A few thoughts on the current course of the war. Although winter has proven a transitional phase, with both sides focusing on force reconstitution and positional fighting. The outlines of the coming months & likely offensive operations are steadily becoming clearer. Thread. 1/
After Kharkiv & Kherson, the Russian military was at its most vulnerable going into the winter. Mobilization helped stabilize Russian lines, raise manning levels, and establish reserves. Consequently, Ukraine no longer enjoys a significant manpower advantage. 2/
RU adopted a largely defensive strategy under Surovikin focused on force reconstitution, entrenchment, and a strike campaign against UA critical infrastructure. Bakhmut was not an exception, largely fought by Wagner PMCs from RU prison system. 3/
When mobilization was launched I was wary of the uncertainty it introduced, and its potential to significantly extend the war. At the time, a reasonable timeline to assess what RU could make of mobilized personnel was 3-4 months. 4/

It’s fair to say since October RU has likely doubled the force deployed in Ukraine, and significantly reduced the length of the front being defended after retreating from Kherson. Force density has therefore increased relative to territory being occupied. 5/
The UA official figure on RU forces (320k) strikes me as a bit high, but 250k+ is probably fair. RU may have another 150,000 mobilized personnel still in Russia, not deployed. However, readiness level and quality of these units remains unclear. 6/
How strong the Russian defensive lines are in practice has yet to be truly tested. RU has manpower in quantity now & continues to pull equipment out of storage, but force quality appears relatively low. This limits offensive potential & force employment options. 7/
In brief, mobilized units in aggregate do not appear as poor as anecdotes might lead one to believe, and RU can likely offer a stubborn defense, but are less liable to be suitable for offensive operations and represent weak replacements for lost regulars. 8/
RU still depends on airborne and naval infantry at key points along the front as the reserve, for counter attacks, and the main assault force. These units backstop mobilized personnel, but seem to have lost some of their offensive edge due to replacements. 9/
After Soledar, the situation around Bakhmut increasingly looks precarious for UA, and I wouldn't be surprised if they ultimately withdraw from the city. However, UA has strong defensive lines outside Slovyansk/Kramatorsk while RU looks ill positioned to sustain momentum. 10/
Bakhmut is geographically important, but has developed a degree of sunk cost mentality for both sides. A fair bit of UA defense there seems to consist of TDF, NG, and foreign legion units suggesting UA is trying to manage the impact of attrition on its force availability. 11/
Having lost Izyum and Lyman, RU has no supporting axis of attack into Donetsk from the north, nor have their forces been able to make breakthroughs in the south of Donetsk. Hence gaining Bakhmut, in my view, offers opportunities for RU that they're not positioned to exploit. 12/
Since June I've been skeptical that RU could make break through to Slovyansk/Kramatorsk. They're still at Bakhmut 7 months later. That said, UA has ceded much of the initiative since October in Donetsk, and recently Luhansk. 13/

UA had made progress at Kreminna and Svatove, though now under counter-attack by the VDV's 76th GAAD. Kreminna is a gateway to Rubizhne. For UA, a breakthrough the Svatove-Kreminna line can eventually lead to the RU logistical hub of Starobilsk. 14/
Hence the battle for Kreminna is arguably more significant than Bakhmut. That said there’s been a fair amount of reorganization in RU logistics, and adaptation. I think the conversation on RU logistical problems in general suffers from too much anecdotalism & received wisdom. 15/
In my view Donbas remains the primary goal of RU mil operations, hence RU offensives are likely to focus on seizing this territory. I’m skeptical of claims that Russian forces will attempt a much larger scope offensive involving the cities of Kharkiv, Sumy, Kyiv, etc. 16/
I would consider a Russian attempt to advance Kreminna -> Lyman as likely, also Kupyansk, along with attacks across southern Donetsk, i.e. at Vuhledar. The fighting for Vuhledar, along with attacks elsewhere, suggest that this offensive has already begun in practice. 17/
RU’s better forces and kit, VDV and NI, have been trying to unsuccessfully press UA forces out of Vuhledar. The 155th couldn’t do it under Surovikin at Pavlivka in November, so its unsurprising Gerasimov taking over has done nothing to improve RU offensive performance. 18/
With respect to Belarus, a repeat assault on Kyiv makes little sense. An operation to sever supply lines in the west, or to seize the nuclear powerplant by Rivne, may be more feasible, but this would require a much larger force than what RU currently has deployed in Belarus. 19/
How large of a RU offensive to expect is unclear, but I suspect it may prove underwhelming, focused largely on the Donbas. RU may not need another large mobilization wave, and instead could keep mobilization quietly rolling at a sustainable rate. 20/
Arguably, UA is better served absorbing the RU attack & exhausting RU offensive potential, then taking the initiative later this spring. Having expended ammunition, better troops, and equipment it could leave RU defense overall weaker. 21/
But, I suspect Kyiv does not believe that time is on Ukraine's side. Wary of Russian entrenchment and seeking to avoid the perception of a stalemate, UA is likely to move sooner than later. That's been the trend thus far. 22/
Western equipment may not arrive in time to be relevant for a UA offensive, but more significant in that it will allow UA to launch operations this spring knowing they have replacements secured. Hence the likely losses entailed won't leave UA vulnerable later this year. 23/
In general UA is still advantaged going into 2023, backed by countries with much greater GDP and defense industrial capacity. However, that depends on sustainability of external material support, and in the end potential is not predictive of outcomes. 24/
The challenge is providing Ukraine with sufficient relative advantage to enable offensive operations under changed conditions in 2023. Unlikely to be solved by any single capability, but through a combination of means, organizational adaptations, and changes in force employment.
Adding a comment in response to questions on mobilization. My sense is RU is preparing a follow on mobilization wave, and we will see it eventually, but doubt it will be for this offensive, or at ~500k. I'm skeptical they can equip or sustain another wave at this stage.
See All