It is 96 days since Russia invaded #Ukraine. Today, an exploration of why this war may end up lasting longer that we expect, or hope. 1/25
2/ Over the weekend, reports emerged that the Ukrainian Army had launched an offensive in southern Ukraine. The scale, duration and impact of this counteroffensive remains, at this point, unknown. It is possible that this is an effort to draw off Russian from the Donbas. Map courtesty of @War_Mapper
3/ In the lead up to these Ukrainian attacks in the south, the Russians gained ground in their concentrated efforts in the Donbas.
4/ Capturing the town of Lyman, advancing from the previously seized city of Popasna, and beginning their encirclement of Severodonetsk, the slow, steady Russian advance is finally giving Putin something that might be considered success.
5/ More broadly however, these two events are evidence that the war in Ukraine has much in common with the thousands of years of warfare that preceded the Russian invasion. In particular, war features constantly changing tides of fortune.
6/ In April & early May, after Ukraine’s victory in the Battle of Kyiv, a degree of triumphalism crept into Ukraine war narratives. But as the Russians have shown recently, by concentrating their forces on smaller regions of Ukraine, they can generate tactical victories.
7/ We should expect that these shifts in tactical fortunes, between Ukraine and Russia, and between different geographic regions in Ukraine, to continue for some time to come.
8/ After all, wars throughout history have ended in only one of two ways. The first way is for one side to decisively defeat the other, and the loser concedes defeat. The other way is through mutual exhaustion and the negotiation of an end to the war.
9/ Neither belligerent has demonstrated the capacity to land a strategically decisive blow against the other. Despite the Ukrainians demonstrating superiority in global influence, strategy & leadership, the Russians keep generating the combat power to attack them in the east.
10/ There is little prospect of a crushing operational or strategic victory by either side in the short term.
11/ And while Ukraine probably has a strategic advantage overall in the war, at this stage neither country is exhausted.
12/ Despite the Russians and Ukrainians losing people and equipment in the hundreds (if not thousands), neither are exhausted nations. The Russians have reserves of manpower & equipment in storage. Ukraine has masses of military aid flowing across its borders.
13/ Finally, both sides are demonstrating no desire to step back from this war.
14/ President Putin, in his Victory Day speech, reaffirmed his nation’s commitment to the war in Ukraine (although the Donbas was the focus). On the weekend, President Zelensky told CNN that Ukraine will fight on until it gains back it’s lost territory.…
15/ Prussian soldier and strategist Carl von Clausewitz once wrote of war as a clash of wills, where “each strives by physical force to compel the other to submit to his will.”
16/ For all wars in general, and the Russo-Ukraine War in particular, when both sides demonstrate the will to continue (coupled with the physical wherewithal to do so), war continues.
17/ It is also one of the tragedies of war, that in seeking quick victories, nations often ensure they involve themselves in long & destructive wars instead. The nature of human conflict has a way of ensuring such hubris is rewarded with more death & brutality than imagined.
18/ Such is the case now in Ukraine. Russia, in planning a short lightening war, has instead drawn Ukraine, and Europe, into an expensive and prolonged conflict.
19/ Not only is it resulting in more Ukrainian and Russian deaths than the Russian high command anticipated, it is changing the fundamental security architecture in Europe.…
20/ In turn this has, at least in the mind of Putin, confirmed the vicious conspiracy theories that he peddles to his people about NATO threats against Russia.
21/ So, we should steel ourselves for what will probably be a long war in Ukraine. The destruction of towns & cities, the deaths of soldiers in their thousands, the unnecessary slaughter of Ukrainian civilians, and wider economic hardship will continue for some time to come.
22/ This will demand a rare strategic patience from NATO, Europe and the United States to continue their support to the courageous Ukrainians.
23/ And it is all the more reason that every democracy should be providing as much economic, humanitarian and military assistance as possible to ensure the eventual defeat of Russia.
24/ Because as horrific a prospect that a long war may be, a Russian victory that would encourage further aggression and military adventures in the future is much, much worse. End…
25/ Thanks to @IAPonomarenko @RALee85 @Nrg8000 & @War_mapper whose images I used in this thread.

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More from @WarintheFuture

May 30
In the 95 days since Russia invaded #Ukraine, I have explored adaptation and how military institutions learn during war. Today I examine what the last couple of weeks in the Donbas tells us about how the Russians are learning in the ongoing #adaptation battle. 1/25
2/ Sir Michael Howard wrote in “The Uses and Abuses of Military History” that military institutions normally get the next war wrong, mostly for reasons beyond their control. As such, an important virtue for military organizations must be adaptability to unexpected events.
3/ In March I explored the concept of adaptation in war, as well as how Russian transformation efforts since 2008 appear to have paid minimal dividends for them at the tactical & strategic levels.…
Read 25 tweets
May 28
In the last 93 days, we have seen a constantly shifting operational environment, with both Ukrainian & Russian militaries experiencing tactical success and failures. This is very much the norm in warfare. Today, I explore the shifting tides of war in #Ukraine. 1/25 Ukrainian soldier in front line trenches in the Donbas
2/ This week, the Russian military has made steady progress in the conduct of its eastern offensive in the Donbas. While it has made little progress around Izyum, one of the key Russian axes of advance, progress elsewhere has been more apparent.
3/ Around, Popasna, the Russians have consolidated their hold of the town and have pushed west and north to the main highway that runs further east to Severodonetsk. Russian vehicle in Popasna
Read 25 tweets
May 23
While the Russian Army’s offensive in the east continues, it is likely in the short term that they will reach the limit of their offensive capability. As such, today I explore what transitioning to a defensive strategy might mean for the Russians in Ukraine. 1/25
2/ The Russian Army has been attempting to re-boot its efforts in Ukraine. It fired senior commanders accused of failure, reorganised combat units, begun digging in defensive positions north of Kharkiv & conducted additional strategic missile strikes across Ukraine.
3/ The focus of Russian forces at present is eastern Ukraine, and in particular, securing the Donbas region. Compared to the grand aspirations of Putin in the war’s early days, this is a relatively modest target.
Read 25 tweets
May 21
War is an incredibly destructive human endeavour. And despite their courage and resilience, the war in #Ukraine has been a violent tragedy for the people of Ukraine. But the war is also a learning opportunity for military institutions around the world. 1/25
2/ In his book, “War: What Is It Good For?” Ian Morris argues that war throughout history has benefitted humans because it led to bigger, more complex societies, ruled by governments which then suppressed as much internal violence as possible.
3/ Clausewitz saw its ‘benefits’ in more simple terms – as an “act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfil our will.”
Read 25 tweets
May 17
Today, an examination of the Ukrainian strategy of 'corrosion', that - so far - has seen it successfully fend off a larger and (theoretically, at least) more powerful invader. 1/25 Image via @UAWeapons
2/ Throughout their Ukraine campaign, Russia’s military has been forced to continually re-assess its strategic objectives. The Russian Plan A - seize Kyiv, Kharkiv and other key points, capture government leaders and force a political accommodation – failed. Image from @war_mapper
3/ Plan B for the Russians - a multi-axis attacks in the south, east, northeast, north & in the skies above on a slower timetable – also failed. They then shifted to the Donbas and the creation of a ‘land bridge’ from Russia to Crimea.
Read 25 tweets
May 15
The battle of Kharkiv has been won by #Ukraine, with Russian forces withdrawing to the north & east. Today, analysis on what is next for Ukraine’s military as it exploits a faltering Russian eastern offensive. 1/25 Image
2/ The war in the east, and the war in #Ukraine more generally, is approaching an important turning point.…
3/ The Ukrainian success in the battle for Kharkiv is significant. It sees the recapture of Ukrainian territory and will ensure the city is out of Russian field artillery range. These are important humanitarian & political achievements for #Ukraine.…
Read 26 tweets

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