"Jack Watling said in a recent paper that to survive in the east, Ukrainian forces needed to “prevent the Russians from being able to concentrate their efforts on one axis at a time” by continuing to counter-attack in and around Kyiv. In other words, Russia’s new strategy is to try to concentrate its forces to achieve a breakthrough. Ukraine, meanwhile, has to find a way of making the invaders’ original multiple-front offensive continue to work against itself, by keeping the fighting spread out." [my emphasis]
This may be right: but if the Russians are now trying for a breakthrough on a single axis, they really have thrown the Red Army playbook out of the window. Do they have a single general who's capable of improv on this scale and with these stakes?
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'Breakthrough' or 'breakout' is a concept that armchair military commentators assume is kinda obvious - it's what tanks are for, right? Well, there are certainly great examples of breakthrough in the conflicts that are close to home for us: Monty breaking out at Caen (eventually) and the Americans to the west and south of Normandy.
But it played no strategic part in Soviet military thinking, which was essentially oriented towards parallel progress on multiple axes across a front, departing from parallel forward movement - in an individual thrust, being one of several - if and whenever and to the extent that an obstacle, natural or man-made, was in danger of halting the advance (as I summarised in the second parts of this, and again in this). Manoeuvre - another Red Army obsession, along with firepower and speed - was to be by way of an attacking rugby player's 'step' - dodge the head-on tackle by swerving to one side whilst maintaining momentum and aiming to resume the direct forward line immediately, ideally leaving the defender grasping at thin air. It's a skill, an art (think Jason Robinson): it takes practice.
There's some evidence that the initial phase of the Russian invasion of Ukraine was planned as a classic Red Army series of multi-axis parallel advances, on each of several fronts, aiming (unsuccessfully) to be swift in their penetration. But they didn't seem to attempt even the rudiments of manoeuvre - the quality and competence of troops and leadership involved didn't run to anything more tactically adroit than steaming along the open roads. And it's not obvious they brought anything like the requisite firepower to bear (difficult if, in your arrogance and ignorance, you don't think you need to wait for a big preparatory barrage by air and land AND you remain in line astern on the road).
If these jokers can't execute according to basic Red Army doctrine, how much less likely are they to be able to come up with, and successfully carry through, a new doctrine on the hoof? The type of strategic-scale axis-shifting being contemplated (by these western observers) takes a Patton to devise and execute, and an army (like the USA's) truly skillful at logistics. Don't see it here, meself.