Russia’s attrition strategy in Ukraine set to continue in Donetsk – The Russian military has changed tactics and the way it secured Luhansk province, including the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, is unlikely to change as it turns to Donetsk province. By taking Donetsk, Moscow will then control all the industrial hearts of Donbass.
While the early stages of the Russian invasion were an abject disaster for the Moscow army, with heavy casualties, massive losses of equipment and the inability to capture any of the major population centers, they learn some of their mistakes. It seems that Russia’s strategy boils down to one word: attrition.
The Russian tactic of a war of attrition would not work in a Western country, where citizens would protest against the high cost of casualties and equipment to take territory measured only in meters most of the time. However, in an environment where the government controls the media and all war-related news, he will continue to work for President Putin. The Russian people have not received any updates on the number of casualties since the early days of the war.
The war by attrition is therefore a tactic of Putin to buy time. It is time to make the necessary gains to achieve its goals inside Ukraine and keep the cost of the “special military operation” for the people.
The UK Ministry of Defense has released its latest intelligence assessment stating that Russia’s tactics are unlikely to change when they turn to Donetsk.
“The struggle for Donbass has been tough and attritional and this is highly unlikely to change in the coming weeks,” the ministry said in a statement. post on Twitter.
“Russia will now almost certainly focus on capturing Donetsk Oblast, much of which remains under the control of Ukrainian forces,” the ministry added.
Poor planning, training and logistics
The Russian Ministry of Defense thought it would take over the whole country in a short time with a blitzkrieg-like operation. They believed they would take Kyiv by quickly replacing the Ukrainian government with more proxies as they settled into puppet “people’s republics” in separatist-held areas.
Poor planning, training, and terrible logistics doomed this plan to failure. Tactically, they were a mess, as junior officers and NCOs had no freedom to make decisions compelling senior officers (Colonels and Generals) to carry out attacks. Ukrainian forces quickly recognized that Russian forces had no secure communications and zeroed in their artillery on command and control centers, killing many senior officers, further throwing the offensive into disarray .
Likewise, the terrible assumption that the Ukrainian people would welcome Russian troops with open arms was a terrible…and costly mistake. Russian troops were ill-prepared for what followed. The logistical bottlenecks stretched for miles and the Russians had no protection plan for them. Air-to-ground operations were poorly coordinated. The vaunted Russian Air Force has still not achieved air superiority over Ukraine. Most airstrikes are launched from Russian or Belarusian airspace.
But after the overambitious blitzkrieg failed, the Russians adapted some of their tactics and shortened their lines of communication and supply, and focused on the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine.
Russia’s War of Attrition:
In an article published on the Ministry of Defense websiteit spelled out Russia’s goals and how it was likely to proceed to achieve them.
“We are not going to tell Ukrainians how to negotiate, what to negotiate and when to negotiate,” said Colin H. Kahl, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Kahl says the Russian tactic of an overwhelming and attritional approach is basically artillery warfare. They massed their artillery as they did in World War II and shelled Ukrainian positions, including civilians and civilian infrastructure to weaken the resolve of the defenders.
He mentioned the United States’ dispatch of M-777 long-range howitzers in response to Russian artillery, giving the Ukrainian military a much-needed defense capability. But the artillery numbers, even with Germany and others sending 155mm artillery pieces, just aren’t there. The Russians have a huge advantage in number of artillery pieces and ammunition.
A defense analyst said that Russia’s strategy more akin to World War I tactics than modern warfare of rapid troop movement. They have only gained about 100 yards a day for most of the past month.
“Russia’s strategy is an approach to World War I of smashing your opponents. It could work – there is evidence that Ukrainian morale is a problem,” the unnamed analyst said.
Putin and Russia have targeted the coal and steel producing Donbass to boost Russia’s economy while strangling Ukraine’s ability to use the Black Sea to sell its grain. Their strategy is based on having time and waiting for the West to lose its focus on Ukrainian issues.
One problem that remains is the economic sanctions imposed on Russia. So far, Moscow seems to have weathered the storm quite easily. However, Kahl states that it has an effect. “This year will wipe out the last 15 years of economic growth in Russia and the impact of sanctions is just beginning.”
Will the West’s endurance last long enough? Or will they leave Ukraine in disaster? The Russians are betting they will.
Steve Balestrieri is a national security columnist from 1945. He served as a noncommissioned officer and warrant officer in the U.S. Army Special Forces before injuries forced him into early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news agencies, he covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work has been regularly featured in the Massachusetts Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers.