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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

The Ukrainian Military Has a Big Decision to Make

A M109A6 Paladin howitzer assigned to the Hartwell-based Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 214th Field Artillery Regiment, 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Georgia Army National Guard moves to a loading dock May 10, 2021, in Jacksonville, Florida. The self-propelled howitzer was one of over 200 Georgia Army National Guard vehicles that deployed to Morocco for participation in exercise African Lion 21. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Bryant Wine)

More than nine months have passed since the first Russian troops rolled into Ukraine on February 24. Although 276 days have gone by, the Russian military is still trying to achieve some of its objectives.

The Situation on the Ground in Ukraine: Decision Time 

In the south, the Ukrainian military is setting up the conditions for the liberation of the eastern bank of the Dnipro River after the liberation of the western part of the Kherson province and its capital, Kherson City.

However, a forced crossing of one of the largest rivers in Europe—the Dnipro has a width of more than one kilometer in certain parts—will require considerable resources. It seems more likely that the Ukrainians will wait for spring before they launch an attack on the eastern bank of the Dnipro, but that would give the Russian military ample time to better its fortifications. The Ukrainian high command is faced with a dilemma here, and solving it will be difficult.

The south of the Donbas is the only place in the entire battlefield where the Russian military retains some sort of offensive initiative. But Moscow hasn’t been achieving anything with that initiative. For the better part of four months, the Russian forces have been trying to capture Bakhmut and Avdiivka, though with little success.

The Ukrainian defenses have held fast, and the Russian forces have lost thousands of men and weapon systems in their attempt to capture the two cities.

In the east, most of the fighting is taking place around the city of Kreminna, which lies on the way to the key logistical hub of Svatove. The Ukrainian forces have been trying to reach Svatove since late September, when their surprise counteroffensive in the east allowed them to liberate hundreds of square miles of territory and important cities. The Russian military is desperately trying to hold its ground in the east and prevent the Ukrainians from advancing forward and liberating more territory.

Russian forces have been constructing extensive defensive lines in the area, including anti-tank ditches, anti-tank walls, and miles of trenches. However, the Ukrainian military continues to enjoy an advantage when it comes to long-range precision weapons, and the Ukrainian forces could use their M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), and M-777 155mm howitzers with the M982 Excalibur munition to target, disrupt, and destroy the Russian defenses at specific points, thus making it easier to breach the Russian defenses.

Russian Casualties in Ukraine 

Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Saturday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 86,710 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 278 fighter, attack, bomber and transport jets, 261 attack and transport helicopters, 2,901 tanks, 1,896 artillery pieces, 5,848 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 395 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 16 boats and cutters, 4,406 vehicles and fuel tanks, 209 anti-aircraft batteries, 1,554 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.

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 InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise 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.