Kyiv wins at sea and slows down on land
Since the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in June, fighting and the exchange of positions continue to be daily events, but almost nothing has moved on a front of more than a thousand kilometers. The data carefully collected daily by the Institute of War Studies in Washington (ISW) has been tabulated by The New York Times to conclude that if the Ukrainians fail to advance, Western support will weaken.
In that accounting, from a week ago, Ukraine had recovered some 370 square kilometers since the beginning of the year, the equivalent of the island of La Gomera, and Russia had gained 486, just over the area of Andorra.
What is surprising is how, while there is speculation about “donor fatigue” to Ukraine, no one justifies the hypothetical benefits of stopping supplying weapons and that it is Vladimir Putin who moves forward to finish occupying the four provinces that he has supposedly annexed.
This year Kyiv has recovered an area like La Gomera and Russia has conquered the equivalent of Andorra
The so-called tank coalition, the shipments of anti-aircraft systems, the debate on the transfer of F-16 aircraft, all of them long and difficult processes, were publicized in such a way that they seemed to demand quick results from Kyiv, as if its war propaganda or their promises could be taken as serious commitments.
A month ago, the Ukrainians broke the first line of Russian defense in the south, in the province of Zaporizhzhia. But in an open countryside landscape, any moving unit can be discovered in five minutes and attacked in another three, the number two in Ukrainian military intelligence recently told The Wall Street Journal . Russian defense lines include mines, ditches and anti-tank dragon teeth, sniper posts, trenches, bunkers and, in the background, artillery. The operation apparently had an enormous human cost (Kyiv, as always, has not provided data) and the high command took note...
Assessments by Western experts and observers range from questioning the Ukrainian army – as outdated or Soviet when its modernity was recently praised – to the usefulness or not of tanks in this war, precisely when Kyiv has just received about thirty of the sophisticated Abrams from the United States and is believed to still have 67 Leopards (and lost only five in the first days of the counteroffensive).
The debate about tanks versus drones –cheap and very effective–, which also occupies analysts, is long. And that of trench warfare, comparing Ukraine with the First World War, promises to be even more so. Deep down, the Ukrainians' problem remains the same as always: they need more range missiles, such as the Franco-British Storm Shadow, the promised North American Atacms and the Taurus that Germany continues to deny them, to degrade Russian defenses in depth, as well as their supply lines. And, of course, it also needs more air defense systems.
According to the forecasts observed by the ISW, there are still almost two months of good weather left and, in any case, as happened last year, the front will not hibernate. It is the period for which US military supplies are guaranteed under the previous budget, until the problems began on Capitol Hill over aid to Ukraine.
Nothing indicates that great events should be expected at this time regarding the front, but it must be taken into account that the framework of the war is not limited to territorial conquest but is much larger. And in this sense, Ukrainians have been able to bring about change.
Breaking the Russian defense means avoiding mines, ditches, trenches, snipers and,
in the background, the artillery
The news, this week, of the displacement of part of the Russian Black Sea fleet from Crimea to the Russian port of Novorosisk and, in the near future, to a port in Abkhazia, is a major blow on the part of the Ukrainians, who do not even They already have an army.
On September 13 they damaged several ships at the Sevastopol base and on the 23rd they bombed the fleet headquarters in the same city, causing massacre. In Crimea, but also in the Russian region of Belgorod, they have attacked S-400 anti-aircraft systems, in a campaign aimed at making way for their own missiles. Ukraine's objectives are, again, to undermine supply routes to continental Ukraine and, at the same time, consolidate the corridor for merchant ships for grain exports.
But what happened in Crimea is especially significant. European-made Storm Shadow cruise missiles were used in the attacks on Sevastopol. Ukraine is supposed to maintain a commitment to Western allies not to use its weapons against Russian soil. Crimea is part of occupied Ukraine, but for Vladimir Putin it is Russia of a lifetime. However, the Russian president did not say anything. Or, as Professor Maria Popova has observed, “Crimea is not that special, it is not a red line.”
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