September 04, 2023

Perseverance and Adaptation: Ukraine’s Counteroffensive at Three Months

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks.

On June 4, Ukraine launched its long-awaited offensive. The operation has proven to be a test of Ukrainian determination and adaptation. Despite stiff resistance, Ukrainian forces have made steady gains in a set-piece battle against a heavily entrenched force. Ukraine’s main effort is a push from Orikhiv, with the goal of driving south past Tokmak and ideally reaching Melitopol. If successful, this would sever Russian lines along the Black Sea coast and endanger supply routes from Crimea. The second is at Velika Novosilka, a secondary offensive operation likely aimed at Berdyansk, also along the coast. The third is a supporting offensive along the flanks of Bakhmut further to the north. Ukraine has made gains here, pinning several Russian airborne units. The offensive is gaining momentum, and much remains undecided, but three months in offers an opportunity to take stock of the operation thus far.

Western support thus far has been sufficient to avert a Ukrainian defeat, and arguably has imposed a strategic defeat on Russia, but not enough to ensure a Ukrainian victory.

This has become a war of tree lines, with shifts in the line often counted in hundreds of meters. Artillery fire and drones dominate the battlefield, as small groups of infantry advance through dense minefields, field by field, tree line by tree line. Progress has been fitful and slower than expected, as acknowledged by President Volodymyr Zelensky and now former Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov. However, Ukraine’s recent gains illustrate that it has worn down Russian defenses over time, leveraging an advantage in fires and long-range precision weapons to steadily press Russian forces back from their defensive positions. That said, Ukraine will need to both break through Russian lines and exploit that success to reach its objectives. Much could be decided in the coming weeks.

Read the full article from War on the Rocks.

  • Podcast
    • April 19, 2024
    The State of the War in Ukraine with Michael Kofman

    As the war in Ukraine continues into its third year, the mood has become increasingly dark. While territorial changes continue to be minor, Russia’s slow but steady advances a...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Michael Kofman

  • Podcast
    • March 22, 2024
    Putin’s Fifth Term and Russian Domestic Politics

    This past weekend, Russians went to the polls for the country’s presidential election. To the surprise of no one, Vladimir Putin emerged victorious with a record-high 87 perce...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend, Dr. Angela Stent & Joshua Yaffa

  • Commentary
    • POLITICO Europe
    • March 5, 2024
    What NATO allies must do to prepare for Russian aggression

    While it’s expensive to do what’s necessary to deter major aggression, it would be far more expensive to fight a major war if deterrence fails....

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor & Greg Weaver

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • March 1, 2024
    Ukrainians Are Resilient—But They Still Need Washington

    Beyond material support, my visit made clear that the psychological effect of global solidarity, especially from the United States, remains vital...

    By Richard Fontaine

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia