Ukraine offensive takes shape, with big unknowns

Ukraine offensive takes shape, with big unknowns

The Wall Street Journal reports:

After months of new weapons deliveries from the West, Ukraine is poised to punch back at Russia’s invasion forces in coming weeks—a high-risk campaign that will set the course of subsequent battles and potential peace negotiations.

Ukraine’s operational plans remain confidential, but some aspects of what is to come are discernible from a look at the equipment each side has—or doesn’t have—and their recent performance on the battlefield. Both are struggling to make gains and have been burning through munitions at rates not seen since the two world wars.

For Ukraine to succeed against Russia’s deeper resources and entrenched defenses it will need a combination of skill and luck, finding and quickly exploiting weak points, say strategists. While Kyiv’s forces are more motivated and, in some cases, better armed than Moscow’s troops, Russia has had months to prepare for a Ukrainian attack and shown greater willingness to expend lives and materiel.

“This is going to be very, very difficult,” said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in an interview. “The big potential and brutal force of the Russians cannot be underestimated.”

Ukrainian forces have been training for months in Western Europe and the U.S. to use modern equipment and to operate on a battlefield in large formations. Kyiv’s prospects will depend on its ability to coordinate different types of troops, including artillery units, tank corps and foot soldiers, in what are known as combined-arms maneuvers.

Despite the training and the influx of North Atlantic Treaty Organization equipment, Ukraine won’t be able to launch a NATO-style assault, because neither side controls Ukraine’s skies. To dislodge an entrenched enemy, as Ukraine wants to do, the textbook approach for the U.S. and its allies would begin with a massive air assault using aircraft and cruise missiles. That is how the U.S. launched both wars in Iraq. [Continue reading…]

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