New Delhi: A massive Ukrainian blitzkrieg captured some 6,000 square km of land in the past few days, forcing the Russians to retreat in haste along its eastern and southern borders. The lightning surge in the Kharkiv region also caught many Russian soldiers and high-ranking officers, so much so that Ukraine is “running out of space” to accommodate POWs. The latest blow to Russia comes after a failed attempt to capture Ukraine’s capital Kyiv in the early weeks of the invasion. So what seems to have turned the tide for what is perceived as an easy victory for Russia?
Western Artillery and Sanctions
Given Moscow’s superior firepower, most defense analysts predicted Ukraine would collapse in weeks. In contrast, the war dragged on and there has been no clear winner in the seven months since the battle began.
So did Russia, like most of the world, underestimate Ukraine’s resilience? Was there a lack of proper analysis of Kyiv’s defense capabilities before advancing the offensive? The turn of events suggests that Vladimir Putin underestimated the West’s support for Kyiv, both in terms of sanctions imposed on Russia and the financial and military aid provided to Ukraine.
The United States has pledged $25bn in most military aid to Ukraine, while the United Kingdom has pledged $4bn. Almost every European country has sent advanced weapons to Ukraine, including its smaller neighbors Poland and Estonia. Artillery includes armored personnel carriers, anti-mine vehicles, anti-tank weapons, reconnaissance UAVs, radars, anti-aircraft guns, rocket launchers, missiles and helicopters of all colors.
Western sanctions, on the other hand, have so paralyzed Russia that it now appears to have lost its ability to manufacture weapons and components, leaving it vulnerable to frequent supplies toward China and even North Korea. was forced.
contractor vs nationalist
Since the start of the war, Russia has relied mainly on volunteers and young soldiers rather than hard-won soldiers. It has avoided going out, and has sent 1.5 million soldiers unfamiliar with Ukrainian territory to attack the entire country. Not only that, it largely outsourced the war to separatists from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, local Chechen militias, Wagner Group mercenaries and contractors, and even anti-ISIS fighters from the Gulf.
These fighters were in action for money, and were confronted by Ukrainian nationalists defending their lands at any cost. Pro-Russian fighters lacked emotion and conviction when they faced the death-fighting attitude of Ukrainians who did not want to part with more land after the Crimean occupation of 2014 by Russia.
Russian war strategy found lacking
The objective of the Russian offensive lacked clarity from the start. Did Moscow want to take over the whole country? Or did he want to pressurize Volodymyr Zelensky to reverse his decision to join NATO? Or was the aim of establishing a pro-Russian government in Ukraine? Or was it merely a show of strength before the West to bolster Putin’s domestic popularity?
Early in the campaign, Russian forces surrounded Kyiv for several days but avoided an all-out attack on the Ukrainian capital. A few days later, thousands of men and tanks withdrew to show it off, without achievement. This led defense experts to consider that the siege was merely an optics, and that the Kremlin had no intention of engaging in a long urban battle in the heavily fortified area.
However, this provided the opportunity for Kyiv to trumpet that Russian forces withdrew in the face of Ukrainian resistance. This, along with frequent Russian bombings of hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, provoked many Ukrainians to join the conflict. On the other hand, opposition to the war grew in Russia and Putin began to lose public support.
As Moscow slowed down, Ukraine took the opportunity to regroup and strategize, as military aid poured in from around the world. It seemed that Russia was waiting for Ukraine to exhaust itself, a strategy that backfired. Ukraine kept moving its frontline forces, and it was the Russian fighters who suffered exhaustion.