Publications

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 12

March 12, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian forces secured limited advances east of Kyiv and north from Crimea on March 12 but continue to face logistical challenges, mounting casualties, and sustained Ukrainian counterattacks. Russian forces did not conduct offensive operations northwest of Kyiv in the past 24 hours. Russian forces made limited advances around Chernihiv and toward Kyiv’s eastern outskirts after pausing for several days. Continued Ukrainian counterattacks and successful operations by Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces continue to threaten Russia’s long line of communication in northeastern Ukraine. Russian forces captured unspecified “eastern outskirts” of Mariupol on March 12 and continue to shell the city in a likely effort to force it to capitulate.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 11

March 11, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian ground forces attempting to encircle and take Kyiv began another pause to resupply and refit combat units on March 11 after failed attacks March 8-10. Russian forces also appear to be largely stalemated around Kharkiv. Russian advances from Crimea toward Mykolayiv and Zaporizhya and in the east around Donetsk and Luhansk made no progress in the last 24 hours, and Russian forces in the south face growing morale and supply issues. The Ukrainian General Staff asserted Russia has so far failed to take its territorial objectives for the war and will likely increasingly turn to strikes on civilian targets and psychological operations to undermine civilian support for the Ukrainian government. Uncoordinated and sporadic Russian offensive operations against major Ukrainian cities support the Ukrainian General Staff’s assessment that Russian forces face growing morale and supply issues and have lost the initiative. The Ukrainian General Staff stated on March 11 that Ukrainian forces are “actively defending and conducting successful counterattacks in all directions,” but did not state where reported counterattacks are occurring.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 10

March 10, 2022 - Press ISW

The likelihood is increasing that Ukrainian forces could fight to a standstill the Russian ground forces attempting to encircle and take Kyiv. Russian forces also appear to be largely stalemated around Kharkiv and distracted from efforts to seize that city. Russian advances in the south around Mykolayiv and toward Zaporizhya and in the east around Donetsk and Luhansk made little progress as well in the last 24 hours. Russia likely retains much greater combat power in the south and east and will probably renew more effective offensive operations in the coming days, but the effective reach and speed of such operations is questionable given the general performance of the Russian military to date. There are as yet no indications that the Russian military is reorganizing, reforming, learning lessons, or taking other measures that would lead to a sudden change in the pace or success of its operations, although the numerical disparities between Russia and Ukraine leave open the possibility that Moscow will be able to restore rapid mobility or effective urban warfare to the battlefield.

Putin's War Exposes The Cracks in the World Order — Can We Fix Them?

March 10, 2022 - Press ISW

Ordinary citizens may increase their call for military engagement in defense of Ukraine if continued, escalating sanctions and military support don’t stop Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression. Right now, except for those inside Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora, that call is weak. But more citizens around the world, as well as some political leaders, may join in as they watch a people being systematically and brutally ravaged and a living political community being torn apart. The bombing of the maternity and children’s hospital in Mariupol and the continued shelling of evacuation corridors are just the most recent examples that wrench moral sensibilities. A collective conscience may cry out: “No more! Stop this!”

Warning Update: Russia May Conduct a Chemical or Radiological False-Flag Attack as a Pretext for Greater Aggression against Ukraine

March 9, 2022 - Press ISW

Key takeaway: The Kremlin has set informational conditions to blame Ukraine for a Russian-conducted or Russian-fabricated chemical or radiological false-flag attack against civilians as a pretext for further Russian escalation. The Kremlin is likely still evaluating this course of action but is building out the necessary conditions to justify broader violence against civilians. That risk must be addressed. The United States and NATO must “pre-bunk” such Kremlin efforts, destroy in advance Moscow’s efforts to create informational cover for escalation, and deter Russia’s potential use of a chemical or radiological weapon.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 9

March 9, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian operations to continue the encirclement of and assault on Kyiv have likely begun, although on a smaller scale and in a more ad hoc manner than ISW expected. The equivalent of a Russian reinforced brigade reportedly tried to advance toward Kyiv through its western outskirts and made little progress. Smaller operations continued slowly to consolidate and gradually to extend the encirclement to the southwest of the capital. Russian operations in the eastern approaches to Kyiv remain in a lull, likely because the Russians are focusing on securing the long lines of communication running to those outskirts from Russian bases around Sumy and Chernihiv in the face of skillful and determined Ukrainian harassment of those lines. The battle for Kyiv is likely to continue to be a drawn-out affair unless the Russians can launch a more concentrated and coherent attack than they have yet shown the ability to conduct.

Afghanistan in Review: Taliban and Opposition Groups Prepare for a New Spring Fighting Season in Afghanistan

March 9, 2022 - Press ISW

Increasing numbers of anti-Taliban opposition groups are announcing their intent to fight the Taliban during an impending spring offensive. The Taliban government is redeploying its military forces and standing up new military units in order to preempt this offensive and increase security in areas that are likely to see anti-Taliban activity. These opposition groups are actively working toward setting the conditions for an offensive but the extent of their fighting capabilities remain uncertain.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 8

March 8, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian forces continued concentrating in the eastern, northwestern, and western outskirts of Kyiv for an assault on the capital in the coming 24-96 hours. The reported appearance of forces belonging to Chechen leader Ramazan Kadyrov, Russia’s Rosgvardia internal security formations, and the Liga (former Wagner) Private Military Company in the western outskirts of Kyiv may indicate that the Russian military is struggling to assemble sufficient conventional combat power to launch its assault on the capital. Russian forces near Kyiv made limited gains and prepared for limited drives to continue their attempted encirclement to the west.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 7

March 7, 2022 - Press ISW

Russian forces are concentrating in the eastern, northwestern, and western outskirts of Kyiv for an assault on the capital in the coming 24-96 hours. The Russians are bringing up supplies and reinforcements as well as conducting artillery, air, and missile attacks to weaken defenses and intimidate defenders in advance of such an assault. It is too soon to gauge the likely effectiveness of any Russian attempt to complete the encirclement of Kyiv or to seize the city at this time. If Russian troops have been able to resupply, reorganize, and plan deliberate and coordinated simultaneous operations along the several axes of advance around and into the capital, they may be more successful in this operation than they have in previous undertakings. Operations near Kyiv in the past 72 hours have not offered enough evidence to evaluate that likelihood.

Ukraine Conflict Update 16

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 their second counterattack 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.

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