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An Offensive?

Grosse Schlacht an der Westfront 1918. Stab einer Infanterie-Division beim Überschreiten einer genommenen englischen Stellung. By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R29407 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5368369

At what point does Ukraine need to risk an offensive?

“There’s a desire to show international partners that their support will enable Ukraine to win, not just hold on,” said Jack Watling, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, who just returned from Ukraine. “And there is an expectation from the Ukrainian people they’ll be able to liberate their territory.”

But he cautioned, “a military offensive needs to be based on conditions on the battlefield,” not in the political arena.

There are lots of examples of failed offensives that open up opportunities for the enemy. Not all of these offensives were ill-considered; some were quite reasonable risks under the circumstances that simply did not work out. But the Ukrainians do need to take extraordinary care. More of my own thoughts:

There are good reasons why Ukraine would resist the call for an early offensive from foreigners who’ve grown bored with the war. A failed counter-offensive would be a dramatic defeat for Ukrainian prospects.  In addition to the political effects (which would include an increase in Russian morale and the potential loss of support in the West), a failed offensive could open gaps and vulnerabilities in Ukraine’s defensive position, enabling Russian counter-attacks that could seize additional territory. A failed counter-offensive could also result in a Russian cease-fire offer on extremely advantageous terms to Moscow, a prospect that Kyiv would prefer to avoid.

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