US Urges Ukrainian Officials to Consider Strategy Change

( – The Biden administration is urging Ukraine to change the strategy behind its struggling counteroffensive against the Russian invaders. Pentagon officials say Ukraine should move the center of its attacks and be willing to take more losses before the fall rains turn the ground to mud — but Ukraine is still being denied key weapons systems and is running out of men.

On August 22, the “New York Times” reported that US officials have told Ukraine to focus its counteroffensive on the southern section of the front and be willing to take more casualties to achieve a breakthrough before the weather changes and deep mud restricts off-road movement. The newspaper claimed Ukraine’s top military commander has now agreed to change its strategy, following difficulty in breaking through the deep defense zone Russian forces have built.

The problem for Ukraine is that it’s already recruited most of the available manpower, it’s short of modern tanks, deliveries of artillery ammunition aren’t enough to allow for the huge expenditure needed for a massed attack, and the Biden administration had dragged its feet on allowing NATO countries to supply modern F-16 jets. This recently changed and Denmark, the Netherlands, and now Norway have agreed to give F-16s to Ukraine.

Because of these factors, Ukraine is sticking to tactics it knows are effective — small infantry assaults, supported by tanks and artillery, to take one Russian position at a time. It’s slow, and hopes of breaking through to the shores of the Azov Sea before winter and cutting Russian-occupied Crimea off from support are fading. On the other hand, it preserves the limited assets Ukraine has.

It seems officials might have been less than totally honest with the NYT. The paper claimed Ukraine was using old Soviet doctrine, which “seeks to minimize rivalries among factions of the army by providing equal amounts of manpower and equipment across commands.” In fact, Soviet doctrine called for giving all reserves and fire support to units that achieved success and prioritized concentration of forces. It’s a good doctrine — if you have a massive, well-supplied army and can afford to take heavy losses to achieve a breakthrough. Ukraine doesn’t — and can’t.

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