Officials say the United States has seen “some evidence” of an improvement in Russia’s ability to integrate air and ground operations, as well as its ability to replenish forces on the ground.
A senior U.S. defense official said progress was “slow and uneven”, allowing Russian forces to advance only “several kilometers or more” each day.
But the United States estimates that Russia is trying to learn from the mistakes it made in the beginning, when tanks and armored vehicles ran out of food and fuel, making it easier for them to use Ukrainian hit and run tactics. Had become victims.
Russia has deployed command and control elements near its border with eastern Ukraine, according to a senior NATO official. Trying
Before the offensive began on February 24, Russia consolidated 125 to 130 battalion tactical groups, known as BTGs, around Ukraine and especially near Kyiv, but when fighting broke out, Russia His military leaders showed little ability to fight as one.
According to a senior defense official, there are currently 92 BTGS in the country, 20 of which are in Russia just across the border.
“Attacks are somewhat better integrated but with smaller formats. With the help of company-sized unit helicopters,” said a European defense official. “The lowest level of cooperation. That will be the main thing in NATO.”
Still, Western officials familiar with the latest intelligence say that if Russia has learned important lessons from its military failures in the first phase of the conflict, it is not clear that Moscow needs to gain control of the Donbass region. Will be able to implement changes.
Its military has suffered heavy casualties, both in terms of manpower and equipment, and officials believe other equipment moving from different parts of Ukraine may not have been repaired. Many combat units have brought together soldiers who have never fought or trained together.
“I don’t know how many lessons they can put into practice. This is not a trivial matter,” said a senior NATO official. “You don’t just move tanks and personnel and say, ‘Now go back to the fight!'”
US and Western officials largely agree with the assessment that a few weeks are not enough for Russia to restructure its forces from the first phase of the campaign – which has taken place in large swathes of Ukrainian territory and has killed thousands of Russians. reached. Troops – and it is certain that Moscow will continue to push more forces into the conflict.
US officials say Russian President Vladimir Putin is under pressure to show he can win, and eastern Ukraine is where he could soon succeed. U.S. intelligence intervention shows Putin’s focus is on May 9, Russia’s “Victory Day,” but if he makes any announcement, officials say he will end his war on Ukraine. It will not be possible.
A senior NATO official said, “I think this date will probably be a date where something is announced, but then they move on with the rest of the campaign,” the senior NATO official said.
A more traditional fight
US and Western officials have warned that Russia’s new offensive, aimed at disrupting Ukraine’s defenses in the east and withdrawing troops and equipment from the north of the country, has not yet begun. Russia continues to close Mariupol in the south, but in Donbass, its advance is much greater.
Officials believe that the second phase of the campaign, which focuses on eastern Ukraine, will in some ways be different from the initial attack, which was to occupy large urban areas. Dry and grassy plains are not the same throughout the region, but in places more traditional tanks may be in favor of war. And unlike the rest of the country, Ukraine has been fighting trench warfare with Russian-backed separatists there since 2014.
“This new effort in Donbass, we will see Russia running a campaign that I think will look like conventional warfare, really going back to World War I and World War II: a lot of heavy equipment, different territory, A very open NATO official said.
Another NATO official said Russia was “very much adhering to a classic Russian military ideology this time around” because its proximity to the Russian border allowed Russia to maintain smaller, more efficient supply lines. Russian forces have offered more integrated air support to troops on the ground in Donbass and “troops are being put at lower risk to reduce casualties.”
Western officials expect Russia to launch a three-pronged offensive to isolate and defeat Ukrainian forces.
“The risk of fighting in the East is many times greater,” Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois, told CNN. “First, it’s a better region for the Russians. Second, the short supply lines, the lessons learned, and the fact that you’ve got a very angry Putin trying to recover, I think, the rest of the Russian military. For the world. ”
One of Russia’s main advantages is the sheer amount of military power and equipment that the Kremlin has promised in this war. Last week, the United States estimated that about 75% of the forces prepared for the attack were still in place, and the Kremlin deployed as many forces as needed for its stated purpose of controlling the Donbass area. Agreed to commit.
He has a military “massive” that he is ready to throw at the target until it is completed, a source told CNN. How many Russian troops have been killed?
No definite result.
Yet, despite Russia still having military advantages, it is unclear whether this is enough to guarantee it success on the battlefield that it failed to achieve in Kyiv and elsewhere.
A defense official told CNN that according to US analysis, Russian units are in worse shape than expected. “Some tanks have a driver and no crew,” the official said. “There is no one behind anything (armored personnel carrier).”
The strength of some units is reduced by as much as 70%, the official noted, adding that this is the line where Western war theory states that one unit can no longer be effective combat. The Russians have used poorly maintained and outdated equipment to correct their BTGs, combining modern and non-modern equipment that could reduce their ability to maneuver effectively on the battlefield.
At every step, Russia’s invasion of the Donbass region is met with the same stiff Ukrainian resistance that stopped their advance towards Kyiv, with a significant difference. Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists in the region for years, giving them plenty of time to dig into strong defensive positions.
A source familiar with the situation told CNN that Ukrainians were collecting new weapons and vehicles from other countries, including the United States, and were continuing to suffer heavy losses.
And as Russia seeks to extend its supply lines to Donbass, it will become even weaker.
U.S. officials have also noted the formation of the Russian military, including Putin’s move to expand recruitment and move the next wave of recruitment – many of which have long been inactive.
A source familiar with the situation said it showed Putin was “scratching under the barrel”.
“Putin is facing a dilemma. His power is dwindling and the status of his personnel is one of his biggest problems. Mark Hertling, CNN’s military analyst and retired lieutenant general, said that the “bodies” should be provided, but not the trained soldiers who would make the difference.
And there are still issues of morale that have weakened Russian forces.
“We have some preliminary indications that when recruits start with high spirits because they are resorting to Russian propaganda, but when they join the fight and face resistance from Ukraine. It doesn’t take long for him to lose his temper, “he said. A senior defense official spoke to reporters in the background on Thursday.
Finally, the weather could stop the Russian tanks. Mud could force them to stick to the streets, putting them at risk for Ukrainian forces, as happened on the outskirts of Kyiv. And taking over urban areas in any war is challenging – and defensive.
A senior NATO official said: “I do not think the war is going to end any time soon.