A group of military analysts recently embarked on a journey to the front lines of Europe’s most brutal land war in generations, seeking a closer view of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Spending time with troops who have fought through intense Russian assaults, artillery barrages, drone strikes, and minefields, the analysts gained valuable insights into the challenges and factors influencing the counteroffensive’s progress.
A senior scholar at the Institute for International Strategic Studies and the Center for New American Security Franz-Stefan Gady gave a candid evaluation of Ukraine’s difficulties in properly using its troops after his visit.
Poor tactics, lack of coordination between units, bureaucratic entrenchment, infighting, and reliance on “Soviet-style thinking” are some of the issues the country grapples with during the ongoing conflict.
Moreover, the formidable resistance put up by the Russian forces adds to the complexity of the situation.
Contrary to a single reason being responsible for the slow progress, Gady argued that the narrative attributing the lack of weapons deliveries and support as the main cause is oversimplified.
The analysts observed that the fight is predominantly led by infantry units, supported by artillery, along most of the frontline.
Russia’s Capabilities and Tactical Challenges in Ukraine Conflict
However, this reliance on infantry operations, coupled with a lack of enablers for maneuvering such as sufficient de-mining equipment and air defenses, has hindered the deployment of mechanized formations.
Furthermore, the Ukrainian forces have not fully mastered combined arms operations at scale, leading to more sequential than synchronized operations.
This sequential approach to warfare, characterized by attrition and sequential fires, hampers progress and the ability to break through Russian defenses effectively.
Minefields have been a known challenge, confining maneuver space and slowing advances, but the analysts emphasize that Ukraine’s struggles are not solely due to the presence of minefields.
The lack of a comprehensive combined arms approach makes Ukrainian forces more vulnerable to Russian anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and artillery while advancing.
The ongoing offensive’s character is unlikely to change significantly unless a more systematic approach is employed to break through Russian defenses or a severe degradation of Russian morale occurs, potentially leading to the collapse of Russian defenses.
Absent such developments, the conflict may continue as a bloody attritional fight with incremental feeding of reserve units in the coming weeks and months.
The analysts also noted limited evidence of a systematic deep battle that methodically degrades Russian command and control and munitions.
While ammunition rationing has occurred on the Russian side, they still possess adequate supplies and possess effective battlefield intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.
The report suggests that the Russian forces have not yet deployed operational reserves to fend off Ukrainian attacks effectively.
Additionally, the impact of HIMARS strikes has been reduced due to Russian countermeasures, which raises questions about the potential tactical impact of delivering U.S.-produced Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMs).
In conclusion, the analysts stress the importance of on-the-ground research, which provides invaluable insights that cannot be obtained from a distance.
Understanding the complexities of the conflict in Ukraine requires a comprehensive approach that considers the multifaceted challenges faced by the country in its struggle for progress on the front lines.