Russian empire may start to shake soon, as other areas who wants to have their independency will start rattle with their weapons. We already see tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia and opposing from Kazakstan. There are lots of these “stans” that only wait for their chance and now when they see how weak and incompetent Russia in reality is, they can see the chance to fight a weakened Russia without capacities to hold their empire together. We also have to be realistic and see who actual perform and run this war – it is only an internal old gang sitting behind their fences in Moscow and talk over the head from any reality. This scam will explode, you can hide your dead for a long time but not forever. There are many objections to this report from “the expert”, but I leave it for now and let others bring forward their thoughts.

  8. Scottfs

    August 6, 2022 at 1:23 pm

    This author hates Ukraine, is a Putin cheerleader, and would be rooting for Hitler on D-Day.

    One thing this author forgets is morale. If he thinks the 50 year-old Russian conscript is fighting as tenaciously as the 23 year-old Ukrainiane who is fighting for his homeland, he’s taking too much from Putin.

    This is a war of attrition. The Russian economy is hurting, Russians don’t buy the claims of Putin, Russia has no strategy other than indiscriminately firing rockets, missiles and artillery at phantom troops and real civilians.

    Will Russia take all of Ukraine? This author thinks so, I’m sure he wants it to.

    But it will not.

  9. Data Relay

    August 6, 2022 at 2:07 pm

    Russia’s military is greatly overrated. Ukraine’s military is greatly underrated. Please explain why any Russian would be motivated to serve in the military for Putin’s folly (The biggest military blunder of the 21st century)

  10. HAT451

    August 6, 2022 at 2:16 pm

    One other major factor, with Russia and their allies have the initiative. That means that major advances over time will happen when and where the Russia wants it to happen. Ukraine choose to fight a defensive battle, organizing their operations along the major resupply routes, i.e. roads, rail lines emphasizing major terrain features. Defensive wars can be won, but winning those war takes much longer. Much longer then Ukraine has or can afford.

    For Ukraine to conduct effective operation Kherson, Ukraine would first need to gain the initiative, raising and resourcing a military as a minimum on par with what the Russians currently possess in terms of manpower, equipment, and experience. That can only be obtained, via a armistice where they have a chance to recruit, train, and rearm over a multiyear period, or by major foreign intervention.

    For political reasons the Russians are and will continue to focus their major effort on the territory of Donetsk Oblast. Until they have occupied all of Donetsk, Kherson and Kharkov will continue as supporting efforts.

  11. Jon

    August 6, 2022 at 2:39 pm

    Capturing the West bank of the Dnipro will put the major gateway to Crimea within missile range, and also threaten the viability of the canal that supplies most of Crimea’s water. The East bank of the Dnipro can be captured by Ukrainian forces moving South on the Zaporizhia front, which does not require forcing a river a half mile wide. Nonetheless, Russia will have to invest substantial troops to secure the East bank, which will be subject to artillery, as well as assault.

    Will that be simple or painless? No. But it can be done. Ukraine is moving at its own pace, which is certainly measured to minimize its own losses, and to maximize Russian losses. Attrition of access line and ammunition dumps seems to have had a substantial effect in reducing Russian artillery bombardment.

    BTW, the area around Kherson is not a steppe, it’s much more a riverine flood plain.

  12. Error402

    August 6, 2022 at 2:52 pm

    Russian artillery shelling of the temporary base of the Ukrainian 46th air assault brigade at Bilohirka in kherson region resulted in roughly 400 ukro fatalities on Saturday august 6 2022.

    Also on the same day, an unknown number of ukro fighters and foreign mercenaries perished in separate missile strikes in Dnipropetrovsk, north of kherson.

    Looks like US special forces, or elements of NATO’s rapid reaction force or both, are now very urgently needed in kherson. Hello, WW3 !

  13. from Russia with love

    August 6, 2022 at 3:12 pm

    I hope you don’t change your nickname and disappear before winter because I would like to see how you apologize to Mr. Davis when the Russians take Odessa 😎 you know that the Russians are very fond of taking anything in winter 😉

  14. Dan Farrand

    August 6, 2022 at 3:28 pm

    “A Reader” suggests that Russian supply lines may be at risk. Weeks ago, Russia announced that they had reestablished the road and rail links (land bridge) from Russia to Crimea. Ukraine does not have the resources to cut these links. The Russians can entrain a mechanized/armored battalion in the Donbass for dinner and have them detrain ready for the Kherson front by breakfast.

    Ukraine has no means to bring Russian logistics infrastructure under sustained attack. The simple answer to attacks on ammo dumps is to disperse them further and step up shipments to cover expected losses. Inconvenient to Russia, but elementary.

    The ability to supply across the Dnieper – even without the bridges (although their loss is still not accomplished) – will again be more difficult, but will be accomplished.

    I do think it would be a massive political blow if Russia lost control of Kherson city. The Ukrainians certainly have lists of people to whom they will give the Boucha treatment. The Russians (unlike our own leaders) understand that War serves political ends. Liberating the people in Kherson (most of whom probably just want to get on with their lives) is one of the political ends of the war. One assumes the Russians will not lose site of this.

    One thing hardly ever discussed in the west is the very substantial recruiting effort the Russians have made in “liberated” territories and in many Federation republics to raise and train “volunteer” formations. I have only seen fleeting reference to this effort, but it appears to be substantial and effective with dozens (?) of battalions reportedly beginning to flow into different theaters.

    Winter is coming to Ukraine. If the war continues, this winter will not be easy. Ukraine will barely be able to feed and keeps it’s civilian population warm. There is no telling what the impact will be on the Army. Once deep winter has arrived, the fighting season may restart. Whatever Ukriane hopes to accomplish, time is running out.

  15. Yrral

    August 6, 2022 at 4:49 pm

    This is like sending your child,too fight the bully, knowing he gonna come home all bruise and battered,the Ukrainlan know the hell that will be brought to bear on them if they do not pacify Putin, because lots of them already live the hell,while part of the Soviet Union

  16. Gary Jacobs

    August 6, 2022 at 6:12 pm

    While some thoughtful counterpoints are helpful to the generally positive narrative coming from the Kherson region… we should start calling this author Negative Nancy.

    He is missing several key factors:
    -A key objective for Ukraine lay right along the Dnipro just north east of Kherson that has HUGE strategic impact. That is the mouth of the Crimean Canal. If the Ukrainians get there and shut down the water supply to Crimea, they have a big strategic win, and something to negotiate further Russian withdrawls in order to turn the water back on.

    -Ukraine has been hitting ammo dumps DEEP into the south of Kherson Oblast. So far south that the front line has to be just a few miles north of Kherson City based on the 43 mile range of HIMARS. Just because the Ukrainians are not announcing every advance in real time doesnt mean there isnt already more progress than what is being detailed. They have struck multiple times in Skadovs’k, Lazurne, and other areas in Southern Kherson Oblast. Pull up google maps and see for yourself.

    -Another possibility is that Ukraine is seeking to goad the Russians into exposing themselves with thinly supported troops. There has been some word that the Russians may try their own offensive in the south to pre-empt a Ukrainian counter offensive. In that Steppe area, they would be exposing themselves to HIMARS, Drones, and other means of precision targeting. As well, the Russians have pulled troops from the east. Between pulling troops and the effect of HIMARS obliterating their ammo… now there is about a third of the artillery fire Ukraine is taking in the east. Ukraine has also has gone onto to a limited counter offensive near Izyum. If that picks up steam… along with a fresh influx of Western Trained troops – the UK plans on training 10,000 every 120 days- The Russians could be in for a very bad future in Ukraine.

    For all the talk of the pundit class thinking Ukraine would get rolled in less than a week…we are past 150 days… and now we are weighing the merits of a Ukrainian counter offensive after seeing them force the Russians to retreat from the entire north of the country from Kyiv through Sumy and to Kharkiv.

    With a continued supply of more and better weapons, as well as fresh, western/NATO trained Ukrainian troops… dont be surprised to see the Ukrainians slow roll through Kherson over the next 6-8 weeks…with a bunch of dead Russians in the process.

  17. KB

    August 6, 2022 at 8:46 pm

    And all the HIMARs launchers and missiles have been destroyed, just like Russia has announced every second day for the past month.

    Russia lies. Constantly. Inevitably. From the Romanov Empire, to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat to Putin’s kleptocracy, it was all built on complete lies. And sadly, at one point the Kremlin starts believing them themselves.

    Too bad Russia can’t attack the Ukraine with dachas, mega-yachts and Cypriot bank accounts. Because that’s where the money that should have been building the Russian Army went.

  18. Owen j

    August 6, 2022 at 11:03 pm

    More proof that Ukraine is a lie. And that our government intends to use propaganda and manipulation against its own people moving forward.

  19. Old Desert Coyote

    August 6, 2022 at 11:31 pm

    The unknown part of this conflict is how active are the Ukrainian Partisan Units in Russian occupied areas. Russia may Occupy an area but not have control. If Partisan units are active, the movement of supplies will be severely restricted.

    Also a I posted before; Ukrainian pilots and Maintenance crews are being trained on F-15 and F-16 aircraft. AS OF NOW NONE OF THOSE AIRCRAFT HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO THE UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES. How ever why do you train people on weapons that you do not have.

    I think this is the hold card being held by the United States for any event of Putin escalating the war in the Ukraine. If The Ukraine gets the ability for local Air Superiority then the Russians will be toast.

    Lastly a word about anti-air operations. First you have to have search radars to locate incoming aircraft. Once the the incoming aircraft have been detected then
    the tracking and targeting radars are employed. These tracking and targeting radars are kept cold so they cannot be targeted by anti-radiation assets. How ever that is not the case for the air search radars which have to be active all the time. That makes them vulnerable to anti-radiation weapons. So if you can keep the air search radars suppressed then the only question is the reaction time necessary to bring targeting radars on line from the time of detection by ground observation. Also once the targeting radars become active then they can them selves be targeted by anti-radiation weapons.

    Anti Air operations are very time and distance sensitive.

  20. Yrral

    August 6, 2022 at 11:49 pm

    It not negative,it reality,the average American,have not made an effort to investigate Ukraine propoganda , Ukraine was built on the same model as Russia,it cultured similar to Russia,but claim to speak a different language, Ukraine is a one party state,they do not have the check and balance,even Republicans have a say in the Federal government ,most building and infrastructure was built,while Under Soviet rule

  21. Mario

    August 7, 2022 at 3:49 am

    If I were Putin I would be very worried.
    What DD says usually happens, only the other way around

  22. MN

    August 7, 2022 at 4:05 am

    I can put no holes in this articles and it fully devoid of hope for Ukaraine.
    This therefore the reason it will keep fighting until last man standing. Then it will be for the taking of Russia… The outcome is clear.
    Again a battle with undemocratic actors the West cannot win regardless its halfhearted efforts to give aid. Too little, too late… and billions of dollars and euros wasted.

  23. marcjf

    August 7, 2022 at 4:21 am

    From the earliest days of this war this sector was always key. By holding the bridgehead here the RF could attack out and eventually encircle Odessa and push north into the centre of Ukraine. Regardless of their capability to do this, without a bridgehead it is nearly impossible. If they were to achieve that then the Russians would clearly have “won” the war on their terms. Not doing so risks stalemate.

    If the Ukrainians can reduce or negate the impact of the bridgehead then they MIGHT be able to impose a stalemate and may have a long term opportunity to rebuild and regain ground lost elsewhere. I doubt they could recross the river and the Russians similarly probably could not recross either.

    Given the prizes here I think the UAF will be up against it. They have signalled in advance their intentions, and still lack fire and air superiority. RF forces are spread thin – one BTG per 6 km according to one source. However the RF realise what is at stake and I think will do their utmost to defeat a counter offensive. If the UAF were to succeed then it would be a very significant victory. The odds are against that outcome IMHO.

  24. David Chang

    August 7, 2022 at 4:26 am

    God bless people in the world.

    I agree with Mr. Daniel.

    According to the number of soldiers and weapons in Ukraine and the Western Military District of the Soviet Russia, Ukraine could keep defending along E 105.

    But when is the end day?

    God bless America.

  25. Harmen

    August 7, 2022 at 5:06 am

    Dear Mr Davis, you use a rhetorical sleight of hand here. The stated Ukrainian goal here is to take Kherson. You say so too.

    And then you talk about the difficulties of the Ukrainians advancing once they have taken Kherson. But, then they would have already taken Kherson! Just wanted to say that.

    Now, on to the war itself, I am no military expert. I know little about Ukraine and Russia. But I do know a little bit about history.

    And history has stories of seemingly weaker powers defeating seemingly stronger powers, often through a strategy of attrition, being made possible by the greater will of the seemingly weaker power.

    Just to mention a few recent examples: the USA and USSR in Afghanistan, the USA in Vietnam, Russia in the first Chechnya war, China in Vietnam.

    How much willpower do the Ukrainians have? Or the Russians? I do not know.

    But, I would not be surprised if it turns out the Ukrainians have more willpower in the end than the Russians: they are fighting for their own country after all, and Russia is providing them with ample horror stories to keep them fired up.

    I also wonder myself: would I trust the Russians to stick to any agreement, after their three (!) invasions in 2008, 2014 and now? Would I trust the Russians after witnessing the atrocities they committed?

    I do not envy Zelenskyi and his leadership. They must decide on a daily basis about the lives and deaths of countless people.

    But I do have a feeling that the only path for Ukraine to a secure peace is through really defeating Russia. And I would not be surprised if Ukraine’s leadership sees it the same way.

    What such a “real” defeat looks like I do not know. My best guess is that something fundamental has to break in Russia’s will when it comes to Ukraine. Russia has to let go in some way of its “Greater Russia” Ukrainian dreams.

    So far that has not happened.

  26. Yrral

    August 7, 2022 at 7:31 am

    The US government should not be a propoganda tool of the Ukrainian government,it do a disservice to to people of Ukraine,with dire consequences the Pentagon papers,show the lies about Vietnam too the American people,led too the US exit out of this war,maybe Ukrainain official should be willing to go before congressional committe,to justify their continue support and be truthful about the situation in Ukraine

  27. Eamonn Conlin

    August 7, 2022 at 7:48 am

    Pretty negative opinion. You must be under the assumption that Russia is more than just a gas station with a second rate army run by drunken criminals. It isn’t.

  28. David Scen

    August 7, 2022 at 9:19 am

    The enemy is here, not in Russia. The left refused to recognize a duly elected president in 2016, waged a four year soft coup where the permanent unelected government resisted its own executive, censors conservative speech and encourages rioting among its own citizens to achieve its political objectives. All of which proves the enemy is here and not in Russia.

  29. Jim

    August 7, 2022 at 10:44 am

    If a casual observer had looked at a map of Ukraine once a week for the last several months, to their untrained eye, the front line seems relatively static.

    That would seem to suggest a stalemate.

    That would also suggest Ukraine is holding its own.

    But does this “drive by” look accurately reflect realities on the ground?

    Given the plurality of opinions and the ability to hang onto hope, clear decisive victories are necessary to remove all doubt… and all hope.

    This war is a battle of perceptions in the West.

    Ukraine is hanging on because of western support… (don’t kid yourself otherwise).

    “Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser.” George S. Patton Jr.

    When the perception is undeniable that Ukraine has lost and any money or weapons sent is just throwing good money after bad… (and polls readily reflect this perception)… a climb down will begin for the political class.

    You will see a trend of news reports reflecting reality.

    For all you Ukraine Patriots… know this… Ukraine had the full backing of the western political class.

    Unfortunately, the western political class is all about perception management.

    They have little control over reality.

    This is their wake-up call.

    And Ukraine Patriots were mistaken to rely on western assurances of success. Indeed, the survival of their country is now in mortal peril because they relied on western (principally the American political class) assurances.

    A lesson to be learned for future geo-political events.

    (A side-note, Ukraine was the U. S. Senate “club project,” their venture at Empire Building… they will not let go easily… there will be bitter & hot tears in the halls & chambers of the Senate upon recognition of their project’s ultimate failure.)

  30. bkydcmpr

    August 7, 2022 at 11:15 am

    So still one, the only valid “miracle” Ukrainians need is the third one. The article lost credibility more or less when you stretch the content for whatever reason.

  31. OIF Combat Vet

    August 7, 2022 at 2:08 pm

    Maybe Ukraine would do better if their Kleptocracy stops selling foreign military aid on the international black market.

  32. from Russia with love

    August 7, 2022 at 3:06 pm

    What planet do the people who comment here live on?
    what kind of “war for your country” is Harmen raving about? You don’t have to be an expert at finding information on the Internet to discover that Ukraine has never had queues at recruiting offices. all Ukrainians who are pro-Western have a single goal, to leave for the EU from impoverished Ukraine, which has the lowest standard of living and the lowest wages in Europe. and by the way they have achieved their goal, they are in the EU. 4-5 million. but they will definitely not defend Ukraine;) but who is defending it now? those who were mobilized on subpoenas under pain of 10 years in prison. You may not like this truth, but it is a fact. Do you think the morale of these fighters is high? but what about Russian morale? read the DER SPIEGEL article “Wie Putins Krieg mein Moskau verändert hat”.
    those who hope for Western arms supplies to Ukraine should watch a CBS documentary on this topic. he just got out.
    hopes for super HIMARS smell strongly of the fantasies of comic book lovers that Captain America will win everyone :))) at the moment, all confirmed use of these MLRS is associated with terrorism. a strike on a fertilizer warehouse, which killed 5 civilians and 70 were injured, strikes on the central regions of Donetsk where there are no Russian troops, a strike on a prison in which Ukrainian prisoners of war were kept, 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war died. public lists. what else is there? attempts to destroy the bridge? so were not successful. Interestingly, the bridge was mainly used by civilians. immediately after the damage, the Russian troops organized a crossing and carried civilians, but not tanks, on it. there is a video of the crossing. but the bridge has already been repaired.
    Is it really so difficult to understand that with the current scale of hostilities, these 1-2 packages of missiles from HIMARS per day to a front 1400 km long are ridiculous? at the same time, HIMARS cannot work as intensively as the Ukrainian Grad and Hurricane because the American instructors there and the installations themselves are very expensive. destroying any of them is a serious loss and they have already been destroyed by 6 pieces out of 12 delivered. the more intensively they are used, the more often they will be destroyed. the same goes for 777 howitzers.
    someone is counting on 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers being trained in Britain? they are trained by the same instructors who trained the Afghan army, but instead of 6 months, only 3. remember? the army that in a month lost to the guys in slippers three times inferior to them in numbers.
    Old Desert Coyote expresses common sense but he clearly lacks information.
    it was not possible to organize a partisan movement, and all that Kyiv can do is throw groups of terrorists. for the partisan movement, the support of the local population is necessary, but the local population prefers to issue saboteurs and receive Russian passports. all that Kyiv can boast of is 9 terrorist attacks against members of the new administration, of which 3 failed. at the same time, Ukrainian terrorists are regularly eliminated and these are representatives of special forces, not ordinary conscripts. this resource is limited and extremely difficult to recover.
    about air defense, let me remind you that Ukraine had air defense. all as described by Old Desert Coyote. but this air defense ended in the first 3 days of the special operation. all that ukraine can do is create object-based air defense, but this is not much different from the lack of air defense. the air defense structure has been destroyed and I doubt that layered air defense can be restored under constant missile attacks.

  33. Walker

    August 7, 2022 at 8:27 pm

    Davis wants to end the war by negotiation. Putin is like a mosquito. Try negotiating with a mosquito. All you will do is swat it away for a bit so it can come back while you are not watching and take another bite out of you. There can be no negotiation with Russia. The sooner you idiots figure this out the better. But then I realize we already tried that in 2014 and you still didn’t learn anything. Perhaps Davis, you are simply too stupid. Or worse, perhaps you are on the Russian payroll. Those seem to be the only two options.

  34. Gary Jacobs

    August 7, 2022 at 9:38 pm

    From Russia with Hate – Your screed sounds like a comedy routine from one of Putin’s dungeons. Of course we have already witnessed the supposedly mighty Ruskie Army be forced by the Ukrainians to retreat from Kyiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and more. As well, Russian troops just made several unsuccessful offensive attempts, including near Blahodatnyi in Kherson Oblast. That’s north by northwest about 10miles outside Kherson City. See my comment above about how DEEP into South Kherson Oblast HIMARS has been obliterating Russian Ammo depots. With a 43 Mile range, that proves how close the front is to Kherson City as HIMARS would never be on the front line.

    As for your notion that 6 HIMARS have been destroyed, that’s confirmed to be fraud. The pictures Putin’s boot lickers released are not even close to what a HIMARS looks like. The footage was so phony it makes me laugh even harder at gullible people like you buying that BS hook line and sinker.

    Only time will tell if the Ukrainians can expel the Russians for Kherson and other parts. That said, they have done it before, and you would be foolish to outright dismiss the chance they will do it again.

  35. Stefan Stackhouse

    August 7, 2022 at 9:51 pm

    It is realistic to hope that the Ukrainians can stop the Russians and hold a more-or-less static front. This they can do.

    They cannot mount a successful counter-offensive without a massive increase in the amount of weaponry that they have been getting from the US and NATO. This is unlikely to be provided. It is questionable whether we even have the productive capacity that can be ramped up to that extent.

    It does not follow that a negotiated settlement is the only or even the best outcome. Any such settlement would require Ukraine to make permanent territorial cessions for what would inevitably be a temporary peace. That is an utterly stupid idea, and there is no way that they would ever agree to it.

    A cease fire and frozen conflict would be a more realistic outcome.

  36. Cyclopse

    August 8, 2022 at 7:14 am

    Are you getting correct info at 19fortyfive you are printing Russia on top in war when the news on You Tube is all Ukraine 🇺🇦 viva Ukraine, You Tube news is basically saying Russia is being systematically crushed and the savage Russians are retreating and being bested by Ukraine 🇺🇦 viva Ukraine all over the shop? Who do we believe

  37. Andrew P

    August 8, 2022 at 8:30 am

    Ukraine can’t negotiate with Russia because Russia will never be satisfied. They are relentless.Ukraine has no choice but to fight to the end. They will lose, but they (and their Western suppliers) can make Putin’s victory as expensive as they possibly can.

  38. Maarek

    August 8, 2022 at 9:11 am

    It is very amusing to read readers’ complaints that the author argues that it is impossible for Ukraine to win.
    But victory cannot be achieved by wishful thinking alone. Russia has a tremendous advantage in resources, an absolute desire to win, and the full support of the government’s actions by the population. Russia’s economy is in excellent condition, and strong alliances have been formed with major non-Western countries.
    We must remember that the war in Ukraine is being waged with the weapons of the USSR, prepared 30 years ago for World War 3. Russian warehouses are full of shells and missiles that were prepared for a breakthrough to La Manche. Ukraine, meanwhile, has all but exhausted its supplies. Western supplies are a drop in the ocean of what is needed. It is of course very great that the USA can supply another 10 or 20 rocket launchers, and another 20 or 30 howitzers, but for a front of 1500 km it is nothing.
    And while Ukraine is fighting a war with all its forces and is already on the verge of economic collapse, Russia is fighting a war with contract servicemen and volunteers, without mass mobilization.
    Russia has nowhere to hurry – time is working for it. I really can’t think of a single sensible way for Ukraine to win.
    I will say more – Ukraine got into this war only because it sincerely believed that NATO would fight on its side. If Zelensky had known how things would go now, he would have acted differently in February.
    For those commentators who have fallen from the moon and sincerely believe that Russia attacked because they are all bloody mad maniacs, let me remind you. Russia’s demands were literally about three things. To recognize Crimea as Russian. On what terms – this could always be negotiated with Putin. For example, in return for non-refundable loans of 100 billion dollars over 10 years. Secondly, on the execution of the Minsk agreements – that is, the inclusion of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics into Ukraine (!) as autonomous territories. Nothing terrible, to put it bluntly. And thirdly, the refusal of Ukraine to join NATO.
    These were the three conditions, the fulfillment of which guaranteed peace with Russia, and what it demanded from Ukraine.
    So, Zelensky and my fellow Americans, was it worth it? Zelensky believed in the help of America and Europe, that they would have his back and fight for him. Now Zelensky will go down in history as the man who practically destroyed Ukraine – because after this war there will be little left of it.
    And this is reality, despite all the screaming in the comments – about the high morale of Ukrainians, their near victory, and how the author of the article dares to say the obvious things.

  39. Yrral

    August 8, 2022 at 9:28 am

    Fight to end of the stone age, Russian are pounding Ukraine back in back into stone age, systemically destroyed lots of their vital infrastructure, Ukrainain oil refinery was destroyed,left Ukrainain without the ability to produce fuel for vehicle,they are totally dependent on other for fuel

  40. David Chang

    August 8, 2022 at 10:43 am

    God bless people in the world.

    Opponents shall think carefully.

    To stop Russia President Vladimir Putin’s socialism plan, not only enough people, money, weapons, fuel, but also the same determination.

    Therefore, EU shall abandon socialism and sell existing weapons to Ukraine. Then with the agreed defense budget in NATO, set up three divisions in three years.

    God bless America.

  41. Shawn

    August 8, 2022 at 12:43 pm

    Does it say anywhere in this article that the people of Kherson do not want to be retaken by the Ukrainian army?

  42. Yrral

    August 8, 2022 at 4:50 pm

    An American sucker born everyday in Ukraine,Biden just handle over 5.5 billion dollars to a Russian Influence Corrupt Organization

  43. Paul Morrison

    August 8, 2022 at 5:26 pm

    The problem with the analysis is that none of the miracles are miraculous.

    Yes, Russia could adapt to the offensive by putting in more men and materials. The problem is that they have a limited amount of wiggle room. They’ve basically conscipted every male under age 60 in the LNR and DNR, Wagner is recruiting criminals, and the Russian armed forces are offering huge incentives for enlistment, which no one is running up to take. They have vast supplies of old weaponry. Some of which would work. There’s about 6000 tanks in storage, but if 1/3 of them work I’d be surprised, and they are a old garbage. Its better than nothing, but not by much. But let’s play this game, Putin realizes he has a problem and orders say 4 BTGs sent to Kherson. How are they getting across the Dnieper? If they try any kind of bridge replacement its just going to become a big artillery target, and if they manage to get those BTGs across, now what? They are encircled with no easy retreat options, and minimal ability to be resupplied. If only we had a historical example of a battle in which an army in a city on a major river was surrounded and compelled to surrender. Maybe on a wide river like the Dnieper or maybe the Volga.

    All the UAF needs to do is keep the bridges closed and impinge the ability of Russia to resupply its forces on the west side of the Dnieper and it doesn’t matter how much Putin adjusts, he cannot rebuild the bridges, he cannot resupply by air (the only airfield has now been shelled dozens of times, its unusable).

    Miracles 2 and 3 are related, and basically amount to the same claim: Russia has enough forces to defend and the UAF will take big casualties trying to advance. But, here’s the thing, they don’t really need to advance much. All of Kherson is already in range of the HIMARS. The Russian supply lines are cut off. All they have to do is wait until the Russians start to run out of ammo and food, and then the city will fall, just like another city on a wide river not very far away.

  44. John Donahoo

    August 9, 2022 at 6:41 am

    Would the M3 instant amphibious bridge provide one needed miracle. It is awesome. I saw a film on it about 40 years ago provided by a us army corps of engineers major who was on exchange to the Australian school of military engineering at Casula near Sydney.

  45. I. Martin

    August 9, 2022 at 12:36 pm

    Good article. The author points out what has become obvious. The Kherson offensive appears to be more talk than action. However, his math needs minor adjustment. First, it might seem like hyperbole, but Ukrainian troops are worth more than Russian troops. Second, geography means a tactical change: an early morning crossing of that flat terrain the author references, with an emphasis on speed and arrival at the enemy doorstep just before dawn. They must close with the enemy for a combat that is more infantry and armor, than artillery. Third, as stated in the first place, Ukrainians are worth more than Russians in combat, so in close fighting, fewer Ukrainians can win against more Russians. The Russians rely on artillery because their troops aren’t so good. This is why the Ukrainians were able to delay the taking of that city in the Donbas for so long. Problem is that the Ukrainians are reverting to Soviet military thinking.

  46. from Russia with love

    August 9, 2022 at 2:01 pm

    everyone can leave. there is nothing interesting here.
    Ukrainian talking head Podolyak reported that the “attack on Kherson” was a psychological operation of the Ukrainian special services. considering that the referendum was not canceled, the only goal that the Ukrainians achieved was to receive money from the American budget.🤣
    but the offensive in the Kherson region, all the same, may soon begin … in the direction of Nikolaev and Krivoy Rog. 😎

  47. Roger Brownlie

    August 15, 2022 at 8:59 am

    Surprisingly poor and illinformreed article. You can’t fight if you can’t be supplied. Ukr don’t need to go on offensive as Rus will pull back out of necessity.

  48. aaall

    September 11, 2022 at 2:41 pm

    Yet another article that ages poorly!

  49. Chile

    November 10, 2022 at 5:59 pm

    poor’ does not do it justice, ‘abysmal’ analysis…
    Roger Brownlie: you’ve got it exactly right, kudos

  50. Gary G

    November 11, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    Well, I guess miracles do happen, because that’s what you said was required for Ukraine to take back Kherson and not just 1, but 3: “Ukraine would need to produce three successive military miracles. Spoiler alert: the chances of attaining even one miracle is unlikely in the extreme; there is zero rational chance for three.”

    I’m sorry Col. Davis but there ought to be “zero chance” of anyone putting weight in your prognostications about this current war. I’m just guessing but I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve run up a good record in the past by holding positions contrary to those of the dummies that have run our Defense Department for lo many decades. Yes, your odds will continue to be good if you bet against them, but you ought to keep in mind the old saying “even a stopped clock is right twice a day”. Every once in a while the US gets an opponent that is even stupider than us (I’m thinking of, in addition to Putin these past two years, Sadaam Hussein, especially during the 1st Gulf War). In those rare instances the least incompetent side wins.

    One other thing to keep in mind is that American military incompetence since WWII largely revolves around the failure to recognize you can’t win a fight with people who are fighting in their homeland and, therefore, will never give up. Isn’t that a major factor in what we’re seeing now? Based on some of the things I’ve heard you say I wouldn’t be surprised if we agreed on a lot of things when it comes to US national defense policy, but that does not mean you’re not oh so wrong about the Ukraine war in so many ways.

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