The Ukrainian Counteroffensive Is Failing

Portfolio Armor's Photo
by Portfolio Armor
Friday, Jun 23, 2023 - 11:15
A Ukrainian T-64 stuck on top of another armored vehicle.
A Ukrainian T-64 that's going nowhere.

Checking In On The Ukrainian Counteroffensive 

Swedish defense analyst Mikael Valtersson offered a cogent analysis of the Ukrainian counteroffensive on Twitter yesterday. I've posted it below, along with some additional video that supports his thesis. Following that, we'll close with a brief trading update. 

Valtersson posted a long tweet, so I've pasted his full text below it. 

ANALYSIS UKRAINIAN COUNTEROFFENSIVE JUNE 22 How is the Ukrainian counteroffensive faring, after 19 days? It's stuck, like the Ukrainian T-64 in the video below. The least surprised are probably Russian military leadership and planners. Most disappointed are probably Ukraine's most ardent supporters in social media. Even though they doesn't seem to realised the situation yet.

How can I say that the counteroffensive is a failure already? The offensive had three main objectives. Firstly to show the world, especially Ukraine's western backers, how strong UkrAF is and how weak RuAF are. This in turn would increase support for Ukraine and decrease Russian standing in the world. Secondly to make substantial territorial gains. If not cutting of the corridor to Crimea, at least make it so thin that Ukrainian artillery could control most of it. A third objective would be to hurt RuAF badly with moderate own losses. Non of the objectives have been achieved, not even close.

This failure isn't a surprise since it was impossible for Ukraine to get those things in place which ensures a successful offensive. Those are air superiority, three folded superiority in soldiers and weapons, better logistics and reconnaissance, strategic (and tactical) surprise, good weather and good motivated units. Finally you have to be able to concentrate a strong attack formation at weak spots in enemy lines and break through with those forces.

RuAF knew where the UkrAF would attack and had prepared massive defensive positions for half a year. The Russian forces are equal to Ukrainian forces in manpower, but more surprisingly also in quality and motivation. Russia has air superiority and the ability to discover and destroy enemy troop concentrations and supply depots får behind the frontline. Good Russian reconnaissance makes strategic, and often even tactical, surprise nearly impossible. Russia also have a clear advantage in artillery.

Russian air superiority and good reconnaissance makes Ukrainian attacks very hard. Especially since there are enormous amounts of mines everywhere. The UkrAF also seems to lack good Air Defence at the frontline. Russian losses of aircrafts has been very low.

A quick interjection here on Valtersson's point about the losses of Russian aircraft being very low during this counteroffensive. This is likely partly due to Russia having destroyed a lot of Ukrainian air defense artillery, including via Lancet suicide drones. 

But also, Russian aircraft appear to be pretty rugged. A KA-52 Alligator helicopter, for example, survived getting its tail shot off, because it doesn't have a tail rotor. 

Readers may remember that Somalis were able to shoot down a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter by shooting an RPG at its tail rotor, as shown in the movie Black Hawk Down. 

Back to Valtersson:

When Ukrainian ground units attack they must attack through mine fields since they can't demine them in advance due to Russian fire control. Ukrainian forces can't concentrate in huge numbers since they will be discovered in advance if they do that. The Ukrainians have to rush through the minefields with limited resources and hope that their follow up reinforcements don't get to mauled by Russian air power and artillery.

If the Ukrainian forces are strong enough RuAF retreat and their old positions become an artillery trap. After a while the newly captured Ukrainian position is transformed to a moon landscape and Russian forces counterattack. Mostly they succeeds in recapturing lost territory and the Ukrainians withdraw. Sometimes Ukrainian units hold on to newly captured positions and move the frontline one or two kilometers, but to a high price.

During these 19 days Ukraine has fought an uphill battle, which seemed doomed from the start. The result is probably clearly higher casualties among the Ukrainians, than by the Russian side. This means that UkrAF becomes weaker in comparison to the RuAF. That's one goal not achieved. If the other goals where successful you could accept normal losses, but that's not the case.

Ukrainian territorial gains, both on the Southern and Eastern fronts has been minimal and nothing indicates that will change. That in combination with high losses, especially losses on video, destroys all possibility of a propaganda victory.

Now Ukraine must try to hide the failed counteroffensive by denying it's existence and downplaying the losses. Ukraine and its supporters still dominate western media so they might have some success there. But doubts will grow even in the west, that the war is winnable and worth spending huge resources on.

Unfortunately for the Ukrainians, it looks like their government is doubling down on the counteroffensive, rather than attempting to restart negotiations. 

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