Ukraine’s counteroffensive faces challenges from Russia’s enhanced tactics and weaponry

by Ryan Lee
Ukraine's counteroffensive

As the season transitions from spring to the second summer of conflict, Ukrainian forces are examining Russian defenses. Despite the mistakes and setbacks encountered by Russia in the 15-month long warfare, the adversary’s ability to learn and improve their tactics and armaments has not escaped analysts’ notice.

Russia has erected heavily fortified defenses along the 1,000-kilometer frontline, refined its electronic weapons to undermine Ukraine’s advantage in combat drones, and adapted hefty bombs from its extensive Cold War-era stockpile into precision-guided gliding munitions that can strike targets without exposing its aircraft to danger.

The shift in Russian strategies, coupled with augmented troop numbers and upgraded weaponry, may hinder Ukraine from achieving a quick, decisive victory, instead risking a prolonged, exhausting battle.

In an interview with The Big Big News, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs, noted on Tuesday that Ukraine’s military is well-equipped, but “this will be a back-and-forth fight for a considerable length of time.”

Attention last week was primarily directed towards the disastrous floods in southern Ukraine, caused by the demolition of the Kakhovka dam, an act that both sides blame each other for.

Simultaneously, Ukrainian troops have launched attacks on different areas of the front, achieving only minor victories against the complex Russian defenses.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine stated on Saturday that counteroffensive and defensive operations against Russian forces are ongoing, maintaining a “positive” outlook about their success. Yet, Ukrainian authorities have refrained from declaring the commencement of a full-scale counteroffensive.

The day prior, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the counteroffensive had started but Ukraine had made no progress and suffered “significant” losses.

Sir Richard Barrons, a retired general and former head of the U.K. Joint Forces Command, commented on the Russian military’s “textbook” defensive lines and their refined tactics in response to a hasty withdrawal from large portions of the Kharkiv and Kherson regions during Ukraine’s swift campaign last fall.

He underscored the enhanced Russian ability to both counter and utilize drones and also noted Moscow’s learned strategy to maintain vital assets, such as command headquarters and ammunition depots, beyond artillery range.

Despite these setbacks, Russia established defensive positions across broad sections of Ukrainian territory it seized early in the invasion. Russia claimed control over the eastern city of Bakhmut following the war’s longest and most brutal battle last month. However, persistent Russian weaknesses remain evident.

Russian forces continue to suffer from low morale, shortages of ammunition, and poor inter-unit coordination. Severe internal conflicts have broken out between the military leadership and the Wagner private military contractor, which has deployed tens of thousands of mercenaries to the battlefield to lead the battle for Bakhmut.

A significant constraint on Russia’s capabilities is its decision to restrict its air force from venturing deep into Ukraine, having suffered heavy losses in the initial stages of the war. Attempts to disable Ukraine’s air defenses have been unsuccessful. Now, due to Western supplies, Ukraine poses an even greater challenge to Russian aircraft.

Barrons stressed that Kyiv’s military leaders need to keep Russian warplanes at a distance, to prevent a sudden resurgence of Russian air force capabilities during the counteroffensive.

Despite these weaknesses, Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov notes that Russia has managed to maintain a numerical advantage in terms of troops and weapons.

While Russia has drawn from its Cold War arsenal, using tanks from as far back as the 1950s to make up for early massive losses, Zhdanov noted that these older weapons still function effectively.

Zhdanov acknowledged Russian success in striking Ukrainian military depots using Moscow’s agents and collaborators, but argued that such losses were “tolerable.” He also noted the Russians’ increased use of drones and improved electronic warfare techniques to interfere with Ukraine’s drones.

Russia has stopped deploying battalion-sized tactical groups, which it used early in the war, in favor of smaller units, Zhdanov stated.

Meanwhile, the Royal United Service Institute, a London-based think-tank that concentrates on defense and security issues, included these gliding bombs among other enhancements in Russian weapons and tactics in its report.

The report noted that while these munitions are only relatively accurate, their sheer size presents a serious threat. The authors also pointed out that Russian engineers have excelled in constructing field fortifications and complex obstacles along the front line, such as concrete-reinforced trenches and command bunkers, wire entanglements, ditches, anti-tank hedgehogs or “dragon’s teeth,” and intricate minefields.

Despite Russia’s demonstrated ability to evolve its employment of key systems, the report suggested it might struggle to adapt quickly to Kyiv’s rapid adjustments, which could lead to a rapid loss of coordination among Moscow’s units.

Contributors to this report include Danica Kirka from London, Tara Copp from Normandy, France, and Yuras Karmanau from Tallinn, Estonia.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://bigbignews.net/russia-ukraine-war.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ukraine’s counteroffensive

What challenges is Ukraine’s counteroffensive facing?

Ukraine’s counteroffensive is dealing with intensified challenges due to Russia’s enhanced weaponry, refined tactics, and increased troop numbers.

What improvements has Russia made to its weaponry and tactics?

Russia has fortified its defenses along the front line, improved its electronic weapons, and adapted heavy bombs into precision-guided gliding munitions. It has also learned to keep vital assets, such as command headquarters and ammunition depots, beyond artillery range.

What does the report from the Royal United Service Institute state?

The report from the Royal United Service Institute highlights the improvements in Russian weaponry and tactics, including the use of gliding bombs and the construction of complex field fortifications. However, it also suggests Russia might struggle to adapt quickly to rapid adjustments by Kyiv.

What are the persistent weaknesses of the Russian forces?

Despite their enhancements, Russian forces continue to face issues such as low morale, shortages of ammunition, poor inter-unit coordination, and severe internal conflicts, especially between the military leadership and private military contractors.

How does Russia maintain a numerical advantage despite its weaknesses?

According to Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov, Russia has been able to maintain a numerical advantage in troops and weapons by drawing from its Cold War arsenal and deploying older yet still functional weapons.

More about Ukraine’s counteroffensive

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Tech_guru_99 June 12, 2023 - 7:15 pm

russia’s tech advancements in warfare are impressive n scary at the same time, huh?

Anita_M June 12, 2023 - 8:15 pm

I just can’t believe how much destruction these wars cause. It’s devastating and heartbreaking.

Peter_K June 12, 2023 - 11:45 pm

why can’t Russia just back off…its clearly causing more harm than good

Angrybird2023 June 13, 2023 - 2:28 am

This is all just madness!! Enough of this power game already.

Motherofthree June 13, 2023 - 6:24 am

prayin for all the innocent people caught in the middle of this. war is hell.

Marko Jovic June 13, 2023 - 8:57 am

wow, the situation in Ukraine seems really tense…is it ever going to end?

HistoryBuff1986 June 13, 2023 - 2:26 pm

interesting how much old cold war tech is still effective. shows just how much stuff they produced back then.


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