The Ukrainian counteroffensive that launched in June against Moscow’s invasion has run into a Russian wall.
In the run-up to the Ukrainian push, weapons from Western allies — such as tanks, artillery, and other equipment — poured into Ukraine. Despite some small gains, Ukrainian forces have yet to see a large breakthrough, leaving some to wonder what else is needed.
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“This is about as hard as it gets,” said Bradley Bowman, senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Think World War I with drones.
That’s a little bit of what the Ukrainians are facing. And so in our microwave culture here in the United States, we want results yesterday, but that’s just not the way it works when you’re confronting a military like the Russians.”
Land mines have been a massive problem for Kyiv’s forces. Russia has deployed large tracts of explosive devices, including mines aimed at troops as well as mines that are designed to take out armored vehicles like tanks, slowing down any Ukrainian advance.
And with Russia’s ability to lay mines with specialized artillery, keeping cleared lanes open to send forces through has been a struggle.
“Let me be clear, this would present a significant challenge for any force that is trying to take it without the full scope of Western capabilities,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, executive chairman of Silverado Policy Accelerator and co-founder of CrowdStrike.
Many in Kyiv have called for the introduction of Western fighter jets, such as the F-16, to beef up the beleaguered Ukrainian Air Force, which has managed to keep flying and fighting despite what on paper is an overwhelming Russian advantage in air power.
These fighters would also help take the pressure off of air defense forces, which consists of older Soviet surface-to-air missile systems that are difficult to resupply, and the newly provided Patriot missile system.
Just sending F-16s to Ukraine wouldn’t turn the tide overnight. It would take months, if not years, of training to get the most out of these expensive jets.
“These weapons are not silver bullets,” said Mick Ryan, a retired major general of the Australian army and adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“There’s no such thing as a single weapon system that will provide that. It’s when you have lots of different weapons systems in the air on the ground. You have operators who are technically proficient and then you’re able to undertake the collective combined arms training, that’s when you have a really war-winning capability.”