Publications

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 6

March 6, 2022 - Press ISW

The military situation on the ground has not changed significantly in the past 24 hours. Russian forces continue to mass for renewed offensive operations east and west of Kyiv, west of Kharkiv, and toward Mykolayiv-Odesa but have not yet initiated new large-scale ground attacks. Russia has increased aerial and artillery/rocket attacks on civilian positions and infrastructure, including known evacuation corridors. Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted a second counter-attack in two days, this time near Mariupol. The Ukrainian air force and air defense forces continue to operate, inflicting damage on Russian ground forces and disrupting Russian air and missile operations.

The World After the War in Ukraine: Who or What Will Stop Putin?

March 6, 2022 - Press ISW

We cannot seem to believe the raw, extreme realism by which Russia’s Vladimir Putin is acting against Ukraine. Raw realism is so abominable to American thinking that we would rather believe he is crazy. Yet raw realism is what we are seeing in Ukraine: Putin has the might, so he is intent on making the right. He is sure that the West will not intervene militarily, which is not hard to conclude since the U.S. position has been stated, publicly, multiple times. He has made Russia resistant to sanctions in the near term and concluded that, by the time sanctions take full effect, Ukraine will be his. Further, he has judged that Europe is too dependent on Moscow to continue sanctions in the long term. Putin also knows that once force is used, only an equal or greater force will stop him. He knows that sanctions alone are not that equal-or-greater force. He has already escalated his use of force in Ukraine — and has very publicly put his nuclear deterrent forces on high alert — until he gets what he wants, because he’s convinced he can.

Explainer on Russian Conscription, Reserve, and Mobilization

March 5, 2022 - Press ISW

The Russian military is a hybrid format combining a traditional cadre-and-reserve conscript system and a contract-professional system. While the Russian Army has made efforts to professionalize its ranks, particularly in the last 15 years, it remains reliant on conscripts, both for its active-duty force and for its reserve forces in the event of general mobilization. Most combat units must be filled out by conscripts or mobilized reservists in order to be combat-capable. Contract soldiers are concentrated in the cadre and elite units, especially the airborne units.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 5

March 5, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian forces in Ukraine may have entered a possibly brief operational pause on March 5 as they prepare to resume operations against Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mykolayiv, and possibly Odesa in the next 24-48 hours. Russian troops did not launch major ground offensive operations against Kyiv, Kharkiv, or Mykolayiv in the last 24 hours. Ukrainian forces near Kharkiv, on the other hand, conducted a counter-offensive that reportedly penetrated to the Ukrainian-Russian border.

Ukraine Conflict Update 15

March 4, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian forces continue their focus on encircling Kyiv. The western envelopment remains bogged down, but Russian troops have moved more rapidly from the east and are arriving in the capital’s outskirts on the Sumy axis. The speed of the advance from the east is likely to slow as Russian forces leave sparsely-inhabited and flat terrain and enter the more congested and built-up eastern suburbs. Russian mechanized forces around Kharkiv appear to be supporting operations toward the east and west of the city, likely weakening their ability to encircle or seize it.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 4

March 4, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian forces continue their focus on encircling Kyiv. The western envelopment remains bogged down but Russian troops have moved more rapidly from the east and are arriving in the capital’s outskirts on the Sumy axis. The speed of the advance from the east is likely to slow as Russian forces leave sparsely-inhabited and flat terrain and enter the more congested and built-up eastern suburbs. Russian mechanized forces around Kharkiv appear to be supporting operations toward the east and west of the city, likely weakening their ability to encircle or seize it.

Ukraine Conflict Update 14

March 3, 2022 - Press ISW

The Russian military has continued its unsuccessful attempts to encircle Kyiv and capture Kharkiv. The Russians continued to attack piecemeal, committing a few battalion tactical groups at a time rather than concentrating overwhelming force to achieve decisive effects. Russian commanders appear to prefer opening up new lines of advance for regiment-sized operations but have been unable to achieve meaningful synergies between efforts along different axes toward the same objectives. They have also continued conducting operations in southern Ukraine along three diverging axes rather than concentrating on one or attempting mutually supporting efforts. These failures of basic operational art—long a strong suit of the Soviet military and heavily studied at Russian military academies—remain inexplicable as does the Russian military’s failure to gain air superiority or at least to ground the Ukrainian Air Force. The Russian conventional military continues to underperform badly, although it may still wear down and defeat the conventional Ukrainian military by sheer force of numbers and brutality. Initial indications that Russia is mobilizing reinforcements from as far away as the Pacific Ocean are concerning in this respect. Those indications also suggest, however, that the Russian General Staff has concluded that the forces it initially concentrated for the invasion of Ukraine will be insufficient to achieve Moscow’s military objectives.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 3

March 3, 2022 - Press ISW

The Russian military has continued its unsuccessful attempts to encircle Kyiv and capture Kharkiv. The Russians continued to attack piecemeal, committing a few battalion tactical groups at a time rather than concentrating overwhelming force to achieve decisive effects. Russian commanders appear to prefer opening up new lines of advance for regiment-sized operations but have been unable to achieve meaningful synergies between efforts along different axes toward the same objectives. They have also continued conducting operations in southern Ukraine along three diverging axes rather than concentrating on one or attempting mutually supporting efforts. These failures of basic operational art—long a strong suit of the Soviet military and heavily studied at Russian military academies—remain inexplicable as does the Russian military’s failure to gain air superiority or at least to ground the Ukrainian Air Force. The Russian conventional military continues to underperform badly, although it may still wear down and defeat the conventional Ukrainian military by sheer force of numbers and brutality. Initial indications that Russia is mobilizing reinforcements from as far away as the Pacific Ocean are concerning in this respect. Those indications also suggest, however, that the Russian General Staff has concluded that the forces it initially concentrated for the invasion of Ukraine will be insufficient to achieve Moscow’s military objectives.

Ukraine Conflict Assessment 13

March 2, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian forces resumed offensive operations in support of their envelopment of Kyiv on March 2 but made few territorial advances. Russian forces resumed offensive operations on both axes of advance toward Kyiv after largely pausing for 72 hours to reinforce and resupply their troops north and west of Kyiv. Russian operations to envelop Kyiv are Moscow’s main effort. Russian troops are also undertaking three supporting efforts, one to seize Kharkiv, one to take Mariupol and secure the “land bridge” connecting Rostov-on-Don to Crimea, and one to secure Kherson and set conditions for a drive west toward Mykolayiv and Odesa. The three supporting operations were active in the last 24 hours; Russian forces likely captured Kherson and began a bombardment of critical civilian infrastructure in Mariupol in a likely effort to force the city to surrender while making few territorial gains in Kharkiv.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 2

March 2, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian forces resumed offensive operations in support of their envelopment of Kyiv on March 2 but made few territorial advances. Russian forces resumed offensive operations on both axes of advance toward Kyiv after largely pausing for 72 hours to reinforce and resupply their troops north and west of Kyiv. Russian operations to envelop Kyiv are Moscow’s main effort. Russian troops are also undertaking three supporting efforts, one to seize Kharkiv, one to take Mariupol and secure the “land bridge” connecting Rostov-on-Don to Crimea, and one to secure Kherson and set conditions for a drive west toward Mykolayiv and Odesa. The three supporting operations were active in the last 24 hours; Russian forces likely captured Kherson and began a bombardment of critical civilian infrastructure in Mariupol in a likely effort to force the city to surrender while making few territorial gains in Kharkiv.

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