Ukraine's struggle against Russian slow conquest underlines need for Western aid

"Creeping" offensives without quick victories will be enough for Putin's army if Russia retains the initiative on the battlefield
"Creeping" offensives without quick victories will be enough for Putin's army if Russia retains the initiative on the battlefield

The gradual "creeping" advance of Russian troops in Ukraine, which resulted from delays in Western aid, can continue indefinitely if Russia maintains the initiative on the battlefield, the U.S.-based  Institute for the Study of War said on May 22.

This approach aligns with Vladimir Putin's strategy to gradually absorb Ukraine, posing a significant threat if the Ukrainian Armed Forces remain under-resourced for counteroffensive actions.

Read also: Ukrainian Armed Forces preemptive strike may have stopped Russian offensive in Kharkiv Oblast - FT

Russian forces have capitalized on their battlefield momentum to resolve long-standing operational and technological challenges, bolstering their capacity for sustained offensive efforts. Notably, the Russians have enhanced their ability to replenish forces efficiently, which maintains their offensive pressure despite losses, keeping their troop levels stable.

Over the past seven months, the pattern of Russian operations suggests that Putin believes a gradual approach can continue without significant Ukrainian counteroffensives. Since Russia resumed its offensive in October 2023, Ukraine has largely been on the defensive, with tactical counterattacks that mainly curb further Russian advances. The ISW forecasts that a major Ukrainian counteroffensive might not occur until late 2024 or 2025, dependent on the scale and timing of Western support.

Read also: Zelenskyy anticipates more waves in Russia's offensive, cites Kharkiv as first target

This scenario has likely convinced the Russian military and Putin that Ukraine will not reclaim territories currently under Russian control. This belief underpins Russian operational strategies, assuming they can maintain control over captured areas indefinitely.

The ISW cautions that without significant Ukrainian advancements, Russian forces will likely continue their slow, tactical approach to secure operational objectives over time. This method, characterized by incremental gains at the cost of significant losses, demonstrates Moscow's readiness to endure for minor victories, without a clear threshold of losses that might deter further aggression.

Maintaining initiative is crucial for Russian forces across all fronts, prompting them to sustain offensive actions that keep Ukrainian forces defensive. It is critical for the Ukrainian Armed Forces to disrupt this strategy through immediate and extensive counteroffensive operations to reclaim occupied territories as soon as feasible.

Read also: UK warned Ukraine of Russian offensive on Kharkiv — report

"The West must urgently supply Ukrainian forces with the necessary equipment and weaponry needed for significant liberation efforts, challenging Putin's assumption of a gradual takeover of Ukraine if a rapid victory seems out of reach," stated the ISW.

In conclusion, ISW analysts emphasize that despite Russian attempts to demoralize the West and reduce support for Ukraine, it remains vital for Western nations to continue backing Ukraine's potential for victory. "Putin and the Russian military command likely believe they can withstand the current level of Western aid and that ongoing Russian offensives will eventually discourage Western support, making Ukrainian victory seem futile," the experts noted. They urge Western countries not to yield to Russia's strategic maneuvers, reaffirming that Ukraine's success is achievable with sustained Western commitment.

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