According to analysis from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russian forces are likely preparing to launch a large-scale, decisive offensive in eastern Ukraine sometime between the middle and end of this month.
Such an attack could coincide with the one-year anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked invasion.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov stated on February 5 that such an attack could be symbolic in nature.
Still, it could also be necessitated to allow the Kremlin’s forces to strike Ukrainian positions before the arrival of Western tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.
It was just last month that Germany pledged to send a number of Leopard 2 main battle tanks (MBTs) and further announced that it would allow other NATO members to send their respective Leopard 2s. Germany will also send upwards of 88 Leopard I tanks.
In addition, the UK has moved forward with plans to send around a dozen Challenger 2 MBTs, while the United States is sending M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and France is supplying AMX-10 RC wheeled tank destroyers. All of those vehicles should begin arriving in Ukraine in the coming months.
The U.S. will also supply thirty-one M1 Bradley MBTs, but those may not arrive until early next year due to logistical and training issues. Instead of sending current stocks, those will be from new production.
Can Russia Actually Mount An Attack?
Though analysts suggest Russia may want to mount an attack, the question is whether it could actually succeed – or if it will result in a waste of resources.
Moscow may feel pressured to begin a late winter, early spring offensive but in its daily update on Tuesday, the UK Ministry of Defence noted that Russian troops “have only managed to gain several hundred metres of territory per week.”
Russia’s goals have been to capture the remaining Ukrainian-held parts of Donetsk Oblast, however, the gains have been incremental as Russia is likely lacking the munitions and units that are required for a successful offensive, Newsweek reported.
It cited that British assessment, which suggested it will be “unlikely” that Russia can build up the forces needed to make a significant impact on the war in the coming weeks – and before Western tanks and other armored vehicles begin to arrive.
Former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has expressed doubt that the Kremlin will be able to launch a successful offensive after this month, as there is a limited time window and it is closing. But he added that “it is not time to rest, as this war is far from over.”
Threats of Escalation in Ukraine
Russia has also warned that the Western arms supplies will effectively drag NATO into the conflict.
“The U.S. and its allies are trying to prolong the conflict as much as possible,” Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said during a conference call with military officials. “To do this, they have started supplying heavy offensive weapons, openly urging Ukraine to seize our territories.
In fact, such steps are dragging NATO countries into the conflict and could lead to an unpredictable level of escalation.”
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.