The last few days have seen continued intense fighting in key locations…but mostly a “reset” by both Ukrainian & Russian forces to prepare for the next “phase” of this campaign. What is happening, and how is it going to develop. Here are some thoughts in a new thread.
What’s happening now:
1) RU has new commander, GEN Aleksandr Dvornikov, “the butcher of Syria.”
– Southern District Commander since 2016, typical RU infantry career, normal schools (Frunze & Voroshilov), experience in Grozny & the RU commander in Syria (2015).
-He has combat experience in urban operations, uses arty & missiles to raze towns/scorch earth, little experience in Joint (Army-Navy-Air) operations or large scale (multi-axis) maneuver.
-Allegedly, Putin ordered him to “win” by 9 May for his “May Day Parade” in Moscow. In my view, no matter how good ANY new general is, it still takes A LOT OF time to fix an ill-trained, poorly led, logistically unsupported & now broken and depleted force.
Dvornikov will not be able to overcome these challenges. He will NOT meet a 9 May victory deadline. Dvornikov’s biggest problems are
-a lack of personnel replacements & integration
-poor leadership in junior & senior subordinates
-lousy command & control
-no coordination on the joint team
-still too many missions for too small a force.
2) RU is testing UA in the Donbas.
-RU aviation & missiles bombing civilian population in Donetsk, trying to improve RU tactical positions, & continuing a tough fight in Mariupol.
-In the north, Izyum remains a key objective, with river crossing over the Donets River.
These new RU attacks in N & S Donbas require reinforcements.
-the attempt to regenerate (from Kyiv) or “draft” conscripts (from Donbas) will be extremely difficult.
In my opinion, these forces won’t be available for weeks, and even then they will likely be ineffective. RU is having a very challenging time with individual soldier/equipment replacement. Reports of low morale, attempts to draw from other units (Georgia, Syria, Wagner, etc), or further conscript locals (up to the age of 65) will be counterproductive in this fight.
3). Ukraine continues to fight hard in the south & east.
-Confusing reports from Mariupol don’t offer a clear picture, but it’s obvious UA resistance is stiff.
-So far, UA has succeed in stalling RU attacks in Izyum
-the Neptune attack on the Moskva provides a morale boost
4). This fight in the Donbas is crucial & it will be different than what occurred in Kyiv.
-Terrain is different which will allow for UA manuever (movement plus fires).
-RU will stay road bound, due to poor training/leadership & lack of terrain familiarity (and lack of maps).
-Both sides will fight for “KEY TERRAIN” (road junctions, river crossings, cities), as resupply and LOGISTICS will be key.
-Critical cities (road junctions, rail junctions, etc) we will soon hear more about are Izyum, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Horlivka, and a few others.
So, where does that leave us?
If I were GEN Dvornikov commanding the RU force, I would be focused on 3 things:
3)Preparing plans to mass my force to breakthrough the front lines somewhere in the Donbas.
The first two, in my view, Dvornikov is going to find problematic. If he gets to #3, massing the force for a “breakthrough” (as I discussed recently), the RU doctrine is to lead with massive artillery barrages before sending tanks into the fight.
If I were in command of the UA force, I would also be thinking about 3 things:
1) Ensuring my force was flexible & mobile
2) Finding ways to establish Quick Reaction Forces (QRF’s) to counter any breakthrough.
3) Lightening my logistics/resupply requirements
To be flexible and mobile in the Donbas, there’s a need for up armored wheeled vehicles rather than tracked vehicles (Hummers with Javelins and stingers inside, helicopters, or something like a Stryker w/ Armored Gun System versus tanks and BMPs). QRF mobile units would have a lot of soldiers who knew how to use Javelins, Stingers, Switchblades, etc and they would be supported by artillery in a centralized location with counter-fire radar. (Hey….this sound like what’s in the packages just announced???)
As I’ve said: Key for both UA & RU force is logistics. The RU army, using tracks, requires a lot of fuel, spare parts, repair because tracked vehicles break (A LOT) in combat. Wheeled vehicles don’t need as much logistical support (especially fuel and repair).
We’re now in the phase where soldier skills, junior level leadership & logistics must be complemented by “generalship.” RU have struggled w/ the first 3 & they likely don’t have the last one, either. UA has the first 4 in spades & I believe the last one will shine through.
By the way, RU will continue to fire missiles and rockets at population centers, and there will likely be many more war crimes and Ukrainian civilian casualties. These acts will only increasingly cause Ukraine to fight on.
Comment: LTG Hertling had a long active career in armored units, commanding the 1st Armored Division in both Germany and in Iraq. He also made aa name for himself in important Army training assignments. He’s been a talking head on CNN for years, but, since I don’t have cable or streaming services, I’ve never seen him. However, I’ve read a few of his assessments over the last few weeks and found his thoughts sound and worthwhile. I do disagree in characterizing Dvornikov as “the the butcher of Syria.” I’ll chalk that one up to wartime propaganda. There’s still plenty else in this particular assessment to go on, so have at it.