Ukraine is running out of options in its counteroffensive against Russian forces, as Kiev’s time-window to gain advances is closing, the Washington Post has reported.
In an article on Sunday, the U.S. daily has claimed that Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which was launched in early June and was initially expected to see Kiev taking back significant territory, currently “shows signs of stalling.”
“Kiev’s advances remain isolated to a handful of villages, Russian troops are pushing forward in the north and a plan to train Ukrainian pilots on U.S.-made F-16s is delayed,” wrote the U.S. newspaper.
Ukrainian and Western officials might be calling for patience but “the window of time for Ukraine to conduct offensive is limited” because of the “inhospitable weather” in the region in autumn and winter, wrote the article.
“Without more advanced weapons slated to bolster the front line or fully committing forces still being held in reserve, it is unlikely that Ukraine will be able to secure a breakthrough in the counteroffensive, according to analyst,” said the Washington Post.
The article also warned that “the inability to demonstrate decisive success on the battlefield is stoking fears that the conflict is becoming a stalemate and international support could erode.”
Calls for the U.S. to cut back on its military and financial aid to Ukraine “are expected to be amplified” in the wake of the U.S. presidential election in 2024, it added.
Earlier this week, the Washington Post also cited a classified U.S. intelligence report, which suggested that “Ukraine’s counteroffensive will fail to reach the key southeastern city of Melitopol,” and that the aim of severing Russia’s land bridge linking Donbass with Crimea in the southern province of Zaporozhye won’t be achieved this year.
According to Russian estimates, Ukraine has failed to make any significant gains, but lost more than 43,000 troops and nearly 5,000 pieces of heavy equipment since the launch of its counteroffensive. Kiev has so far claimed the capture of several villages, but these appear to be located some distance away from main Russian defense lines.
Three Options For Ukraine, Says Bild
Ukraine is faced with three possible scenarios amid its faltering counteroffensive, each carrying various degrees of risk, Germany’s Bild newspaper has claimed. In his analysis on Saturday, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Paul Ronzheimer warned that should Kiev’s current efforts fail, Russian forces may mount their own offensive and seize further territory.
According to the article, Ukraine can keep trying to breach Russian defenses despite achieving no major breakthroughs so far. Ronzheimer wrote that so far President Vladimir Zelensky’s government remains optimistic and is determined to continue with the campaign. However, if it fails to make any significant gains by the end of the year, Kiev is reportedly planning another counteroffensive in the spring of 2024.
Ronzheimer alleged that officials in Kiev are growing increasingly frustrated at criticism of its counteroffensive tactics coming from the West. Bild quoted one unnamed senior Ukrainian official as insisting that “everything was planned together” with Kiev’s backers.
Any new push is contingent on receiving more Western weapons and ammunition, Bild pointed out. On top of that, Russia will likely use the winter respite to beef up its defenses.
Another avenue open to Kiev, according to the article, is to continue the counteroffensive while simultaneously engaging in peace talks with Russia. However, such a U-turn on Zelensky’s part would be hard to sell to the population, Ronzheimer predicted.
The Bild deputy editor-in-chief emphasized that last October, the Ukrainian head of state signed a decree ruling out negotiations with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and that recent opinion polls show 72% of Ukrainians are against talks with Russia.
In a worst-case scenario for Ukraine as envisaged by Ronzheimer, the counteroffensive stalls, with Russia launching one of its own and potentially seizing parts of Kharkov Region. According to Bild’s analysis, this is, however, not likely as Moscow is supposedly struggling to replenish its own losses.
In early June, the Ukrainian military launched its long-awaited counteroffensive in a bid to reclaim territories in the east and southeast. However, despite massive Western support, Kiev’s forces have not achieved any significant gains. Top officials in Kiev and some Western capitals have acknowledged that the push has failed to live up to the initial high expectations, and is progressing more slowly than anticipated.
U.S. Demands Ukraine Be Less Risk-averse, Says Financial Times
A Financial Times report said:
U.S. officials are growing increasingly disappointed with the way Ukraine is conducting its counteroffensive and are skeptical about whether Kiev will be able to achieve any significant gains this year.
The British daily claimed that the U.S. has been urging Ukraine to double down on its push in the Zaporozhye region instead of spreading its forces too thin along a lengthy frontline.
In its article on Sunday, the Financial Times is alleging that rifts between the allies are beginning to grow, with a question mark now hanging over U.S. President Joe Biden’s ability to secure congressional approval for more defense assistance for Ukraine.
According to the report, Washington and Kiev had originally expected the counteroffensive to start in the spring and breach Russian defenses during the summer. The Ukrainian military was supposed to employ NATO’s combined arms-maneuver tactics which its troops had been taught by its Western backers, the newspaper explained. However, amid initial setbacks, Kiev’s forces reverted to older tactics – much to the displeasure of officials in Washington.
Despite small gains made by Ukrainian forces recently, ever more officials in the U.S. capital are privately preparing for a “war of attrition that will last well into next year,” alleged the Financial Times.
A major bone of contention between the two countries is reportedly the way Kiev has deployed its military.
The British daily wrote: “U.S. officials have encouraged Ukraine to be less risk-averse and fully commit its forces to the main axis of the counteroffensive in the south.”
The Americans see this as the only viable option that could potentially bring Kiev a major breakthrough, by severing Moscow’s land bridge to Crimea, the media outlet claimed.
Kiev, however, is keeping nearly half of its forces in the East in a bid to recapture the strategic city of Artyomovsk (known in Ukraine as Bakhmut) that was seized by the PMC Wagner Group in May, following months of grueling battles.
More and more prominent Republicans are calling for cutbacks to U.S. aid for Ukraine and for peace negotiations with Russia.
Also on Sunday, the Washington Post claimed that the Ukrainian counteroffensive is showing “signs of stalling,” adding that Kiev’s window of opportunity is diminishing before adverse weather conditions set in.
U.S. Does Not Have Enough Ballistic Missiles For Ukraine, Says Financial Times
The U.S. is not in a position to supply Ukraine with tactical ballistic missiles in quantities that could help turn the tide in its counteroffensive, the Financial Times has reported.
The British newspaper also cited several experts who question whether this type of weaponry could help Kiev achieve a major breakthrough at all.
In its article on Sunday, the Financial Times, citing unnamed American officials, claimed that the U.S. simply does not produce enough tactical ballistic missiles, those which Ukraine has been asking for, to “make a significant difference on the battlefield.”
In addition, according to the report, another consideration preventing the shipment of such projectiles is that such action could lead to a further escalation of the conflict with Russia.
Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at Rand Corporation, told the media outlet that Ukraine’s insistence on laying its hands on long-range missiles is misplaced. The expert stressed that rockets like these are “no magic wands” and are unlikely to solve the hurdles of minefields and entrenched Russian defenses that Kiev’s forces are currently facing.
The British daily quoted some U.S. officials as warning that the extent of U.S. military aid could shrink as the 2024 presidential election looms. A possible reelection of Republican Donald Trump adds another layer of uncertainty, given his repeated pledges to end the conflict as soon as he assumes office, the article noted.
So far, top German officials, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz, have appeared reluctant to hand over Taurus missiles to Ukraine. The rocket boasts a range of approximately 500 kilometers (310 miles).
Back in May, the UK became the first nation to provide Kiev with this type of weaponry, sending its Storm Shadow cruise missiles, with a range of over 250 kilometers.
Last month, France followed suit, supplying Ukraine with its own localized version of the Storm Shadow, named SCALP.
Moscow has repeatedly warned Western countries against sending weapons to Ukraine, arguing that by doing so, they are only prolonging the conflict and are also becoming engaged in a “proxy war” against Russia.
Opinion Poll In Germany And The U.S.
In Germany – a country which Kiev has asked for long-range missiles, a survey released by ARD-DeutschlandTrend on Friday showed that 52% of respondents are firmly opposed to deliveries of long-range missiles, with 36% in favor.
A poll conducted by CNN earlier this month indicates that 55% of Americans now oppose further funding for Ukraine from U.S. Congress, with 45% in favor.
Pentagon Facing Ammunition Crisis, Says Washington Post
The U.S. Department of Defense is having trouble keeping up with the demands of the Ukraine conflict, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, warning that failure to sustain current production levels could jeopardize security on the home front.
U.S. military contractors are soon expected to double the rate of standard NATO artillery round production recorded prior to the current phase of the conflict. However, even churning out 28,000 shells per month is insufficient to satisfy what the outlet called “Ukraine’s astonishing hunger for artillery ammunition,” let alone shore up depleted reserves at home.
A shortage of raw materials – particularly the explosive TNT, which the U.S. no longer produces – has hampered the Pentagon’s efforts to restock its own arsenal, which has been severely depleted by its support for Ukraine. Washington currently obtains much of its TNT from Poland but has been searching for new suppliers, including in Japan, after losing production partner Zarya when the region where the factory was located voted to become part of Russia in last year’s referendum.
Limited supplies of the propellant used to move artillery shells through gun barrels are also hampering defense contractors’ production capabilities, according to Czech propellant charge manufacturer Explosia. Spokesman Martin Vencl told the Washington Post that the raw materials required to make propellant, including nitroglycerin and nitrocellulose, are in short supply.
Bureaucratic hurdles also mean that just 40.8% of the Pentagon’s $44.5 billion in Ukraine-related production contracts have been finalized, according to the Post. An industry expert from the Center for Strategic and International Studies defended the figure as better-than-usual performance, as concluding a major defense contract normally takes as long as 16 months.
An unnamed Pentagon official suggested that the solution to avoiding future shortages was to maintain “consistent high demand” for ammunition. The Pentagon should “continue to procure at that level over a longer period of time so that we have not just healthy stocks, but a healthy production and industrial base that is able to meet them,” the person told the Washington Post. The Pentagon hopes to increase output to 1 million shells per year by the fall of 2025.
“One of the lessons learned out of the Ukrainian experience is we need to go back and revisit those minimum standards. And we may have underestimated,” U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told reporters last month.
U.S. President Joe Biden requested another $20.6 billion for Ukraine from Congress last week, even as officials began to quietly admit that Kiev’s counteroffensive has been a failure.