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Ukraine war: why the summer offensive is failing

Russia’s war of attrition has thwarted Ukraine’s summer offensive, rendering its objectives unsuccessful, such as penetrating Russia’s land bridge and reclaiming much of its lost territory. This much-hyped and heavily funded offensive has resulted in minimal gains for Ukraine, and as autumn takes hold, a stalemate ensues.

The Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) are determined to continue fighting the Russians, but everything else – from training, arming, strategising and logistics, which are the responsibility of the US and Nato – is unravelling and falling by the wayside.

Crucially, there is a severe disconnect between the combat training given by the Nato instructors and the skills that Ukrainian soldiers require to penetrate Russian positions. To date, 63,000 Ukrainian soldiers have gone through a condensed 35-day basic soldier training course run by the Nato instructors.

The AFU has been trained in combined-arms warfare, which involves coordination between different military units to capture territory. For example, tanks would break through enemy lines by driving through trenches, and the infantry could then secure the area with operations launched from multiple fronts.
In reality, the Ukrainians have become trapped in Russian minefields, allowing Russian artillery, drones and helicopter gunships to pick off targets at will. Ukrainian officials have said that less than 5 per cent of their tanks destroyed are from a direct hit by a Russian tank.
Unfortunately, mixed in with Washington’s Cold War mentality is a strategic belief that the American way of conducting operations would prove superior to the Russian approach, as long as the Ukrainians were equipped with Western-grade weapons. This stands in contrast to the training the Ukrainians have been asking for: a focus on demining, clearing trenches, throwing grenades and fighting in a relatively flat environment – all relevant to the current battlefield.
Furthermore, the training is based on close-contact urban warfare, which generally involves going door-to-door to clear houses to identify suspects, reminiscent of the wars conducted in the Middle East. In addition, the adversaries that the US and Nato allies encountered in Afghanistan and Iraq were not as well-equipped, skilled or coordinated as those confronting the Ukrainians.

The US and Nato trainers draw from vastly different experiences and this detracts from the effectiveness and ability of Ukrainian soldiers, reducing their ability to relate and apply the knowledge gained to battlefield situations.

The ultimate goal has been to integrate Ukraine’s armed forces in a post-war set-up within Nato’s modus operandi. Last year, Nato won praise for the training it had conducted annually of at least 10,000 troops since 2014, which proved decisive in halting Russia’s initial advance to Kyiv.

During the initial invasion, many recruits were veterans who had seen action in Donbas. But Ukraine has also lost most of its junior officers trained by the US since the annexation of Crimea. With the fast turnaround of recruits from training to the battlefield, their lack of experience and ability is hampering any meaningful progress against Russia. The AFU has suffered an estimated 120,000 casualties since the invasion, lowering the quality of the force fighting on the front line.


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Reports of ever-increasing stress and mental health issues are emerging, with soldiers reluctant to take to the battlefield as they feel they do not have enough time to recover from their traumatic experiences. Numerous soldiers have gone the entire year with only a handful of days spent at home, with many being thrust back onto the front line, leading to a spike in suicides.

The issue was identified as far back as in 2017, when 500 cases were reported from soldiers who had fought in the Donbas over the three years. The AFU is also struggling with a shortage of ammunition due to inconsistent donations and varying arms types.

This leads to the inefficient use of supplies due to shells and rockets being unreliable in their accuracy, which can result in equipment being damaged and soldiers injured. This contributes to low morale in the AFU, which faces mass desertions. At the start of the offensive in June, Ukrainian border guards were detaining up to 20 men a day for dodging the draft.

Can Ukraine rely on the West to supply the arms in a war of attrition?

According to Romanian immigration authorities, 6,200 Ukrainian men of military age have crossed their border illegally, while some 20,000 have fled with special permits, though these are often falsified documents such as medical certificates and exemptions. Kyiv has enacted strict laws to punish disobedience and draft dodgers who face 10 years in prison, and there have been reports of deserters being shot at.

The strategy ultimately needs to be more adaptable to the battlefield as the current crop of soldiers, due to the limited training, are dying unnecessarily. The way to address this is to train the AFU to counter Russia’s military strategy – and not implement a doctrine seemingly from Afghanistan, especially after local forces trained by the US and Nato lost the country in less than 10 days after being left to their own devices.

If the aim of the US and Nato is for Ukraine to sustainably maintain its own defence needs, then this current style of warfare training is preparing them for the wrong fight – and may ultimately seal the fate of the country.

Sameed Basha is a defence and political analyst with a master’s degree in international relations from Deakin University, Australia

Article was originally published from here

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