Hurting doesn’t change things
Expert fears: “Russians have more resources”
07/12/2022 06:41 AM
As the Donbass continues to suffer Russian fire, Zelenskyy announces an offensive to retake areas in the south. Strategically, that might be fine, but military expert Wolfgang Richter doubts the possibility of turning the tide even with Western weapons.
ntv.de: Is the counteroffensive of Ukrainian troops in the south of the country likely to succeed?
Wolfgang Richter: Ukraine is planning to launch such an attack soon. It has sufficient manpower at its disposal, but materially depends more and more on supplies from the West. The original Soviet equipment of the Ukrainian troops suffered greatly, they suffered heavy losses, and domestic production was also partially damaged, so that the gaps that arose could no longer be filled. All hope of a major offensive depends on Western arms supplies, particularly from the United States.
At the same time, Russian President Putin announced that Ukraine had not yet begun.
I think this is highly exaggerated. Strategically, Putin’s active ground forces are fully stretched, otherwise the military would no longer have to resort to defense forces. We now hear from Russia, from the reserve brigades, about plans to convert at least a small part of the industry to war production.
What is “strategically overvalued”?
The Russians have about 60 percent of their active ground forces engaged in this war, but they cannot fully expose Russia’s long lines. Other strategically important positions range from Murmansk to Central Asia, from the Caucasus to Vladivostok and the Kuril Islands.
The Russian military also seems to be under severe pressure. Maybe not a bad time to attack?
Of course, when the time comes, the Ukrainians can say that we now have enough material and personnel and launch a major offensive. Russian troops occupy the southern part of Ukraine between Mariupol and Crimea, which includes the entire coast of the Sea of Azov, and another coastal area to the west, which includes the area around Cherson. The front line currently runs between Kherson and Mykolayiv, and perhaps we will see some tactical changes there: local victories and defeats will be recorded, a piece of ground will be taken here and a piece of ground will be given there. But the bigger operational picture doesn’t change as a result.
Because the Russians are also included?
If Moscow mobilizes, calls up the castaways — of which there are millions — and shifts parts of industry to war production, the Russians could eventually build forces larger than the Ukrainians. The first signs of this are already there. Therefore, we should not delude ourselves that Ukraine will win enlargement hegemony.
Do you also consider the hope that a major offensive would at least temporarily give Ukraine a military advantage?
Such an offensive could create initial momentum and achieve tactical victories, thereby temporarily improving Ukraine’s negotiating position. But my view on this is doubtful, because I fear that the Russians will have more resources in the long run. Especially in material terms, Russia can push far beyond what the West can offer.
After all, Ukrainian troops have already managed to destroy weapons depots and fuel depots in a highly targeted manner using the Himars system from the United States. How much is it valued at?
There are successes because HIMARS can simply shoot, and the same applies to our MARS, which are very similar systems. In conclusion, we are talking about 10 to 15 systems with this high limit. They only match the Russian long-range systems, but do not compensate for their numerical superiority. This results in an improvement, but still not a decisive advantage, but a stalemate situation.
You mentioned things that the Russians could still push in. But that would be old, inferior material, wouldn’t it?
It will certainly be old equipment, but experience teaches us that at some point on the battlefield greater numbers will have an impact and not just better quality of individual weapon systems. That is why I fear that the conflict will degenerate into a material war, which will no longer cause major operational changes, but only losses.
But does Ukraine now make sense to focus on the south rather than fighting a losing war in the Donbass, where the Russians have better conditions for their tactics? So would you give up parts of the Donbass rather than access the Black Sea?
I think this calculation is possible from the Ukrainian side. In the Donbass, the Russians focused on what they were good at: massing large amounts of artillery at short intervals to achieve breakthroughs there through local fire superiority. In this they have succeeded. If Ukraine sees that it cannot sustain this superiority, it should consider re-conquering something around Odessa, at least in the south, to gain a better negotiating position if it has to give up at least some parts of the Donbass. For me, the approach is more effective than the scheme of changing the key position and recapturing every meter. I think it’s delusional.
Frauke Niemeyer spoke to Wolfgang Richter
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