Summer is coming to an end, and it’s time to sum up the results of the summer military campaign and make predictions about how events might unfold on the battlefields in the fall and winter. I deliberately use the word ‘battlefields’ because the fierce struggle will continue directly on the frontlines, in the information space, and on diplomatic platforms.
A word that can aptly characterize what will happen this autumn is ‘Pressure.’ This is the culmination of Ukrainian forces’ pressure on enemy groupings in the South by the end of this year, aiming to achieve the maximum possible gains for us under current conditions. There’s also the pressure of the enemy in the East on the Kup’yans’k-Lymans’k direction. Information reports in the media about possible scenarios for the end of this year and the next are forthcoming. Lastly, the diplomatic aspect, including the UN General Assembly and the G20 Summit, adds to the pressure. We are facing an even more intense struggle on all fronts, as the skepticism about the ability to defeat Russia on the battlefield persists, both in the West and the East.”
It needs to be noted that the fortified defensive lines of the enemy in the South, along with the ability to deploy reserves to defend these lines, allowed them to withstand the powerful pressure from the Ukrainian forces in the South. The densely mined territory, combined with trenches and the so-called “Surovikin pyramids,” along with strategically chosen positions for their defensive lines, and the readiness to maneuver along the front line, held back our well-planned and powerful attacks for a certain period.
Furthermore, prior to the start of the counteroffensive, in discussions with colleagues from Western expert circles and the media, I reminded them that our counteroffensive in the South might resemble the Second Battle of El Alamein. In October-November 1942, under the command of Bernard Montgomery, British forces managed to defeat the “Desert Fox” Erwin Rommel’s German forces.
The German forces used at least half a million mines and constructed powerful fortifications. Under such circumstances, the British successful advance became possible due to their superiority: 5:1 in aircraft, 5:1 in tanks, and 4:1 in manpower. Rommel retreated when his forces were thoroughly defeated. At that point, minefields no longer posed such a threat because engineers could calmly clear them since the enemy’s fire didn’t hinder them. This is an essential point to understand, as trenches or mines aren’t as threatening when there’s no enemy artillery, tanks, or manpower behind them.
Back then, misleading maneuvers and disinformation by the British made it easier to execute, while in the 21st century, with the development of surveillance and reconnaissance tools, achieving such deception is much more challenging. My comment to Western circles was that we need aviation, a significant amount of artillery, and tanks for a rapid breakthrough. Roughly 150 aircraft, 750 tanks, and up to 500 artillery systems were estimated. These figures are substantial but not insurmountable for the West with agreement.
In this context, the statements by Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine General Valeriy Zaluzhny about the necessity of providing aircraft and more weaponry, which he expressed repeatedly, including in The Washington Post, seem entirely justified.
Clearly, for Ukraine, it was crucial to demonstrate that our priority is the liberation of our citizens from occupation and repression, as well as the territories. On the Western side, they approach the situation with highly pragmatic, sometimes cynical calculations, believing that to motivate continued support for Ukraine’s fight, showcasing success stories is essential. In the perception of Western societies, we are shifting from the image of a victim resisting a terrible monster seeking destruction and pleading for help, to the image of an ancient hero who suffered from injustice and pain for a long time and is now seeking retribution. They now expect success stories.
The Ukrainian people, through their resistance and determination to fight, have proven themselves to be that very ancient hero. However, while our spirit is strong, we need more weaponry. The ongoing counteroffensive actions that have begun in the South are meant to become that success story, but not immediately. Analyzing the experience of the summer campaign, could we conclude that things could have been different? Perhaps, if the Russian army had crumbled and retreated under the intense firepower from the Ukrainian forces, or if the Prigozhyn factor had worked to its fullest potential. Yet, considering the amount of weaponry and resources available, the Ukrainian forces achieved significant results—destroying a substantial but not yet sufficient enemy defense line, a significant number of enemy forces and equipment, and liberated territory.
However, expecting rapid and substantial progress under such circumstances would be unrealistic. For significant progress, more weaponry, forces, and resources are crucially needed.
Implementing an effective plan of action in the autumn will depend on various factors, including Russian actions, the political situation, and the international community’s response. You’re rightly pointing out that increased Russian military presence and the possibility of heightened mobilization in the fall could pose challenges for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Given the escalating Russian troop presence in the East, particularly in the Kup’yans’k-Lymans’k direction, and the attempts to breach our defense line there, along with the anticipated increase in Russian mobilization this fall, one effective plan for the Ukrainian forces could involve transitioning to maneuver defense, especially in the East. Considering the intensifying enemy pressure and potential reinforcements, and recognizing the length of the front line, simultaneously executing combined offensive and defensive actions could be incredibly complex and risky.
Moreover, it’s important not to forget that the aggressor might exploit opportunities to enhance rocket attacks in order to amplify demoralization behind our lines. In such circumstances, defensive actions might seem more logical and require fewer resources than conducting offensive operations. However, this by no means implies that Ukrainian Defense Forces should refrain from striking enemy defensive lines in the South, their rear areas, and logistics, all while carrying out tasks aimed at isolating the battlefield for the enemy.
Our mission is to stand strong both on the front lines and in the rear, repelling enemy attacks and neutralizing as many adversaries as possible. Meanwhile, it’s essential to convince the West not of our defeat but of the necessity for maximum mobilization of resources, strength, means, and weaponry to ultimately aid us in achieving victory.
Let’s be frank: a Russia-free Crimea signifies not only the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity but also ensuring strategic security stability for NATO and the EU in the regions of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
Hence, to Western observers who often write about Ukraine supposedly doing something wrong or how the summer counteroffensive didn’t go as planned, it’s important to remember that it would have been very different if there were more weaponry, ammunition, shells, and equipment. What would Montgomery say to all of you if you were proposing to him to defeat Rommel’s army without air and ground superiority? How would Eisenhower, Patton, and de Gaulle act?
Our partners should understand that it’s not the time to give up or negotiate with the Kremlin, but to consolidate and mobilize resources to finally provide Ukraine with the necessary armament to repel enemy attacks, soften and destroy its defense lines, and prepare for a breakthrough possibly by the next spring. Security guarantees are not just about the future; they also concern the present, where we’re not asking the West for anything more significant than what we’ve already contributed to their safety.