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Ukraine. War Research Institute: The Kremlin is preparing to take the initiative at the front

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Russia is probably preparing to take decisive action during this six-month period that will allow it to regain the initiative at the front and break the series of operational successes of the Ukrainian troops, the American Institute for War Studies (ISW) estimates in a recent analysis.

The Kremlin is taking belated actions to enable a “special military operation” – as Russian propaganda calls aggression on Ukraine – as a great conventional war – assesses the think tank in the latest analysis. He adds that the change in Putin’s rhetoric is significant here, as he has been signaling in public speeches since December 2022 that war in Ukraine it can be a “long process” and prepares the public for the activities involved.

The Institute of Internal Affairs lists several areas showing the Kremlin’s preparations to take decisive action on the war front with Ukraine in the next six months.


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Strengthening the mobilization capabilities of the army

Firstly, it is to strengthen the mobilization capabilities of the Russian army, both in the short and long term. The Russian authorities have already announced plans to form new divisions and increase the age limit for conscripts, which shows that they want to adapt the army to fight a long, conventional war, the center’s analysts write. At the same time, they stipulate that these efforts will probably not translate into the real capabilities of the Russian army. On plans for further mobilization in Russia the intelligence services of Ukraine and Western countries also reported.

Currently, the Russians probably pay more attention to the training and equipment of mobilized soldiers, instead of sending them straight to the front, as happened last fall, notes the ISW. He reminds that Russian troops have been regrouping and training for some time not only in Russia, but also in Belarus.

Thirdly, the Kremlin is trying to strengthen the Russian arms industry, the American center points out. He adds that Putin drew attention to the problems of the army with supplies and demanded that his subordinates implement contracts at a faster pace.

Putin visited the arms plant in Tula

The Kremlin is intensifying its propaganda efforts

Another harbinger of the consolidation of the Russian war effort is the recentralization of control with the invasion of Ukraine and the appointment of General Valeri Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, as its commander, the think tank estimates. The process is also connected with the strengthening of the entire command structure and the repair of previously made mistakes – he adds.

The Kremlin is also intensifying its propaganda efforts, trying to renew support for the invasion and take control of the image of the war in the media. He points out that earlier this space was given to, among others, military bloggers who became too influential, and the Russian Ministry of Defense’s communications were deliberately vague.

Russia’s actions aimed at changing the course of the war this year may take several directions, which are not mutually exclusive.

It could be a major Russian offensive, most likely in Ukraine’s Luhansk region. Full occupation Donbass is the official war goal of the Kremlin and is also one of the easier – for reasons of logistics and terrain – but still very demanding tasks for the Russian army in Ukraine – evaluates the ISW.

Sergei Shoigu was supposed to visit Russian soldiers on the Ukrainian front

Sergei Shoigu was supposed to visit Russian soldiers on the Ukrainian front Reuters

Defensive operation

The second likely direction of Russia’s actions is a defensive operation, the purpose of which will be to defend against the announced Ukrainian counter-offensive. Effective resistance to Ukrainian troops will prevent compromising defeats, such as the previous defeats of the Russians in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions, as well as destroy part of the Ukrainian forces and deprive them of the initiative, the think tank describes.

The most dangerous variant for Ukraine is a Russian offensive in the north of the country, which, however, remains unlikely, American analysts point out. However, they warn that Russia may expand its military presence in Belarus.

Regardless of the current defeats on the front, the Kremlin remains committed to its maximalist goals of conquering all of Ukraine; Russian troops are still dangerous and Kyiv needs lasting support, concludes ISW.


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