Will Ukraine risk a major counteroffensive?

Source: Hot Air

Yesterday, Allahpundit wrote about the Russian effort to feed more troops into the stalled war on Ukraine. Russia’s inability to advance creates a possible opening for a Ukrainian counterattack. And we’ve seen some signs that Ukraine has been taking the initiative with attacks on supply lines and ammunition depots in Crimea and elsewhere. Just today there is another story that Ukraine struck a Russian base and killed 200 paratroopers:

“The Armed Forces of Ukraine struck enemy fortifications in occupied Kadiivka, killing about 200 Russian paratroopers,” he wrote on Twitter.

Haidai noted that the occupiers had been based in a hotel in Kadiivka since 2014. The Russians claim that on Aug. 26, the Ukrainian armed forces fired 10 HIMARS missiles at the city.

This is not the first effective attack by the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Kadiivka. On July 15 and 18, Ukrainian defenders hit ammunition depots in the city, and on July 24, they hit the occupiers’ barracks.

Ukraine is once again crediting local “partisans,” local fighters using guerilla tactics and feeding information the Ukrainian military from within Russian controlled areas. But these strikes, as successful as they’ve been, don’t constitute a full counteroffensive designed to push Russia out of seized territory.

Putin’s focus on finding more troops probably suggests that he’s not going to launch any major offensives anytime soon. He’s waiting for reinforcements and is prepared to have this drag on for another year if necessary. The Russian war machine isn’t very good but by firing artillery endlessly from afar he can eventually wear down resistance. He’s probably also hoping the west will be too busy this winter with its own problem (some of which he helped create) and will grow tired of the hassle and expense of supporting Ukraine.

That leaves Ukraine in the position of deciding whether a full counteroffensive in the near term is worth the risk.

The timing for any such attack has emerged as a pivotal decision for Ukraine’s government. Both sides are preparing for a protracted war, but Ukraine has greater incentive to try to avoid it with potentially risky maneuvers as early as this fall — before the rainy season turns the countryside into impassable bogs, or energy shortages and soaring costs undermine European support.

“An offensive is risky,” said Michael Kofman, the director of Russian studies at C.N.A., a research institute in Arlington, Va., assessing Ukraine’s options.

“If it fails, the outcome could affect external support,’’ he said. “On the other hand, Kyiv likely sees this as a window of opportunity, beyond which lies the uncertainty of a protracted war against a Russian army that has had time to entrench.”

Failure is always bad but there’s at least as big a risk from not trying and having people lose hope or patience.

“The very difficult state of our economy, the constant risks of air and missile attacks and the general fatigue of the population from the difficulties of war will work against Ukraine” over time, Andriy Zagorodnyuk, a former defense minister, wrote in the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper. He said the military should be prepared to advance, rather than defend.

“It makes no sense to drag out the war for years and compete to see who will run out of resources first,” he wrote.

And of course, there’s also the potential upside of a counterattack. A win, even a modest one, makes the situation much more difficult for Putin. Putin is popular when he looks strong. Looking weak will take some of the nationalist wind out of his sails.

The US recently committed $3 billion in aid to Ukraine. An aide to President Zelensky said that would allow them to pursue a counteroffensive.

“This means that we’ll be in a position now to effectively counterattack, to launch a counteroffensive,” Podolyak said, referring to the influx of assistance. “And we can defeat the enemy with the new equipment and with the new numerical value that is attached to our capacity and our capabilities.”

They’re clearly thinking about it. We’ll have to wait and see just how ambitions they are.