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Putin Is Shaking with Rage: There Is a ‘Possibility of a Major Breakout’ in Ukrainian Counteroffensive

While the counteroffensive is slow and grinding, it may only take a single day of fighting to tip the balance and allow Ukrainian units to begin making significant gains. 

T-72 Tank in Ukraine. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Video screenshot of a Russian T-72B3 tank on fire and a second decapitated tank by Ukraine's 93rd Mechanized Brigade.

In early June of this year, the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) began a widely anticipated counterattack of Russian positions in occupied territory.

Deliveries of sophisticated Western weapons systems, most notably Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles from the U.S. and heavy Leopard tanks from Germany coupled with Ukraine’s successes in strikes last spring to liberate Kherson led many to believe this offensive would prove swift and decisive. Breaking and routing Russian forces and driving the invaders from Ukraine. 

The reality has proven far different, with highly entrenched Russian forces turning the attack into a slow, grinding slog.

Despite recent doubts from analysts and observers, the UAF’s current offensive still has great potential and may yet prove pivotal in the war. 

The Details

While Ukraine’s advances last year seemed lightning fast, the reality of this year’s offensive was always bound to be different. The Russian military underperformed early in the war but they did learn from their mistakes, fortifying the front with anti-personnel mines, tank barriers, and trench networks. Attacking into such fortifications is a difficult proposition, especially when considering the constraints binding the UAF, namely concern for casualties and lack of air superiority, 

No country can sustain heavy casualties of its fighting forces for long and Ukraine is no exception. While Russia has the manpower to spare, throwing troops into human wave assaults, Ukraine must be patient and deliberate to conserve its unit strength. During the First Gulf War in 1991, the U.S. and Coalition allies were able to encircle and destroy the Iraqi army in only 100 hours with apparent ease. This was due in large part, however, to the massive air superiority advantage enjoyed by the Coalition. The preceding 39 days had consisted of Coalition aircraft relentlessly attacking Iraqi positions and supplies, hugely degrading their ability to fight. Ukraine must make do without this air support which both deprives them of strike capabilities while leaving their own troops vulnerable to attack by Russian air assets as they advance out of the cover of Ukrainian air defenses. 

In light of these factors, the UAF strategy has always envisaged a battle of this nature. The key lies in attriting Russian forces in their first and second defensive lines – Russian defense in depth – until a solid breakthrough is achieved at which point Ukrainian mobile units can exploit the breach to begin wreaking havoc behind enemy lines.

Lessons Learned in Ukraine War

As the UAF have carried on their assault, they have adapted and applied lessons learned. Initially, they were expending massive amounts of artillery shells in Soviet style barrages. While the U.S. and the West are able to keep up with their expenditure – for now – the UAF have begun concentrating their fire on high value targets and smaller sectors of the Russian defense they wish to break through. 

Furthermore, the UAF initially committed to three axes of advance. One eastward towards the village of Bakhmut, and two southwards through the Zaprozhizhia Oblast. The UAF have recaptured some territory around Bakhmut, the site of heavy fighting earlier this year, however they now appear to have pivoted and deployed some of those forces to the southern axes of advance, the primary goal of this counteroffensive which seeks to reach the Sea of Azov and cut the Russian land bridge to Crimea

How Ukraine Can Achieve a Major Breakout Against Russia

While strategy, tactics, and logistics are crucial pieces to any battle, the importance of morale cannot be overstated. Many of the Russian forces fighting along the Southern front have been in position for months without rotation, taking fire and suffering casualties.

At a certain point, even the best-trained unit will break and begin to fall back and this has the double effect of both leaving a gap in the line for attackers to exploit while also further decreasing morale of nearby units, potentially causing them to rout as well.

While the counteroffensive is slow and grinding, it may only take a single day of fighting to tip the balance and allow Ukrainian units to begin making significant gains. 

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin

Written By

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.



  1. Duane

    August 31, 2023 at 3:12 pm

    Every day websites that either publish original content like 1945, or news aggregators like realcleardefense publish stories that say the exact opposite.

    “Ukraine is winning”

    “Russia is winning”

    “Ukraine can’t win”

    “Russia can’t win”.

    So casual readers can be forgiven if we don’t know which, if any, experts actually know what they’re talking about.

    What we do know is that neither side has won yet. And a whole of experts seem to think that neither side can win, at least not anytime soon.

    There has to be some point where those national leaders who are in a position of influence with Ukraine, or with Russia, has to advise them that “this ain’t workin’ out for ya”. How many hundreds of thousands more soldiers, airmen, and civilians have to die to make that plain to the combatants?

    This is a very bloody fight that neither nation can really afford to keep going indefinitely. Sure, they could keep it going indefinitely, but national exhaustion is already setting in.

    Hearing all these analyses that it could be just one more battle, one more day, or one more “game changing” weapon that will quickly turn the tide and win the day, just doesn’t seem realistic. It’s hard to imagine either side quitting or admitting defeat short of a nuclear attack by Russia.

  2. Corvus

    August 31, 2023 at 3:44 pm

    Okay, we should really stop with this “slow and grinding” talk. This is what real-life war is like – it is slow. And it is grinding.

    It’s not like those Hollywood movies where Arnie mows down entire armies of baddies while dropping witty one-liners. Real war is not a quick and exciting shootout with a glorious ending.

  3. David J. Singer, MD, FACS

    August 31, 2023 at 7:55 pm

    Excellent review regarding tactics, men in motion, and more…
    As an old Army man, article was well understood.

  4. Scottfs

    August 31, 2023 at 9:20 pm

    “Putin is shaking with rage.”

    LOL. Who would write such nonsense??!

  5. George Gordon Byron

    August 31, 2023 at 11:18 pm

    Yes, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba said so to his Western colleagues, very diplomatically. Kuleba at the summit of EU Foreign Ministers called on critics of the counter-offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to “shut up”.
    “Criticism of the slow pace of the counteroffensive is tantamount to spitting in the face of a Ukrainian soldier … I recommend that all critics shut up, come to Ukraine and try to free one square centimeter themselves,” the French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP) quotes the head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry as saying.
    Although Ukraine itself promoted its offensive during 2022/2023.
    The Kyiv rulers were finally burned out by the topic of constant discussion of the failed offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which is increasingly being discussed in the West. In response, Ukrainian boors speak out in their usual manner of permissiveness, which those same Western curators cultivated in them.

  6. Ben Leucking

    September 1, 2023 at 12:07 am

    Please post a photo that shows Putin “shaking with rage.” Otherwise, this is just another of your clickbait articles.
    I hope you don’t call this journalism.

  7. George Gordon Byron

    September 1, 2023 at 5:50 am

    “Putin is shaking with rage” / “Putin’s Great Nightmare” / “Putin should be scared” / … horror movie titles ….
    But how is it really?
    The counter offensive summer 2023 in the weight of the Armed Forces of Ukraine failed!

  8. David N. Tate

    September 1, 2023 at 7:35 pm

    This is funny. There is another article in “1945” by Daniel Davis entitled, “Ukraines Big Summer Offensive Won’t Win the War.” That article probably has more credibility than this one. I suppose that it is possible for the Ukraine to have success along the line Orkhiv – Robotyne – Tokmak – Melitopol. However, it has taken three months and heavy personnel casualties and equipment losses to advance three to five miles. Let’s recall that Melitopol and the coast of the Sea of Azov is over 60 miles away. That is a long way. This article seems to be just another propaganda piece.

  9. cipit88

    September 1, 2023 at 8:03 pm

    You can certainly see your expertise in the article you write.
    The sector hopes for even more passionate writers like
    you who are not afraid to say how they believe.
    All the time follow your heart.

  10. June

    September 2, 2023 at 12:37 am

    Who is winning? It’s simple. You should read the trend. All trends indicate that the Ukrainian army is gaining slowly and the Russian army is collapsing due to lack of resources. Since the Ukrainian army does not have air superiority, they are doing a great job. Also, the Ukrainian army has reconquered its territories in 2022 and 2023. I believe that either army will collapse at some point due to lack of resources or manpower and the Russian army is already showing its lack of resources and its failures.

  11. George Gordon Byron

    September 2, 2023 at 2:01 pm

    For June:
    1) Yours: “Who’s winning? It’s simple. You should familiarize yourself with the trend.”
    You should familiarize yourself with those who are fighting on the line of contact from Ukraine. Or those who visited the line of contact. You would be much less optimistic.
    2) Yours: “The Russian army is falling apart due to lack of resources.”
    Answer: Who told you that?
    3) Yours: “Because the Ukrainian army does not have air superiority, they are doing a great job.
    Answer: However, the Ukrainian offensive failed. 4) In addition, the Ukrainian army recaptured its territories in 2022 and 2023.
    Answer: Russia was going to get only the Kry, but received the Crimea, Dobbass and other parts of other regions. the entire area of the Black Sea.
    5) Yours: “I believe that any army will collapse at some point due to lack of resources or manpower”
    Answer: And the Ukrainian army is already demonstrating its lack of resources and its failures. Total moyilization is being prepared. and people over 50 years old are already being called up, and medical exemptions from military service are being declared invalid.
    The statement by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba, where he advises those who are dissatisfied with the slow counter-offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, to shut up, speaks of the difficult state of affairs. According to former CIA analyst Larry Johnson, Kyiv has suffered a “complete failure” and the diplomat has no choice but to “shut up” all critics and urge everyone to fight for Ukraine.

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