Ukraine at War: Paving the Road From Survival to Victory

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A Ukrainian soldier keeps watch for Russians on a reconnaissance patrol, Ukraine, June 2022. Courtesy of Jack Watling

Based on fieldwork conducted in Ukraine, this Special Report outlines what is needed to defeat Russia's invasion.

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This report is an assessment of the present dynamics of the fighting in Ukraine, how Russia is employing its capabilities and what is needed to defeat Russia’s invasion. It is based on fieldwork conducted in Ukraine prior to and during the invasion. This report does not cover Russia’s unconventional operations or Ukraine’s maritime flank.

Ukraine has the will to achieve the operational defeat of the Russian military. At present, however, several Russian advantages and Ukrainian weaknesses are leading to an attritional conflict that risks a protracted war, eventually favouring Russia.

  • Russian electronic warfare (EW) is denying Ukraine a sufficiently fast kill chain to destroy Russia’s artillery.
  • Russian artillery is fixing the Ukrainian military and preventing the Ukrainians from concentrating to undertake offensive manoeuvre.
  • Russian cruise missiles are imposing a high economic and political cost on Ukraine.
  • A shortage of skilled infantry and armoured operators is limiting Ukraine’s offensive combat power.
  • Limited staff capacity is limiting Ukraine’s ability to plan and execute combined operations at scale.

Ukraine’s international partners have the ability to reverse these dynamics to enable Ukraine to retake its lost territory. This cannot be achieved through the piecemeal delivery of a large number of different fleets of equipment, each with separate training, maintenance and logistical needs. Instead, Ukraine’s partners should rationalise the support they provide around a small number of platforms. Ukraine’s key capability requirements are:

  • Anti-radiation seekers for loitering munitions to suppress or destroy Russian EW complexes.
  • Multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) to target and destroy Russian logistics and ammunition stockpiles to starve Russian artillery of ammunition.
  • 155-mm howitzers and ammunition to prevent Russian troop concentration and support Ukrainian troop concentrations.
  • Secure communications systems.
  • Anti-tank guided weapons and man-portable air-defence systems (MANPADS).
  • Protected mobility to enable Ukrainian troops to manoeuvre under artillery threat.
  • Point defences to protect critical infrastructure.

It is also necessary for Ukraine to receive training at scale to form new units able to undertake offensive operations and to receive staff and junior leadership training to support the orchestration of combined arms offensive manoeuvre.

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Dr Jack Watling

Senior Research Fellow, Land Warfare

Military Sciences

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Nick Reynolds

Research Fellow, Land Warfare

Military Sciences

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