We are in a “war of attrition” between Russia and Ukraine

by Giorgio Battisti, Army Corps General

For some months now, Moscow's forces have regained the initiative in conducting operations on the Ukrainian front, after the limited results obtained by Kiev in the much-heralded summer offensive last year.

The Russian pressure, which simultaneously affected over 1,000 km of front, has so far achieved limited tactical successes – of the order of a few km per day – with the conquest, after long, intense and costly fighting, of some locations to the east and south -east in the sectors of Lugansk, Donetsk and Zaporozhye Oblasts.

The Ukrainian forces, despite the lack of replacements and continuity in Western supplies, especially in terms of artillery ammunition and anti-aircraft defense systems both on the front line and in the rear, continue – at the cost of significant losses – to defend strenuously the positions causing high rates of attrition of men and equipment to the attacking troops.

The continuation of this scenario, where neither of the two contenders manages to clearly prevail over the adversary and the Russian difficulties in obtaining breakthroughs of the front with sudden advances in depth such as to cause the collapse of the Ukrainian resistance, has led to a situation of “war of attrition ”.

In the “war of attrition” the comparison is based on the possibility of a Nation to replace the losses suffered with new units and on the industrial and economic capacity to produce equipment and ammunition adequate for the destruction suffered.

As reported by RUSI (Royal United Services Institute) it is a form of fighting that focuses on destroying enemy forces and their ability to regenerate combat potential, rather than on maneuvering and conquering terrain, while preserving one's own forces.

A typical strategy of the fighting of the 1to World War, which saw the Battle of Verdun (1916) one of the bloodiest examples of this situation.

Faced with this operational stalemate on the land front, which in any case highlights greater difficulties for Kiev to maintain, Ukraine has been able to “diversify” its action, achieving notable successes on the Black Sea, managing to hit several opposing naval units (15 from beginning of the conflict) and forcing Moscow to redeploy its fleet from Crimea to the ports on the Russian coast further east, creating the conditions to resume exporting its grain by sea.

At the same time, drone attacks deep into Russian territory against critical infrastructure and targets, such as fuel depots, refineries and airports, have increased, together with incursions conducted by land by special forces and saboteurs.

The general situation therefore does not appear so dramatic for Ukraine at the moment.

Much will soon depend on Kiev's ability to sustain the “war of attrition” which, as mentioned, requires careful management of resources, a solid industrial base and the availability of a valid recruitment and training system for recruits to replace losses suffered, and above all by the support that the West – sometimes distracted by other scenarios or by internal political issues – will be able to continue to provide Kiev.

An epochal challenge, taking into account that Russia, in addition to having a greater recruitment pool, enjoys prompt and extensive support in terms of war materials and equipment from China, Iran and North Korea.