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Post failed offensive: What Ukraine urgently must adopt from the Russians in the war

It sounds peculiar, and yet the truth is evident: To be militarily successful in the future, Ukraine must learn from Russia’s approach. This means that Kyiv should take on a highly successful instrument in this war for itself.

One thing is already clear, the war year 2024 will unfold very differently in Ukraine than 2023. It must, because Ukraine cannot afford another failed major offensive like in the summer.

On the one hand for external political reasons: because at best the West will be able to stabilize its supplies, but the stocks are not sufficient for a mass delivery of tanks, ammunition, and other equipment as in 2023. But also politically, it could become uncomfortable for President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Putin dismissed Surowikin – from the Russian perspective, he deserved a medal

As absurd as it sounds, to be militarily successful, the Ukrainians must learn from the Russians and adopt their most successful instrument in this war: the defense fortifications. In just a few months, Russian engineers and thousands of recruits had built these along the entire front in winter 2022 and spring 2023. Much to the annoyance of the Russian president Vladimir Putin, who also fired his Ukraine commander Sergei Surowikin for this reason. Because the Kremlin ruler wanted to see offensives.

From the Russian perspective, Putin should have given the dismissed Surowikin a medal afterwards because without him, the Ukrainians would probably have broken through to Crimea in the summer.

Ukrainians should build similar defense fortifications

Similarly dense defense fortifications on the Ukrainian side are likely to be insurmountable for the Russian army. The risk of a breakthrough would be largely averted for Kyiv.

And, almost as important: Ukraine would have time to re-arm its army and further train its soldiers. This is also the scenario that Washington wishes for the coming year.

With Putin, new and costly attacks cannot be ruled out

But where is this headed, one might ask? With a defensive line, no occupied territory has been recaptured. The worst-case scenario in this scenario would indeed be from Kyiv’s perspective that the current front line becomes the new border between Russia and Ukraine.

But Putin is Putin. And therefore, the likelihood is high that he will continue to let his army attack and accept high losses.

At some point, this may open a window of opportunity for Ukraine for a decisive push forward. Perhaps the hope for this is the best to expect at the moment.

By Benjamin Reuter

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