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HomeNewsOpinion | Ukraine’s counteroffensive is more than just bravado

Opinion | Ukraine’s counteroffensive is more than just bravado


“We’ll oust them to our border,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky proclaimed about Russian troops in a speech Monday, marking Ukraine’s Independence Day. “It’s time for the Russian navy to flee.”

As Ukraine mounts a brand new counteroffensive within the southern a part of the nation, Zelensky’s bravado dangers setting expectations too excessive. In fact, Ukraine most likely gained’t liberate its territory this yr, and even subsequent. Nonetheless, as Ukrainian forces push towards the Black Beach, Zelensky is delivering a defiant response to President Vladimir Putin’s declare that Ukraine isn’t an actual nation. Not solely can Ukraine survive, it can also regain a few of its occupied land.

One of the best protection is an effective offense, as navy strategists have argued for hundreds of years. And if Ukraine’s drive towards the coast succeeds, it’ll restore the nation’s financial viability by relieving strain on its port metropolis of Odessa. Furthermore, it might threaten Russia’s occupation of Crimea by slicing into the land bridge that connects to the Russian-controlled Donbas area within the east.

Ukrainian and U.S. officers gained’t discuss particulars of the assault plan. As Zelensky stated in his speech, “You gained’t hear specifics from any actually accountable particular person.” However it’s clear from public sources that the Ukrainians are attempting to push Russian forces again from the Dnieper River, towards Kherson, and urgent towards Zaporizhzhia, east of Crimea, towards the Sea of Azov. Different thrusts in numerous components of the nation are probably, too.

Ukraine’s alternative now’s that U.S.-supplied Excessive Mobility Artillery Rocket Methods (HIMARS) and different precision weapons have allowed the Ukrainian navy to focus on Russian rear headquarters, ammunitions dumps, bridges and different transport nodes. The times when the Russians might sit again close to the border and lob missiles at Ukrainian cities are over. “The goal set is command and management nodes,” explains one U.S. official. “The Russians are struggling in a giant method.”

The Russian navy is disoriented due to the pounding they’ve obtained, U.S. officers consider. Analysts estimate that Russia has misplaced 1000’s of officers, together with a whole bunch of colonels and dozens of generals. The relentless assaults have pressured Russian commanders to maintain shifting headquarters posts, including to their command and logistical issues.

Ukraine’s different massive benefit on this new section of the warfare is the “partisan” marketing campaign behind the strains towards the Russian occupiers. U.S. navy commanders warned their Russian counterparts to count on this brutal irregular warfare, based mostly on the U.S. expertise in Iraq and Afghanistan. Russian officers didn’t hear, and now they’re dealing with assaults they don’t see coming and may’t root out, regardless of all their firepower. Each Ukrainian with a cellphone is an artillery spotter or intelligence collector.

This partisan marketing campaign, just like the HIMARS precision hearth, is a product of U.S. planning and coaching of Ukrainian forces. Since 2014, U.S. Particular Operations forces have been educating the Ukrainians the way to struggle an occupying military — utilizing particular items like those that have been so efficient towards al-Qaeda and Islamic State fighters.

Gen. Richard Clarke, who’s retiring this week as head of U.S. Particular Operations Command, defined in an interview how the US constructed up its Ukrainian particular operations forces (SOF) counterparts in anticipation of a coming marketing campaign towards Russian invaders.

“What we did, beginning in 2014, was set the situations,” Clarke recalled. “When the Russians invaded in February, we’d been working with Ukrainian SOF for seven years. With our help, they constructed the capability, so that they grew and so they grew in numbers, however extra importantly, they constructed functionality,” in each fight assaults and knowledge operations.

To organize to repel the Russian invasion, every Ukrainian SOF brigade final yr created and skilled a “resistance firm” recruited from the native inhabitants in areas akin to Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and the Donbas that have been more likely to be Russian targets. Because of this, Clarke stated, “Should you’re a Russian soldier right this moment, your head should be on a swivel since you don’t know the place the menace is. They’ll’t have a look at any Ukrainian and know if that particular person is an enemy.”

This guerrilla warfare has produced a grim physique rely amongst pro-Russian officers within the occupied areas. Previously few weeks, pro-Russian officers have been killed or injured by automobile bombs, roadside bombs, poison and shotguns.

As Russia has struggled with Ukraine’s fierce resistance, it has more and more turned to mercenaries from a non-public military often known as the Wagner Group. Their corpses are straightforward to acknowledge on the battlefield as a result of they put on distinctive “Grim Reaper” badges with the slogan “Dying is our enterprise — and enterprise is nice,” and “I don’t consider in something. I’m right here for the violence.”

That grotesque, cynical brutality captured the spirit of Putin’s warfare. However after six months, the assault has stalled, and for Russia the enterprise of demise doesn’t look so good.

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