Even if Russia's army isn't a particularly good one, it won't matter if Ukraine's defenses crumble, war expert warns

A Ukrainian serviceman walks in a trench at a position
A Ukrainian serviceman walks in a trench at a position near the frontline town of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on May 30 2023REUTERS/Yevhenii Zavhorodnii
  • Ukraine's defenses are weak, making it vulnerable to Russian advances.

  • Russia's military isn't necessarily the greatest, but it won't matter if Ukraine can defend itself.

  • Ukraine is awaiting US aid and even resorting to crowdfunding to acquire necessary defense equipment.

The Russian military isn't the formidable juggernaut it was once thought to be, but without strong defenses and key support, Ukraine is dangerously vulnerable to a force that can still inflict serious damage, an expert is warning.

Ukraine may still have more to lose as Russia continues advancing onward after capturing Avdiivka.

The Russian army has an ineffective command structure, relies on outdated Soviet-era systems, many of which it has pulled out of storage, and puts troops in the field who are woefully unprepared for combat, but it's also increasingly adaptive and has significant resources, though some material advantages are diminishing with the pace of its operations and losses.

"Erosion of Russia's equipment and ammunition advantages will matter very little if Ukraine is not resourced to defend itself in 2024," wrote Carnegie Endowment for International Peace senior fellow Dara Massicot in Foreign Affairs.

And, "it will not matter if Soviet-era tanks are less capable and survivable if Ukraine is not given the supplies to destroy them," she said. "It will not matter if foreign artillery shells have a higher 'dud rate' than domestic versions, if Russian forces can maintain a firepower advantage of around five to one, and Western production and delivery delays continue."

Ukraine is rapidly running out of resources, and if it cannot acquire the appropriate equipment and build strong defenses in time, then the Russians may easily plough through.

Ukrainian soldiers of Brigade 71 fire an artillery in the direction of Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on Feb. 18, 2024.
Ukrainian soldiers of Brigade 71 fire an artillery in the direction of Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on Feb. 18, 2024.Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu via Getty Images

Russia's momentum following its months-long fight to capture Avdiivka is strong enough to help its military advance further, and since its costly victory there, it has already taken more land, including three nearby villages within a week.

"Russian forces have very few reasons not to continue their assaults," Massicot said. "By persisting, they maximize momentum before the ground thaws and mud returns, take advantage of understrength Ukrainian forces as they ration equipment, and engaging Ukrainian forces before they have time to fully dig in."

Massicot argued that if Ukraine cannot build a strong defense and get the support it needs, the problems with Russia's military won't matter. "It will not matter if Russian long-range precision-strike missile production has reached its zenith — or if, as Ukrainian officials say, Western sanctions are reducing the quality of Russian missiles," she wrote.

Ukraine has been waiting for additional US aid for months, as it still requires approval in Congress, and it has not built the kind of defenses around Avdiivka and some other areas of the front it needs.

A Ukrainian soldier from the "White Angel" special unit, a local and a dilapidated house in the background
A Ukrainian soldier from the "White Angel" special unit convincing a local to leave his dilapidated house in Avdiivka, Ukraine, on October 30, 2023.Getty Images

Massicot, along with other experts, has been an advocate of the "hold, build, strike" strategy in which Ukraine would defend and dig in enough to "hold" off Russian forces and weaken them through heavy attrition. Ukraine could then "build" its military through training and manufacturing with the help of Western aid.

The "strike" element would see Ukraine hit Russian logistics and capabilities, sapping its strength. Ukraine could then continue its offensive operations. Western support is key though.

"Without these urgent steps, Ukraine's rationing of ammunition will continue through the spring and summer," Massicot wrote in her Foreign Affairs article. "Facing continual Russian attacks, undermanned units could become increasingly hollowed out and lose the ability to defend themselves. Unless immediate changes are made, this is the path that Ukraine and the West are on."

On a smaller scale, Ukraine has found alternatives. Using Crowdfunding to purchase expensive equipment is one short-term solution for Ukraine's military that has been successful so far; however, it's hard to tell whether enough money can be acquired on a consistent basis for tools and equipment that cost thousands of dollars.

Some Western partners remain supportive, but the Ukrainian military is in a tough position. It's at a point where it will need to dig in and fortify defensive lines while under Russian fire. This dangerous environment will make construction increasingly challenging. And it's still facing tremendous shortages in the critical resources needed to stay in this fight.

Read the original article on Business Insider