There is increasing discussion about the imminent counteroffensive of the Ukrainian armed forces. Some are trying to guess the beginning of the period of active hostilities, others are trying to guess the direction of these actions.
However, there are a number of objective factors that will help describe the current state of the Ukrainian armed forces prior to the counteroffensive. Throughout the autumn and winter, the world media continued to talk only about the imminent delivery of the most modern equipment to the Kiev armed forces. News of negotiations, promises, hypothetical plans mixed with brief notes on actual deliveries.
Eighty-five per cent of all deliveries to the Ukrainian armed forces come from the United States, and all the rest together account for only 15 per cent. Most of the high-profile deliveries to date have remained only political announcements or plans without specific dates.
What is known for sure is that the Ukrainians have received: 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles from the USMC reserve that arrived by sea; around 50 tanks, mostly Leopards with various modifications; 12 MiG-29 fighters from the Slovak Air Force and at least 4 MiG-29s from Poland; and a number of self-propelled guns of various types, estimated at up to 50 pieces. How many of these are operational has also been seen recently: one third of the Polish and Slovakian MiGs are not in flying condition and will therefore be cannibalised for spare parts.
Furthermore, it must be stressed that a tank without bullets and an aircraft without missiles is nothing more than a voracious and expensive platform. Any piece of equipment is refuelling, maintenance, fuel, lots of ammunition.
Recent statements by European authorities on the current difficulty of maintaining an adequate standard of war opposition are a sad confirmation of this status quo.
US transport aircraft completed more than 850 flights in 2022. But they brought no equipment, i.e. ammunition and other material useful to the Ukrainian military. And the equipment itself mainly arrives by sea in Europe, then by trailers and rail transport to the place of unloading. Separately, it is worth noting that almost 20% of these flights took place in the last month.
And even more difficult is the question of aviation technology. There is no doubt that the pilots of the Ukrainian armed forces are trained in the West, but no country has officially announced the supply of Western-made aircraft or helicopters. Moreover, the lack of trained crews to control modern Western equipment thwarts all efforts. Equipment without trained personnel is like not having it . And it is not difficult for those in the field to realise that it is impossible to fully train people in the use of technology, which they have never used, in just a few weeks.
Different is the approach, different is the ‘philosophy’ behind the use of a complex weapon system such as those in the West compared to the training, at all levels, possessed by the Ukrainian armed forces compared to those in the West, to be thwarted or tragically ‘nailed to the post’. It is not just a question of having a trigger and a target to aim at.
There are also many questions concerning ammunition and the supply of spare parts. By the way, this explains the relatively small deliveries of equipment. Large equipment requires exceptional transport and very large equipment that has not been seen in Ukraine so far.
Most probably, the current media-publicized offensive, both ‘on air’ and ‘online’ is only a psychological test. The task is to assess the extent to which the Ukrainian armed forces, which remain ‘Soviet’ in all respects in their approach and operational philosophy, except for the small aliquots trained by the USA, can, in principle, use Western military technologies, how applicable NATO standards are, how easy/difficult it is to master equipment that is fundamentally different from what one is used to. And we are not talking about rifles and pistols.
Nobody sets themselves the task of conquering Crimea in a few days. If the Ukrainian armed forces prove successful, a spigot of new deliveries will be opened, fundamentally different in both quality and volume; in the United States, the military-industrial complex lobby will be given carte blanche for any action, including the deployment of new production, facilities, assembly lines, orders will certainly be secured. For Europe, given the current difficulties, it would be a different story.
And if the Ukrainian armed forces fail to show anything meaningful from an operational and strategic point of view, Kiev and its allies will be forced, playfully, to sit at the negotiating table and not show off too much, if at all.
There is too much media hype over what is fundamentally a major military operation, complex and not amenable to the easy dichotomous schemes of television spectacularization, to pretend nothing is happening or procrastinate sine die.
It is not known at the moment, however, what the reaction of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation might be in the event of victory for the Ukrainians, or in the opposite case, i.e. defeat of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.