Something has definitely shifted in Ukraine. The West has clearly decided Ukraine can and should win militarily. We’ve seen all sorts of taboos lifted in the last few weeks. Although maybe it is just that Ukraine is now running out of tank shells too. More important, Putin seems dead set on an offensive.
It turns out Putin kept back 150,000 of those 300,000 poor would he mobilized a few months ago. Now, after the sort of exacting, targeted, hyper-efficient husbandry of precious human resources for which the Russian military is world renowned, these hyper-warriors are about to be unleashed upon Ukraine… Or perhaps a semi-trained rabble driving 20 year old tanks – some even with working main guns…
So how does this change the dynamic? It is possible the Russians could surge forward and capture hundreds of square meters of land. maybe a few small provincial towns. But it is a near-certainty any offensive would grind to a halt quickly.
Why? Among other things, they don’t have enough trucks to supply a long penetration. That is why the Kyiv offensive fell apart. Nor could they bring up their artillery to support it because HIMARS would strike from the sides. So, barring a miracle, it bogs down with perhaps a few propaganda successes.
That might be Putin’s aim. Find some way to declare victory and play (again) for a “frozen conflict.” I am guessing the motivations are more animal than that. He’s demanding an offensive like Hitler in the bunker (excellent movie BTW). So his lackeys are going to give him one. With the same foresight they brought to the original invasion plan.
The problem? After he gains the few hundred meters, Putin will no longer have those 150,000 troops – rabble they may be. Nor will he have their tanks. Or the innumerable shells fired to support the push. Or the few trained soldiers thrown in to stiffen the offensive going.
So Ukraine absorbs the initial push, falls back, and then stabilizes or seals off the line. What happens next? The Ukrainians attack. Wherever they want to. With fresh troops. Knowing the Russians have just wasted their reserves on a futile push.
That was not my original scenario, but the noises about an Ukrainian offensive are noticeable quieter. And there is a certain logic to the above. Instead of destroying the Russians, let the Russians destroy themselves.
A few related thoughts.
- Ukraine, if they can manage it, is actually better off letting the Russians penetrate. Then, cut them off. Cut the bulge off from re-supply (artillery and HIMARS). Then wait for the trapped troops to give up.
- Ukraine can, as at the start of the war, give away land and save their men/machines. The deeper the Russians come, the more that will end up destroyed. As with Kyiv.
- The drama of a Russian attack followed by another plucky Ukrainian defense will solidify Western support. They will get those F16 fighter jets they want.