Ukraine SitRep: Delayed Counteroffensive, Russian Defense Lines, Weapon Efficiency

Two weeks ago the Biden administration had recognized that the announced Ukrainian ‘counteroffensive’ will fail to make much progress.

The operation has still not started and Zelensky has moved its launch further into the future:

Speaking at his headquarters in Kyiv, President Zelensky described combat brigades, some of which were trained by Nato countries, as being “ready” but said the army still needed “some things”, including armoured vehicles that were “arriving in batches”.

“With [what we already have] we can go forward, and, I think, be successful,” he said in an interview for public service broadcasters who are members of Eurovision News, like the BBC. “But we’d lose a lot of people. I think that’s unacceptable. So we need to wait. We still need a bit more time.”

Time will not prevent that any counteroffensive will lead to high casualty rates. In fact, waiting longer means more attacks on the troops in their current positions. Any detected agglomeration of forces or material is already coming under long range Russian missile fire.

As the counteroffensive is destined to fail the Biden administration is out to move the goal posts. In Foreign Affairs two of its MIC propagandists, Michael Kofman and Rob Lee, demand to prepare for a much longer war:

Policymakers, however, have placed undue emphasis on the upcoming offensive without providing sufficient consideration of what will come afterward and whether Ukraine is well positioned for the next phase. It is critical that Ukraine’s Western partners develop a long-term theory of victory for Ukraine, since even in the best-case scenario, this upcoming offensive is unlikely to end the conflict. Indeed, what follows this operation could be another period of indeterminate fighting and attrition, but with reduced ammunition deliveries to Ukraine. This is already a long war, and it is likely to become protracted. History is an imperfect guide, but it suggests wars that endure for more than a year are likely to go on for at least several more and are exceedingly difficult to end. A Western theory of success must therefore prevent a situation in which the war drags on, but where Western countries are unable to provide Ukraine with a decisive advantage.

The delusion is strong in that assessment. A ‘theory of victory’ or ‘success’ is just that – a theory. Ukraine does not have the personnel to sustain a longer war. Nor does the ‘west’ have any spare weapons that could give the Ukraine a ‘decisive advantage’.

Still the cue was picked up Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmitro Kuleba (machine translation):

If Ukraine does not succeed in its counteroffensive against the aggressor country Russia, it will prepare for the next one.

This was stated by Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in an interview with Bild published on May 10.

He urged “not to consider this counteroffensive as the last one” – “because we do not know what will come of it.”

Kuleba noted that if Ukraine succeeds in its counteroffensive against Russia in liberating its territories, “in the end you will say: “Yes, it was the last one,” but if not, then you need to prepare for the next counteroffensive.”

Kuleba is already asking for weapons for the next ‘counteroffensive’ to be launched after the currently announced one fails.

Dreizin published an alleged ‘battle plan’ for a Ukrainian ‘counteroffensive’ in the Zaporozhia front:

(1) Break through the Russian forward defense along the line Nesterianka-Novosyolovka (6km and 19km southeast of Orekhov, respectively) into the defense depth of Guards battalions in the Polozhsk-Orekhov sector, utilizing, in the first echelon, the 47th and 65th Separate Mechanized Brigades, 9th Army Corps (total of 2 tank and 7 infantry battalions—8300 men with up to 60 tanks, up to 200 other armored fighting vehicles, up to 110 field pieces and mortars, 12 MLRS, up to 100 motor rafts.) Breakthrough of the contact line will be in the order of the 65th which is already on the line, then the 47th. Neighboring units including the 128th Separate Mountain Assault Brigade will carry the task of harrying neighboring Russian units so as to prevent reinforcement of Russian forces at the main axis of advance.

(2) Subsequently, deploy the main forces. The main blow is to be from the vicinity of Orekhov, in the direction of Tokmak, ultimately towards Melitopol’. …

From the point of strategic value the chosen target is the right one. However, it is also the one where the Russian military has prepared its strongest defense lines.

Source: @Inkvisiit, Scribblemaps 
In military books this is know as ‘echeloned defense’ with three lines of well prepared positions ten kilometer apart from each other. Each line consists of tank obstacles, mine belts, prepared anti-tank positions to monitor and counter potential breach attempts and well prepared artillery support from behind the next defense line.

To crack such a nut without air support and without significant artillery advantage is nearly impossible.

It is why I think that the Zaporozhia region may not be the real target of the counteroffensive. All the talk about it may well be a diversion. The least prepared front is in the area south of Kherson.

Source: @Inkvisiit, Scribblemaps 
But to get there would require a difficult river crossing of the Dnieper which will also limit supply lines. This would be a high risk attempt which might gain some ground. But whatever would be won would soon be lost again as any river crossing would come under sustained artillery fire.

There may well be other obstacles for launching the announced ‘counteroffensive’. It is rumored that the commander of the Ukrainian army,  Valerii Zaluzhnyi, was wounded or killed during a recent Russian missile strike in Dnipro. He has not been seen since and he did not take part in a recent NATO meeting where his expected presence had been announced.

Apropos NATO:

NEXTA @nexta_tv – 7:29 UTC · May 11, 2023

U.S. Army Europe and Africa Command spokesman Martin O’Donnell said that #Ukraine received about 600 types of weapons for the counteroffensive – more than any one army in the world has.

What army can handle 600 different weapons systems with all the implied training, maintenance, spare part and ammunition supply issues? None can do that. But O’Donnell is proud of providing a zoo of weapons which are incompatible to each other.

The shells for the British L118 light gun, the French AMX 10 reconnaissance tanks, the German Leopard 1 tanks and the U.S./Lithuanian M101 Light Howitzer all have a nominal diameter of 105 mm. But they are all incompatible to each other. Just imagine the logistic screw ups that will inevitably happen when the Ukrainian front line troops will request additional 105mm ammunition supplies.

The UK has delivered the export version of the Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine. These have a reach of some 250 kilometer and can be fired from the ‘westernized’ Su-24 airplanes that Poland sent to the Ukraine.

They seem to be part of a new NATO talking point to excuse the inability to deliver more weapon:

The war in Ukraine will increasingly be a battle between large numbers of poorly trained Russian troops with outdated equipment and a smaller Ukrainian force with better Western weapons and training, NATO’s top military official said on Wednesday.

Admiral Rob Bauer, the chair of NATO’s military committee, noted Russia was now deploying significant numbers of T-54 tanks – an old model designed in the years after World War Two.

“But the problem is they still have a lot of T-54s. So … in terms of numbers, quantity, it is an issue,” Bauer told reporters after a meeting of the alliance’s national military chiefs at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

The T-54 are used by Russia as immobile anti-tank guns dug into the defense lines, not as mobile main battle tanks. Russia still has plenty of newer T-72 and T-90 models for that and no need to replace those.

The Storm Shadow may deliver some success – up to the day the Russian military has finds a way to prevent that. Like all previously announced wonder weapons it will also disappoint.

Just look at the much hyped HIMARS missiles. According to leaked Pentagon documents the Ukrainian military fires on average some 13 HIMARS missiles per day. Over the last two month the Russian clobber report listed an average of 6 HIMARS missiles per day as eliminated by Russian air defenses. The rest of the missiles get diverted by electronic warfare measures:

[I]n recent months, the systems have been rendered increasingly less effective by the Russians’ intensive blocking, five US, British and Ukrainian sources tell CNN, forcing US and Ukrainian officials to find ways to tweak the HIMARS’ software to counter the evolving Russian jamming efforts.

“It is a constant cat-and-mouse game” of finding a countermeasure to the jamming, a Pentagon official said, only to then have the Russians counteract that countermeasure. And it is not clear how sustainable that game is in the long term.

The HIMARS system has thereby turned out to more or less useless. The idea that such ‘quality’ weapons can beat the greater Russian ‘quantity’ of equally good weapons is, like so many, simply nonsense.