Reports of a standoff in Ukraine are false

By early 1915, the war on the western front had stalled. There were technical, strategic and doctrinal reasons for this. The machine gun changed tactics, killing hundreds of soldiers, as did the more accurate and concentrated artillery. Poor communications hampered the coordination of the various elements of the vast armies. A lack of protected mobility meant that even with a breakthrough in enemy lines, the enemy could fill the gap faster than the attacker could exploit it.

Recently, this has become the analogy of choice for some texts about the war in Ukraine. Articles in publications from the United States, Britain and beyond have all touted theories about the current “Ukrainian standoff.” It’s making good headlines, but there’s a problem: it’s just not true.

Forces search the remains of a home hit by a Russian missile in Dnipro, Ukraine, on Sunday.

Forces search the remains of a home hit by a Russian missile in Dnipro, Ukraine, on Sunday.Credit:Spencer Platt/Getty

The Collins dictionary defines stalemate as “an impasse, a tie, an impasse … a situation in which neither side in an argument or dispute can win, or in which no progress is possible”. War is a complex tableau of military, diplomatic, technological, economic and social endeavours. Therefore, a stalemate in war implies a situation of geographic, economic, military, and intellectual stasis. This is not the case in Ukraine. In 2023, both parties to the conflict and their supporters have an enormous range of tactical and strategic options at their disposal.

What we see instead is the normal ebb and flow of a long war waged by well-resourced countries with external support. After the initial burst of activity, with each side seeking big, hard blows at the opponent, hopefully forcing them into a quick concession, most wars settle into a cycle of pulses and pauses.

The most recent impulse, with the Ukrainian offensives in Kharkiv and Kherson, saw vast territories returned to Ukraine through the courage and innovation of its armed forces and Western military, intelligence and technical support. These offensives boosted the morale of the Ukrainian people. They also reiterated that the Ukrainians are quite capable of defeating the Russians.

Importantly, the offensives also resulted in a slower pace of operations. Humans, even well-motivated ones, need a break from action to reflect, strengthen and relax before the fight begins again. This is the nadir of the war cycle that we are witnessing.

People from the town of Soledar wait to be taken to temporary accommodation near Shakhtarsk in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region.

People from the town of Soledar wait to be taken to temporary accommodation near Shakhtarsk in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region.Credit:AP

We are far from a standstill. A lot is also being done in this low-tempo phase. Most of it remains invisible to the layman because it is not that exciting to report or because it is obscured by operational security and the normal fog of war.

The Battle of Bakhmut takes the lives of Russians and Ukrainians. In recent months, the Russian army and the mercenary Wagner group have struggled to throw tens of thousands of Russian soldiers against Ukrainian defenses that have been developed and improved since 2014. The city of Bakhmut has no strategic importance beyond its propaganda value for a Russian army that has not had any battlefield victories since the beginning of this war. But the fighting there is as fierce as any in this war, resulting in mass casualties few armies can endure.

https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/no-stalemate-in-ukraine-at-least-not-yet-20230116-p5ccph.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_world Reports of a standoff in Ukraine are false

Callan Tansill

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