The Strategic Initiative in Ukraine
The Russian military is on the strategic defense, and it doesn’t look like this is going to change any time soon.
To start retaking the initiative, the Russian high command needs to create enough mobile reserves that are properly trained and equipped to make a difference on the battlefield.
Moscow doesn’t seem to be doing this.
The only place on the entire battlefield where the Russian forces maintain some sort of initiative is in the south of the Donbas in the area around Bakhmut and Avdiivka.
The Russian forces have been trying to capture the two cities for the last four months. Initially, capturing the two cities made sense strategically because it was part of a wider, two-prong attempt (the other prong was coming from the north in the vicinity of Izium and Lyman) to encircle and trap the Ukrainian forces in the Donbas. Although the Russian forces made some very costly gains in the worth, they were unable to progress in the south.
Moreover, since the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the east in September, which shocked Russia and surprised the world, the Russian forces in the north of the Donbas were either destroyed or pushed back.
The Ukrainians also captured Izium and Lyman, as well as other important logistical hubs, making any Russian counteroffensive from the north of the Donbas that much more unfeasible.
Russian Casualties in Ukraine: Approaching 100,000 Dead
Meanwhile, the Russian military continues to suffer heavy losses. Over the past few days, the Russian forces have been averaging more than 500 troops killed, and on some days, they have lost more than 700.
Equipment losses are also massive. Ukraine has destroyed 280 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 261 attack and transport helicopters, 2,911 tanks, 1,901 artillery pieces, 5.866 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 395 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 16 boats and cutters, 4,423 vehicles and fuel tanks, 209 anti-aircraft batteries, 1,555 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 163 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 531 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
Both sides are running out of ammunition. On some days, the two militaries can expend upward of 25,000 artillery shells.
More than nine months of war have depleted the ammo stocks of the Ukrainian and Russian militaries. As a result, Kyiv and Moscow are turning to third countries to replenish their arsenals and keep their campaigns going.
Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.