On September 10, US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mark Milley assessed that Ukrainian forces probably have around 30 to 45 days of good “fighting weather” before mud triggered by the fall rain slows down combat operations. What does this mean?
For one thing, the autumn showers may make it more difficult for the Ukrainians to conduct the sort of deep armored breakthroughs their American partners are pushing for. Still, the top brass in Kyiv is signaling that Ukraine intends to keep its counteroffensive going through the fall and into the winter — regardless of the rain and mud.
“Continuing the offensive into fall would fit with the more cautious, attritional approach favored by Ukraine’s military leaders,” says Horizon Engage senior analyst Alex Almeida.
Kyiv is eager for the arrival of US-supplied Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs or GLSDBs, new long-range German cruise missiles and potentially ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles (also from the US). The Ukrainian military “is hoping these weapons will allow them to turn up the squeeze on Russian logistics across southeastern Ukraine during the coming months,” Almeida explains.
Meanwhile, the production of tanks, guided missiles and other hardware reflects the strength of the Russian war economy and failure of Western-imposed sanctions to choke off imports of military-grade chips and other key components. Domestically, the Kremlin can probably sustain the current level of effort for at least another two years, and possibly even longer.
In Washington and European capitals, there is growing fear that the Kremlin intends to keep the war going until the US presidential election in November 2024, betting that a second Trump administration could scale back aid in order to pressure Kyiv to negotiate with Moscow.
Putin seems to be prepared to continue the war into 2025 and beyond — whatever the US election outcome.
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