Tuesday, 14 March 2023 — Moon of Alabama
Finally some truth about the real state of the Ukrainian military is sneaking into main stream media. It is as bad, still not fully disclosed, as we have described it again and again.
As the Washington Post provides:
Ukraine short of skilled troops and munitions as losses, pessimism grow
I’ll leave out the propaganda bits and go for the factual beef. The quotes are long but needed to grasp the depth of horrible situation.
The opening paragraph:
The quality of Ukraine’s military force, once considered a substantial advantage over Russia, has been degraded by a year of casualties that have taken many of the most experienced fighters off the battlefield, leading some Ukrainian officials to question Kyiv’s readiness to mount a much-anticipated spring offensive.
That spring offensive is as likely to happen as the announced relief campaign to unblock Bakhmut. The later is bugged down in mud which will only become worse over the next few weeks.
The spring campaign will be made up of green recruits which will use a wild mix of weapons they are not familiar with. Unless there are some ‘western’ surprises I see no way how it can overwhelm the well prepared Russian defense lines.
Back to the piece:
[Á]n influx of inexperienced draftees, brought in to plug the losses, has changed the profile of the Ukrainian force, which is also suffering from basic shortages of ammunition, including artillery shells and mortar bombs, according to military personnel in the field.
“The most valuable thing in war is combat experience,” said a battalion commander in the 46th Air Assault Brigade, who is being identified only by his call sign, Kupol, in keeping with Ukrainian military protocol. “A soldier who has survived six months of combat and a soldier who came from a firing range are two different soldiers. It’s heaven and earth.”
“And there are only a few soldiers with combat experience,” Kupol added. “Unfortunately, they are all already dead or wounded.”
Such grim assessments have spread a palpable, if mostly unspoken, pessimism from the front lines to the corridors of power in Kyiv, the capital.
Ukrainian losses, estimated to be nearer to 200,000 than to 100,000 dead with even more wounded, are especially felt at the lower command level. One can not just take a salesman or teacher from the street and put them into a junior command role.
Kupol said he was speaking out in hopes of securing better training for Ukrainian forces from Washington and that he hopes Ukrainian troops being held back for a coming counteroffensive will have more success than the inexperienced soldiers now manning the front under his command.
“There’s always belief in a miracle,” he said. “Either it will be a massacre and corpses or it’s going to be a professional counteroffensive. There are two options. There will be a counteroffensive either way.”
It indeed will need a miracle for the counteroffensive to become anything but a massacre.
One senior Ukrainian government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid, called the number of tanks promised by the West a “symbolic” amount. Others privately voiced pessimism that promised supplies would even reach the battlefield in time.
“If you have more resources, you more actively attack,” the senior official said. “If you have fewer resources, you defend more. We’re going to defend. That’s why if you ask me personally, I don’t believe in a big counteroffensive for us. I’d like to believe in it, but I’m looking at the resources and asking, ‘With what?’ Maybe we’ll have some localized breakthroughs.”
“We don’t have the people or weapons,” the senior official added. “And you know the ratio: When you’re on the offensive, you lose twice or three times as many people. We can’t afford to lose that many people.”
The U.S. is not going to ask if the “Ukraine can afford the losses”. It will push for a large attack which will have little chance to even get out of its preparation phase.
Kupol, who consented to having his photograph taken and said he understood he could face personal blowback for giving a frank assessment, described going to battle with newly drafted soldiers who had never thrown a grenade, who readily abandoned their positions under fire and who lacked confidence in handling firearms.
His unit withdrew from Soledar in eastern Ukraine in the winter after being surrounded by Russian forces who later captured the city. Kupol recalled how hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers in units fighting alongside his battalion simply abandoned their positions, even as fighters for Russia’s Wagner mercenary group pressed ahead.
After a year of war, Kupol, a lieutenant colonel, said his battalion is unrecognizable. Of about 500 soldiers, roughly 100 were killed in action and another 400 wounded, leading to complete turnover. Kupol said he was the sole military professional in the battalion, and he described the struggle of leading a unit composed entirely of inexperienced troops.
“I get 100 new soldiers,” Kupol said. “They don’t give me any time to prepare them. They say, ‘Take them into the battle.’ They just drop everything and run. That’s it. Do you understand why? Because the soldier doesn’t shoot. I ask him why, and he says, ‘I’m afraid of the sound of the shot.’ And for some reason, he has never thrown a grenade. … We need NATO instructors in all our training centers, and our instructors need to be sent over there into the trenches. Because they failed in their task.”
He described severe ammunition shortages, including a lack of simple mortar bombs and grenades for U.S.-made MK 19s.
“You’re on the front line,” Kupol said. “They’re coming toward you, and there’s nothing to shoot with.”
Kupol said Kyiv needed to focus on better preparing new troops in a systematic way. “It’s like all we do is give interviews and tell people that we’ve already won, just a little bit further away, two weeks, and we’ll win,” he said.
Yes, Kiev, helped by ‘western’ media, is speaking of a victory that is unlikely to ever come. The view from the field is way different:
Dmytro, a Ukrainian soldier whom The Post is identifying only by first name for security reasons, described many of the same conditions. Some of the less-experienced troops serving at his position with the 36th Marine Brigade in the Donetsk region “are afraid to leave the trenches,” he said. Shelling is so intense at times, he said, that one soldier will have a panic attack, then “others catch it.”
The first time he saw fellow soldiers very shaken, Dmytro said, he tried to talk them through the reality of the risks. The next time, he said, they “just ran from the position.”
“I don’t blame them,” he said. “They were so confused.”
Yes, shell shock is real. Being under artillery fire is terrifying. Especially when you are a newbie, sit in a ditch without armor and with no way to respond to it.
Russian artillery supremacy is why Ukrainian losses are a multiple of those on the Russian side. But even if foot soldiers are available and well trained there is nothing that can make up for the loss of an army’s backbone:
Ukraine has lost many of its junior officers who received U.S. training over the past nine years, eroding a corps of leaders who helped distinguish the Ukrainians from their Russian enemies at the start of the invasion, the Ukrainian official said. Now, the official said, those forces must be replaced. “A lot of them are killed,” the official said.
Replaced with what? It takes years to train a master sergeant or captain. These positions require experience in the field. No civilian training can replace that. Three week courses, run by ‘western’ officers with no real war experience, will not be able to make up for this:
Even with new equipment and training, U.S. military officials consider Ukraine’s force insufficient to attack all along the giant front, where Russia has erected substantive defenses, so troops are being trained to probe for weak points that allow them to break through with tanks and armored vehicles.
There will be no weak points. Or maybe there will be some, intentionally left open by the Russians, to draw the Ukrainian ‘counterattack’ in to then entrap it in one big cauldron.
It is over for the Ukraine. The Russian forces are enveloping Ukrainian units in several small cauldrons. Bakhmut is only one of them. South of it is the New York agglomeration which will become another one. Anviivka, further south, is also in big trouble and may even become the first of the three to fall.
Even the New York Times has started to notice it:
From Kupiansk in the north to Avdiivka in the south, through Bakhmut, Lyman and dozens of towns in between, Russian forces are attacking along a 160-mile arc in eastern Ukraine in an intensifying struggle for tactical advantage before possible spring offensives. Heavy fighting was reported on Monday in and around Avdiivka, a town that has been on the front lines for much of the past year and in recent days has once again become a focal point of combat.
In Bakhmut, where the Wagner private military company has seized control of the eastern side of the city, brutal combat is taking place in the streets, the blasted remains of buildings and deep underground in the warrens of mines, according to Russian military bloggers.
In Kupiansk and surrounding villages, Russia has stepped up shelling and probing ground assaults, and Ukraine has ordered civilians to leave. Russian shelling intensified in Lyman and other towns, as well. According to the Ukrainian military, Russian forces make more than 100 attempts each day to break through their lines.
With few people or intact buildings, the most hotly contested places have little left to offer beyond control of roads and railways that the Kremlin sees as important to its goal of seizing the entire eastern region known as the Donbas. The assaults may also yield better positioning for the next attack, intelligence about the other side’s positions and propaganda value.
Not mention by the NYT, but most important is that the Russian forces in all these attacks are destroying the Ukrainian army.
In a few weeks, after those three cauldrons have collapsed, the Ukrainian army will be on the run. It will be summer by then and the mud will have dried up. The Russian forces will then become more mobile which may even allow for wider ‘big arrow’ moves.
The only way for the Ukrainian army to counter those moves will be the use of the forces it currently prepares for a ‘counteroffensive’ as defense formations.
But even that will only give it another three month or so before the inevitable collapse arrives.
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