For many analysts, the Ukrainian military’s large-scale counteroffensive is not going according to plan. Launched in the first days of June, it has failed to achieve the operational breakthrough Kyiv has been looking for.
There are several reasons — and excuses — for the stalling Ukrainian operation. In a rare criticism of the Ukrainian military, U.S. officials provided one in public.
Allocation of Forces in Ukraine War
According to U.S. officials, the Ukrainian military has been misallocating its forces in the counteroffensive, and that has been one of the reasons Kyiv has so far failed to break through.
U.S. officials assess that the Ukrainians would have a better chance of success if they concentrated their forces in one axis of advance, thus achieving a temporary decisive advantage, instead of pursuing several axes with the same intensity.
Specifically, the Ukrainian military should concentrate its efforts in the south, even if that means losing men and weapons systems trying to breach the Russian defenses there.
Although it is hard to judge a plan that remains classified, as the Ukrainians have shrewdly argued, it is also hard to imagine that Kyiv planned to be stuck a few miles in front of its starting positions three months into the counteroffensive.
To be sure, Ukrainian forces have had to overcome serious obstacles, including hundreds of thousands of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines in front of the Russian defenses. Coupled with the lack of the necessary equipment to clear the minefields and some tactical mistakes, the Ukrainian forces have been stuck.
The Goal of the Ukrainian Counteroffensive
The primary objective of the Ukrainian counteroffensive is to cut the land bridge between Russia and the territories it occupies in Ukraine, especially the Crimean Peninsula. That land bridge makes it easier to protect Crimea.
To do that effectively, the Ukrainian forces would need to reach the city of Melitopol, which rests on the coast of the Sea of Azov. Kyiv would thus split the Russian forces in Ukraine into two groups — one in the northeast and the Donbas, and the other in Southern Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula.
Splitting the Russian forces in two would make it easier for the Ukrainian military to fight them. The Russian logistical system would have to stretch to support two different fronts. It would also have to account for the deadly and accurate Ukrainian long-range fire systems — such as the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) — that would move forward to territories retaken by Ukraine.
For the time being, the Ukrainian military is short of its goal to reach Melitopol and sever the land bridge. However, the constant attrition suffered by Russian forces is creating the conditions for an operational breakthrough. How far away that breakthrough is remains to be seen.
About the Author
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.
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