Will Ukraine launch its counter-offensive in the East, Zaporizhzhia or Kherson? Why not a fourth option — the North?
Hit ’em where they ain’t.
Russia has two Achilles heals which I believe can be exploited. First, it believes Ukraine wouldn’t dare attack Russia over its border, in fear of a nuclear response.
The second is Russian’s belief that overwhelming manpower and artillery can protect their occupied territory.
In the Fall, the Ukrainian offensive in the North (Kharkiv) was beyond successful. Russians fled so quickly they left much of their equipment behind. The difficulty for Ukraine, if it relaunches the attack in the North, (near Troitske?) is that there is no longer much space between Ukrainian and Russian territory in the north.
However, if the West turned more of a blind eye to Ukraine’s attacks of Russians over the border (or Ukraine just did it anyway) I see no reason why Ukraine couldn’t gobble up more territory in the North, as they did in the Fall.
Crimea and the Zaporizhzhia landbridge are the crown jewels. Putin has sent his best troops and equipment. He doesn’t care about the North. More importantly, every Russian soldier knows Moscow and St Petersburg don’t care about the Ukrainian North. (Crimea is another matter since it’s a posh vacation spot).
Putin probably calculates that if Ukraine attacked in the North, Russia could quickly send backups to fend it off and it could broaden the fight by sending in troops towards Kyiv, creating long front-line in the north.
Can Putin truly threaten Kyiv? Can he send reinforcements in time to prevent a Ukraine advance from the North to the South behind enemy lines?
It can be argued that with satellites, AWACS and drones Russia would certainly notice Ukraine assembling a large for to the North. Okay, but then what? Russia couldn’t make it public that Ukraine is going to attack in the North without looking foolish if Ukraine only feints an attack.
If fast and effective, I believe Ukraine could regain the entire Luhansk Oblast in a matter of weeks. The psychological effects on Russia would be disorienting and profound. Even though Putin claimed the special operation was…