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Ukraine’s Big Summer Offensive Won’t Win the War Against Russia

T-90 Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
T-90 Tank. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

As the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) celebrate the complete capture of the village of Robotyne, the long-anticipated offensive that began on June 5 could be nearing its culmination. After nearly three months, we can now make some preliminary assessments about the results of Kyiv’s attack, as well as assess potential courses the war may take for the rest of 2023. 

Bottom line: The counteroffensive netted marginal tactical success and exacted no meaningful change in the line of contact. No end to the fighting is in sight.

How Did the Offensive Play Out?

Ukraine had been signaling since at least March that it planned to launch a major offensive in the early summer. After a delay in late May to increase stockpiles of ammunition and other supplies, Ukraine launched its attack on June 5 across a broad front, centering on four major axes of advance: Kamianske in the west, Orikhiv and Velyka Novosilka in the center, and Bakhmut in the north. 

Ukraine had reportedly assembled 12 mechanized brigades for the operation, manned with up to 40,000 troops. They had spent the better part of a half-year preparing for the attack, and their preparation featured training on combined arms warfare in NATO countries. They were equipped with British Challenger 2 tanks, German Leopard 2 tanks, U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Stryker armored troop carriers, and other modern NATO kit. Given the circumstances, Ukraine was as prepared as any nation fighting an invasion could be.

But in May, Czech President Petr Pavel ominously warned that it would be “extremely harmful to Ukraine if this counteroffensive fails, because they will not have another chance, at least not this year.” Similarly, a leaked classified report cautioned that U.S. intelligence officials believed the Ukrainian offensive may only produce “modest territorial gains.” Nearly three months after the offensive began, those concerns have been borne out.

On the Velyka Novosilka and Orikhiv fronts, Ukrainian troops managed to push about 10 km, while in the Kamianske and Bakhmut fronts, barely 4 km have been gained. Yet the cost to Ukraine in men and material has been exorbitant. The New York Times reported that a full fifth of the offensive strike force had been damaged or destroyed in just the first two weeks. Shifting to an infantry-centric push did carve a few more kilometers out of Russia’s holdings, but the cost to Ukraine’s troops has been high.

In mid-August Forbes reported that Ukraine’s 82nd Mechanized Brigade had been committed to the battle on the Velyka Novosilka front, possibly Ukraine’s last operational reserve for the offensive. Almost the only axis where Ukraine is still making slow progress is the Velyka Novosilka front, where Ukraine captured Robotyne. While any victory is welcome, the situation facing Ukraine now is much more daunting than appears.

Ukraine and senior Western officials claim the capture of Robotyne represents a puncture in the first major line of Russian defense, implying that now the battles will get easier and progress faster. But Ukraine faces significant hurdles to push any further. 

What Is the Status Today?

First, it is not enough to break through a line of defense and push deeper into enemy lines. Every kilometer of territory captured must be garrisoned and held against expected enemy attacks from the flanks. 

Ukraine has apparently used up most of its offensive potential just reaching Robotyne. It is not clear they have sufficient strength in equipment, ammunition, or manpower to both push deeper into Russian lines and still hold the flanks against counterattack. In all likelihood, Ukraine is at the end of its push. It might soon be forced to revert to the defensive to ensure it holds the territory it has wrested back from Russia.

Second, some Ukrainian advocates seem to believe that the Russian side is a static entity, so that each meter of land the UAF recovers is a deepening wound on the enemy. The truth, however, is that Russia is constantly adjusting to new and emerging battlefield realities. The Russian high command likely observed that three of the four axes of attack have largely failed and have been reinforcing the subsequent layers of defense ahead of Robotyne. Thus, the farther Ukraine penetrates in this area, the more difficult and costly will be additional progress.

Third, the main reasons for Ukraine’s lack of success in this offensive are their fundamental disadvantages in air power, air defense, and artillery ammunition, and especially a dearth of mine-clearing equipment. Those problems have not been solved. 

What Next?

Combined with the high level of casualties sustained — and the approach within weeks of Ukraine’s rainy season — it is likely the Ukrainian offensive will be spent before the end of September. The net result of Ukraine’s large-scale offensive has been marginal gains in some areas. From the strategic point of view, the 1,000 km-long line of contact remains largely as it was at the beginning of 2023. 

As the Czech president warned, the chances are extremely remote that the UAF will be able to do anything beyond defending for the remainder of the year. Ukraine will hope to rebuild strength for 2024. The problem for Kyiv is that Russia, too, is rebuilding its strength for future offensive thrusts. It has weathered the best Ukraine and the West could throw at them in the occupied territories and surrendered very little territory.

Some are clinging to the hope that the appearance of American Abrams tanks and F-16 fighter jets in 2024 will finally be the game-changer Ukraine has been looking for. Sadly, they will be disappointed. A mere battalion’s-worth of Abrams were promised, with the first reportedly arriving in early fall, and there might be a small number of F-16s delivered to Ukraine in 2024. (Pilot training might not be completed before next summer). Those may provide tactical utility at the margins but will do nothing to move the needle strategically.

The harsh reality is that no matter how just and righteous Ukraine’s cause, it is likely a militarily unattainable task to seek the ouster of Russian forces from illegally occupied parts of Ukraine. At present, unfortunately, neither Kyiv nor Moscow shows any willingness to enter into serious negotiations to end the war, as neither is willing to compromise on its main objectives.

The chances are high, therefore, that the war continues in an attrition model, where the two sides will continue positional battles in key geographic locations, launching drone and missile strikes into the rear areas of each country and engaging in pulverizing artillery duels all along the line of contact. That type of war will inflict hundreds or thousands of casualties per day on both sides, continue wiping Ukrainian villages and cities off the map, and keep alive the possibility that an error, misjudgment, or miscalculation could result in the war expanding beyond Ukraine.

Given the failure of the offensive to achieve decisive results, Washington  should reconsider its policies and objectives. The United States likely cannot continue indefinitely to provide large stocks of tanks, armored personnel carriers, aircraft, air defense missiles, as well as millions of rounds of artillery shells and other ammunition. 

The Biden administration should devise new plans based on the battlefield realities and come up with a plan that protects America’s security interests and economic prosperity. Blindly supporting Ukraine “for as long as it takes” was never a strategy and is now appearing less sustainable than ever. 

Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” 

Written By

Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis1.



  1. Brett

    September 1, 2023 at 4:20 pm

    During the Cold War, the United States routinely spent 5-10% of GDP to contain the Soviet Union.

    Russia is the core of the former Soviet Union, and has all of the strategic weapons. Russia is openly antagonistic toward what it sees as ‘western hegemony’ and is trying to create what it describes as a ‘multi-polar world’. This is obviously contrary to the United States national interest.

    There are different calculations for how much aid the United States has provided, especially since much of the equipment drawn down from U.S. stocks would never have been used by U.S. forces in a conflict, but I’m going to use the figure of $115 Billion that is currently used.

    The United States economy is $23 Trillion ANNUALLY. Since the Ukraine War is well into it’s second year it wouldn’t it be entirely fair to compare the spending to a single year, but I’ll do it anyway – because the point is that even if you exaggerate for effect, the financial aspect STILL MAKES SENSE. That cost, if paid in a single year would equivalent to 0.5% of the US GDP.

    In 2021, the United States spent $716 Billion on defense (not including Department of Energy). The total spent on 18 months of war is about 16% of our regular defense spending PER YEAR, when figuring that the war has been going 18 months it’s really less than 1% of annual defense spending per month.

    What has the United States shown for that money? First, it has supported the international principle that military might does not reshape national borders. That matters – not just to Ukraine and not just to Taiwan, but to the United States and all of our treaty allies like South Korea and Poland. Supporting the rule of law has returned the Phillipines to the U.S Sphere of Influence, has brought Finland into NATO, and has brought a massive change in NATO doctrine and funding.

    The United States is stronger and Russia is weaker.

    Davis is right that the United States has promised too little equipment and hasn’t delivered it fast enough, but he’s wrong when he says it only makes a difference on the margins.

    He may think that the lines remain relatively static since the beginning of 2023, but the fact is that Russia failed to make gains during the winter offensive that Davis claimed could reshape the war (even blocking weapon shipments from Poland!!!!) and Ukraine has been making small but consistent gains.

    Russia is under a lot of pressure on 1000km of defensive lines. Russia has to win everywhere, always; Ukraine has to win anywhere, once. Davis knows what Clausewitz teaches about a cordon defense, but he’s too dishonest to admit that from a strategic perspective, Ukraine has the advantage.

  2. Duke

    September 1, 2023 at 5:02 pm

    Lt.Col. Davis does not acknowledge – or strives to minimize – any Ukrainian successes, and appears aligned with Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump, Victor Orban and a host of other minor Putin apologists and sympathizers. He sings from the same hymnal as Putin and Medvedev.
    Not an honorable company to find himself in.

  3. aldol11

    September 1, 2023 at 6:17 pm

    incompetent empty suit on Putin’s payroll

  4. Matthew Reynolds

    September 1, 2023 at 6:24 pm

    How does this guy continue to be platformed? I mean seriously, his comments are indistinguishable from FSB drivel.

  5. TheDon

    September 1, 2023 at 7:19 pm

    Someone tell me why Ukraine callls Robotyne a win.
    Its about 1 milex2block farm town of about 20 people.

    Looks like PR for F16s

  6. Fred

    September 1, 2023 at 7:21 pm

    After a year and a half the much vaunted Russian offense has demonstrated the superb competence of Brandin, the tactical sense of Milley, the intelligence of Austin, and the brilliant tactics of Pelosi’s husband soliciting male hookers.

    One wins, on the defensive by not losing. Any bets on how long it takes for some ambitious Russian to do the ides of March to Putin? The Russian officer corps is gone, the Russians do not use non coms as the West does. It replaces them with officers, and those are dead. Turning out 3 month wonders does not enhance cohesion.

    Russia can win if it is willing to sacrifice a generation or two. But then Russia even if it wins will be destroyed as a nation to be replaced by Central Asians. The fact that the Ukraine is on the offensive is a miracle since we were told the war would be over in a week. Most of the data out of the war zone is questionable, but it doesn’t take an expert to see the Russians have failed in their war. Attrition as a strategy does not seem viable when you must crawl to the North Koreans, Iranians, Cubans, and Cinese for supplies. Worse, when you try to recruit Cubans as combat troops you know the Russians are in deep trouble.

  7. 0Zed

    September 1, 2023 at 8:27 pm

    What would it take to preserve an independent, democratic, militarily defensible and economically viable Ukraine?

    Sacrificing anything of value in exchange for nothing seems both foolish and cruel to us, Europe, the people of Ukraine and their posterity.

  8. Jim

    September 1, 2023 at 8:31 pm

    Two and a half months left in the fighting season… maybe more.

    So far, in the offensive, Kiev has not “punched through” in a strategic way.

    Now, who knows… Kiev could make a strategic advance.

    If they do, then they held serve.

    Then it depends on Russia’s ability to conduct a strategic counter-attack.

    That is the answer… to the question… everybody is waiting for.

    Does Russia fold under pressure?

    Or, does it have the ability to complete the Surovikin Line defense strategy? … massive counter-attack!

    To date, Russia has not been forced to engage in what one would call a strategic counter-attack… to save their strategic position in the Donbas and Crimea.

    I’m waiting… to see what happens… who controls the battlefield?

    You want to see the full strategy play out… (Does Russia have the ability to make that a smashing success?)

    To Pierce the Surovikin Line!

    And… when do you conclude it can’t be done?

  9. Сheburator

    September 1, 2023 at 8:37 pm

    I was especially amused by the assertion of a just and righteous war ukrainian government.
    The war began not in 2022, but in 2014, and not with an attack by Russia, but with an attempt to forcefully oppress the population , which was not in solidarity with the neo-Nazi agenda of the for government that came to power after the 2014 putsch. Forceful oppression with an eye on ethnic cleansing.
    So what kind of righteousness can we talk about?

  10. 5am

    September 1, 2023 at 8:59 pm

    the 1945’rs are no doubt penning their usual novel length responses…..
    thought provoking as it is, this article will likely have kicked the Alt-Lefts warmongering hornet nest.

  11. June

    September 2, 2023 at 12:03 am

    What can we expect from a Russian friend, Daniel Davis? He was almost always wrong about this war. Although it appears that the Ukraine war is at a stalemate, that is not the case because the West is constantly trying to break the stalemate. Whenever the Ukrainian military hit a stalemate, the West slowly increased its support. Upcoming weapons are F-16s and a small number of Abraham tanks. This will not change the outcome, but a large number of F-16s will soon be withdrawn from service, and if they are sent to Ukraine, the quantity will be the quality. The Ukrainian army is doing its job: crushing the Russian army and this will make the world safer. In fact, the Russian army is almost exhausted and the dwindling weapon stock from the Second World War will not last. If Ukraine fails to win this war decisively, it will have no future.

  12. Marshall

    September 2, 2023 at 12:03 am

    Finally, sense may be breaking through.

    A good analysis.

  13. George Gordon Byron

    September 2, 2023 at 12:19 am

    I generally agree with my colleague, the distinguished Mr. Davis. I studied the theory of military art (along with other military sciences) and in the practice of my military service, applying the received military knowledge in the practice of military command and communications for 20 years, commanding combat units from platoon to battalion.
    I wish Mr Davis all the best!

  14. Walker

    September 2, 2023 at 3:39 am

    Is DD getting a bit defensive here? A little worried his predictions aren’t quite panning out the way he has expected?

    Well, whatever it is, he is completely wrong, again! The first thing he needs to know is that the offensive is not ending, it is just picking up steam. By making it through the defensive line, they will make it to Tokmak before winter. And that is all they need. From there, they have control of the land bridge. They will completely isolate Crimea. Crimea will be on its knees by spring and Russia will be defeated. It really is as simple as that.

    DD is trying to tell us that it will be Ukraine on the defensive. The problem is that Russia just doesn’t have the soldiers or equipment to go on any offensive at all. Don’t believe me? Just look at the attempts they are trying in northern Ukraine.

    Come March, DD owes the world a huge apology for being so completely wrong. He should admit it and retire. He doesn’t have the intelligence to do the job he is being paid for. I am still so surprised that he has been so wrong this far and hasn’t even begun to realize it. Instead he keeps doubling down. He truly is just too stubborn. You can’t be an analyst if you can’t admit your mistakes and correct them. The real problem with Davis is that he has an agenda. When reality doesn’t jive with an agenda, you have to make a choice, reality or agenda. Davis sticks to the agenda.

  15. Stephen

    September 2, 2023 at 6:02 am

    The Russian army is bleeding out. Hundreds not dead or injured have deserted or are refusing the front lines. The Black Sea fleet is hunkered down behind nets and cables and the air force is getting wacked on its home turf. The economy and currency are tanked and the Russians are reduced to begging the North Koreans for ammunition.

    Yet for Davis, it’s all but over for the Ukrainians?

  16. Duane

    September 2, 2023 at 6:41 am

    Politicians here in the US have tended to make military support for Ukraine a binary choice – either support Ukraine “for as long as it takes” … or withdraw all support for Ukraine. Either option is a boneheaded contrivance.

    What the US and NATO should do is somewhere in the middle of the two extremes: provide a lower level of support to Ukraine sufficient to prevent the Russians from winning, but not enough to support Ukrainian offensive operations that are clearly not working and are unsustainable. Continue the economic sanctions on Russia until they fully withdraw. And encourage both sides to implement an armistice so that the loss of life and destruction are ended or at least minimized.

    Eventually Putin will be removed under such a stalemate, and the Russians will leave Ukraine. If Russia cannot obtain an outright victory in Ukraine, then they are defeated. A weakened Putin cannot sustain his power forever in such a weakened state.

    The US has better ways to redirect our not unlimited military resources than to waste them in a fruitless/endless offensive war by Ukraine. We need to gear up to dissuade China from misadventures in the western Pacific and elsewhere. One would think that Afghanistan would have already taught us that lesson.

  17. Richard

    September 2, 2023 at 6:50 am

    I get it that the US (and other European countries, although to a lesser extent) are giving huge amounts of weapons and ammo to Ukraine for a war which could end in a stalemate.

    However, with this they are getting huge return on investment with regards to degrading the army of one of our primary adversaries.

    The cluster munitions for example. These were sitting decommissioned in warehouses in the US, never to be used again. Surely it’s better to have them put to good use in destroying thousands of our adversaries evil and barbaric soldiers?

    This is true of a lot of the weapons systems given to Ukraine. We’ve given them a lot of our old gear that we have already replaced with newer and better tech. Surely it’s better that they get used to kill loads of Russian soldiers rather than gathering dust in old warehouses?

    Yes our weapons stockpiles are slowly deleting. However it means that our adversary’s stockpiles are being absolutely decimated. This to me is a good return on investment, nevermind the fact that we are using it to fight evil and to protect freedom and democracy.

    Don’t underestimate Ukraine’s will to fight for their land. Also don’t underestimate how brittle Russian soldiers’ morale is. If Ukraine can push forward a few more KMs in the south then they can put Russia’s main land bridge logistics routes in himars and artillery range. Now that could be a strategic win…

  18. Neil Ross

    September 2, 2023 at 8:25 am

    I fear that we may read many more articles similar to this one as rasputitsa descends on the battlefield and the conflict remains largely a stalemate. As the Ukranian counter-offensive stalls all eyes will be on Russia as to when or if it will mount its own counter-offensive. One can always hope that declining public support both in the west and in Ukraine will have an increasing influence on both sides sitting down again at the negotiation table, without involvement by the west. Thanks again for the excellent article.

  19. Neil Ross

    September 2, 2023 at 9:02 am

    And as a follow-up, one of my questions has always been where might advantageous terrain exist in the combat region. It seems that the location of the Russian Surovikin line has now answered that question.

  20. Sofronie the Monk

    September 2, 2023 at 11:16 am

    Hello, pupils. Our task for today: how can you say in as many words as possible “unconditional surrender to Russia” without using those exact words. As an example, here is an article from Dan Davis.

    “It has weathered the best Ukraine and the West could throw at them in the occupied territories and surrendered very little territory.” Russia has weathered the best THE WEST could throw at them? Sorry, but what exactly did the West throw at Russia, except for a handful of modern equipment, light weaponry and mostly phased out equipment? And Russia has “weathered” this out by using up their most modern stuff (the one that works, that is, we don’t discuss about the invincible T-14s and implacable Su-57s…).

    For those missing the news, Russia is not only pulling old T-54/55s out of storage, now they’re branching out into IS-8s. I guess military museum managers sleep with their phones close in case they get the call as well.

    “At present, unfortunately, neither Kyiv nor Moscow shows any willingness to enter into serious negotiations to end the war, as neither is willing to compromise on its main objectives.” Yes, how stubborn of the Ukrainians to refuse to compromise on their territorial integrity.

    Here’s a question: what happens if Russia says tomorrow that they are retreating to the pre-2014 borders, thereby respecting Ukraine’s internationally recognized territory? Do you think that Ukraine would still refuse to negotiate, or would they sign the peace the next day?

  21. Harmen Breedeveld

    September 2, 2023 at 12:22 pm

    Of course America can go for “as long as it takes”. The war uses up around 0,5% of US GDP, and zero – let that sink in – zero US soldiers.

    What does the US get for that in return? Let’s see:
    1.) The mauling of the Russian army. Really, we do not really get how horrific this war is for the Russian army. I don’t think anyone in Moscow has a serious idea for how to replace their astounding losses in equipment. This is an army that may need decades to recover.

    2.) Doing the right thing for the defense of a sovereign, democratic plucky nation. As far as wars go, this is a just war: Russia invaded Ukraine to destroy its independence and democracy and to turn it into a corrupt, dictatorial appendix to Russia like Belarus. Russia is quite willing to kill and murder hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to get that. This is a good fight, worth fighting.

    3.) NATO unity. One of the core assets of the US is its vast pool of powerful allies. Just look at how isolated Russia is, and how much it is missing capable allies in this war, to realize what a difference allies make. The Europeans, Australians, Canadians are all chipping in. Europe has absorbed vast costs to end its addiction to cheap Russian oil and gas, that is a major, major blow to Russia, especially for the long run. The US needs these allies to contain China and prevent a destructive war with it.

    4.) Arms exports. Let’s be real: the Ukraine war is NOT good marketing for Russian weapons. But western weapons? I bet that everyone is in the market now for HIMARS, western artillery and the like. Also, Russia’s arms production is now completely focused on satisfying Russian needs, so arms buyers will be looking elsewhere. The US arms industry will have some bumper years ahead.

    5.) Sending a warning to China not to invade Taiwan. If Russia fails in Ukraine because of Western arms supplies, western unity and above all Ukrainian courage, China may think twice about invading Taiwan. The costs to the US of a war over Taiwa may well dwarf those of the war in Ukraine, as here US soldiers would likely go in harm’s way. So avoiding that war is a top priority. Defeating Russia will go a long way to doing just that.

    6.) Let me repeat point one: as far as wars go, this one is astoundingly cheap for the US. It is essentially a rounding error compared to America’s GDP. Billions of dollars sounds like a lot, but it’s nothing. America spent several trillion on the war on terror, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and it didn’t even raise taxes to finance that.

    So, this is a great war for the US in so many ways. It would be silly to throw all that away.

  22. George Gordon Byron

    September 2, 2023 at 1:34 pm

    For Monk Sofroniy:
    it seems that you are not doing any work on your mistakes. You continue to write nonsense, even competently refuted by other commentators.
    1) To the author: “Ukraine … ceded very little territory”
    Well, if 17% = 102 thousand sq. km. out of 603,549 sq. km. small, then this area is larger than the territories of 88 states of the world (and – 193 states), equal to Iceland, larger than that of South Korea, Hungary, Jordan, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Austria. UAE, Czech Republic, 42% of Romania, etc.
    2) Yours: “what exactly did the West throw into Russia?”.
    2.1) The number of certain types of weapons transferred / sold to Ukraine by the countries of the world in February 2022 – August 2023, pieces of equipment:
    Planes 31, Helicopters 73, Tanks 862 Armored vehicles 5117, Air defense systems 104, Artillery and MLRS 1132.
    2.2) If this is small, then it significantly exceeds the number of weapons in the Romanian army. And not only: in the Armed Forces of Germany – 274 tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers 5138, artillery and MLRS – 255, helicopters -159. This is not enough for you. but a lot for the leading countries of the West.
    3) Yours: “we are not discussing the invincible T-14s and the inexorable Su-57s …”
    Answer: Because only monks can discuss equipment not used in the Special Military Operation of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
    4) Yours: “Russia is not only withdrawing the old T-54/55 from warehouses, now they are switching to the IS-8.”
    4.1.) And the use of the APU of ancient and old machine guns Maxim, T-55 (M-55 Slovenia), M113, Leopard 1, Challenger 2, BTR-60, D-1, DP-27, S-200, you also want to discuss ?
    4.2) Tell the Internet fakes about the IS-8 in your monastery: there are 19 of them on pedestals in Russia. Nobody is going to take them off their pedestals.
    4.3) And the fact that thousands of tanks are being removed from storage is how they were stored for this. As stored in all countries.
    4.4) By the way, what about the old equipment in service with Romania: based on the USSR T-55 (TR-85-800, TR-580, T-55AM, T-55AM2), USSR BMP (MLI-84, MLI-84M) , USSR BTR (60, 70, 80). and other weapons of different types of troops?
    5) Here’s the question: what happens if tomorrow Russia says they are retreating to the pre-2014 borders”
    Answer: hello to Vanga, Nostradamus and your other soothsayer friends.

  23. Lonewolfz28

    September 2, 2023 at 1:45 pm

    Another day, another Danny Davis Russia support piece. I wonder if the US Army CID had a file on ol’ Danny?

  24. HAT451

    September 2, 2023 at 4:52 pm

    One other thing, in the section LTC Davis did not mention, is lack leadership the UAF has on the front lines, and the lack of training the UAF soldiers receive.

    UAF officers are not on the front line and as such there is no organized reaction to what the RAF operations. This results in chaos and at beast disorganized defense and ineffective offence resulting in many UAF KIA and WIA. Although if the UAF soldiers were trained, they were trained on the how to use NATO equipment, but not how to employ it in combat. In some cases, newly mobilized UAF soldiers receive less then a one week orientation before being deployed to the front lines. Those causes have an effect, massive equipment and UAF personnel losses.

    At the start of the current offensive the estimate was that there were 80-90k UAF soldiers in Zaporizhzhia. Now there are about 40k left. The logical question is what happened to the other 50k. Best estimate, is that the Russians currently have 25k in Zaporizhzhia. 40k to 25k is not even 2:1 combat ration, especially when the Russian have a lot more artillery and air power that UAF does not. The expectation for an effective offensive operation is for the attacker to have not less then 3:1 advantage to include combat force multipliers such as intelligence, artillery, air support, air defiance, etc.

    While focus media focus is on Zaporizhizia, what is going on in the other major operational area, like Kherson, Artemivsk, Seversk, or Kupiansk. I know, but I challenge anyone to research not just from pro Ukrainian, but also pro Russian and from neutral sources like LTC Davis does and writes about.

  25. Jon

    September 2, 2023 at 5:01 pm

    It’s a very good thing that the author types so rapidly, otherwise Ukrainian forces might be at the ‘Gates of Tokmak’ by the time the next pessimistic piece publishes.

    In the past week Ukraine seems to have broken through two of the ‘Surokivin Lines’, captured one town and is invested in two others, and aded something like 30% to the territory recaptured since the start of this offensive.

    Russian forces are not at all static, and nearly all of their counterattacks have been repulsed, at substantial cost to Russia, which cannot make good their lost materiel. The equipment that Russia fields continues to grow older and less capable, and less numerous, while Ukraine is fielding more and newer, more capable equipment, with greater range, accuracy, mobility and explosive power. Russia is nearly out of reserve troops of any combat ability, to plug holes and repel breakthroughs by Ukraine.

    It’s possible that Ukraine may yet commit some grievous mistakes, though I haven’t noticed any in 18 months. Much depends on how much further Ukraine can advance in the South, and the impact this has on Russian supply and communications. But, this is Ukraine’s game to lose. Russia no longer has the ability to do more than defend, with occasional feints, and to rocket and drone civilian infrastructure – while they retain those capabilities.

    Putin needs to declare victory and go home, while he still can. History loves to see defeated troops trying to evacuate Crimea by swimming.

  26. Richard

    September 2, 2023 at 5:03 pm

    In response to Duane:

    “The US has better ways to redirect our not unlimited military resources than to waste them in a fruitless/endless offensive war by Ukraine. We need to gear up to dissuade China from misadventures in the western Pacific and elsewhere.”

    The #1 best way to dissuade China from invading Taiwan is to show them that invading a western ally (in this case Ukraine) is a suicidal, catastrophic mistake. We need to show China now that we will not back down until the Russian army and regime collapses and goes back home.

    Russia losing this war and having its army and economy decimated is probably the ONLY way to dissuade China from invading Taiwan. We need to show them how costly and grave a mistake it would be, this is exactly what’s happening now in Ukraine. Plus it is only costing the US 0.5% of yearly GDP – this is the bargain of the century.

    How can anyone think that the west rolling over and letting Russia steamroll through Ukraine dissuade China from invading Taiwan? It would do the complete opposite.

    I can only conclude that you have an agenda/Putin sympathies…

    If the US was to stop supporting Ukraine now it would be an absolutely massive mistake and we (the whole western world) will pay the price for decades. Just as we had to stop Hitler, we must stop Putin. We cannot appease authoritarian bullies who want to invade and take over their neighbours. This is anything but a fruitless endeavour, that is a very shortsighted point of view.

  27. Richard

    September 2, 2023 at 5:15 pm

    The author needs to remember that a) Ukraine has held the initiative for a long time now b) Russia may be able to defend but it has no offensive capability left c) economically the west can easily afford this support in the long term, it is a rounding error of our GDP d) however Russia is being economically drained by this war e) Russia may hold 20% of Ukraine’s territory but they are losing this war f) it will take decades for Russia to rebuild it’s army. And when it does, it will still be a shell that’s completely hollowed out by all of the kleptocracy.

    The Russian’s are on the ropes. These recent breakthroughs have the Russian high command panicking, they don’t have reserves to fill the gaps. All they can do is lateral troop movements. The toughest part of the Surovikin line has been breached.

    The author sounds like he has an agenda/is a Putin sympathiser. It’s not too late to get back onto the right side of history Daniel Davis…

  28. Walker

    September 2, 2023 at 5:51 pm

    To both Jim and TheDon in answer to both your questions on the Surovkin line and the importance of Robotyne.

    Robotyne is a small village on the outside edge of the Surovikin line as Jim likes to believe to be some impermeable line that Ukraine can’t possibly cross. It does makes an incredible kill box for Russia that should be able to sit back behind their defensive lines and destroy any Ukrainian troops that try to enter the village.

    So that not only have Ukrainian military taken the town but holding it, shows several things. One that the Russians aren’t able to capitalize on their defenses and are not as strong as either TheDon or Jim want to believe and that the Russian forces are not as strong as they want us to believe.

    Now to make this clear to Jim who has raised this flag from the beginning of the “spring offensive” that Ukraine has to break the Surovikin line as a test of any success. It is time for you to replace that flag with a white flag of surrender because Ukraine has gone past the line on the south east of Robotyne. We will find out this week just how far they have gotten. But we do know they have made it as even the Russian bloggers admit it. This time when they got to the line, they found not a single Russian defender behind the line. The Russian troops all fled in a panic. In fact there is a story of a Russian blogger on the line who ran into Ukrainian troops in a panic trying to get away. They realized he was unarmed and told him to surrender, but because he was so panicked, he refused and kept running only running into other soldiers who didn’t realize he was unarmed and shot him dead. Poor Russian.

    Now do I really expect Jim or TheDon to show any intellectual integrity? Surely not. I suspect Jim will just declare the Surovikin line to be on the next line of defenses. And eventually, he will just declare it to be the Sea of Azov. But for all Jim’s bluster, none of it is the real test. The real test is if Ukraine can cut the Russian use of the land bridge to Crimea and destroy the new bridges. That is what they need to do. This Surovikin line is a red herring.

  29. John Doggett

    September 2, 2023 at 9:06 pm

    Daniel Davis weaves a tale of doom and gloom for Ukraine that rivals anything vomited out of the mouths of Russia’s FSB propaganda office (or regurgitated from Putin’s sock-puppet, Tucker Carlson). Davis and other undeclared agents of Russia have been trying to influence our opinions against Ukraine since February of 2022 and what they declared would be the imminent and swift destruction of that nation. For those that peddle such nonsense, I would say only the Ukrainians can decide when they will stop fighting the fascist Russian invasion of their country. As well, when these urban dwelling, remote working, media talking heads declare that fall and winter will end Ukraine’s counter-offensive I would just point out that Ukrainian forces recaptured the city of Kherson on the 11th of November in 2022.

  30. Scottfs

    September 3, 2023 at 12:12 am

    Daniel Davis: I’m bored with this war. Just give Putin what he wants. I’m sure that will satisfy him.

  31. Gary D Jacobs

    September 3, 2023 at 9:56 am

    LoL, Davis.

    “Ukraine has apparently used up most of its offensive potential just reaching Robotyne.”

    Regurgitating Russian propaganda hasnt worked well for you so far. Time to get new sources of information.

    Russian sources claimed that Robotyne was the last powerful Ukrainian attack because there were no more troops and equipment left.

    The Ukrainian side responded to this information operation by releasing a video with *dozens* of Western tanks, especially Leopard 2A4s, showing that they still have a lot of resources and that Russians are yet to see a powerful attack.

    As well, US M1 Abrams tanks begin delivery this month. Troops completed training in Germany. Reports have it that Ukraine has lost only 5 Leopard 2s so far, with a handful more under repairs. Furthermore, 100+ more Leopard 1s have begun delivery as well. Training completed.

    There are also close to 1000 Ukrainian marines that completed enhanced training in the UK. Perfect troops for the upcoming mud season, and/or river crossings.

    Also of note, the area just south of Robotyne is the last high ground in the area. All one has to do is look at a topographical map to confirm.

    Once Ukraine takes Hill 166 and the adjacent land, they control ALL the high ground before Tokmak.

    It is literally ALL downhill from there.

    They are also in the process of establishing barrell artillery range to Tokmak. The NATO standard 155mm far outranges and out classes Russian 152mm. So does NATO counter battery radars.

    Now, as Ukrainians already breached the second line of defense at least at 2 points, some Russian analysts with a better grasp on reality than Daniel Davis, started talking about more extensive use of tanks and heavy equipment, especially when Ukrainians get closer to the third line of defense south of Verbove.

    Bottom Line: Davis proves once again he has a tenuous grip on reality at best. Reality will likely be far less generous to his BS.

  32. mawendt

    September 3, 2023 at 10:27 am

    Danny Davis opinion piece. Chock full of uninformed suppositions and even more wrong conclusions.

    Every time I see a Davis article I think “Whatever Davis says, the opposite is true”.

    At least he’s helpful in that.

    And… pssst… I only read the first paragraph before I was laughing at him. So much, i couldn’t read any more.

  33. El Steverino

    September 3, 2023 at 11:23 am

    The one thing that we don’t know is how many more people Ukraine can throw into the meat grinder at the front. We’ve all seen the reports that Ukraine lost about 30% of their western supplied armored vehicles in the first couple of weeks of this offensive, and have suffered about 70,000 dead and 120,000 wounded in human casualties. I would wager that these numbers probably underestimate the true Ukrainian casualties.

    Apparently they have broken through one of the Russian defensive lines in the South, but are not faced with attacking the next layer of Russian defenses. The reports I have read describe this next layer as giving the Russians the high ground, with concrete fortifications that are visible from space, and huge anti-tank ditches.

    The reports prior to the offensive were that the Ukrainians had prepared somewhere between 47,000 and 49,000 troops for the attack. How many of them are left? Half? Even two thirds sounds awfully optimistic, and highly improbable. Attacking well defended fixed and fortified positions while the enemy has air superiority and has littered the battlefield with landmines is going to reap a heavy toll on any army, let alone a hastily trained army with a hodge-podge of equipment and not enough of anything.

    How much more death and dismemberment can the Ukrainians possibly absorb? How much more slaughter and bloodshed can we continue to bankroll and support? But at this point, what difference does it make? Our “leaders” are all in on this massacre and we are just left to watch. Don’t ask me to be a cheerleader for this inhuman destruction of life. I only pray that it comes to an end before it expands and we all end up losing together.

  34. aldol11

    September 3, 2023 at 11:47 am

    you can take the horse to the water but you cannot make him drink,
    to the Putin lover(s) here, i am amazed at how they choose to ignore the reality that stares them in the face .

  35. Sofronie the Monk

    September 3, 2023 at 1:54 pm

    @George Gordon Byron: Georgy, Georgy, Georgy… Are you actually comparing the Russian military with the Romanian one? Surely nobody would be surprised to find out that Romania, a country so poor and with such limited resources (a couple of centuries of Russian influence tends to do that to anyone…), is still using T-55 derived tanks and other old Soviet equipment (which we are in a process of replacing, BTW). But here we’re talking about Mother F-ing RUSSIA, man! “The second strongest army in the world (actually the first)”! The bane of NATO that could wipe out the US with a flick of its fingers! World superpower! So while Romania or Ukraine would use anything they can get their hands on, it would be a bit surprising that Russia is using them, wouldn’t you say so?

    Also, are you saying that Russia did not use Su-57s and T-14s at all? Quite the shocker, weren’t the Su-57s executing “high precision attacks” in Ukraine? Weren’t the T-14s deployed (albeit as self-propelled howitzers, firing from way behind the Russian lines, and apparently they weren’t that good at it either)? And if Russia is not using them, why not? Obviously they are superior to anything the puny Ukrainians have, so wouldn’t these ubertech weapons allow Russia to win the conflict? If they’re not doing it, perhaps Russia has an interest in prolonging this conflict and keep killing both civilians and their own soldiers? Why isn’t Russia finishing this swiftly, since it obviously can do it anytime it wants? Or can it…

    Speaking of territories and the vaunted capture of “102 thousand sq. km.”, in WW2, at its peak, Nazi Germany occupied around 1.8 MILLION square kilometers from the USSR. Surely you remember how that ended up for them, don’t you?

    Since you’re obviously so well informed, perhaps you would like to detail what equipment did the Ukrainian army receive. The only modern pieces of hardware:
    Around 71 Leopard 2s (out of which only 5-6 were destroyed and 10 damaged)
    14-28 Challenger 2s (none lost) – BTW, since when is the Challenger 2 “ancient and old”?
    Around 100 Bradleys (out of which over a third have been destroyed – the basis for the propaganda claims that a third of ALL Western hardware supplied to Ukraine has been destroyed – nowhere near reality)
    30-40 HIMARS and M270 models (out of which NONE have been destroyed, not even damaged)
    2 Patriot systems (also none destroyed)
    Around 90 Stryker (2-3 destroyed)
    142 M777s (30+ destroyed)

    So how was that? Ah, yes. NATO is bleeding out in Ukraine, NATO has lost most (if not all) its equipment, NATO is defenseless. Yeah, NATO lost less than 10 MBTs, around 50 IFVs and a few dozen guns and they are utterly destroyed… When will the propaganda start to say that Biden signed an unconditional surrender to Russia but then Boris Johnson stepped in?

    @Cheburator: Yeah, oppressing the population… It was NATO soldiers in Maidan, not Ukrainian citizens. Everybody in Ukraine is madly in love with Russia and can’t wait to be part of it. Wonder who it is that is fighting the “liberators”. Santa’s elves.

  36. Сheburator

    September 3, 2023 at 2:58 pm

    But Rabotino is not included in the first defensive line, it is on its borders, and according to the calculations of the Russian from Rabotino they should have left during the first two weeks of the offensive, but the intensity of the offensive is so bad that they are leaving it only now, while Ukraine lost under Rabotino the most trained forces.

  37. Cheburator

    September 3, 2023 at 3:03 pm

    Sofronie the Monk
    Yeah, and the US ambassador decided to distribute pastries.
    Or several hundred people on the Maidan organized themselves.
    Or maybe among the participants in the Maidan there were no guest performers who participated in organizing other coups?

  38. from Russia with love

    September 4, 2023 at 5:50 am

    Oh yeah! 🙂 removal from a number of categories of citizens (for example, from people with 2 higher educations or more) exemptions from conscription, a decree on mandatory military registration of women, a decree on recruiting into the army partially unfit for military service, these are patients with HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis suffering from mild mental illness, such as epilepsy, panic attacks, etc., all these are clear signs of the success of the “spring counteroffensive”! in principle, everything is logical. it is necessary for someone to fill a new cemetery for 600,000 places, which was built near Kiev. the fact that the mobilized HIV get sick, what’s the difference. anyway, they will be sent near Rabotino and they will die there in a day and go to a new cemetery.
    what other evidence of Ukraine’s successes at the front is there? for example, an agreement with Poland on the extradition of Ukrainian refugees of draft age. indeed, that they are sitting in Poland when the new cemetery needs to be filled! 🙂
    what else is good in ukraine? removal from the post of Minister of Defense. 🙂 probably it will be replaced by someone competent? Yes! 🙂 the chairman of the State Property Fund was appointed to the post of Minister of Defense. strange … why not a gynecologist? not European! 🙂 now the Ukrainian army, under the leadership of the chairman of the State Property Fund, will definitely steal everything! Ouch. everyone will win! 🙂
    By the way, why is there nothing similar in Russia? there are no giant cemeteries, no conscription of women and disabled people, no schizophrenics and HIV-infected people are recruited into the army. is it exactly Russia that bleeds, not Ukraine? 😉
    those who are delirious about the fact that Russia is on its last breath, lol, wake up! 🙂 Russia has not entered the war yet. in Russia there is no full mobilization, Russia did not go over to martial law, what are you raving about? 90% of the population heard about the special operation from the news. it didn’t affect them anymore. oh no, touched. many new businesses are opening and employees are needed. the unemployment rate is at a record low. but these 90% do not think that these events are connected and we can say that they believe that their special operation does not concern them. Putin’s support is above 70%. the economy is growing. Russia has become one of the five largest economies in the world. why does Russia need to make any concessions under such conditions, which the losers from the EU and the USA demand? Russia has security requirements. Russia informed you of these requirements half a year before the special operation, in mid-2021. ready to meet the requirements of Russia? No? then Russia continues the special operation. 😉

  39. Brett

    September 4, 2023 at 9:26 am


    You’re still claiming that Ukrainians didn’t participate in the 2014 revolution? If Ukrainians wanted Russian control then why are they fighting? Even if you believed Russian propaganda and all the soldiers are Polish and not Ukrainian (obviously false), there’s no way NATO has sent in a bunch of babushkas to welcome the soldiers that liberated them.

    If Ukraine really secretly wants to be dominated by Russia, they have a really strange way of showing it.

    If you want to believe that Russia has a fearsome military that could not be stopped (and you do) then you have to invent reasons that failing on the offensive and now losing territory was part of the ‘real plan’ all along. There’s no way that getting laughed at by the collective west was the objective of the ‘special military operation’.

    I’ve come to agree with Putin on one thing – this military operation is ‘special’.

  40. Sofronie the Monk

    September 4, 2023 at 11:08 am

    @Cheburator: So the Ukrainian people were madly in love with Russia, couldn’t wait to get back under its wing (making you wonder why did they leave in the first place…), but all it took was one US ambassador and a few “foreign agents” to change everything.

    Question: is the US ambassador and the “foreign agents” fighting against Russia today?

  41. Old sod

    September 4, 2023 at 1:11 pm

    Didn’t Davis mastermind the Afghan withdrawal? Has he ever been right on any of his analysis? God my dog has a better appreciation of possible threats and outcomes than this “expert.”

    Spent 30 years overseas and saw so many of these clowns get promoted over far more capable people. But they told superiors what they wished to hear.

  42. Sofronie the Monk

    September 5, 2023 at 11:06 am

    @from Russia with stupidity: Oh, yes, the famous 600,000 cemetery in Kyiv. Don’t worry, they won’t get to kill that many Russians, the invincible Red Army will collapse long before they suffer those losses. And if you end up there, at least you’ll have the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile – you’ll be a beautiful sunflower one day.

    So that’s the next narrative? First it was US biolabs in Eastern Ukraine, now it’s HIV infected soldiers? Will Russia accuse Ukraine of using bio weapons?

    I’m sure Russia is thriving, just as the USSR did. Hell, it’s the best place in the world, look at all the migrants coming there! I heard that another boat full of Americans tried yesterday to cross over from Alaska.

  43. Sofronie the Monk

    September 5, 2023 at 11:17 am

    @from Russia with stupidity: Forgot to add: if Russia’s doing so great, why is it reaching out to North Korea for artillery and ammo for it? Stronk superpower, richest country in the world, begging a country that’s literally starving. Kinda interesting, wouldn’t you say so?

    Or perhaps North Korea is also a thriving society where Kim’s support is over 99.99% and the economy is growing, right?

    Also, Russia is nowhere near the 5th place, so cut the horse stuff.

  44. B Shirey

    September 5, 2023 at 11:43 am

    As usual Col. David’s analysis is spon on and he detractors have only ad hominin attacks in response. Those willing to fight to the last Ukrainian need to head to Ukraine and volunteer for the front line.

  45. Сheburator

    September 6, 2023 at 2:28 am


    Well, firstly, the coup was not staged by Ukrainians, but by a right-wing radical political movement from western Ukraine, which received funding from the US and the EU – US officials boasted that many billions of dollars were spent on the coup.
    At the same time, the support of the junta among the population was so low that the junta was forced to start a civil war against the disloyal population – the bombing of the Donbas, the massacre in Odessa – then these were not rebellious regions, it was a political opposition, moreover, so strong that in the case of democratic elections, the junta could lose power. Because of this, the junta went to the aggravation and repression against the opposition – the dialogue was rejected by Ukraine on principle. The civil war was needed to legitimize the Kyiv junta. So even moderate views have become dangerous, I’m already silent about sympathy for Russia.
    And then Russia intervened.

    As for the losses of Poles and Lithuanians in the war in Ukraine, a lot of material has been posted on the net on this topic, and in some sources figures of several tens of thousands are voiced, while many suddenly yesterday’s military personnel, and today him quit and went to fight in Ukraine.

    As for the composition of the Ukrainian army, the volunteers have run out and people are being mobilized at gunpoint. – There are enough materials on the network on this topic.
    The morale of the Ukrainian army can be judged at least from the fact that Ukraine uses detachments and shoots soldiers to raise morale. This is associated with the bloody NKVD, but not with a democratic state, which they are trying to show Ukraine to.

  46. Brett

    September 6, 2023 at 1:30 pm


    Sources? It’s clear that you’ve fallen for Kremlin propaganda and that it is your only source of information.

    It is the Russians who have been using ‘blocking units’ and trumping up fake charges to force people into the military to receive a pardon for a crime they didn’t commit.

    Sure, people in Ukraine have been mobilized to fight the war. Not everyone on the front lines wants to be there. But they do want their country to be free from Russian interference. That was true and clear in 1991, and it was true and clear in 2014.

    When anything that Putin dislikes is attributed to ‘malign western influences’, it is obvious paranoia. But it is obvious that Putin creates a paradox.

    IF the west is strong and powerful enough to orchestrate everything they are accused of doing then they are not the decadent, feckless empire in decline that he claims they are.

    Since he cannot be right about everything, he must be wrong about something. And if he is wrong about some things, we should be suspect about all things. Maybe Ukraine overthrew their pro-Russian government because they didn’t want to be absorbed the way Belarus has been. Maybe they see what life is like in Moscow’s orbit and they see what life is like with their neighbors to the west that have joined NATO and the European Union.

    In the period from 1989 to 2018, Poland’s GDP increased by 826.96%. Do you know what Russia’s did during that time? No, it’s clear to many people that Ukraine sees what Russia is offering and they are REJECTING it for obvious reasons. And now even Armenia is rethinking the strategic relationship with Russia.

    Here’s something for you to try to reconcile… Putin says that Russia was PROVOKED into invading Ukraine – that they are fighting a defensive war. If that were true, wouldn’t their Collective Security Partners be obligated to fight with them? Why hasn’t any member of the CTSO actively committed troops to the fighting?

    You’ve been fed one lie on top of another, but if you look at any claim you make long enough, the whole thing falls apart. But the idea of a Potemkin Village where nothing is as it seems is a quintessentially Russian creation. The facade IS the strategy – everybody knows that they shouldn’t look beneath the veneer because it is all corruption and chicanery all the way down.

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