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Ukraine, US search for new war strategy - New York Times

It is a strategy that the Armed Forces of Ukraine will be able to start implementing in early 2024. 

Ukraine, US search for new war strategy - New York Times
Photo: General Staff

American and Ukrainian military leaders are searching for a new warfare strategy that the Ukrainian Armed Forces could begin implementing early next year, the New York Times reports, citing officials from Kyiv and Washington.

"The push for a fresh approach comes after Ukraine’s monthslong counteroffensive failed in its goal of retaking territory lost to the invading Russian army," the newspaper said.

Americans wanted the Ukrainians to focus on the south, to break or threaten Moscow’s hold on the strip of Ukrainian land between Crimea and the Russian border. Ukraine’s command believed those defenses were just too stiff to penetrate, and that pushing through the land mines there would lead to immense casualties.

As a result, Ukraine kept its forces divided between the east and south, refusing to commit to one main avenue of attack. And instead of a decisive breakthrough, a grinding stalemate developed.

Ukrainian military leaders have said they believe the American expectations were unrealistic, especially given the fact they had no air power with which to protect their ground units.

Now the US is pushing for a conservative strategy that focuses on holding the territory Ukraine has, digging in and building up supplies and forces over the course of the year. The Ukrainians want to go on the attack, either on the ground or with long-range strikes, with the hopes of seizing the world’s attention.

American officials say that without a new strategy and additional funding, Ukraine could lose the war. "Many Ukrainian leaders don't realise how precarious continued US funding for the war is, US officials said. They said these Ukrainian generals and civilian officials have unrealistic expectations of what the United States is providing. They are asking for millions of artillery shells, for example, from Western stockpiles that do not exist," the NYT writes.

The newspaper notes that the United States has given vast military and economic support to Ukraine, more than $111 billion over the past two years. But a significant number of Republicans now say they oppose further spending, and others are demanding to see a new strategy before they vote for any additional funds.

A number of US military want Ukraine to pursue a “hold and build” strategy — to focus on holding the territory it has and building its ability to produce weapons over 2024. The United States believes the strategy will improve Ukraine’s self-sufficiency and ensure Kyiv is in a position to repel any new Russian drive. The goal would be to create enough of a credible threat that “Russia might consider engaging in meaningful negotiations at the end of next year or in 2025”.

At the same time, Ukrainian officials are examining strategies that build on their successful deep strikes on Crimea last fall. They are searching for creative ways to keep Russia off balance with attacks against arms factories, weapons depots and train lines for moving munitions, and to score symbolic victories. One Ukrainian former senior military official declined to discuss the proposals but said the new plan is being refined and is “very daring”. 

American officials say that without a change in strategy, 2024 could be akin to 1916, the deadliest year of World War I, when thousands of young men lost their lives and battle lines changed very little. 

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