Homeland Security Network Blog
Ukraine Wants to Go on the Offensive Against Russia
Ukraine Wants to Go on the Offensive Against Russia. It Could Be Risky
What if Ukraine launches its own offensive against Putin and it fails?
By Robert Farley
Will Ukraine Go on the Offensive Or Not? Expert Analysis by Dr. Robert Farley: Observers of the Russia-Ukraine War have been aflutter for weeks about the prospect of a Ukrainian offensive to retake some of the territory seized by Russia in the first months of the war. To some extent, this reflects frustration with what has become a static struggle of attrition, with front lines moving only a few kilometers and (in recent weeks) slowing to a crawl. For a variety of reasons, however, onlookers have been disappointed.
Despite some feints and some apparent early moves, Ukraine has not engaged in a serious effort to dislodge Russia from any of its conquests.
There are good reasons why Ukraine would resist the call for an early offensive from foreigners who’ve grown bored with the war. A failed counter-offensive would be a dramatic defeat for Ukrainian prospects. In addition to the political effects (which would include an increase in Russian morale and the potential loss of support in the West), a failed offensive could open gaps and vulnerabilities in Ukraine’s defensive position, enabling Russian counter-attacks that could seize additional territory. A failed counter-offensive could also result in a Russian cease-fire offer on extremely advantageous terms to Moscow, a prospect that Kyiv would prefer to avoid.
There is little question that the Ukrainians are inflicting serious damage on the Russians, including both fielded forces and logistical systems. Simply attriting Russians forces will not obligate them to evacuate Ukraine. Armies do not generally collapse from attrition alone; the threat and practice of maneuver warfare must force them to engage, at which point the extent of the damage inflicted becomes clear. An army defending from static positions can endure logistical shortcomings and the slow grind of combat, but may fall apart when attacked with intent to overrun or encircle. To enjoy strategic success, damage to Russian forces must be accompanied by liberation of real territory of strategic importance.
Eyes have focused especially on Kherson, which is both geographically vulnerable and strategically critical, but despite a range of preparatory action and a lot of discussion, an offensive has not ensued. Russian reinforcements, deployed either defensively or in preparation for another drive towards Odesa, have complicated the situation. The terrain does not favor offensive action, especially for a military that continues to struggle to integrate new equipment. Combined arms offensive operations against a determined opponent in open country require extraordinary skill and coordination, and neither the Ukrainians nor the Russians have demonstrated this capability thus far.
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