Armchair Warlord recently posted an interesting thread on Twitter on the current military situation in the Ukraine. I would direct you to the thread for his brief account, but, in summary, his speculation is that the Ukrainian strategy appears to be to allow RuAF (Russian Armed Forces) to attempt to establish several ‘cauldrons’ in the Donbass, pockets of trapped UAF (Ukraine Armed Forces), and once they have ‘culminated’ – that is exhausted their offensive capability – launch their own offensive operations in turn.
This strategy depends upon a number of factors. Firstly, on RuAF actually employing the greater portion of its operational reserve in the current fighting in the Donbass, and secondly, on the condition of the UAF being better than we might otherwise believe.
What do we currently now about (1) and (2)? Well, the indications are re (1) that RUS has held back a large operational reserve (at least 15 BTGs) whose location we are unaware of and can only guess.
Regarding (2), there are several indications that the morale and attrition of the UAF is waning and high, respectively. We have now the surrender of the remnants of the UAF in Mariupol. There are increasing reports of desertions, refusals to fight, and surrender by batches of troops along the Donbass front, on the grounds of poor leadership, lack of adequate supply, and constant bombardment and fighting. There is also evidence that Western munitions are not being held back to equip these new formations, rather they are being sent to the front as soon as they arrive, and being used, captured or destroyed.
What happens if the UAF strategy is correct? I wouldn’t expect to see any stunning collapse on either the southern or eastern fronts. While the RuAF will have exhausted any major offensive capacity they will still be capable of holding a coherent front. The problem, however, would be that there would be no decisive engagement that could end the war in Ukraine for Russia on favourable terms. On the other hand, if the RuAF are indeed holding back a large mobile reserve, they would simply do what the UAF is purportedly doing; namely, they would continue to make the small but important gains they are currently making, out of Popasna, west and south of Izyum, and along the Seversky Donets river between Liman and Pryvillyia, and simply wait for any UAF offensive to exhaust itself or simple attrition to sufficiently weaken parts of the current Donbass front and call their reserve into action at those points. If that were to occur, I think we would see the collapse of the entire Donbass front for the UAF.
Who knows what will eventuate. As always, events will bear out the truth of the matter either way, but if the last two days are indicative, for instance, the situation at Liman is rapidly deteriorating for UAF while the breakout from Popasna is progressing in four directions, we will in all likelihood see a collapse of the Donbass front in the next two weeks, if not the coming week, and certainly within four, and may even see breakthroughs north of Kherson that put Nikolaev in jeopardy as that front begins to move as well.