A former American adviser to Ukraine’s top general has proposed that Ukraine rely on its stockpile of outdated Soviet armor to break through the first lines of Russian defenses, while keeping its Western-supplied tanks in reserve. Dan Rice, a former consultant for Valery Zaluzhny, the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, suggested this strategy in an interview with Newsweek. Rice, who now serves as president of American University in Kiev, highlighted the extensive Russian minefields as one of the main obstacles facing Ukrainian troops.
Rice argued that the older tanks, such as the Soviet-era T-64, are “more expendable” and can be used to plow through the Russian outer defense perimeter. Once Ukrainian troops manage to drive a wedge into Russian lines, more sophisticated tanks like the German-made Leopards and US-designed M1 Abrams can enter the fray. While Leopards have already been deployed by Kiev, the arrival of Abrams tanks is expected to take place in early autumn.
According to Rice, there is a strategic imperative for Ukraine to protect its best tanks by not risking them in known minefields. By utilizing the less valuable Soviet armor initially, Ukrainian forces can conserve the more advanced tanks for a decisive battle later on.
Marina Miron, a post-doctoral researcher in the department of war studies at King’s College London, supported Rice’s suggestion. She commented that Ukraine had tried using Leopards but got bogged down in the minefields, citing it as a bitter lesson for the Ukrainian forces.
The counter-offensive launched by Ukraine against Russian positions in early June has so far failed to gain significant ground, according to Moscow. The Russian Defense Ministry estimated Ukrainian losses at over 43,000 service personnel since the start of the push. Additionally, Ukraine has suffered heavy losses in military equipment, with Moscow claiming to have destroyed nearly 5,000 units, including several Leopards and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.
Reports from mid-July indicated that Ukraine had lost around 20% of the equipment sent to the battlefield. This high rate of losses reportedly startled Kiev’s backers. Officials in Ukraine have acknowledged the difficulties faced during the counter-offensive. They pointed to challenges such as stiff Russian resistance, a lack of air power, delays in Western arms deliveries, and the formidable defenses and minefields that Moscow was able to set up in the weeks preceding Kiev’s campaign.
The situation in Ukraine remains tense as Ukrainian forces continue their efforts to break through Russian defenses. The suggestion to utilize Soviet-era tanks initially to minimize losses and preserve more advanced tanks for a decisive battle reflects the strategic considerations and challenges faced by Ukrainian forces in their fight against Russian aggression. As the conflict continues, it remains to be seen how effective this strategy will prove in altering the course of the battle.