NATO-trained units will serve as tip of spear in Ukraine’s counteroffensive

By | June 4, 2023

The Washington Post reports:

When Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive finally begins, the fight will be led by brigades armed not only with Western weapons but also Western know-how, gleaned from months of training aimed at transforming Ukraine’s military into a modern force skilled in NATO’s most advanced warfare tactics.

As other Ukrainian units were fighting to expel the Russian occupiers from the country’s east and south, the brand-new 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade was preparing for the next phase of war from a classroom at a NATO base in Germany.

The brigade’s leadership trained with computers that simulated situations they might face in real life. Deputy commander Maj. Ivan Shalamaha and others planned their assaults and then let the program show them the results — how their Russian enemies might respond, where they could make a breakthrough and where they would suffer losses.

“You understand the overall picture, how it works,” Shalamaha said. “You understand where and what your shortcomings were. And we pay attention to what we failed to do during this simulation.”

Now the war games are over. The 47th brigade and other assault units have been armed with Western weapons, including Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, and relocated to a secret location closer to the front line. During a recent visit by Washington Post journalists, the soldiers were waiting for the order to charge ahead to retake a large swath of Ukrainian territory and tip the war back in Kyiv’s favor.

The counteroffensive will be the biggest test yet of the U.S.-led strategy of giving the Ukrainians weapons and training to fight like an American army might — but on their own.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov called it the “next level” of security assistance, something he and other officials requested from their Western partners. The United Kingdom has been providing basic training to thousands of Ukrainian recruits since last summer. But more recently, whole Ukrainian units have been sent to Germany and other countries to learn “how to operate simultaneously together, like interoperability among the different units,” Reznikov said.

“We need company-level, platoon-level, battalion-level training courses with techniques, with their infantry fighting vehicles, with a commander who will understand how to conduct his forces, support artillery, support reconnaissance operations,” Reznikov said.

Critics of the West’s new emphasis on training the Ukrainians in combined-arms warfare, in which tanks, artillery, combat vehicles and other weapons are layered to maximize the violence they inflict, have pointed out that Kyiv is still missing key elements to fully implement that attack, mainly modern fighter jets. Ukraine is expected to receive U.S.-made F-16s after Washington agreed not to stop allied nations from providing them, but they won’t reach the battlefield in time for the counteroffensive. [Continue reading…]

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