Washington Post: Everything in Ukrainian counteroffensive went wrong

Dec 4, 2023. Posted by  Balkan Periscope - Hellas

“Everything went wrong,” evaluated the American newspaper ‘The Washington Post’ in a comprehensive analysis on Monday, dedicated to the Ukrainian counteroffensive against the Russian army that began in June this year.

As emphasized, lasting almost half a year, Ukrainians managed to move only 19 km and liberate several towns.


On June 7, when Ukrainian armed forces launched a counterattack in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, in the south of the country, military planners assumed that within the first 24 hours, they would be able to move about 14 km into Russian positions and reach the town of Robotyne. It was supposed to be a prelude to an attack on Melitopol and the disruption of enemy supply lines during an operation aimed at breaking through to the coast of the Sea of Azov - revealed by the Washington Post.


However, the reality on the front surprised Ukrainians so much that Robotyne was captured only after 12 weeks of bloody, exhausting battles.

As emphasized in the interview with the Ukrainian commanders, the reasons for such a situation were very complex. Probably the most important turned out to be the density of Russian minefields because it happened that invaders placed up to 20,000 mines on an area of about 6 km by 6 km.

Other significant factors include, among others, underestimation of the role of combat drones on the front, insufficient level of combat experience of Ukrainian soldiers, improper training methods, and discrepancies regarding priority directions of operations, which quickly became apparent in contacts between the Ukrainian side and Americans, according to the analysis.

Soldiers were trained to operate Bradley armored vehicles at a center in Germany on completely different terrain than the muddy lands of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Moreover, about 70 percent of the personnel of one of the key brigades participating in the counteroffensive were inexperienced soldiers.

To make matters worse, the US command pressured Kyiv to concentrate almost all striking forces in the Melitopol direction, while Ukrainians decided to disperse their troops in three sectors and deploy valuable formations, including in the battles near Bachmut, as pointed out in the Washington Post, listing the reasons for the unsuccessful counteroffensive.

“On the fourth day (of the operation), General Valeriy Zaluzhny, the chief commander of the Ukrainian army, had enough. Burnt-out Western military equipment - American Bradleys, German Leopard tanks, and mine-clearing vehicles - cluttered the battlefield. The number of killed and wounded undermined morale,” the analysis emphasized.

As added, the failures suffered at the beginning of the offensive prompted the Ukrainian command to change tactics. Contrary to American suggestions advising massed attacks by mechanized forces supported by artillery, Ukrainians decided to operate with small units of about 10 people moving on foot. In a situation where it became clear that there would be no quick breakthrough of enemy positions, Kyiv decided to save the lives of soldiers and military equipment, according to the Washington Post.

At that point, already on the fourth day, it turned out that the operation planned for months had essentially collapsed. Meanwhile, just a moment earlier, it was planned that Ukrainian units would reach the Sea of Azov within only two or three months, according to the analysis.

As revealed, Ukraine and the USA quickly began to blame each other for what they considered to be the other side’s wrong decisions. In Washington’s assessment, the Ukrainian command failed at the basic level of military skills, such as proper terrain reconnaissance before battle and obtaining information about the density of Russian minefields.

According to Kyiv, Americans were unable to understand how drone attacks changed the situation on the front.

It is also worth noting that the long period of intense fighting - from February 2022 to June 2023 - took a toll on the Ukrainian army. According to estimates by Western observers, about 130,000 soldiers were killed or injured during that time.

Therefore, the units participating in the counteroffensive had to, by force of circumstances, consist mainly of conscripted soldiers, which affected the effectiveness of these formations, emphasized the Washington Post.

It was also reported that the wrong assumptions of the Ukrainian side were at the root of the failure, assuming that young commanders, not imbued with a Soviet mentality, would be able to quickly assimilate NATO tactics. As a result, a 28-year-old was placed at the head of one of the brigades, and his deputy was a 25-year-old officer. However, such individuals obviously lacked experience.

It was only on November 1 that Kyiv explicitly informed that the "war has reached an impasse," when General Zaluzhny gave an interview to the British magazine "The Economist." As he admitted at the time, Ukraine "probably will not achieve a deep and beautiful breakthrough," reminded the American newspaper.