US-Ukraine Brass Write off Counteroffensive After 57,000 Casualties, Focus on Force-Drafting New Conscripts for 2024

 

US Gen. Christopher Cavoli, Ukrainian chief military commander, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi and British Admiral Sir Tony Radakin

 

NATO military chief US Gen Christopher Cavoli and British Admiral Sir Tony Radakin traveled to the Polish-Ukrainian border ten days ago for a crisis meeting with the Ukrainian chief military commander Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, for what was privately billed as “a council of war”, The Guardian reported.

The meeting was “no ordinary discussion”, The Guardian writes. “Zaluzhnyi brought his entire command team with him on the roughly 300-mile journey from Kyiv. The aim of the five-hour meeting was to help reset Ukraine’s military strategy – top of the agenda was what to do about the halting progress of Ukraine’s counteroffensive, along with battle plans for the gruelling winter ahead plus longer-term strategy as the war inevitably grinds into 2024.”

British sources are “reluctant to say much about the outcome of the meeting at the border,” The Guardian security editor in Kyiv Dan Sabbagh writes. “But the indications from the west is that the strategy has changed as a result of the discussions. “I think you can see they are focusing on the Zaporizhzhia front,” said one insider, amid reports of fresh Ukrainian attacks aimed at the city of Tokmak, an initial step towards reaching the Sea of Azov, thereby cutting the land bridge to Crimea.”

Since June 4, Ukrainian forces have been engaged in a bloody and mostly fruitless counteroffensive. Russia estimated Ukrainian losses at 43,000 early August, and has since claimed over 14,000 Ukrainian casualties in daily briefings, putting total Ukrainian losses in the counteroffensive at over 57,000 and in the whole war at over 400,000. Russian losses are estimated at around 50,000 men.

Top brass in the USA and NATO now fear the Ukrainian armed forces are “incapable of breaking through Russia’s defensive lines to reach Melitopol and the Sea of Azov,” Russia’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

As the end of the fighting season in Ukraine approaches, Western brass are “nudging their proteges in the Ukrainian armed forces toward making preparations for 2024”, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

“The new strategy of the Ukrainian armed forces will prioritize the formation and deployment of new human reserves. Kiev’s new military plan for 2024 also calls for developing full-fledged combat-ready aviation units, in cooperation with the Pentagon and NATO. Ukraine has been force-conscripting young men off the street and sending them into the “Meat Grinder” of the three-tiered Russian defences with little training or leadership.

Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands have pledged to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets, but only 5 jets are so far scheduled to arrive by end of the year.

“Taking into account new commitments, Ukraine will receive at least 61 F-16 aircraft, according to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. This number is enough to create four squadrons,” Russian military expert Colonel Vladimir Popov, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

If Kiev claims that Ukrainian pilots will be trained on the F-16s by the spring or early summer of 2024, the armed forces of Ukraine can be expected to launch new offensives around that time, Popov said.

The longer Ukraine’s counteroffensive goes on, the more difficult it is for the US to maintain its support in political terms, Bloomberg reported. If fighting grinds to an impasse over the winter, “it’s a really big problem, there’s going to be war fatigue,” Samantha de Bendern, associate fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, told Bloomberg. “The U.S. is going to be less and less interested in what’s happening in Ukraine and it’s going to be more and more difficult for Europeans to convince the Americans that Ukraine is an American problem.”

Bloomberg noted Russia has enough ammunition for at another year of fighting, with the Kremlin deploying new troops on the front lines.  “More than two months into its counteroffensive, Kiev has made only tactical advances against heavily dug-in Russian forces, despite having committed many units trained and armed by the US and Europe for the operation. The window for further significant actions is narrowing as wet and cold weather looms in the autumn,” Bloomberg wrote.