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In Ukraine, the war of attrition is depleting resources

The mid-offensive turns to kyiv's disadvantage.

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In Ukraine, the war of attrition is depleting resources

The mid-offensive turns to kyiv's disadvantage. After last year's failure, Ukrainian soldiers retreated to their defensive positions. Facing them, the Russian army exerts continuous pressure to nibble away at the opposing lines. Intense fighting is taking place particularly around Chassiv Yar, just a few kilometers from Bakhmout, a key point in western Donbass. Without a decisive breakthrough yet. The extreme lethality of combat, due to the increased transparency of the battlefield and the precision of the shots, makes any attack laborious and costly in human lives. But this state of affairs which slows down the war becomes more precarious every day. The hypothesis of a Ukrainian defeat is once again on the table, two years after the start of the war.

“If Congress doesn't help Ukraine, Ukraine will lose the war,” President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN this week, expressing alarm at the blocking of the latest tranche of aid by Donald Trump's camp . He's not the only one worried. Ukraine “is almost entirely dependent on external support to stay in the battle,” Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Christopher Cavoli, warned on Wednesday. “The seriousness of this moment cannot be overemphasized: if we do not continue to support Ukraine, it could lose,” he continued. For now, the artillery ratio would be one to five. But it could go from one to ten. “It’s only a matter of weeks,” he warned.

Also read: Lacking soldiers, Ukraine has started to reform its mobilization system

“I can't predict the future but I can do a simple mathematical calculation. When I look at the pace of supply, when I look at the level of consumption, if we do not continue to support Ukraine, Ukraine will run out of artillery shells and run out of air defense assets in a fairly short period of time,” he explained before blandly concluding: “In my experience of over thirty-seven years in the U.S. Army, if one side fires and the other side cannot retaliate, he who does not retaliate loses.”

QED? “The characteristic of military action is to escape calculations. If it was only a question of immediate balance of power, it would be useless to fight,” confided the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Schill, a few weeks ago. “So far, the Ukrainians have been strong. Being in defense is an advantage,” he added. But worrying signals are coming back from the front: the Russian air force seems to have regained its capacity for action. Due to a lack of sufficient air defense on the Ukrainian side, Russian fighters can bomb their adversary thanks in particular to gliding bombs which extend their range. At the same time, salvos of missiles and drones continue to fall on the country. During the night from Wednesday to Thursday, Russia fired more than 40 missiles and 40 drones against Ukrainian energy infrastructure. “The main task is to make every effort to strengthen our air defense system,” President Zelensky said as he arrived in Lithuania on Thursday to sign a defense agreement.

Also read: Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, once again in the sights of the Russian army: the story of the special correspondent of Le Figaro

“The Ukrainians are telling us: ‘Help us to hold out in 2024 and in 2025 we will be able to relaunch an offensive,’” says a French official who recently spoke with the Ukrainian authorities. These are particularly eyeing the ground-based medium-range ground-air system (SAMPT) that France has deployed in Romania to defend allied airspace. “More than the system, they need missiles,” we add. Despite pressure from the government, the MBDA missile maker will not be able to supply more Aster 30s in the short term, even though the French army needs them for its own missions.

To hold on, Ukraine must review its modes of operation. It would be better to “attack tactical and operational targets that could directly influence the ongoing fight” rather than bombing Russian energy infrastructure, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin suggested Wednesday. To weaken its adversary, Ukraine has been targeting strategic sites for several weeks. More than a dozen refineries were affected. But, for Washington, these operations would have no effect on the war and would threaten the entire energy market.

Unfortunately, the problem is not just hardware. “We lack men,” General Yuriy Sodol, who commands Ukrainian forces in the east of the country, worried in kyiv on Thursday. “The enemy is seven to ten times more numerous than us,” he warned. Even less well trained and less motivated, the soldiers are younger than Ukrainian soldiers, whose average age is close to 40 years old.

“The first to mobilize will win,” thinks a French military source. But both camps are reluctant to take the plunge. In Ukraine, society is showing signs of fatigue with a war that seems hopeless, even if what is at stake is vital. In Russia, the Kremlin regime would prefer to avoid an unpopular decision which could arouse internal opposition.

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