The inferiority in arsenals, together with logistical and bureaucratic shortcomings, weigh down kyiv in a war that is decided with tanks and missiles
For every artillery shell Ukraine makes, Russia produces between twenty and fifty. It also multiplies by twenty the military equipment of the Ukrainian troops. And it has the advantage that it does not have to waste time on training and bureaucratic procedures regarding the arsenals it manages, unlike in kyiv with the weapons sent by third countries. These are three of the factors that favor the Kremlin in its new war strategy in Donbas: artillery warfare. A tactic that was decisive in the two world wars during the last century and that now takes advantage of the weaknesses of the local Army to report better results for the moment to the Kremlin than, when at the beginning of the war crisis, it launched a colossal land steamroller that was diluted day by day bogged down between ambushes and supply problems around kyiv.
You learn from failure, says the US War Institute. In March, Russia suffered its greatest failures precisely due to Ukraine’s recurrent use of artillery. Now the opposite happens. In part, Moscow reaps the rewards of its attacks on local army warehouses and logistics routes. An M107 howitzer weighs about 50 kilos. The piece in charge of launching it can make 40 shots per hour. In other words, a convoy capable of moving tons is needed to power a single battery system. Ukraine has lost many of them to enemy bombs precisely because of the lack of security on the routes.
In the current Russian scheme, the leading role is not played by the infantry. It begins with constant waves of long-range rocket airstrikes; it continues with closer, more precise bombardments carried out by tanks and cannons, and ends with the intervention -yes- of the infantry units once the territory has been swept.
Naturally, this tactic forces kyiv to attack in the first stage if it wants to be effective. The problem is that it is complicated. The scenario is different. The American javelins that have symbolized the Ukrainian resistance during the first two months of the war, with more than 5,500 launched against the Russian armor, are useless at kilometric distances. And the Kiev Ministry of Defense lacks sufficient fighter jets – most of its air force has been wiped out – and modern artillery. A deficit that also reduces its ability to offer cover to logistics centers – easily bombed by the Russians – and to protect its trenches. Except for recent Western shipments, most Ukrainian batteries work with Soviet patent ammunition and that is a handicap, since it is hardly produced in other countries except Russia. As if that were not enough, that ammunition cannot be mounted in the most recent cannons.
That is the reason why Volódimir Zelenski returned to ask the West for heavy weapons on Thursday in a perennial rhetoric. He knows that it is the key to resistance. He can’t stop claiming them either. If tensions drop and supply is reduced, Ukraine would be left defenseless in weeks, or even days, at the rate that it consumes the West’s resources to withstand the onslaught of Russian artillery. Two examples. The howitzers included by Spain on April 28 within a package of 200 tons of military material were completed in two hours of combat. A US supply of 144,000 shells ran out in less than a week.
Zelensky knows that Russia is patient despite its casualties and that it awaits the day when international supplies decline, convinced that at some point governments will not be able to bear the expense or the material emptying of their armies’ stores. The Ukrainian president reiterated this Thursday that for this reason there is a race against the clock, that the heavy arsenal that reaches him is still insufficient despite having committed more than 2,000 million euros in rocket launcher platforms, tanks, howitzers and Grad missiles provided by countries such as the US, the UK, the Czech Republic and Poland, and that modern artillery is essential to stop the solid advance of the invading troops from the south.
Right now, their goal is to prevent the final fall of Severodonetsk. One of the “most difficult battles of this war” is being fought in this city because “it will decide the fate of Donbas,” says Zelensky, who, hyperbolically, considers that the “hatred” generated by Russia is “more deadly than Covid -19». What the Ukrainian president is trying to say is that only with first-class tanks and missiles will his country be able to undertake the difficult task of rebalancing its war power with the Kremlin’s machinery. Meanwhile, the front is consolidated as a large cemetery. Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov acknowledged on Thursday that one hundred Ukrainian soldiers are killed and another 500 are wounded daily.
“As soon as we have long-range artillery we will be able to deal with Russian artillery and our special forces could clear the city in two or three days,” says Sergei Gaidai, governor of this region of eastern Ukraine, in line with hopes. of its president. London has promised a multiple MLRS launcher system. Washington, four batteries Himars. Severodonetsk and neighboring Lysychansk are key points in the domain of the Donbas mining area and Ukraine still hopes to win them back.
The example of Mariupol
At the end of May, the Ukrainian Army gave clear signs in Mariupol of its inferiority compared to Russia’s heavy arsenal. The defeat of the defenders of the Azovstal steelworks after a days-long siege with mortars and tank fire represented the metaphor of the new war tactics that the Kremlin applies taking advantage of its superiority in weapons and ammunition. And it is not a simple appreciation, International military media affirm that the main treasure of the Russian armed forces has always been its artillery, superior to that of the rest of the world’s armies.
kyiv fights another battle in the offices. The inexperience of the Zelensky government prior to the war and the perception that an invasion was unlikely have led to the absence of an agile arms purchase and management system in the Ministry of Defense. Some territorial commanders must travel from the front to kyiv every time they have to process the documentation on the arsenals they receive.
The international community also demands absolute transparency and has imposed severe controls in order to prevent illegal arms trafficking, a suspicion always latent in the former republic, which last year ranked 122nd of the 180 most corrupt countries in the world. Some experts maintain that the Executive should create a specific office and, above all, stop covering all types of weapons and focus on the most peremptory to streamline its management.
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