During nearly two years of fierce fighting, Kiev and Moscow made great efforts to adapt their forces to the realities of war. Many analysts note that at the beginning of the invasion, Ukraine had the advantage – motivated by an existential threat and supported by the supply of Western weapons, it was able to develop new ways of fighting relatively quickly. In turn, Russia – arrogant and hoping for a quick victory – made a big mistake.
Mick Ryan notes that the shock of not winning on the frontline weakened the Russian military's ability to adapt. Washington.
However, after two years of war, he says, the situation has changed and Ukraine has lost its advantage.
Yes, thanks to its innovative structure, the Ukrainian army can quickly introduce new technologies and tactics on the battlefield, while the Russian army learns slowly due to its centralized command structure. However, once he learns certain procedures, he can implement them throughout the army. However, there are still large differences between Ukrainian troops in terms of weapons and capabilities.
According to Mick Ryan, changing the conditions on the Russian military's front gives it an advantage in the long run. This means that the longer the war in Ukraine lasts, the better the Kremlin's troops will adapt to prevailing conditions and create more effective and modern troops.
The strategic adaptation of Moscow's troops to conditions on the front has already helped them to fend off a Ukrainian counteroffensive and, in recent months, to occupy new territories.
If Russia continues to dominate this issue and the West does not respond appropriately, this could be the worst-case scenario for Ukraine. Ryan warns.
Transformation of Russian troops
In his analysis, he lists a long list of areas where Moscow has made great progress.
After encountering unexpected difficulties during the initial attacks on Ukraine, it quickly changed its command and control structure. Already in April 2022, Moscow appointed a commander to oversee the operation, abandoning the previous passive way of conducting the war. This resulted in attacks in the north, east and south of Ukraine. Thanks to them, Russia received, among others, Severodonetsk.
Moscow also changed its fighting style. At the beginning of the war, it often used ground units that were underpowered and coordinated with air operations.
However, now the Russians are carrying out attacks using special and regular troops, and they are supported by the so-called. Cannon fodder – poorly trained soldiers, pushing Ukrainian troops out before more effective Russian troops could enter.
This tactic was introduced by the commanders of the Wagner Group, who used criminals recruited in this way in the Bagmud battle. After capturing the city, Muscovite troops adopted a similar strategy—and improved their defensive capabilities.
Dmytro Smolyenko / PAP
Ukrainian soldiers launch a drone on February 2, 2024 in Zaporizhia province, Ukraine.
As a result, in the second half of 2023, Ukrainians faced a completely different opponent than in 2022.
To defeat this new, better-prepared Russian army in battle, Ukraine also had to change its tactics, technology, and methods of conducting operations — including: sending soldiers to the West for additional training. However, Kiev's efforts were insufficient.
Although Russia has been slow to adopt drones in its military operations, it is now ahead of Ukraine in this regard. Thanks to the mobilization of the Department of Homeland Security and the acquisition of strategic technologies from abroad, the Kremlin – despite Western sanctions – has spread the use of drones and uses them for almost all military operations.
This, combined with the strengthening of defense lines and an increase in the number of artillery systems and attack helicopters, contributed greatly to the failure of Ukraine's counteroffensive in 2023.
In addition to regular fights, the conflict takes place on another level.
In the opening weeks of the invasion, electronic warfare—traditionally Russia's forte—played a minor role. However, over time, this began to change.
Ukraine quickly implemented precision weapons in its military using GPS and other guidance systems. Due to significant imbalances in artillery and ammunition at the beginning of the war, Kiev was forced to do so – it could not afford to waste rockets and howitzers.
Diego Herrera Garcido / Anadolu Agency / PAP
Ukrainian soldiers fire on Pakmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on February 4, 2024.
However, the Russian military has developed a number of new and improved electronic warfare systems that disrupt communications between troops and the Ukrainian military command. This made it very difficult for Kiev to mount effective offensives. Russian jamming systems also reduce the effectiveness of Ukrainian precision weapons, including HIMARS missile systems, stressing the Australian strategy.
Although Ukraine and its allies are trying to reduce this power imbalance, they still lag far behind, especially in electronic warfare – as noted by Ukrainian military commander Valery Zalushny in late 2023.
However, Russia has an undoubted huge advantage in the defense sector. The September 2022 partial mobilization and other government initiatives have dramatically increased military production. With North Korea's help, Moscow bought more weapons and increased its production through trade deals with China. In doing so, Russia gained access to dual-use technologies it could not afford from the West. As a result, there are currently more weapons and ammunition than Ukraine.
Advantage of Kiev
However, Russia has no advantage in all sectors. Kiev has made significant progress in conducting long-range attacks on Russian airfields, defense facilities and energy infrastructure.
While Kiev was largely powerless against Russian attacks targeting its critical infrastructure in the winter of 2022, its capabilities in this regard have now improved significantly.
Ignacio Marin / ANADOLU AGENCY / AFP / PAP via ANADOLU AGENCY
Ukrainian soldiers conduct attacks in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on February 3, 2024.
Ukraine has also developed the capability to conduct maritime strikes using long-range missiles and naval drones. Thanks to this, Kiev destroyed several Russian warships and created a new maritime trade route in the western part of the Black Sea.
However, it is not known how long Ukraine will be able to maintain its advantage in these areas. Over time, Russia will probably adapt to new fighting conditions and respond with redoubled force, Ryan warns.
For example, Russian troops have already changed their strategy of drone and missile attacks – they are implementing them in order to hit the weak points of the Ukrainian air defense system.
A view to 2024
The Russian military continues to improve its adaptability as it develops its defense industry. This will give the Russians a huge military advantage in the coming year. A military strategist warns that this advantage could ensure victory for Putin if Ukraine does not respond appropriately.
After the failed counteroffensive in 2023, Kiev must learn an important lesson – combined arms warfare is now obsolete. NATO must use its enormous analytical capabilities to help the Ukrainian military improve its combat strategy.
Western countries should also provide Ukraine with advanced weapons, which in turn should learn to quickly adapt to new conditions on the front line.
The main weakness of the Russian army is that, although it can adapt over time to the new situation on the front, it cannot cope with it at first. Ukraine needs to take advantage of this and rapidly modernize its military so that it can inflict as much damage as possible before Russia learns a proper response.
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