The first thing to be clear is that, contrary to some beliefs, perhaps influenced by movies and video games, the invasion of Ukraine is already underway. A basic attack, such as the one unfolding before our eyes, consists of different phases that take place over time along different axes of attack, and it is only exceptionally that the desired goal can be achieved with a single concentrated effort. one fight
There is no D-day and H-hour, so to speak, in which everything is decided forever, but a set of actions that may at first appear to be unrelated and from which there is no point in drawing any final conclusions. Either side wins or loses.
What we have been witnessing in Ukraine for almost two weeks now is the first phase of the offensive, which consists of armed reconnaissance carried out by small units, mainly trying to identify weak points in Russian defenses. And although there is armed action on almost all 1,200 kilometers of the front, the activity is much more intense in the Zaporizhia and Donetsk sectors. What is surprising at this stage is that these actions are fundamentally carried out by Ukrainian units that were already deployed in the immediate vicinity of the front, which means that the new brigades (including a dozen equipped with more technologically advanced Western material than those used by Russian units) are not yet used.
No less relevant is the fact that these actions have already made it possible to restore a dozen cities, which shows that – if Moscow’s intention was to establish defense at any cost, without giving up land – Russia’s first line of defense. It’s not tough enough unless Russia is going to offer a defense in depth, giving up ground along the three defensive lines it has established in recent months with the idea of phasing out the enemy’s advance in order to go on the offensive later. And return to at least the current positions.
The fact that Moscow has already had to mobilize reserve units prematurely, which in principle could be assumed that they would not use this phase, but when the fighting is on the third line, indicates that things are not going so well. Russian troops.
Time will show us
In any case, neither the restoration of several cities by the Ukrainian side – a total of about 100 square kilometers, according to Kiev – nor the destruction of a dozen armored vehicles by Russia allows to make any decisive judgment about the future of Georgia. war over the next few months. Kiev has yet to say what its main goals are, but one imagines that they include cutting a land corridor that would allow Moscow to feed Crimea through the territory it still controls in southern and eastern Ukraine. Along this line, Melitopol, Berdyansk and Mariupol are three points of reference, as if Ukrainian troops control them, the fate of the Crimean peninsula will remain up in the air.
But at the moment, it is unclear what Volodymyr Zelensky and his team are looking for, first of all, to recover as much territory as they can as soon as possible, or if they prefer to concentrate on destroying enemy units. The idea is to prevent them from recovering, for a further counterattack. And depending on which option is chosen, we can expect one or more main axes of attack in the later phase, where the most powerful units and best materiel will be used en masse.
For its part, it is also conceivable that Russia intends to prolong the conflict as long as possible, to seek exhaustion among the countries that supply Kiev with aid and weapons, and to exhaust the offensive of the attackers. It counts to its advantage Ukraine’s difficulty in achieving a force advantage at points where it intends to break through the front (at least three against), with its greater demographic weight and greater industrial capacity.
It is also counting on the fact that if it can absorb this attack without losing the Crimean land corridor, the conditions for Ukraine to mount another general offensive in the future are unlikely to exist again, given its own demographic and industrial limitations. And predictable disappointment than those who support him from abroad. And from there, already turned into another entrenched conflict facing the planet, Moscow believes that it can guarantee that Ukraine will not be able to restore its territorial integrity, much less its aspirations to become part of NATO. Time will tell.
Jesús A. Nuñez Villaverde is co-director of the Institute for the Study of Conflict and Humanitarian Action (IECAH).
Source: El Diario