Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine is approaching its first anniversary. The war being fought by Russian forces today is, however, very different from that being fought when Russia first invaded Ukraine.
In February 2022, the Russian attack on Kyiv — seemingly aimed at bringing about regime change in Ukraine — soon faltered. It quickly became apparent that the current Ukrainian regime would not simply collapse.
Putin appeared to have ignored or not been told about improvements in the Ukrainian armed forces that separatist and Russian forces fighting in the Donbas region since 2014 experienced first-hand. Nonetheless, during the first weeks of the war, Russian forces secured significant territory in eastern Ukraine.
Russia’s war of movement, however, soon degenerated into the sort of fighting that it’s engaged in today. Ukrainian forces also recaptured territory relatively quickly in the fall of 2022, but their war of movement has also come to an end for the time being.
Neither side has been able to gain a decisive advantage on the battlefield. Russia’s army in Ukraine has not collapsed — despite the predictions of many western observers — and shows no signs of doing so. Here’s why.
Russia’s attack north of Kyiv was undoubtedly a debacle and it was halted, resulting in a redeployment of Russian forces to the east. That move both greatly simplified Russian supply lines and meant more troops in the east. The Russian pullout from territory near Kherson, in southern Ukraine, had the same effect.