Successes vs. Failures: Four on Four: Where the Ukrainian counteroffensive failed – and where it didn’t.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive has been going on for months, but is not making any real progress. While it is often publicly dismissed as a failure, the reality is more complex. Where the Ukrainian counteroffensive actually failed – and where it didn’t.
It is difficult to determine exactly what day the Ukrainian counteroffensive began. What is clear, however, is that this has been running for several months and is not achieving the hoped-for success everywhere.
Samuel Ramani, lecturer in international relations at Oxford University and part of the think tank “Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies” (RUSI), analyzes on X, formerly Twitter, where the Ukrainian counteroffensive actually failed – and where it didn’t.
Failure: Territorial Gains
The most obvious failure of the counteroffensive is the lack of territorial gains. Ukraine’s original plan was to recapture the city of Melitopol. This is the administrative capital of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, which was partly conquered by Russia in the south, around 60 kilometers north of the Sea of Azov,
With the recapture of Melitopol, Ukraine planned to cut off Russian supply lines and make further advances in Zaporizhzhia, Kherson and outside Bakhmut. In fact, the Ukrainians had to correct their goal. Now the plan was to conquer the city of Tokmak. Tokmak is an important junction between the city of Zaporizhia and Melitopol. The Ukrainian offensive was partially successful here. However, the battle lines are currently frozen; A kind of trench warfare emerged.
Success: Prevent Russian gains and successes
Ukraine hardly made any gains. But she successfully prevented the Russians from making any of their own. Through their own offensive operations in the south and east, the defenders were able to thwart any significant Russian successes.
But that’s not all: According to Ramani, Putin’s army in Avdiivka lost around 200 armored vehicles and thousands of soldiers within three weeks due to fortifications and mines alone. The success for Russia there remained minimal – a great success for the armed forces of Ukraine.
Also read: Ukraine is making big mistakes in Avdiivka – but the city is becoming a trap for Russia
Failure: The Drone War
When it comes to production, Ukraine is suffering extremely from drone warfare. The Bajraktar drones are no longer the game changer they were earlier in the war. Meanwhile, Russia is mass producing Geran-2 drones as well as Iranian Shahed drones.
There is a glimmer of hope for Ukraine on this point too. The Ukrainian-made Shark drone could change the situation, as could a winter drone barrage.
Success: The improved air defense
However, Ukraine can also report successes in the air. The Iris-T and Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems, which NATO supplied, were able to repel Shahed attacks on the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
While the port cities on the Black Sea still have some catching up to do when it comes to air defense, there is a ray of hope here too: a mass bombardment of power lines, like Russia carried out last winter, has not yet taken place. Ukraine’s goal is to continue to prevent this.
Failure: The disruption of Russian production lines
What Ukraine and its partners have not managed to do so far is interrupt Russian production lines. Despite all the sanctions, enough semiconductors are still reaching Russia. The occupiers use this to build, among other things, precision rockets.
Putin’s army is also receiving support from North Korea, which is supplying one million artillery shells. This delivery, as well as the accelerated production in Russia, shows that the country is willing to fight the war for the long term.
Success: The weakening of the Russian Black Sea Fleet
Things are going better for Ukraine in the Black Sea. The attacks on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and the creation of an alternative grain corridor are major successes for Ukraine.
The frequent reports of success from the defenders further unsettled the Russian ships in Sevastopol and Crimea. This also leads to a reduction in Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities from the sea.
Failure: Long-term security of sufficient grenades and ammunition supplies
While Russia receives a constant supply of grenades and ammunition from North Korea and its own production, Ukraine lacks such an influx. According to Ramani, the defenders’ supplies have been depleted and it is unclear how quickly they can be replaced.
What is problematic at this point is the slow production of our partner EU. However, the recently concluded agreements with Germany and the Netherlands offer some hope on this point.
Success: New long-range missiles and upgrading of our own air force
ATACMS, Storm Shadow and SCALP missiles are already here and are strengthening Ukraine. F-16 fighter jets are also on the way and will further strengthen the defenders’ air force.
Another positive aspect is the increase in domestic production of missiles that can penetrate deeper into Russia’s territory.
Balanced: GPS interference, Russian divisions and non-Western support
Ukrainian efforts cannot be judged as success or failure everywhere. Russian GPS jammers primarily restricted Himars missiles, raising fears that they could also limit the range of other Ukrainian missiles. However, the defenders recently destroyed a jammer with a guided bomb – a major technological advance.
Ukraine was also only able to make limited use of the Russian divisions. While the tensions between the slain Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu probably cost Russia successes in Donetsk, Ukraine was hardly able to benefit from the Wagner uprising in June.
Instead, the country itself has to complain about some problems at this level due to election controversies, propaganda attacks on Ukrainian Colonel General Oleksandr Syrski and the dismissals of Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov and the commander in chief of the Ukrainian ground forces, Ihor Tanzjura.
Ukrainian counteroffensive is successful – but there is no breakthrough
The attempt to gain non-Western support can also be placed in the partial success category. The idea of the Ukrainian world peace summit and the talks in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, are gaining momentum, as is Africa’s criticism of the suspension of the Russian grain trade.
The fact that no Chinese representative was present at talks about a peace plan in Malta is just as much a setback as the stagnating voting behavior in the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN).
All of this shows that the counteroffensive is quite successful. But Ukraine still has a lot to do to make the counteroffensive a real breakthrough.