The AFU will be in a much better position: ISW predicts Russia's actions until Ukraine receives US military assistance

Ukrainian soldier at the front in Donetsk region. Source: Alex Babenko

Ukraine, having received Western military assistance, will be in a significantly improved operational position by June 2024, so Russia may introduce changes to its projected summer offensive. Most likely, the aggressor will intensify ongoing attacks on the frontline, as well as missile and drone strikes in the coming weeks to take advantage of the closing window of limited material resources of the Defense Forces.

Such assumptions are made by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). The analysts made these assumptions against the backdrop of the US House of Representatives passing a $60.84 billion aid package for Ukraine.

They reminded that the Russian Armed Forces have recently continued and, in some areas, intensified their current offensive operations, taking advantage of abnormally dry spring conditions and the lack of equipment/munitions in the Armed Forces. The occupiers also tried to use the degrading capabilities of Ukraine's air defense in an attempt to destroy the energy system, and cause long-term damage to the country's infrastructure and defense industry.

"The anticipated arrival of U.S. security assistance has likely emphasized these considerations for the Russian Armed Forces. The Russian military command is likely to intensify offensive operations, as well as missile and drone strikes to achieve significant operational results, which will certainly become more difficult to achieve against well-equipped Ukrainian forces," ISW predicted.

They noted that Russian troops have achieved tactical successes only in the last six months when the situation with Western military assistance to Ukraine was deteriorating. Therefore, experts believe it is unlikely that the occupiers will be able to achieve a breakthrough that will lead to the destruction of the front line.

The AFU will be in a much better position: ISW predicts Russia's actions until Ukraine receives US military assistance

"They may still be able to make operational gains in the coming weeks and prioritize areas of the front where Ukrainian defenses appear relatively unstable, especially west of Avdiivka, or where Russian forces are within reach of an operationally significant objective, such as near Chasiv Yar," the analysts suggested.

Against this backdrop, Russian forces may hope that intensified missile and drone attacks will be able to destroy Ukraine's energy system and force the country to deal with a humanitarian crisis alongside defense operations. The enemy may also change its target and strike at the transportation infrastructure to limit Ukraine's ability to sufficiently distribute manpower and equipment to critical areas of the front. On April 19, Russian terrorists already launched a massive attack on Ukrainian transport infrastructure in the Dnipropetrovsk region, so ISW does not rule out that they intend to expand these attacks in the coming weeks.

The AFU will be in a much better position: ISW predicts Russia's actions until Ukraine receives US military assistance

"Russian forces will probably also decide to take advantage of the poor Ukrainian air defense cover along the front and intensify guided bomb strikes in the coming weeks in the hope of inflicting heavy damage on Ukrainian defensive positions before it becomes more risky for Russian aircraft to carry out these strikes against the backdrop of improved Ukrainian air defense," the experts suggested.

The analysts noted that the Russian military has likely concluded that Ukrainian forces will not be able to defend themselves against current and future offensives due to delays or a complete cessation of U.S. military assistance.

"This assumption seems to have been an integral part of Russia's operational planning this summer. It has been building up operational and strategic-level reserves to support its expected summer offensives, but it is doing so based on the assumption that even poorly trained and ill-equipped Russian troops will be able to attack Ukrainian forces that lack the necessary artillery and anti-aircraft munitions," ISW emphasized.

Still, they believe that the Ukrainian Defense Forces will benefit from sufficient US security assistance to deter Russian offensives in June 2024.

The AFU will be in a much better position: ISW predicts Russia's actions until Ukraine receives US military assistance

Ukrainian officials have previously stated that the Russian Armed Forces are likely to continue their offensives this summer aimed at capturing the rest of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, but may also launch an operation to seize Kharkiv.

On April 19, the aggressor country's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in particular, made it clear that Russia intends to capture Kharkiv. The Russian military command may have anticipated that simultaneous offensive efforts in the direction of this city and along the current front line in eastern Ukraine would "stretch and destroy" the allegedly poorly supplied and understaffed Defense Forces, allowing the occupiers to achieve a "major breakthrough" in at least one section of the front.

However, ISW is convinced that the Armed Forces of Ukraine, with improved logistics and personnel, which will hold the front line in June 2024, will undermine this operational goal of simultaneous Russian offensives on a wider front.

"The Russian military command will have to think about whether the planned areas and goals of its summer offensive efforts are feasible and whether the current means of concentrating and training forces are sufficient to conduct the planned offensive operations, taking into account the expected resumption of US security measures to help Ukraine," the experts concluded, noting that they are not making any predictions about the decisions that the Russians will make at this time.

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