Ukraine’s counteroffensive is now limited to minimal attempts to move forward in the center of gravity near Robotyne. After almost five months — and most recently, only very laborious advances on foot — the troops are exhausted.
Ukraine is taking an operational pause on this section of the front and, overall, is currently redeploying troops and resources, in part out of caution given the current US budget impasse on further Ukrainian aid.
With the delivery of US ATACMS ballistic missiles, Ukraine can finally draw on precision weapons that bring all Russian command and control, logistical nodes, depots, and airfields between the front line and the Sea of Azov within the Ukrainian range. The missiles were reportedly used against Russian airfields on October 17, with British defense intelligence saying 14 helicopters were likely destroyed.
Contrary to the prophecies of doom, the Ukrainian counteroffensive can claim important successes. Heavily fortified Russian defensive positions have been overcome and Russian offensive potential in the east has been weakened as it has been forced to divert reinforcements to the south.
By eliminating radars, air defenses, and Russian ships on the western side of Crimea, Ukraine ensured its own that grain ships from Odesa could sail again and expanded its operational options.
Ukrainian forces have meanwhile crossed the Dnipro River at two points, northeast of Kherson and west of Nova Kakhovka, to conduct strikes against Russian artillery positions. At present, it is an open question of whether a bridgehead and a new attack vector can emerge from this.
Russian air superiority along the front line remains a key problem. Russia conducts airstrikes and drone attacks near the front line every day, while Ukraine struggles to engage the planes and helicopters directly.
Russia is also increasingly using cheaply converted glide bombs guided by Glonass satellite navigation. Lancet kamikaze drones and Glonass retrofitted glide bombs are becoming cheap tools of choice for Russia across the front.
Russia has meanwhile launched massive attacks at Avdiivka from both the northwest and southwest. With the biggest attack in months, Russia apparently wants to regain the initiative at all costs and ideally get its hands on an urban area for wintering its troops.
The Kremlin’s commanders are conducting this offensive Soviet style, without regard for their own materiel and troops. Entire columns of Russian infantry fighting vehicles, troop carriers, and battle tanks have already perished from Ukrainian artillery fire and minefields as a result. Russian military bloggers and videos from the battlefield suggest enormous losses.
Despite this, Russian commanders continue to throw new waves of vehicles and troops into the fray, but so far without significant results.
Ukraine continues to need large quantities of artillery ammunition, which will be available only with an increase in production capacity in Europe and Ukraine. The need for mortars and mortar ammunition is also acute.
Ukraine needs constant supplies of long-range precision weapons, including ATACMS in additional variants with monobloc warheads, German Taurus missiles, and GLSDB.
More air defense systems and ammunition for air defense are also needed. Here, too, an increase in production capacity has long been warranted. “Steady” delivery in small batches is too little.
Ukraine requires more and better electronic warfare capabilities to jam drones and Glonass-guided munitions. Here, partners must act quickly and also provide more assets against powerful Russian jammers.
Joint industrial production and rapidly increasing maintenance and repair capabilities in Ukraine are the right way to go. At the same time, Europeans in particular, with European and national over-year purchase commitments, must finally exploit their industry’s capacity for ammunition and weapons production.
Ukraine is concerned about declining supplies from the US because of the budget blockade in the House of Representatives. At this point, this is a political matter rather than military —there is little resource conflict between US support for Israel and for Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Europeans must take serious and sustained action against rampant sanctions evasion by European companies contributing to arms production in Russia. Sanctions need to be made watertight, and companies that continue to supply Russia through Central Asian states or China should be severely punished.
Putin has switched Russia’s economy and society to permanent war mode. The response must be increased Ukrainian and European arms and ammunition production, as well as long-term military assistance and security commitments to Ukraine.
Nico Lange is a Senior Fellow at CEPA. He was Chief of the Executive Staff of the Federal Ministry of Defense until January 2022. Prior to that, Lange served in Ukraine and Russia. email@example.com
Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.