There may not be a major Russian spring/summer offensive

There may not be an actual major spring/summer Russian offensive. Let’s look at the scenario for a moment:

1. They are aware that their deployed strength is similar to the Ukraniain strength. They have at best a 1.5-to-1 advantage and may have less. See: Overview of the War in Ukraine going into the Spring/Summer Offensive Season – The Dupuy Institute

2. They are aware that they are not outspending their opponent. See: Dueling Defense Budgets – The Dupuy Institute

3. While they have not achieved the objectives initially set for this campaign, they still hold territory. They may have decided that holding that territory is the best they can do and they are satisfied with that.

4. They may be warring to improve their position at the negotiating table.

Let us take a look for a moment at that. They have conducted a few limited offensive efforts in recent times. The most significant was the attacking and taking of Avdiivka (10 October 2023 – 17 February 2024). This was the town closest to the city of Donetsk, capital of DPR. In fact, it was only 9 miles (14 kilometers) away from it. They have taken that, and then expanded their control beyond this. This is all part of Donetsk province, which Russia has annexed as of 30 September 2022.

Now, they are doing a limited advance in Kharkiv province to set up buffer zones according to them. They have advanced up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) into Kharkiv province taking some rural areas and small towns and taking parts of Vovchansk (pop. 17,459 2022 est,). Maybe we should take them at their word that this is not a major offensive, but instead are just them creating buffer zones.

(courtesy of @War_Mapper)

They have made marginal advances in a few other areas, including around Kupyansk, towns around Bakhmut (Bilohorivka and Chasiv Yar), the areas to the west and northwest of Donetsk and some very limited advances in  Zaporizhhia province.

Right now they hold the majority of Donetsk and Lugansk provinces. There are still two major cities from Donetsk province not in their hands (Slovyansk and Kramatorsk). They tried to take them during the summer of 2022, but could not. They hold all of Crimea and Sevastopol. They hold a minority of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces and in neither case hold the main city/capital, although they have annexed both provinces. In the case of the part of Kherson province that they hold, it is naturally well defended by the Dnipro River and the Kakhovka Reservoir. Holding these two areas gives them overland access to Crimea and secures their water supply there (this was an issue before). They also have control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station since March 2022.



Their air and missile campaign is focused (once again) on shutting down the Ukranian power grid. They are having some success. This may all be an attempt to force Ukraine to the negotiating table.

Perhaps their focus is on 1) taking as much territory that they can easily grab, 2) setting up a buffer zone north and east of Kharkiv, 3) increasing the pain on the Ukrainians, 4) and holding what they have until they can force Ukraine to the negotiating table. This might be victory for now for them,

Are we looking at no major Russian offensive this spring and summer?

 

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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5 Comments

  1. Have the Russians ever managed to get the canal from the Nowa Kachowa Reservoir back into service to water Crimea? My understanding was that it needed a lot of repairs even before the dam collapsed, because after the Russian seizure of Crimea the Ukrainians shut it down and let it decay. This is another question which might be more answerable than the casualty question.

    • It looks like when the dam collapsed on 6 June 2023 the official Russian position was “the canal waters Crimea but don’t worry citizens we have enough in reservoirs in Crimea if the water sinks too low.” But I don’t know anyone who moved beyond dueling statements with satellite data, images and descriptions on social media, contracts to repair the canal, market prices for irrigation water, etc. That is work and requires knowledge of Russian and Ukrainian and hydraulic engineering whereas anyone with a grade-school education can do arithmetic on someone else’s numbers and guess ammunition production or casualty rates.

  2. Are there any signs that the Russians are coordinating a diplomacy campaign in conjunction with their military campaign? Are they solidifying what they have done on the ground in preparation for eventual diplomatic moves? Are they expecting that Ukraine will come to understand on its own that “we are Russia — resistance is futile — you will be assimilated” (without explicit diplomatic communications by Russia)?

    Do the Russians have a history of not tightly coordinating diplomacy campaigns (in contrast to propaganda campaigns) with military campaigns (i.e. a history of being rather hammer-headed when it comes to coordinating the hammer and the sickle, whether when there is a need to coordinate industrial policy with agricultural policy or a need to coordinate military campaigns with diplomacy campaigns)?

    • KRIEG IST NUR EINE FORTSETZUNG DER POLITIK MIT ANDEREN MITTELN
      might translate into English as
      WAR IS A MERE CONTINUATION OF POLICY BY/WITH OTHER MEANS
      but it might translate into Russian and then into English in Pres. Putin’s mind as
      ВОЙНА — ЕДИНСТВЕННОЕ СРЕДСТВО ПОЛИТИКИ
      [VOYNA — YEDINSTVENNOYE SREDSTVO POLITIKI]
      WAR IS THE ONLY MEANS OF POLICY

      Pardon my French, it’s all Greek to me!

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