The U.S. and its allies have trained and supplied Ukrainian forces, but the first several weeks of their long-awaited counteroffensive have not gone well.
Even though they were armed with cutting-edge American weaponry and were supposed to be the spearhead of a massive attack, the men got mired in Russian minefields and were subjected to continual fire from artillery and helicopter gunships. Misplaced units. One group wasted their advantage by waiting until morning to launch an assault. Another performed so poorly that its commanders removed it off the field.
Now the Western-trained Ukrainian troops are attempting to turn things around, U.S. officials and independent observers say. Instead of charging into minefields while under fire, Ukrainian military leaders have shifted to wearing out the Russian soldiers with artillery and long-range missiles. A second wave of Western-trained soldiers is undertaking primarily small-scale operations to punch through Russian defences in the south of the nation, where a troop surge is now happening.
But first findings are contradictory. Ukrainian forces have retaken a few villages, but they have not made the type of decisive advances that marked their victories in the fall’s key takeover of Kherson and Kharkiv. The Ukrainians’ sophisticated Western manoeuvre training has offered little consolation in the face of the relentless Russian artillery fire.
NATO’s aspirations for major gains by Ukrainian troops equipped with new weaponry, new training, and an infusion of artillery ammunition have not materialised, at least for the time being, and the decision to shift tactics by Ukraine is a clear indicator of this.
It calls into question whether the tens of billions of dollars in weapons provided to Ukraine, including nearly $44 billion from the Biden administration, have been successful in transforming the Ukrainian military into a fighting force on par with NATO standards, and the quality of training they received from the West.
More and more signs point to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s plan to wear out Ukraine and its supporters until they surrender. The United States is concerned that Ukraine could lose ground in a battle of attrition if it reverts to its old methods, which might play into Mr. Putin’s hands.
Some 36,000 Western-trained soldiers were supposed to prove that the American style of war is superior to the Russian way, as planned for by the Biden administration. While the Russian military operates under a strict command structure, the United States trained the Ukrainian military to use combined arms tactics, which include coordinated assaults by infantry, armour, and artillery.
As opposed to the expensive policy of wearing down Russian soldiers by attrition, which threatens to destroy Ukraine’s ammunition supply, this method was lauded by Western authorities as being more effective.
Much of the training focused on showing the Ukrainian military how to attack instead than just defending. As rebels supported by Russia started assaults in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian military spent years perfecting defensive strategies. When Moscow started its full-scale invasion last year, Ukrainian military put their defensive actions into play, denying Russia the rapid win it had expected.
The quest to reclaim their homeland “is requiring them to fight in different ways,” former Pentagon chief policy officer Colin H. Kahl said last month.
U.S. officials and analysts recently visited the front lines and spoke with Ukrainian troops and commanders; they learned that the Western-trained brigades received only four to six weeks of combined arms training, and that units made several mistakes at the start of the counteroffensive in early June.
U.S. and European officials estimate that as much as 20% of the armament Ukraine deployed to the battlefield was damaged or destroyed in the first two weeks of the counteroffensive. The casualties included tanks and APCs, two of the most potent Western battle equipment that the Ukrainians had hoped would help them defeat the Russians.
Last week, Ukraine’s counteroffensive looked to reach a tipping point, with two southern thrusts seemingly directed at towns in the Zaporizhzhia region: Melitopol, on the Sea of Azov, and Berdiansk, to the east, on the Azov coast. The Ukrainians have made little progress in both situations and still have many kilometres to go.
However, U.S. officials have stated that the recent increase in Ukrainian soldiers has come at a time when the Ukrainians are starting to wear down Russian troops and weaponry by cutting routes through parts of the Russian defences.
The Russians are overextended and still having supply, manpower, and weapon shortages, according to a Western official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational specifics and intelligence assessments.