quotes Analyzing Ukraine, Russia military tactics

24 February 2023
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Updated 24 February 2023

Analyzing Ukraine, Russia military tactics

The war in Ukraine is on the verge of opening a new chapter.

A Russian attempt to form a four-pronged axis of advance that would have met in Kyiv delivering a fatal strike to the Ukrainian state failed.

The reasons for this are many, but of paramount importance was that the Armed Forces of Ukraine were widely dispersed.

They were not in large, concentrated formations and therefore were able to move with more agility than the Russian armored columns.

Kyiv responded to Moscow’s heavy armored approach with a mixture of mobile, highly equipped, heavy infantry.

In essence, the Russian forces went hunting quail with cannons and lacked proper leadership at the lieutenant, NCO, and sergeant levels.

Furthermore, the assumption that Ukrainian states would fall immediately once the blow from Moscow was delivered was flawed in the extreme.

Perhaps the biggest loss for Russia was the opportunity to win the argument that its invading forces offered something better than the AFU and Ukrainian state could deliver.

For the most part Ukraine is united in the war and its desire to defeat Russia. But what is the current situation?

Irrespective of Western optimism, there are no signs of stressful cracks inside the Russian political elite as the population is prepared for a long conflict.

That President Vladimir Putin has yet to mobilize en masse within the Moscow and St. Petersburg regions is not by accident.

The war is being fought by prisoners, ethnic minorities from Siberia, the Caucasus, and other locations — even the Russian middle classes have not had to bear the human cost for the conflict.

The mobilization of conscripts has progressed more or less in good order. And now there is the prospect of an estimated 300,000-plus force supplemented by nearly 2,000 tanks being brought into action.

In the Donbass region, the intensity of fighting is not favorable to the AFU units deployed there.

The Russian strategy on the east bank of the Dnieper River in Ukraine is to engage AFU forces to such a degree that they cannot withdraw.

Iranian drones, North Korean artillery shells, tanks, and mobile artillery systems have helped aid Russian efforts while making up for losses already incurred.

At Stalingrad in Russia in 1942, during World War II, the Russians used the German intent to capture the city against them, diverting the German high command from paying proper attention to the stripping of the flanks.

The Russians were eventually able to take the initiative and encircle the German 6th Army.

Throughout the fall, Kyiv has been focused on taking cities such as Kharkiv and Kherson.

Although not insignificant, they are not victories that have kept the Russians from continuing to take the field, nor have they allowed Ukraine to take the strategic initiative, or truly limit the striking power of the Russian forces.

Iranian drones, North Korean artillery shells, tanks, and mobile artillery systems have helped aid Russian efforts while making up for losses already incurred.

The victories of Kyiv parallel somewhat the victories of The Confederacy in the American Civil War where the victories of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville aided the south but had no strategic effect.

The Union could call up more numbers, had larger economic forces backing its efforts, and could afford to, somewhat, use these inherent advantages to buy time to find the game-changing generals who could expose the strategic shortcomings of The Confederacy.

The prerequisite conditions for a pincer attack on the AFU formations in the east are set.

A pincer attack is a movement with two or more axis of advance where the purpose is to surround and trap the opponent. Once surrounded, a cauldron is formed within it where the besieging forces destroy the enemy in piecemeal fashion.

Moscow is in possession of strategic real estate that could be used for such an operational move.

Belarus to the north is a defacto Russian military base/province where the skies, roads, airfields, and weapons within the country are all within Russian operational control.

Moscow is in possession of the borders opposite of eastern Ukraine and with Crimea and the southern corridor the options are there in the south too.

It is Moscow that possesses the strategic initiative for the moment.

So, what could this offensive look like and what would be its proper operational goals that could lead to an even more favorable strategic environment for Moscow?

Keep those AFU formations in the Donbass engaged in the same high-intensity combat that has been taking place at locations such as Bakhmut and Soledar.

Possession of the Sloviansk-Izyum-Kramatorsk line would give the logistical infrastructure of the Donbass to Moscow and with it a potential launch pad for the seizure of Dnieper River crossings.

An offensive based out of Crimea, and possibly Zaporozhye, would meet formations moving from the Kharkiv region (deployed at Belgorod and Kursk inside Russia proper) trapping all AFU units east of the Dnieper River.

A simultaneous strike out of Belarus into western Ukraine, with the purpose of seizing the strategic Zhitomir-Kyiv highway and Vinnitsia too, would cut American-NATO supply lines to Kyiv.

A strike into western Ukraine would entail risks. It could be expected that clandestine forces, Western intelligence assets, and stockpiles of lethal weaponry would be more commonplace there than in the Donbass, and Kharkiv, or in possession of AFU units in the east.

For Ukraine to have a true chance of winning the war it will have to endure a difficult few months leading up to the spring thaw.

If Kyiv can survive the winter and the impending offensive its chances of winning the war will improve substantially.

Defeat would be fought off but the prospects of victory would still be very distant.

For Moscow, continuing to deploy ethnic minorities from the fringes of the country and deep interiors while keeping the war away from the Moscow and St. Petersburg regions, will allow for the next wave of mobilizations.

One way or another, by the time June arrives, the world will have a better idea of in which direction the winds of victory will be blowing.

 • Faisal Al-Shammeri is a political analyst. Twitter: @Mr_Alshammeri