top of page
  • mfredenburgsites

Ukraine’s Counteroffensive: Between a Rock and Hard Place

After Two-Months of High Casualty Rates, Ukraine has Recaptured Hundreds of Square Kilometers out 80,000 Square Kilometers

It's no secret that Ukraine’s counteroffensive has failed to meet expectations. Consequently, Ukraine finds itself between a rock and a hard place—the “rock” being the utterly unrealistic expectations that Western leaders and media had for the counteroffensive, and the “hard place” being an opponent that overmatches Ukraine in manpower, firepower, airpower, long-range strike capability, military industrial capacity, and electronic warfare. And an opponent that has implemented a brutally effective elastic defense, the “Russian Rope a Dope,” anchored by a huge network of layered defenses that a retired Australian general recently described as being "much more complex and deadly than anything experienced by any military in nearly 80 years.” The counteroffensive has gone so poorly that even the Biden administration and NATO spokespeople have been forced to acknowledge that pushing Russia out of Eastern Ukraine and taking back Crimea isn't going according to the narrative they've been relentlessly pushing—this overarching narrative being that game-changing Western weapons and equipment, and NATO training in how to fight using combined armed tactics, combined with a severely weakened and largely incompetent Russia, would empower Ukraine to launch a series of counteroffensives that would sweep Russia out of Eastern Ukraine as well as take back Crimea. This pre-counteroffensive narrative was widely touted and apparently believed by many. On March 28, 2023, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated that Ukraine has "a 'very good chance' of launching a successful counteroffensive in the spring of 2023 due to the significant depletion of Russian forces and Western weapons,” according to Ukrainian media. Mr. Austin went on to intimate that Russia was running short on resources, including artillery shells. Former Chief of the British General Staff, Gen. Richard Dannatt, was so enthusiastic about Kyiv's chances of a very successful counteroffensive that he posited that Vladimir Putin "may be swept out of the Kremlin." Key sub narratives supporting the overarching narrative include unsupported assertions repeated over and over and over that Russia has been suffering devastatingly disproportionate casualties; that Russia was suffering from manpower shortages; that Russian troops are demoralized; that Russian military commanders are incompetent; that Western weapon systems were vastly superior to Russian weapons systems; that Russia was sending soldiers to fight with shovels due to ammunition shortages; that Mr. Putin was in danger of being ousted; that Russian troops couldn’t fight because they were drunk and high; and repeated and numerous claims made over a period of more than a year that Russia would soon run out of ammunition for its artillery; Of course, some of these subnarratives do have elements of truth, and Russia does have its problems and flaws. And early on, Russia was losing lots of tanks and armored vehicles. But far too often, those defending and advancing the prevailing narrative offer one-sided and unbalanced analysis, and make the mistake of overgeneralizing. This has led to an unbalanced narrative that poorly reflects reality. Nonetheless, it's this narrative that has been pushed non-stop by the Western corporate media, government leaders, and government spokespeople that has created an echo chamber that continuously reinforces the narrative and doesn't allow for alternate viewpoints. And as a result, any information that challenges the narrative is ignored or discounted. This obeisance to the narrative has blinded Western leaders and corporate media to the fundamentals that will be determinative of the outcome of this conflict.

The Determinative Fundamentals

  • Despite making some tactical mistakes and other errors, especially early on in the war, Russia is far from being militarily incompetent

  • Russia is very advanced and capable when it comes to electronic warfare.

  • Russia has a population at least four and a half times that of Ukraine.

  • The Russian people don't trust NATO.

  • The Russian people and Mr. Putin view having NATO troops and U.S. missiles less than 300 miles away from Moscow on their 1,200-mile land border in combination with a heavily armed Ukraine with hundreds of thousands of troops as an existential threat (pdf).

  • Both the war and Mr. Putin remain very popular.

  • Russia has already provided training for the 300,000 former soldiers/reservists called back into service in September 2022.

  • Since the conflict began, hundreds of thousands of Russian Federation citizens have volunteered to join the Russian military, with at least 117,400 having joined since Jan. 1, 2023.

  • Russia's army is to have 1.5 million troops in arms by 2026.

  • Russia's artillery power, both tube and rocket, is many times that of Ukraine’s.

  • Russia’s long-range strike capability is vastly superior to that of Ukraine's.

  • Russia’s economy, while having been dampened by U.S.-led sanctions, is largely functioning, whereas Ukraine’s isn't. And it's doing better than many European countries.

  • Russia has more nuclear weapons than any other country.

  • Russia is rated as the second-most powerful military in the world, whereas Ukraine is about the 15th most powerful.

  • Russia has the second-largest air force in the world, whereas Ukraine’s air force is very small and can only be used sporadically as it's under constant threat of being destroyed by Russian missiles.

  • Russia has the most powerful integrated air defenses in the world. Russia’s military industrial capacity vastly exceeds that of Ukraine and is only exceeded by that of China and the United States in certain sectors.

  • Russia has been increasing its military output at a much greater pace than Europe or the United States.

  • Russia is building ships faster than the United States.

  • Prior to the invasion, Russia’s GDP was over eight times that of Ukraine.

  • Despite unprecedented sanctions orchestrated by the United States, Russia’s economy is expected to grow by 0.7 percent in 2023 and is expected to grow faster than that of the United States in 2024.

  • Europe’s economy has shrunk as a result of the war.

  • Russia very much considers Crimea to be a lost province of Russia that had been a part of Russia for 171 years prior to Soviet Moscow granting Crimea to Ukraine in 1954.

  • As a last resort, Russia will use tactical nuclear weapons to protect its territory, and Russia absolutely considers Crimea with its huge Russian-speaking/Russian heritage population to be part of Russia.

  • Russia has demonstrated a high level of competence in its successful execution of its conservation of force operations that stopped Ukraine in its tracks while inflicting heavy casualties on Ukraine.

  • During conservation of force operation., Russia was able to minimize its own casualties, much as Russia did in World War II in the battle of Kursk.

Ignoring the Fundamentals

By favoring their created narrative, and ignoring the real-world fundamentals, the Biden administration and other NATO countries placed unrealistic expectations on Ukraine—expectations that Ukraine hasn't met and will not be able to meet. Yet in order to remain a viable country, Ukraine desperately needs the United States and NATO to continue to fund its governmental operations, provide military equipment, and to provide humanitarian aid. Ukraine is well aware of this, and understands that a successful counteroffensive is very, very important to maintaining the support it needs to survive. At the same time, Ukraine is intimately aware of how competent Russia’s military is, and Ukraine has firsthand experience in going up against an opponent that vastly overmatches it in firepower. And Ukrainian military commanders have watched with growing trepidation as Russia has systematically destroyed/depleted Ukraine’s air defenses, allowing Russia to utilize its Air Force more and more freely.

Yet, in spite of the fundamentals, when Ukraine began its counteroffensive operations over two months ago on June 4, 2023, Ukraine was being pressured by its Western backers to execute a big flashy counteroffensive capable of smashing through Russia’s defensive lines. Ukraine’s military commander knew that such an offensive would involve committing hundreds of their tanks, hundreds of infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers, hundreds of artillery systems, and tens of thousands of troops. But they also knew that Russia had been hoping that Ukraine would launch just such an attack as it would allow Russia to bring the full power of its airpower and artillery to bear on a large portion of Ukrainian forces unprotected from Russia’s air force. And it would give Russia the opportunity to counterattack with the hundreds of thousands of troops that have recently completed a fresh round of training. The large Ukrainian force would find itself under attack from all sides, with Russian forces moving in rapidly to cut off any line of retreat. Hence, it would be a suicide mission that, from the Russian perspective, would have the added benefit of depleting Ukrainian reserves below the point of being able to effectively respond to major attacks by Russia into Ukraine.

So, as an alternative to launching a truly major counteroffensive capable of breaking through Russia’s fearsome defenses, in the first two weeks of the counteroffensive Ukraine tried executing a few medium-sized attacks into the security zone that were just big enough to lose 20 percent of the heavy equipment supplied by the United States and NATO, while failing to reach Russia’s primary defensive line.

The sight of dozens of burned-out and destroyed NATO-supplied vehicles was a public relations disaster that embarrassed Ukraine’s Western backers. Since then, Ukraine has adopted a strategy predicated on the fact that any empty field or small town taken by Ukrainian forces will be hailed as a major victory by Western corporate media and NATO spokespeople. This has kind of worked, as Western media has hailed the taking of strategically irrelevant fields and towns that have, at best, temporary tactical value as being break out the champagne events.

But to blunt and bleed Ukrainian attacks, Russia has adopted an elastic defense that I describe as the “Russian Rope a Dope” that has been making Ukraine pay dearly for any field, town, forest, or hilltop they succeed in taking.

Russia's Elastic Defense In a nutshell, the “Russian Rope a Dope” works this way. Russian troops will occupy key defensive positions in fields, towns, hills, etc., with enough troops to mount a good defense while being supported by artillery and air power. When attacked by Ukrainian forces, they use their defensive advantages to inflict as many casualties as possible until they're in danger of being overrun or cut off from retreat. Then they will abandon their positions and rapidly gain separation from the Ukrainian forces, who are then again attacked by Russian artillery and or airpower. Then, in a few hours, or the next day, or however long it takes to degrade the Ukrainian forces with air power and artillery, fresh Russian troops will take the position back from the battered and depleted Ukrainian forces.

Sadly, the effectiveness of the Russian Rope a Dope owes much of its success to the pressure Western backers put on President Volodomyr Zelenskyy to show progress in taking territory. This pressure was passed down to Ukraine’s military commanders, who undoubtedly figured out what Russia was doing pretty quickly, but who nevertheless were still under the gun to show territory being taken that could be presented as evidence of Ukrainian progress in its counteroffensive.

If you follow any of the channels that give tactical updates on the progress of the war, you will see that this pattern is being repeated over and over, and as a result, Ukraine has suffered tremendous casualties executing these operations. While these kinds of operations have kept the Western wolves demanding progress at bay—barely—it has come at great cost with increasing reports of heavy casualties and tens of thousands maimed for life. If Ukraine had been free to implement the best plan from a military perspective, rather than expend its limited remaining combat power against forces and defenses it stood no chance of overcoming, it could have adopted a conservation of forces operation and forced Russia to deal with minefields and defensive fortifications with a whole bunch more troops than they have after two months of taking horrendous casualties.

Such a course of action would have put Ukraine in a much better position to negotiate with Russia for peace, as Russia would likely have been willing to offer less onerous terms in exchange for avoiding the casualties it would have to incur to defeat Ukrainian forces defending ground they have prepared to be as nasty as possible for the Russian forces. Instead, this counteroffensive that the West forced on Ukraine has greatly weakened Ukraine to the degree that Russia may have to be close to concluding that Ukraine’s military power has been sufficiently degraded that it can switch from its conservation of force operations to full-on offensive operations. Indeed, there are some signs that Russia is already taking some steps to that end.

Put bluntly, the counteroffensive turned out to be a massive exercise in the useless expenditure of Ukrainian and Russian lives. And, after over two months of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russia is stronger than ever, and the real goal of this seemingly engineered war, weakening Russia, looks to be farther away than ever from being realized. Time for the killing to stop.

Time to acknowledge that moving forward with this war will only result in tens of thousands more Ukrainian and Russian deaths, tens of thousands more permanently maimed—and peace terms likely to be more onerous for Ukraine.

It's time to acknowledge the reality that no matter how much military aid the United States and NATO throw over the wall to Ukraine, the U.S. proxy war being waged against Russia is bound to fail.

It's time for peace in Ukraine.

55 views0 comments


bottom of page