A few thoughts on the current course of the war and the situation in the Donbas. Recent Russian gains offer a sobering check on expectations for the near term. Will use a few of Nathan’s maps. Thread. 1/ Image
The initial Russian offensive sought to press Slovyansk/Kramatorsk from Izyum, and to envelop Severodonetsk at the same time, severing the two sectors from each other. This was not an attempt at a big operational envelopment in the Donbas, but nonetheless ambitious. 2/
Having been blocked south of Izyum, the thrust of the offensive shifted to Severodonetsk, where Russian forces hoped to achieve an encirclement. Izyum now seems to be a fixing action, designed to prevent UKR from moving substantial forces towards Severodonetsk. 3/
UKR successfully pushed Russian artillery away from Kharkiv, but Russian forces still hold a narrow strip of territory north of the city. That said, it is not clear that the UKR offensive in the north has the forces or momentum to threaten flow of Russian supplies to Izyum. 4/
Russian forces have broken through further south at Popasna. This now threatens to sever Sevorodonetsk/Lysychansk and create a pocket. UKR forces also conducted tactical retreats further south at Svitlodarsk. The Russian mil seems to be pushing towards Soledar. (Nathan's map) 5/ Image
The extent to which this breakthrough at Popasna threatens Ukraine's overall position depends on whether or not Russian forces gain momentum. That in turn hinges on force availability, reserves, and logistics to support this advance. 6/
Russian forces have also begun encircling Lyman, and supposedly entered the city, which suggests they will probably consolidate control of terrain north of the Donets river. Meanwhile UKR forces will move to secondary defensive lines. 7/
@JominiW has good details on the recent movements, I will instead focus on the broader picture. I don't think the Russian offensive looks stalled, and while sluggish, there is no good way to predict when it will culminate. This is why I often say that outcomes are contingent. 8/ Image
Recent Russian gains in the Donbas, despite a relatively weak military advantage, suggest that UKR forces have suffered significant attrition. Zelensky mentioned a range of 50-100 KIA per day. This is a high casualty rate. 9/
The overall military balance in this war still trends in Ukraine's favor, given manpower availability and access to extensive Western military support. That will show itself more over time. But the local balance in the Donbas during this phase is a different story. 10/
There are rumors that UKR is bringing in reinforcements to prevent a larger Russian breakout. Either way, the fight in the Donbas is much less significant for UKR than it is for Russia. If it must, Ukraine can trade territory for attrition, then hope to retake it later. 11/
Despite high Russian losses (I previously suggested 10-12k KIA), and issues with morale, the Russian military appears unlikely to easily give up terrain. Russian mil is also using fires more effectively, and to an extent has adapted, despite observable tactical failures. 12/
I think we shouldn't overstate the significance of the Russian breakthrough at Popasna, but also consider the implications. Are UKR forces going to be in position to conduct a major counteroffensive in the near term, or will both sides face a degree of exhaustion? 13/
Russian forces west of Kherson have also used the past few weeks to dig in and fortify their positions. They're not going to give up territory easily even in areas where they're at a relative disadvantage. 14/
Russian forces may not be prosecuting offensives with much enthusiasm, but it is equally difficult to expect them to rout or melt away. Similarly, the situation within Ukraine's army remains a major unknown, but it is clear the war is taking its toll. 15/
The battlefield is likely to stay dynamic, with territory changing control via advances and counter attacks. I doubt we will see a stalemate emerge, but rather operational pauses that folks will be tempted to declare a stalemate. 16/
In my view it is too early to make predictions on how the battle for the Donbas will go. Ukraine may lose territory in the short term, but Russia faces major problems with sustaining its military effort in the long term, or holding on to gains. The war could become protracted.
Will add, this is why I often refrain that it is difficult to tell where you are in a war. Big turning points are easiest to discern in hindsight. In the present many tactical events seem to take on outsized significance.

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More from @KofmanMichael

Jun 28
A few thoughts on the current course of the war. The Russian offensive grinds on in the Donbas. Both sides have made incremental gains, neither is near collapse, but equally, both lack the forces for a major breakthrough. Thread. (Will use some of Nathan's maps) 1/
Over the past month Russian forces struggled to break out of Popasna, but have now taken Severodonetsk, and their advance at Toshkivka places them outside Lysychansk. The Russian military now threatens to sever the Severodonetsk/Lysychansk pocket. 2/
After first reinforcing the city, UA was forced to withdraw from Severodonetsk to Lysychansk, and from the area around Zolote. This allowed the Russian military to advance, threatening ground lines of communication. (Jomini has a good sitrep) 3/
Read 24 tweets
May 25
The T-62s are for reservist units. Activating them implies reservists l will be called up and sent. It doesn’t mean Russia is out of other types of tanks in storage. Those are expected to replace losses in the active force. As for the T-62 itself, old, but old tanks still kill.
For those interested, the T-62 situation goes back to at least 2018. medium.com/dfrlab/putinat…
Right now there’s not much to suggest how they will use these units. A bit early to speculate.
Read 4 tweets
May 16
Thoughts on Russian losses. A thorny subject I've stayed away from because its difficult to tackle and the information gaps are vast. Numbers get thrown about with broad ranges, and it is hard to say what to make of these estimates, or guestimates. Thread. 1/
The numbers of most interest are killed in action (KIA) and total casualties. How you get there is going to be closely tied to your assumptions about KIA, and the ratio of wounded in action (WIA) to KIA. Here is a brief blog post from C. Lawrence. 2/ dupuyinstitute.org/blog/2016/10/2…
Here is another table from a CRS report to consider in devising plausible ranges despite the lack of data. sgp.fas.org/crs/natsec/RL3… 3/
Read 20 tweets
May 12
Circling back to Russia's problem with manpower availability and the question of mobilization. Its unclear how they can sustain the war without making difficult political choices (and even with). However, general mobilization is the wrong issue to focus on. Thread. 1/
First, I'll briefly restate the Russian manpower problem. After taking significant losses in the first phase of the war, the Russian military has scrounged the active force for reinforcements, and is largely tapped out in terms of manpower availability. 2/
The reason for this is that the Russian military operates on tiered readiness, with units at 90-70% manning levels. Many towards that 70% mark. In the event of a large war the military assumed manning levels would be raised & conscripts could be deployed. 3/
Read 24 tweets
May 6
Circling back to the Moskva. Without getting into the speculation of how the Moskva was targeted, I recommend this piece by Sam LaGrone. Specifically, comments by Carlson on the possible status of radar and air defense missile systems. news.usni.org/2022/05/05/war…
This piece raises good questions on whether those systems were active, and if the Moskva was able to detect/engage incoming missiles. The ship was old, in need of modernization, and its fate subject to debate back in 2016. Worth considering system readiness and crew competence.
One thing folks may not appreciate is how the old the Moskva was. Launched 1979, commissioned 1983. Even though if memory serves this hull spent several years out of water, the ship overall had a lot of mileage on it in terms of deployments.
Read 6 tweets
Apr 23
I’ve been traveling and not writing much these past two weeks. Some brief thoughts about the second phase of the war, Russia’s offensive to retake the Donbas, and implications. Thread. (map from Nathan below). 1/ Image
Without national mobilization, I think the Donbas is the last major offensive the Russian military can attempt given the current state & availability of forces. Whether it succeeds, or fails, the Russian military will be largely exhausted in terms of offensive potential. 2/
The Russian attack thus far seems to be an advance on Slovyansk from Izyum, pressing the Severodonetsk salient, and pushing southwest from Izyum (west of Kramatorsk) to attempt a partial envelopment of UKR positions in the northern part of the Donbas. 3/
Read 19 tweets

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