Western officials are advising Ukraine to prioritize a specific goal in an effort to save the country’s floundering counteroffensive — even if it comes at a cost.
Nearly three months into Ukraine’s much-anticipated offensive, military strategists are concerned the country has misallocated its resources, spreading troops and equipment far and wide instead of focusing its efforts on a key target, The New York Times reported this week, citing several unnamed officials.
Western officials want Ukraine to commit the majority of its troops and equipment toward cutting off Russian supply lines in the south of the country and destroying the bridge between Russia and occupied Crimea, the outlet reported.
But Ukraine has thus far split its resources between the south and the east, resulting in more soldiers now stationed near Bakhmut — a strategically unimportant city that fell to Russia months ago — than there are in the south, where military strategists believe Ukraine’s efforts should be focused, analysts told The Times.
Defense officials are urging Ukraine to push toward Melitopol, a southeastern city located in the Zaporizhzhia region, and focus on clearing Russian minefields even if such a strategy requires sacrificing soldiers and equipment as a result, the newspaper reported.
Western strategists believe total commitment to a key cause is necessary if Ukraine wants to turn the tides of its counteroffensive, especially as casualties mount and Russia continues to boast a numbers advantage, per the Times.
But Ben Hodges, a retired lieutenant general and former commander of US Army Europe, cautioned against counting Ukraine out too soon.
«The Ukrainians are not on our timeline. They’re on their own timeline,» Hodges told Insider. «A lot of the expectations and deadlines and red lines were assumed and imposed by the US versus the Ukrainian general staff.»
Increasing Ukrainian casualties have led to dire straits within several of the country’s most experienced combat units, including the loss of multiple senior commanders, and wounded soldiers returning to the battlefield, the Times reported.
Top American and British generals, including Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, advised Ukraine’s most senior military commander to focus on the southern front during an August 10 video call, according to the outlet.
There have since been indications that Ukraine has taken that advice, The Times reported, with some Ukrainian combat forces being shifted from the east to the south. Ukraine has also since made some progress in the south, positioning its forces to soon take control of Robotyne, a southern village near Russian defenses, according to the Times.
Even if the much-desired push toward Crimea materializes, however, Ukraine will have to contend with unfavorable conditions, namely flat and unforgiving terrain that plays to Russia’s favor along current positions, the outlet reported.
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