In their article titled “Prospects for running a military campaign in 2023: Ukraine’s perspective,” two top Ukrainian generals reflect on the current military situation in Ukraine and assess the prospects for Ukraine to win the war. The authors, the Ukrainian army’s Commander-in-Chief Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, and the National Security parliamentary committee’s Deputy Chairman Lt-Gen. Mykhailo Zabrodskyi, believe that Ukraine can change the situation in its favor by carrying out several counteroffensives, yet even liberating Russia’s “center of gravity” in this war– Crimea — won’t fully end the war given the Russian capabilities and human resources. Thus, Ukraine also needs to match Russian capabilities, particularly — have weapons that can strike as far as the Russians.
Here are the key points from the article.
War won’t end this year
Russia’s all-out war against Ukraine “has long been beyond the concept of a local conflict of medium intensity.”
“This applies to the spatial indicators, the number of forces involved, and the convincing list of weaponry and other high-tech equipment inherent in this military confrontation,” generals Zaluzhnyi and Zabrodskyi wrote.
The generals believe that “there is every reason to believe that it is not going to end anywhere within 2022.”
Russia tries to capture entire Donetsk Oblast, can still retry to conquer Kyiv and other key cities
Reaching the administrative border of Donetsk Oblast can be “seen as a probable end goal of Russia’s efforts,” the generals wrote,
“The prospect of advances in the Zaporizhzhia direction looks even more attractive to the enemy. It would ensure further northward action, allowing to pose a direct threat of capturing the cities of Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro, which will in turn lead to the Ukrainian side losing control over a large part of the country’s Left Bank (of the Dnipro River – ed.). Revisited plans to gain control of Kyiv and the threat of renewed invasion from the territory of the Republic of Belarus cannot be ruled out either,” the article goes.
Meanwhile, if Russia achieves success in Ukraine’s south, it might yield a double effect:
“On the one hand, this would open quite realistic prospects of taking over Mykolaiv and Odesa, and on the other hand – create a threat toward Kryvyi Rih before posing threats to the central and western regions of Ukraine,” Zaluzhnyi and Zabrodkyi wrote.
Successive Ukrainian counteroffensives can change the situation
The Generals believe that the only way to radically change the strategic situation for the Ukrainian Army is “to launch several consecutive, and ideally, simultaneous counterstrikes throughout 2023. It would be hard to overestimate their military, as well as political and informational, significance.”
Zaluzhnyi and Zabrodskyi’s article was published on 7 September amid the Ukrainian blitz in Kharkiv oblast which showed that the Ukrainian army is capable of conducting large-scale offensive operations against the Russian troops.
Crimea is “the center of gravity” for Russia in this war
According to the Generals, only an “effective influence on the enemy’s center of gravity” could change the course of the war. For Russia, such a center of gravity is its control over Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
“It is logical to assume, planning for 2023, an operation or a series of operations to regain the peninsula. Such planning must first of all assume that the necessary pool of troops is available. And we are definitely not talking about Ukraine Army units already operating on the 2,500 km-long front line from Kherson to Kovel,” the article reads.
Yet liberation of Crimea won’t end the war
With the loss of Crimea, Russia would lose its Black Sea Fleet’s naval base, yet it won’t end Russia’s military presence in the Black Sea as Russia would transfer its Black Sea Fleet to the Novorossiysk naval base located in the Russian territory, the Generals believe. Moreover, the threat of Russian missile strikes will persist too.
“The loss of significant stocks of material resources will affect the Russian army only temporarily,” the article reads. “Manpower losses and destroyed equipment, at least in terms of their numbers, could also eventually be replenished.”
Thus, Generals Zaluzhnyi and Zabrodskyi infer, “we can only talk about a new stage of confrontation” in discussing prospects beyond 2023. In any case, it’s going to be a long conflict “bringing human losses and massive expenses, with no certain final outcome in view.”
War can last for years until Ukraine has long-range missiles matching Russia’s in terms of max operating range
The Generals note that Russia has significantly disproportionate capabilities, which are most noticeable in terms of the maximum operating range of weapons.
“For the Russian armed forces, it’s up to 2,000 km, taking into account the range of air-based cruise missiles, while for Ukraine’s forces it is actually a mere 100 km, which is limited to the range of missiles and the deployment depth for the outdated short-range ballistic missile systems. Thus, from the onset of the large-scale aggression, Russian weapons could hit targets 20 times further than the Ukrainians,” Zaluzhnyi and Zabrodskyi wrote.
This means that the Ukrainian army in the best-case scenario can only employ outdated launchers and strike “no further than the depth of the enemy’s operational rear,” while Russia can carry out point strikes across the entire depth of the country’s territory, “doing it with impunity.”
“As long as the current situation persists, this war can last for years,” the generals conclude.
Ukraine needs longer-range weapons to match Russian capabilities
The resources available to the Russian Army are huge, thus “the very possibility of eliminating it completely is too dubious.” However, it is possible to “counter the enemy with its own capability to act in a similar way, operating at a similar range.”[quote]“We are talking, of course, about Ukraine’s partners supplying the relevant weapon systems or certain types of long-range missiles [to Ukraine]. And it’s not as much about specific models, such as, for example, the MGM-140B ATACMS Block 1A missile for the M142 HIMARS. A comprehensive approach must be applied to re-equipping artillery and missile forces, tactical aviation, Navy, and other components of Ukraine’s military might,” generals Zaluzhnyi and Zabrodskyi wrote.[/quote]
The top Ukrainian generals believe that the discussion on Western weapon supplies should address creating or developing capabilities rather than only the amount of weapons and equipment.
Impunity is a factor in support of the war among Russians while war is “remote” for them
The ongoing war has a “remote” nature for average Russians that’s why they “perceive not so painfully all the losses, failures, and most importantly, costs of this war in all its senses.”
“A convincing example proving that this is a correct approach to be applied this year is the successful efforts of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to physically transfer the zone of hostilities to the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. This was done by a series of successful missile strikes on the enemy’s Crimea-based air bases, first of all, the Saki airfield,” the General wrote, confirming that the Ukrainian army used missiles to attack the Russian military facilities in occupied Crimea in August.
The article says that the task of the Ukrainian army is to “make these experiences even sharper and more tangible” for Russians in 2023 “despite the massive distance to the targets.”
The Generals believe that the Russian leadership and society support their country’s war against Ukraine due to their imperial ambitions, which are “all acceptable to ordinary Russians.”
“This is about an aggressive type of war of annihilation, launched against a nation that lacks the military might to put up adequate resistance to the Russian troops. Simply put, it is precisely about that impunity that the lack of physical proximity ensures,” the article reads.
Ukraine should also restore its domestic production of high-tech weapons
Zaluzhnyi and Zabrodskyi believe that comprehensive efforts to equip and re-equip the Ukrainian army with “weapon systems of the appropriate range” and “a proper long-term vision of the objectives” should become the long-sought game-changer in the ongoing war.[quote]“Only by balancing out the weapons’ operating range, thus disturbing the said center of gravity for the enemy, can we get to a turning point in the ongoing war,” the article reads.[/quote]
However, Ukraine’s top generals see acquiring long-range weapons systems from its partners only as a solution for the transition period. Ukraine aims to restore its own military production capacities to design and manufacture its own domestic high-tech weapon systems, including long-range ones, and “Ukraine’s national efforts to this end open up unlimited opportunities for international military-technical cooperation with partner countries,” the generals write.
Russia’s nuclear blackmail is one of the factors slowing down military aid to Ukraine
Russia’s direct threats to use tactical nuclear weapons under certain circumstances have been one of the major factors influencing Ukraine’s discussion with partner countries on the military aid to Ukraine and the volumes of its supplies.
“It is hard to imagine that even nuclear strikes will allow Russia to break Ukraine’s will to resist. But the threat that will emerge for the whole of Europe cannot be ignored. The possibility of direct involvement of the world’s leading powers in a “limited” nuclear conflict, bringing closer the prospect of World War 3, cannot be completely ruled out either,” the generals wrote.
Zaluzhnyi and Zabrodskyi believe that any Russian steps in the use of tactical nuclear weapons “must be pre-empted by employing the entire arsenal of means at the disposal of world powers” as Russia would become in this way not only a threat to Ukraine but also “a truly global-scale terrorist state.”
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