avatarChris Snow

Summary

Ukraine repelled the largest Russian tank assault of the entire war, with 48 tanks and fighting vehicles destroyed west of Avdiivka.

Abstract

The Ukrainian military has successfully repelled a massive Russian tank assault near Avdiivka, destroying 48 tanks and other fighting vehicles. The assault was the largest of its kind since the war began, and it was met with a robust defense from Ukrainian forces. Despite Russia's continued attempts to push forward, their losses are mounting, and the mud season is fast approaching. According to estimates, Russia has suffered over 15,000 confirmed vehicle losses since the conflict began.

Opinions

  • The author suggests that Russia is not adapting quickly enough to the changing nature of the war.
  • The author implies that Russia's tactics are ineffective, as they continue to repeat the same mistakes and suffer heavy losses.
  • The author suggests that Ukraine is outsmarting Russia in the war, with a more effective defense strategy.
  • The author suggests that Russia's goal of conquering Ukraine will take centuries at their current pace.

"We are still not accepting the fact that Russia is at war with us. We need to think and act strategically and realize that Russia is at war with us." Ben Hodges

Ukraine repelled the largest Russian tank assault of the entire war. 48 tanks and fighting vehicles west of Avdiivka got massacred

“By the end of this year, there will be mountains of ammunition that will be delivered and produced for Ukraine.” Hodges

In my opinion, the Russian offensive around Avdiivka is petering out. Russian losses are mounting. The mud season is fast approaching. Russia has suffered over 15.000 confirmed vehicle losses. Their total losses are likely even 20 to 30 percent higher than that.

Russia has added another 505 square kilometers of illegally occupied Ukrainian territory since October 2023

This may sound like a lot until you realize it’s just 22.5 x 22.5 km. The area of Ukraine is 603,628 square kilometers. Russia has taken 0.08 percent of Ukraine in the past 7 months.

The front line is 1300 kilometers long, and Russia made an average advancement of 64 meters per month, or 2 meters per day

The Russian army is literally advancing one corpse at a time. At this pace, Russia will conquer all of Ukraine within the next century or two.

This is the largest push since Russia’s initial attempt to take Avdiivka

The armored push in October 2023 had failed due to a forewarning by US intelligence services and due to the robust Ukrainian defense. Ukraine proves time and time again that they are a lot smarter than Russia.

I often hear Russia is adapting. Russia will have to speed up its learning curve

Russia is adapting and learning at snail’s pace. Human nature changes with geological leisureliness, and so does human culture. We shouldn’t expect a systemic change in Russian military culture in the short to medium term.

The assault on Avdiivka in October was an abject failure and didn’t move the needle in Russia’s favor

Then, Russia abandoned these big mechanized assaults. I thought they might have finally learned their lesson. Russia changed its tactics and pivoted towards slice by slice progress of very small units with massive artillery support.

Russia didn’t learn its lesson and it repeats the same mistakes over and over again, in the vain hope of achieving different results

Einstein once called such an approach the essence of insanity. Russia continues to underestimate Ukraine and their ability to punish the incompetence and stupidity of the Russian army.

Russia tries to push across the Tonenke River to eject Ukrainian forces from the high ground there

Ukraine has invested a lot to defend this line as it provides very favorable terrain for the defender. Both Sirski and Selensky let us know that the frontline will not be equally defended everywhere.

This specific spot near Orlivka and Tonenke limits the paths that Russian forces can take. There are only two viable routes for an assault

The ISW provides us with geolocated footage from March 30th which shows a road northwest of Tonenke and over fifty destroyed Russian vehicles. 36 tanks and 15 armored vehicles have been destroyed.

Russia might have attempted to pass through the canal near Orlivka in order to cross the river. This failed shaping operation stopped Russia’s advance in its tracks.

“In February-March of this year (as of March 26), the enemy lost more than 570 tanks, about 1,430 armored combat vehicles, almost 1,680 artillery systems and 64 air defense systems. At the same time, the Defense Forces of Ukraine keep the main heights and defense areas under control. Our goal is to prevent the loss of our territory, to exhaust the enemy as much as possible, to inflict the greatest possible losses on him, to form and prepare reserves for offensive actions. But we learned to fight not by the amount of ammunition, but by the skill of using the weapons that are available. In addition, we make the most of the advantages of unmanned aircraft.” Oleksandr Syrskyj, Commander in Chief of the Ukrainian armed forces

The article has two parts.

  1. Analysis of the tank assault
  2. Broader bird’s eye view on future geo-political implications of the war

The Russians aren’t 12 feet tall. Ukraine can defeat Russia. The West must close ranks behind Ukraine. We will either lose or win this war together

This failed Russian assault is referring to a singular brigade sized push. This one was preceded by other major armor assaults during the Siege of Chernihiv, Vuhledar, and when Russia pressed for Avdiivka last fall.

Those assaults had massive lines of armor involved. Their failure caused Russia massive rates of attrition

I am sure you remember the 65 km long drawn out convoy, which involved even more armor. The convoy was under constant attack. It was stuck in the mud without enough fuel. However, this refers to singular pushes. Apparently, this was the biggest yet.

The idea behind stopping an advancing force is to hit the front element first to stop the advance and then hit the rear to block the assaulting force

However, in this recent Russian assault, Ukraine seems to have been shooting fish in a barrel. When you got enough guns pointed at the barrel, the order in which you shoot plays very little into it. The Ukrainian attack was likely started from the rear to push the main Russian force into a kill box, and as we can see, the results speak for themselves.

“War is not just about math and who has the most people, Ukraine is defending their homeland and know their homeland better than anybody.” Hodges

Russia’s new production is not able to replace these losses

In 2023 Russia produced roughly 200 new tanks and pulled another 1100 out of storage. At the same time, Russia loses at least 1400 tanks, however, likely that number is even higher. Ukraine’s own firepower is increasing, and its drone capacities are scaling up.

Russia lacks skilled labor in all sectors and has lost easy access to a lot of building blocks of a modern economy due to sanctions

Russia pulls old gear out of storage. Perun states that this makes up 80 percent of Russia’s overall “production”. The same goes for artillery and armored vehicles. This old gear is dwindling and is reducing in quality.

The Russian demographics and its birthrate are collapsing. Millions of Russians have fled the Federation in the past 10 years.

I remain confident that this Twilight war will be Russia’s last war of expansion. The next war will be fought between the diadochy inside Russia over the remaining spoils.

The high payment that Russian men receive in the defense industry and in the military is changing the socio-economic fabric of the Russian Federation. This may have unforeseen consequences in the future for Russia.

Russia can keep up in a war of stockpiles. Stockpiles won’t matter as much by this time around next year

In a war of industries, Russian production capacity won’t suffice to replace these mounting losses. Ukraine will also receive more and more shells and scale up its drone production, which in turn will cause even higher losses and attrition for Russia going forward.

Russia is the invader and needs to win. Ukraine, as the defender, can also win by not losing and by driving up costs for the invader

Ukraine is flying drones into Russian refineries, which has been eliminating 500 million spy planes. As you know from my mystery fire articles, fires and explosions inside Russia are a very regular occurrence these days.

The Ukrainians have a formula based on field reports from their commanders. A BTM carries 8–10 soldiers, Ukraine halves that number and counts 4 dead for every BTM. These field reports are likely the most accurate body count we will get for now.

When the army engages in protracted warfare, the resources of the state will fall short.” Sun Tzu

Russia gained next to no ground in the past 7 months. I want my readers to really understand that a state doesn’t get stronger from attritional warfare. Instead, this logically weakens a state.

We can look at WW1 and the French, Austrian, German, British, or Tsarist Forces as an example. By 1918, all participants were either close to a military and economic collapse, or they had collapsed already.

People sometimes claim we would be in a 1938 replay. The appeasement phase from 2008 to 2022. This is the main event, not the prelude

Hitler would have never made it past Czechoslovakia in that case. This current Russian army and this current Russian empire are not comparable to the military and industrial might of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia.

The current Russian population is larger but older. The workers are less skilled, Russian logistics are much worse, and the army is less professional, badly equipped, and technologically backward.

The world had appeased Hitler. The allies signed treaties with him

The democratic powers handed Czechoslovakia and Austria to the Nazis without a fight. Hitler had powerful fascist allies and a pact signed with Stalin prior to the war.

The full annexation of both Austria and Czechoslovakia happened within a year between March 1938 and March 1939. Hitler got his first pieces of the cake free of charge through appeasement.

Does history repeat itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce? No, that’s too grand, too considered a process. History just burps, and we taste again that raw-onion sandwich it swallowed centuries ago. Julian Barnes

The Russian army suffered 3k tank as losses, over 15k vehicles in total. Russia is engaged in a war of attrition and has lost hundreds of thousands of men

Poland was defeated in 36 days and split up between the Nazis and the Soviets. The German victory in their invasion of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands was won in 46 days.

France lost 59.000 soldiers and a total of 81.000 allied troops killed in action

30.000 civilians died, and 2 million Belgian and French were taken as prisoners of war. The Allies lost 3020 planes and 3300 tanks. Thousands of armored vehicles were also lost.

The Axis powers lost 46.000 men, 1800 planes, and 839 tanks, we are not repeating 1938 at all here

Based on Russian Pension Fund data, men with disabilities in Russia increased by 507,000 or 30 percent in 2023. This would indicate that the Russian casualties are over 1 million dead and disabled.

Russia lost 10 times the amount of troops and 5 times the amount of tanks of the German army. But only for a tiny slither of extra land compared to what they held after 2014.

This war has more parallels to the Western front of WW1 than with anything WW2 related. Well, apart from the Russians behaving like Nazis

The longer Ukraine keeps the attrition rates high. The more time, money, and resources Russia expends on the supposedly easiest part of their imperial plans of conquest.

The most effective way to prevent Russia from attacking anyone else is to neutralize them inside Ukraine. We must give Ukraine more precision guided weaponry and keep hitting Russian factories and refineries.

This situation resembles the 1910 to 1914 period. War raged in the Balkans. The great powers were posturing and not yet engaged

WW3 is a process, not an event. The current situation lit a fuse, and history is in motion again. Appeasement and lack of action might drag the world into a global war. Had the West done literally nothing to stop Russia, Ukraine would likely be under full Russian occupation by now.

We need to do more. We haven’t repeated many of the mistakes of the 1930s, but we could do much better

The West has sanctioned Russia. We have sent more lethal aid to Ukraine than to any other ally of the West since at least the Korean War. The Western Alliance started off with Helmets and Javelins in February 2022.

Today Ukraine’s allies are sending air launched missiles, F16s, and millions of artillery rounds

Europe is the largest supplier of tanks, armored vehicles, fighter jets, helicopters, artillery pieces, long-range missiles, and air defense systems. Soon Europe will be the largest supplier of mortar ammunition and 155 mm shells. For 152 mm shells, Europe might already be the largest supplier.

I am not a witch, and I can't forecast you the future

For example, I failed to foresee what Trump and his minions would do. Chaos and confusion are a part of war. War is a complex and imperfect system of facts and figures. Some things, only time can tell.

“The collapse of the Soviet Union is continuing to this day. This empire is built on a rotten foundation. It is going to collapse. The sooner that happens, the better for all of us. We should anticipate this and be prepared for this collapse.” Ben Hodges

Summary and Conclusion

Victory in war for the invader involves achieving their strategic goals in a timely manner. Russia had announced that the Donbas would be taken either by summer 2022, by October 2022 by the end of March, 2023, and by now, the new date seems to be 2026.

Russia lacks the necessary manpower, technology, or economic might to oppose the West directly. In their insanity, Putin and his men seem to crazy enough to try it anyway.

“Even the Russians realize there is zero upsides for them to use a nuclear weapon. Their nuclear weapons are most effective when they don’t use them.” Ben Hodges

In the case of a kinetic war with the West, refineries, ports, airfields, and the entire Russian industrial base are at our doorstep

Around 90 percent of Russia’s industry is concentrated in its Western part and in full range of Western air, ground, and sea launched cruise missiles. Russia fights Ukraine by using mass artillery and by inching forward with its rail based backward logistics. This won’t do against NATO.

In a direct war with NATO, Russia will lose all access to its warm water ports in the North Sea, Kaliningrad will be put under a full embargo

Russian tankers will be seized. The pipeline network disabled. Western missiles will smash Russia’s entire refinery sector and its LNG business to smithereens. In a direct confrontation, Russia is hopelessly outmatched in the air and at sea. They would do good to remember that.

In the case of war, the West will embargo not sanction everything, including food, medicine, and fodder additives for cows and poultry. Those who then collaborate with Russia will would face prison sentences for collaboration.

Time will tell. Nothing is as bad, as it seems. Democracies are definitely doing better than in 1938

Things aren’t going at all the way Russia wanted them to go. This war has pulled on some big levers geo politically. The war will leave Russia severely weakened. How weakened is yet to be determined. The war is far from over.

The situation will be clearer once the US electorate votes president Joe Biden into office for a second term. Once we know whether European arms production can indeed ramp up to over 2 million shells by the end of 2025.

I can’t forecast courage in character and the moral vigor of our leaders

Don’t underestimate Ukraine’s resolve and their ingenuity. Don’t underestimate the incompetence of the Russian army and the inventive evil and corruption of the Russian state.

By mid 2025, we will all be a lot wiser.

"Study the rise and fall of ancient empires, then you will gain the ability to foresee the future. Seneca

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Take care and be well.

Sources:

https://ti-ukraine.org/en/news/dynamics-of-russia-s-losses-in-the-war-interactive-infographics/

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