Russian forces in Ukraine present a formidable challenge, as observed by a US veteran currently training Ukrainian troops. According to the veteran, who goes by the call sign Jackie, Ukraine faces a daunting task in dealing with Russian defensive lines that are nearly impervious to outflanking maneuvers. Instead, their best course of action involves a daring frontal assault.
Jackie, a combat-experienced veteran who previously served in Afghanistan and Iraq, responded to Ukraine’s call for international volunteers in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. He has since fought alongside Ukrainian troops in areas like Kupiansk and Bakhmut. Currently, he is engaged in training Ukraine’s territorial defense forces, specializing in light infantry responsible for securing territory recaptured from Russian control.
Jackie acknowledges that Russia’s defense tactics, while effective, demand a significant human sacrifice, a characteristic shared by many Russian military operations. He describes these defenses as “extremely difficult to penetrate” and emphasizes that attempting to outmaneuver them is a futile endeavor. Going around one line of defense only leads to encountering another, creating a never-ending cycle. Instead, the only viable approach is to advance directly through the center and carefully select the point of penetration.
One advantage Jackie highlights is the element of surprise. Russian forces cannot predict the exact moment of an attack, providing some leverage to the Ukrainian side. However, this advantage is limited by the extensive use of drone surveillance by Russia throughout the conflict. While timing can be chosen, the element of surprise in terms of force size is nearly impossible to maintain.
The tactic of pushing straight through the center, according to Jackie, is fraught with risks. If insufficient forces are committed to maintaining the advance, an encirclement by Russian forces becomes a real threat, resulting in the potential loss of those units. In essence, a failed attempt at breaching the center could lead to the self-containment of Ukrainian forces, which Russia could subsequently annihilate.
Despite the perils, Ukraine finds itself with limited alternatives. In June, Ukraine initiated its latest counteroffensive against Russian forces and has made some notable progress. However, the absence of a large-scale breakthrough has led to criticism, which Ukrainian officials and soldiers attribute to Russia’s well-established defensive positions and numerical superiority.
Jackie concurs with this assessment, acknowledging that he initially anticipated only one successful breakout, followed by the need to adapt to that single breach as Russia adjusted its defenses. However, he is pleasantly surprised by Ukraine’s steady advancement on multiple fronts and believes there is more to come.
He emphasizes that the most significant moves in this counteroffensive have yet to be unveiled. Despite the challenges posed by Russia’s formidable defenses, Ukraine remains determined to persist in its efforts to reclaim territory and thwart the Russian incursion.