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ISW: Russian forces to make significant tactical gains before Ukraine stabilizes frontlines later on

The ISW predicts Russian tactical advances but believes Ukrainian defenses will hold with upcoming US support. Russian forces plan a significant offensive, yet are not expected to break Ukrainian lines even with numerical superiority.
Ukrainian gunner of the Azov Brigade in the Lyman sector of the front. Donetsk Oblast, 1 April 2024. Photo: Wolfgang Schwan / Anadolu/ABACAPRESS.COM
ISW: Russian forces to make significant tactical gains before Ukraine stabilizes frontlines later on

The US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) predicts significant tactical gains for Russian forces in the coming weeks, while Ukraine awaits US security assistance, but the Russians are unlikely to overwhelm Ukrainian defenses.

The imminent arrival of US aid will help Ukrainian forces overcome material shortages and resist ongoing Russian offensives, while Russian forces escalate efforts to destabilize Ukrainian defenses before American assistance arrives, as per ISW.

FT reported Ukrainian intel officers’ claim of Russian plans for a major offensive in late May or June, with Western officials denying potential Ukrainian overrun despite expected tactical gains by Russian forces.

Referring to its earlier assessments, the ISW says that Russian forces have opportunities to make significant tactical gains in the Avdiivka area and pursue an operationally significant objective by seizing Chasiv Yar. However, neither of these efforts is likely to develop into an operationally significant penetration in the near term, nor are they expected to cause the collapse of the Ukrainian defensive line in Donetsk Oblast.

“Well-provisioned Ukrainian forces will likely be able to prevent operationally significant Russian advances during Russia’s expected summer offensive effort, although Russian forces will nevertheless leverage select advantages and adaptations to pose a significant threat to Ukraine this summer,” the ISW wrote.

According to ISW, Russian forces are unlikely to mount a summer offensive significantly larger and more intense than their previous efforts. Meanwhile, well-provisioned Ukrainian forces have historically thwarted Russian advances, even on the tactical level, during large-scale offensives. The Russian military encounters limitations in deploying modern and effective equipment in Ukraine, leading to a decline in combat effectiveness due to degradation in Russian formations and units.

Russian forces adapt and exploit Ukrainian vulnerabilities

The ISW assesses that Russian forces are partially relying on their quantitative advantages in equipment and manpower to exert consistent and increasing pressure on Ukrainian forces. The Russian military is accepting losses that Ukrainian forces could not sustain. This focus on mass over quality has facilitated tactical Russian gains, especially as delays in Western security assistance have eroded Ukraine’s qualitative edge over Russian forces. Consequently, Russian forces will likely leverage their numerical superiority to achieve tactical advances against even well-equipped Ukrainian forces this summer.

Russians establish foothold in part of eastern Ukraine’s Ocheretyne, unconfirmed reports claim loss of Berdychi

However, Russian forces in Ukraine have shown varied levels of operational, tactical, and technological innovation, indicating a departure from solely relying on mass. The Russian military command seems to be learning from past mistakes, planning a summer offensive to stretch and overwhelm Ukrainian forces across a broader frontline in eastern Ukraine, as per the ISW.

Russian forces in Ukraine have notably altered tactical aviation operations by extensively employing glide bombs, enabling fixed-wing aircraft to conduct safer strikes from deeper in the rear. Despite expected enhancements in Ukrainian air defense capabilities, these glide bomb strikes are anticipated to remain crucial in supporting Russian ground operations throughout the summer, the ISW notes.

The ISW says Russian forces persist in deploying technological innovations across the front extensively, aiming to bolster offensive advances and exploit Ukrainian vulnerabilities. They might strategically time the introduction of new innovations at the onset of their summer offensive to counterbalance the enhanced capabilities of Ukrainian forces post-US security assistance arrival.

Ukraine to exploit Russia’s tactical failures

Russian forces still grapple with widespread tactical failures, allowing Ukrainian forces to exploit these weaknesses amid the Russian military command’s challenges in adapting at the tactical level. Ukraine aims to address its current materiel constraints soon and is addressing its manpower challenges, while Russia persists in leveraging its advantages as Ukrainian capabilities strengthen.

Ukraine is very likely to stabilize the frontlines in the coming months and may be able to begin limited counteroffensive operations in late 2024 or early 2025,” the ISW concludes.

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