US Intelligence Says Ukraine's Offensive a Failure
Report's conclusion printed in Washington Post
The US Intelligence community says that Ukraine’s offensive has failed by not reaching its stated objective, to take the city of Melitopol.
According to the report in the Washington Post, Ukraine was seeking to cut off the Crimea from Russia’s army in southern Ukraine. In parallel to that, Ukraine, with US and British help, has been attacking the Kerch Strait bridge that connects Russia to Crimea. While these attacks have damaged the roadway of the bridge, it is still in use.
Thanks for reading Weapons and Strategy! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
In fact, the critical fighting is around the village of Robotyne which is more than 5o miles from Melitopol. Here the Ukrainians have committed their best trained strategic reserve forces, including the Ukrainian 82nd Airborne. Using western equipment, British Challenger II tanks, Marder (Schützenpanzer Marder 1) infantry fighting vehicles, the US Stryker 8 wheeled tanks, Bradley Infantry fighting vehicles and US-build Mine Resistant Ambush Protected heavily armed transports (MRAPs), the objective was to break through Russian defenses and race to Melitopol. While the Ukrainians made some temporary gains, these attacks were extremely costly in men and material. For the most part the Russians rolled back the attacking forces.
(If you want to amuse yourself there are countless stories online that say the Challenger tanks will roll right through the Russians. Hasn’t happened.)
Committing reserves to the battle is a desperate move by Ukraine’s army. Should the reserves take heavy losses, as now seems to be the case, they won’t remain as effective fighting units. This could doom the Ukrainians continuing the war.
Ukraine has no manpower to replace its strategic reserves. Most of the educated youth who might be drafted either bribed their way out of recruitment or left the country. Zelensky this week fired all the military recruiters in the country. He is trying to enlist the army to carry out recruitment drives in the country, using whatever means necessary. There is talk about grabbing those 40 years or older into the war machine, and many of the soldiers seen in the field appear already over-aged.
Even if Ukraine manages to scrape up men for the army, without training they are more a burden than anything else. Furthermore, scraping the bottom of the barrel brings in unreliable soldiers who may not want to fight. A critical problem for Ukrainian officers and NCOs who not only need to bring recruits up to speed, but also convince them to step into the “meat grinder” and risk their lives. Even now there are examples of units that refused to participate in engagements they regarded as suicidal.
The Russian strategy has been active defense in almost all sectors except one. The exception is in the Kharkiv oblast where the Russians are rapidly advancing and will soon attack the town of Kupyansk, a key railway hub Ukraine needs for running ammunition and supplies to its troops in the northeast. Most observers think Kupyansk will fall in the coming week or so.
Russia says it has not started its own offensive, but is preparing to do so. It has gathered around 100,000 troops in the northeast which could be deployed in a coming offensive. Convoys of equipment have also been seen and filmed, so the buildup process is underway. What is less clear is where Russia is going.
Some think that Russia will aim for Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine. However, the Russian army has other options: it could try and trap Ukraine’s main army by investing it from the North and South, once the Ukrainian offensive peters out. This would endanger the country and could trigger an existential crisis for Kiev.
The US Intelligence Community public report does not really look ahead. But it is likely there also is a much harsher classified assessment. What is the Intelligence Community actually telling the White House and its National Security Council? Are they capable of paying attention?
Representatives Andy Harris (R-MD) the co-chair of the Congressional (pro) Ukraine caucus, has reached the conclusion that the Ukraine war is not winnable. Like others, he is talking about the possibility of a stalemate, but it is unlikely Russia will stop until it brings the conflict to a conclusion. Unlike Ukraine, Russia does not have a manpower shortage and its war industry is now working 24/7 (that is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) and seems to producing the equipment needed for the war. This is not the case at all in the US or Europe which has serious shortages of skilled workers and significant supply chain problems. Key American defense companies such as Raytheon (RTX Corporation) admits it depends on critical supplies from China. It won’t be long before the Chinese shut that down.
Biden wants another $20.6 billion for Ukraine, but Congress must agree. It isn’t clear Congress will want to pump big money into a losing proposition.
The US administration wants to stretch out the war until Biden is reelected. It is promoting the idea of a stalemate to try and keep the camp fires burning. But the wind is blowing and soon the rain will start.
No one in Washington, it seems, has the slightest interest in talking to the Russians and settling the conflict.