Weak Early Performance in Ukraine Offensive

Ukrainian Bradley fighting vehicles and Leopard 2 tank destroyed in Zaporizhzhia region by Russian Federation forces
Ukrainian Bradley fighting vehicles and Leopard 2 tank destroyed in Zaporizhzhia region by Russian Federation forces. | Photo: Russian Defense Ministry

By David Sole

The second week of Ukraine’s spring offensive has shown, so far, few gains and serious losses. Intense fighting began on June 4 and 5 with Ukrainian reconnaissance columns probing Russian defenses in both the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia fronts. All these thrusts were stopped and driven back by strong Russian resistance.

Since that time Ukraine has thrown a portion of its newly formed army units into battle. It is estimated that the U.S. and NATO trained up to 50,000 fresh troops and supplied huge quantities of heavy weapons including tanks, armored personnel carriers and Bradley fighting vehicles.

Reports in the western, pro-Ukraine media have looked for even the slightest positive development to spin the war in Ukraine’s favor. After all, the western public which is financing the Ukraine proxy war against the Russian Federation needs to be assured that their tax dollars are not endlessly going down a rat hole.

But so far there is no significant gain by the Ukrainian side. Many reports, both from Russian sources as well as pro-Ukraine western sources have commented on this. A June 9 article from the Business Insider states: “Kyiv’s forces are facing hard battles and stiff resistance and suffering manpower and equipment losses for limited gains…Ukrainian forces have met greater resistance than expected and suffered heavy equipment and personnel losses trying to punch through Russia’s defenses…mines, in particular have taken a heavy toll on some of Ukraine’s armored vehicles…”

Barron’s reported on June 11: “A group of Ukrainian soldiers taking a break from fighting just outside the small town of Orikhiv, in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, told AFP they had lost most of their Bradleys” referring to U.S. supplied heavily armored Bradley fighting vehicles. “Of nine vehicle attached to the group’s mechanized infantry unit …six were wrecked, three damaged but reparable, and one was unscathed.“  Each Bradley costs about $4.35 million.

The New York Times reported on June 13 on the battle for the town of Marinka, not far from Bakhmut which fell to Russian forces in May after many months of fighting. It painted a bleak picture for the Ukrainians on this eastern front region. “Outnumbered, outgunned, out-tanked and nearly surrounded, a small group of Ukrainian soldiers are doing whatever they can to hold onto Marinka … [that is] now a few blocks from falling.” The Times calls the Ukrainians “scrappy” fighters but cannot cover up their dire situation.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has been issuing daily reports of Ukrainian losses in troops and armor. Russian President Vladimir Putin told journalists  on June 13 that Ukrainians had lost “at least 160 tanks and 360 armored vehicles” or about 25 to 30% of all recent military equipment supplied by the western powers.

However, Ukraine’s offensive operation is still in its early days and it can be assumed more heavy fighting lies ahead. Ukraine still has not committed most of its new army units and, even believing the Russian estimates of having destroyed up to 30%, that still leaves 70% of tanks and other armor that can be thrown into the battle fronts.

It is almost certain that the next few weeks will see decisive confrontations as Ukraine tries to breach heavily defended Russian defensive lines in the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions. Ukraine is desperate to make a good showing and gain some territorial control prior to the NATO summit scheduled for July 11-12 in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Failure by the Ukrainians could endanger the continuing flow of money and weapons by U.S. and other NATO nations who have shown some indications of recognizing that Ukraine cannot push Russia back to pre-war borders. There are some elements in the West who are looking for the right moment to press Ukraine to start negotiations with the Russian Federation based even on some small battlefield victory.

Russia, for its part, is firmly committed to destroying the Ukrainian military by attrition and will surely not settle for anything less than a firm guarantee that what remains of Ukraine will not be allowed to join the anti-Russia NATO alliance.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply