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Main War — ISW: Russian authorities may sustain offensive operations in Ukraine through 2025 with new forces

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ISW: Russian authorities may sustain offensive operations in Ukraine through 2025 with new forces

15 Feb, 2024
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ISW: Russian authorities may sustain offensive operations in Ukraine through 2025 with new forces

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Russian authorities may be generating enough new forces to sustain losses generated by the current tempo of their offensive operations in Ukraine through 2025. 

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) reported on February 13 that the Russian military continues to grow despite taking significant casualties in Ukraine and that Russian military recruiters are currently meeting almost 85 percent of their quotas for contract recruits.

ISW previously assessed that Russian forces may be suffering losses along the frontline in Ukraine at a rate close to Russia’s current force-generation rate.

RUSI assessed that Russian forces will likely have the manpower and materiel to be able to maintain a steady tempo of assaults throughout 2024 despite the fact that Russian forces’ quality is unlikely to increase as long as Ukrainian forces can maintain a sufficient level of attrition across the theater.

RUSI noted that Ukraine’s ability to defend against Russian assaults and attrit Russian forces is highly dependent on continued Western assistance to Ukraine, which is consistent with ISW‘s ongoing assessment that the collapse of Western aid at this time would eventually lead to the collapse of Ukraine’s ability to defend itself and hold off the Russian military.

It is unclear if Russia’s ongoing force-generation campaigns would be able to make up for additional losses that Russian forces would sustain by intensifying offensive operations.

RUSI additionally reported that Russian forces typically engage in localized tactical assaults until they have lost up to 30 percent of their manpower, after which they are rotated out and reconstituted.

Losses of 30 percent are extremely high. Most units become combat ineffective after taking much lower losses. The Russians are therefore likely fighting their units past the point at which they have become combat ineffective before rotating them out for reconstitution. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate Deputy Chief Major General Vadym Skibitskyi stated on January 11 that Russian forces withdraw their units to rear areas when they are at 50 percent or less of their intended end strength and return them to the front following recovery and replenishment.

The Russian command’s willingness to allow a unit to be severely degraded to between 50 and 70 percent of the unit’s end strength significantly impacts the unit’s combat effectiveness. This approach to force management likely explains the observable pattern of Russian operations on the ground. Localized assaults continue until they stall out, whereupon offensive operations pause while the command rotates and replenishes degraded units. ISW has observed this pattern in the Kupyansk and Lyman directions since January 2024.

Russia can likely sustain this approach for a long time but cannot accelerate its progress as long as Ukraine has the materiel necessary to conduct effective defensive operations. Successful Russian operational-level offensives in Ukraine will likely require the Russian command to commit relatively combat effective and well-equipped units and formations to offensive operations at scale, something the Kremlin has generally been unable or unwilling to do.

The Odessa Journal

The Odessa Journal

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