Russian forces destabilize Ukrainian defensive lines and prepare for summer offensive amid delays in Western security assistance

Armed Forces of Ukraine
Armed Forces of Ukraine

Russian forces will likely continue ongoing offensive efforts to destabilize Ukrainian defensive lines in Spring 2024 while also preparing for a forecasted new offensive effort in Summer 2024, the U.S.-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote on March 15.

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The provision of Western security assistance will likely play a critical role in Ukraine’s ability to hold territory now and to repel a new Russian offensive effort in the coming months. Russian forces are attempting to maintain the tempo of their offensive operations throughout eastern Ukraine in an effort to prevent Ukrainian forces from stabilizing their defensive lines.

Russian forces are particularly concentrating on pushing as far west of Avdiivka as possible before Ukrainian forces can establish a stronger defensive line in the area.

Although Ukrainian forces have recently been able to slow Russian advances west of Avdiivka, pervasive materiel shortages caused by delays in Western security assistance appear to be forcing Ukraine to prioritize limited resources to critical sectors of the front, increasing the risk of a Russian breakthrough in other less-well-provisioned sectors and making the frontline overall more fragile than it appears despite the current relatively slow rate of Russian advances.

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Russian forces will continue to use the advantages provided by possessing the theater-wide initiative to dynamically reweight their offensive efforts this spring and into the summer, likely in hopes of exploiting possible Ukrainian vulnerabilities

Russian forces may be pressing their attempts at a breakthrough before difficult weather and terrain conditions in spring will likely constrain effective mechanized maneuver on both sides of the line and further limit Russian capabilities to make significant tactical advances while the ground is still muddy.

The intent and design of the Russian Summer 2024 offensive effort is not immediately clear and likely will not be until Russian forces launch it, but the Russian military command likely intends to capitalize on any gains it makes in the coming weeks as well as on forecasts that the Ukrainian military may be even less-well-provisioned this summer than it is now.

Well-provisioned Ukrainian forces have shown that they can prevent Russian forces from making even marginal gains during large-scale Russian offensive efforts, and there is no reason to doubt that Ukraine could further stabilize the frontline and prepare for repelling the reported Russian offensive effort this summer if materiel shortages abated.

The threat of significant Russian gains in the coming months does not mean that there is no threat of Russian forces making such gains through offensive operations this spring. Relative Russian successes this spring, even tactical, may set conditions for Russian forces to pursue operationally significant gains in the summer.

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Western and Ukrainian officials are expressing concerns about delays in Western security assistance to Ukraine ahead of this expected Russian offensive effort.

Ukraine is experiencing a shortage of weapons and ammunition amid delays with a $60 billion aid package for Ukraine approval by the U.S. Congress and not fulfilled promise by Kyiv partners to produce one million rounds of ammunition by the end of 2023.

On March 12, Reuters reported that Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives had kicked off a signature-gathering drive for a procedural move aimed at forcing a vote on aid to Ukraine, despite House Speaker Mike Johnson’s reluctance to bring the bill to the floor.

The U.S. Senate in a final vote on Feb. 13 supported a bill that provides aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan amounting to $95 billion, with $60 billion designated for Kyiv. That same day, House Speaker Johnson once again criticized the Senate’s proposal, stating he had no plans to bring the Senate-backed bill to the floor for consideration.

U.S. House of Representatives went on recess on Feb. 15 without passing the aid for Ukraine, postponing the matter until at least mid-March.

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson promised a “timely” vote on extending aid to Ukraine following a meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House on Feb. 27.

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During the meeting with congressional leaders from both parties, Biden emphasized the “urgent need” to allocate the aid for Ukraine.

Speakers of 23 parliaments and President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola have called on U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson to introduce a bill that would allocate $60 billion to help Ukraine, the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Ruslan Stefanchuk, who initiated the letter of appeal, reported on Facebook on Feb. 28.

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