Ukraine Project

Ukraine Conflict Update 11

The Russian military is reorganizing its military efforts in an attempt to remedy poor planning and execution based on erroneous assumptions about Ukrainians’ will and ability to resist. Russian operations around Kyiv remain limited as logistics and reinforcements arrive but will likely resume in greater strength in the next 24 hours. Ukrainian military leaders said that they have used the pause to strengthen Kyiv’s defenses and prepare to defend their capital in depth. The Ukrainian military likely cannot prevent Russian forces from enveloping or encircling Kyiv if the Russians send enough combat power, but likely can make Russian efforts to gain control of the city itself extremely costly and possibly unsuccessful.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, February 28, 2022

The Russian military is reorganizing its military efforts in an attempt to remedy poor planning and execution based on erroneous assumptions about Ukrainians’ will and ability to resist. Russian operations around Kyiv remain limited as logistics and reinforcements arrive but will likely resume in greater strength in the next 24 hours. Ukrainian military leaders say that they have used the pause to strengthen Kyiv’s defenses and prepare to defend their capital in depth. The Ukrainian military likely cannot prevent Russian forces from enveloping or encircling Kyiv if the Russians send enough combat power to do so, but likely can make Russian efforts to gain control of the city itself extremely costly and possibly unsuccessful.

Ukraine Conflict Update 10

The Russian military has likely recognized that its initial expectations that limited Russian attacks would cause the collapse of Ukrainian resistance have failed and is recalibrating accordingly. The Russian military is moving additional combat resources toward Ukraine and establishing more reliable and effective logistics arrangements to support what is likely a larger, harder, and more protracted conflict than it had originally prepared for. The tide of the war could change rapidly in Russia’s favor if the Russian military has correctly identified its failings and addresses them promptly, given the overwhelming advantage in net combat power Moscow that enjoys. Ukrainian morale and combat effectiveness remain extremely high, however, and Russian forces confront the challenge of likely intense urban warfare in the coming days.

Russian forces largely conducted an operational pause on February 26-27 but will likely resume offensive operations and begin using greater air and artillery support in the coming days. Russian airborne and special forces troops are engaged in urban warfare in northwestern Kyiv, but Russian mechanized forces are not yet in the capital. Russian forces conducted limited attacks on the direct approaches to Kyiv on both banks of the Dnipro River, but largely paused offensive operations in northeastern Ukraine. Russian forces likely paused to recalibrate their – to date largely unsuccessful – approach to offensive operations in northern Ukraine and deploy additional reinforcements and air assets to the front lines.

Russia-Ukraine Warning Update: Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, February 27

The Russian military has likely recognized that its initial expectations that limited Russian attacks would cause the collapse of Ukrainian resistance have failed and is recalibrating accordingly. The Russian military is moving additional combat resources toward Ukraine and establishing more reliable and effective logistics arrangements to support what is likely a larger, harder, and more protracted conflict than it had originally prepared for. The tide of the war could change rapidly in Russia’s favor if the Russian military has correctly identified its failings and addresses them promptly, given the overwhelming advantage in net combat power Moscow enjoys. Ukrainian morale and combat effectiveness remain extremely high, however, and Russian forces confront the challenge of likely intense urban warfare in the coming days.

Russian forces largely conducted an operational pause on February 26-27 but will likely resume offensive operations and begin using greater air and artillery support in the coming days. Russian airborne and special forces troops are engaged in urban warfare in northwestern Kyiv, but Russian mechanized forces are not yet in the capital. Russian forces conducted limited attacks on the direct approaches to Kyiv on both banks of the Dnipro River, but largely paused offensive operations in northeastern Ukraine. Russian forces likely paused to recalibrate their – to date largely unsuccessful – approach to offensive operations in northern Ukraine and deploy additional reinforcements and air assets to the front lines.

Ukraine Conflict Update 9

Russian forces’ main axes of advance in the last 24 hours focused on Kyiv, northeastern Ukraine, and southern Ukraine. Russian airborne and special forces troops are engaged in urban warfare in northwestern Kyiv, but Russian mechanized forces are not yet in the capital. Russian advances from Crimea risk cutting off the large concentrations of Ukrainian forces still defending the former line of contact between unoccupied Ukraine and occupied Donbas. Ukrainian leaders may soon face the painful decision of ordering the withdrawal of those forces and the ceding of more of eastern Ukraine or allowing much of Ukraine’s uncommitted conventional combat power to be encircled and destroyed. There are no indications as yet of whether the Ukrainian government is considering this decision point.

Russia-Ukraine Warning Update: Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, February 26

Russian forces’ main axes of advance in the last 24 hours focused on Kyiv, northeastern Ukraine, and southern Ukraine. Russian airborne and special forces troops are engaged in urban warfare in northwestern Kyiv, but Russian mechanized forces are not yet in the capital. Russian forces from Crimea have changed their primary axes of advance from a presumed drive toward Odesa to focus on pushing north toward Zaporizhie and the southeastern bend of the Dnipro River and east along the Azov Sea coast toward Mariupol. These advances risk cutting off the large concentrations of Ukrainian forces still defending the former line of contact between unoccupied Ukraine and occupied Donbas. Ukrainian leaders may soon face the painful decision of ordering the withdrawal of those forces and the ceding of more of eastern Ukraine or allowing much of Ukraine’s uncommitted conventional combat power to be encircled and destroyed. There are no indications as yet of whether the Ukrainian government is considering this decision point. Ukrainian resistance remains remarkably effective and Russian operations, especially on the Kyiv axis, have been poorly coordinated and executed, leading to significant Russian failures on that axis and at Kharkiv. Russian forces remain much larger and more capable than Ukraine’s conventional military, however, and Russian advances in southern Ukraine may threaten to unhinge the defense of Kyiv and northeastern Ukraine if they continue unchecked.

Turkey Juggles Relationships after Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is calling for a decisive NATO response against Russia after the Kremlin began a large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Turkey has been prioritizing its bourgeoning defense and diplomatic partnership with Ukraine in recent years—an action that the Kremlin perceives as a challenge to its sphere of influence. Ukraine is not the first theater of conflict where Turkey and Russia have opposing interests, which they often have been able to compartmentalize. Turkey has challenged Russia’s sphere of influence in various theaters—including Libya, Central Asia, Syria, and the Caucasus—while maintaining its close coordination with Russia in its efforts to diversify its relations toward non-NATO states. However, Ukraine is likely the most significant challenge to date to Turkey’s bid to balance its NATO membership with its fragile partnership with Russia. Turkey has become increasingly reliant on Russian cooperation in various conflicts and key industries like energy and tourism.

Ukraine Conflict Update 8

Russian forces entered major Ukrainian cities—including Kyiv and Kherson – for the first time on February 25. Russian forces’ main axes of advance focused on Kyiv, successfully isolating the city on both banks of the Dnipro River. Poorly planned and organized Russian military operations along Ukraine’s northern border have been less successful than those emanating from Crimea so far. Determined and well-organized Ukrainian resistance around Kyiv and Kharkiv has also played an important role in preventing the Russian military from advancing with the speed and success for which it had reportedly planned. The Russian military has deployed forces beyond those it likely planned to use against Ukraine to offset these challenges. However, Russian forces remain much larger and more capable than Ukraine’s conventional military. Russia will likely defeat Ukrainian regular military forces and secure their territorial objectives at some point in the coming days or weeks if Putin is determined to do so and willing to pay the cost in blood and treasure.

Russia-Ukraine Warning Update: Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, February 25, 2022

Russian forces entered major Ukrainian cities—including Kyiv and Kherson—for the first time on February 25. Russian forces’ main axes of advance focused on Kyiv (successfully isolating the city on both banks of the Dnipro River). Russian military operations along Ukraine’s northern border have been less well-planned, organized, and conducted than those emanating from Crimea. They have also been less successful so far. The divergence in performance likely arises in part from differences in the composition and organization of the Russian ground forces elements in the Western Military District and Belarus (to Ukraine’s north) and Southern Military District and Black Sea Fleet (to its south and east), as ISW has previously observed. Determined and well-organized Ukrainian resistance around Kyiv and Kharkiv has also played an important role in preventing the Russian military from advancing with the speed and success for which it had reportedly planned. The Russian military has deployed additional forces to southeastern Belarus, likely beyond those Moscow had planned to use against Ukraine, to offset these problems and challenges. Russian forces remain much larger and more capable than Ukraine’s conventional military, however. Russia will likely defeat Ukrainian regular military forces and secure their territorial objectives at some point in the coming days or weeks if Putin is determined to do so and willing to pay the cost in blood and treasure.

Russia-Ukraine Warning Update: Initial Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment

Russian President Vladimir Putin began a large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 likely aimed at full regime change and the occupation of Ukraine. His claimed objective to “demilitarize” and “de-nazify” Ukraine is a transparent cover for an unprovoked war of aggression to occupy a neighboring state. Putin and Kremlin media continue to deny that the Russian invasion is a war, instead describing it as a special military operation. Putin’s messaging is likely aimed at a domestic Russian audience, which the Kremlin has not fully prepared for the costs of a war against Ukraine. Russian officials and state media have been denying and mocking Western warnings of the impending Russian invasion for months and as recently as February 23. Russian forces remain much larger and more capable than Ukraine’s conventional military. Russia will likely defeat Ukrainian regular military forces and secure their territorial objectives at some point in the coming days or weeks if Putin is determined to do so and willing to pay the cost in blood and treasure.

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