A grinding Russian assault appears telling about Putin's plan to defeat Ukraine

  • Russia is on the offensive, but not contributing all it can into the assault, reflecting Russia's plans.

  • Putin's strategy focuses on attrition and limiting Ukraine's counteroffensive capabilities.

  • ISW experts warn that delays in Western aid could lead to Ukraine's collapse and Russian victory.

Russian forces are making a push along an axis between Chasiv Yar and Avdiivka but not throwing their full weight into it. War analysts say that the tactics appear to reflect Russian President Putin's theory of victory in Ukraine, revealed earlier this month.

"Russian forces have committed only limited forces to this operation so far, which suggests that Russian forces continue to prioritize gradual advances through consistent grinding assaults over operationally significant gains through rapid maneuver," analysts at the Institute of the Study of War assess.

Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 7, Putin said that speed is unnecessary, explaining that Russian forces can gradually "squeeze" the Ukrainians out of territories Moscow seeks to control.

Putin theorized that the gradual progress Russian forces make will allow them to achieve the Kremlin's aims, as it prevents Ukraine from conducting effective counteroffensive tactics.

Slow, steady, grinding operations in the Toretsk direction are a goal for Russian forces, as they believe it will block Ukraine from gathering critical resources, as well as personnel, and drain what it already has. And that, ISW experts said, may be more important than seizing territory.

Analysts from the Washington-based ISW predict that Russia's approach to this conflict, which aims to "win a war of attrition against Ukrainian forces," could take anywhere from months to years to accomplish. At the forum this month, Putin said he was confident the plans to make gradual gains will come to fruition.

ISW analysts advise that Western partner nations supply Ukraine's military with the resources it needs to "liberate significant swaths of occupied Ukraine and challenge Putin's belief that he can gradually subsume Ukraine."

Ukraine has overcome some of the dangerous shortfalls it faced earlier in the years as partners step up support, but the pace at which Ukraine is currently receiving aid is limited and enforces Putin's strategy, which is focused on outlasting Ukraine.

ISW experts noted that the end of Western assistance for Ukraine could lead to a total collapse of its front line and an all-out, complete victory for Russia.

"Ukraine should contest the initiative as soon as possible because Russian forces are reaping a variety of benefits from holding the initiative, including their ability to pursue a strategy of attritional warfare," the analysts concluded.

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