Why the summer could be disastrous for Ukraine

Why the summer could be disastrous for Ukraine

Isaac Chotiner interviewed Dara Massicot:

This month, the Russian Army has been advancing toward Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, a move that highlights the degree to which the two-year conflict has turned in Vladimir Putin’s favor. At the very least, the push toward Kharkiv may force Ukraine to redirect its thinly stretched forces from the Donbas region, where Russia has been waging a prolonged offensive. The U.S. Congress recently passed an aid bill—blocked since last year by hard-right Republicans in the House of Representatives—that will insure more military supplies for Ukraine, but the huge delay in its passage clearly harmed the war effort. How dire is the situation?

To help answer this question, I recently spoke by phone with Dara Massicot, a senior fellow in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She is an expert on the Russian military and has written extensively on this war. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed the biggest concerns for Ukraine heading into the summer, how much the aid holdup affected the course of the war, and why the two sides may be operating on different timelines.

How do you understand the military situation right now, in late May?

It’s trending poorly for the Ukrainian forces. And I think it’s going to get worse before it improves. The Russians are clearly prioritizing Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine.They’re putting in a lot of effort on the ground, and with the heavy use of glide bombs. It’s really straining Ukrainian units there. Ukrainians are also having to peel away units to reinforce the Kharkiv area. So, while weapons are flowing to Ukraine from the supplemental bill, they’re not getting there all at once. And manpower issues remain unresolved in these units.

Can you talk a little bit about what glide bombs are, and why they’ve been effective?

Glide bombs are an older technology, but Russia has been improving the guidance package on them to make them slightly more accurate. They’re not precision-guided weapons, but they’re very damaging. Just to give you a sense of how powerful they are: if one of them hits an apartment building, it will drop the whole building. And the Russian Air Force is now able to launch these so far behind the front lines that the Ukrainian air-defense systems don’t really have a good way to engage them. This is a tactic the Russians have been increasingly using, and it’s really been harming some Ukrainian fortifications and command posts. It’s not good. [Continue reading…]

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