War in Ukraine: Round Two
Russia and Ukraine agree the war has now entered round two. But what did they learn from round one? Having downscaled its ambitions to an aggressive assault on the Donbas region in Ukraine’s east, the Russian army has massed tens of thousands of troops along a 300-mile-long semicircle and launched a fresh assault. Experts say Russians can grind their way toward gains by training more firepower on a smaller range of targets. But Ukrainian soldiers know the terrain. They’ve been dug into these same positions since Russian-backed separatists began their fight with Kyiv in 2014. Even if they can’t win, they might inflict enough damage to force Vladimir Putin to rethink his broader ambitions in Ukraine. According to a report published on Monday by the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, Russian weaknesses exposed in round one may continue in round two, including low Russian morale and logistical challenges that “indicate the effective combat power of Russian units in eastern Ukraine is a fraction of their on-paper strength.” In fact, a US official estimated on Tuesday that Russia has lost 25% of its combat troops since the war began.