Russia Preparing for Possible Offensive in Ukraine as Anniversary of War Approaches
As the one-year anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine approaches, speculation is mounting that Moscow will soon launch a major new offensive. Reports have emerged in recent days of Russian troops attempting to advance at numerous points along a frontline stretching hundreds of kilometers across southern and eastern Ukraine. This new offensive appears to be under way with Russian forces in eastern Ukraine building on months of intense localized assaults in several places in an effort to regain momentum in their sputtering, yearlong invasion.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has warned that the Russian Air Force has substantial aircraft remaining in its inventory for an expected spring offensive in Ukraine and has advocated for the delivery of air defenses to Ukraine. Western and Ukrainian military and political leaders have put forward estimates of casualties on either side: a staggering 180,000-200,000 Russians dead and wounded; and 100,000 or more Ukrainians in those categories.
Ukraine has raised its estimate of Russian soldiers killed in the conflict to more than 134,000, while Russia claimed in late September that there had been 5,937 Russian military deaths. It was estimated by Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in early December that the war has caused the death of up to 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers.
In response to warnings from American officials that Russia may launch a major aerial attack in the upcoming season, NATO is seeking to increase the provision of anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine. American officials of a high rank reported that the Ukrainian armed forces had caused so much damage to the Russian ground forces that they could decide to carry out air strikes. We should not assume that Moscow's only option is to send large numbers of ill-trained soldiers to fight against Ukraine's defenses.
A British government intelligence report stated Tuesday that “Russia likely aims to reverse some of the gains Ukrainian forces made over September-November 2022” and that “the current operational picture suggests that Russian forces are being given orders to advance in most sectors, but that they have not massed sufficient offensive combat power on any one axis to achieve a decisive effect.”
It is clear that, as the anniversary of the war approaches, Russia is making preparations for a possible offensive against Ukraine. It is now more important than ever that Ukraine receive the necessary air defense capability to protect itself in the event Russia decides to introduce its air force into the fight.
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