The Western nations providing training and equipment to Ukrainian troops have been advised by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the world’s oldest defense think tank, to tailor their instruction to the current battlefield situation. RUSI argues that instead of trying to create NATO-style officers, Western trainers should focus on teaching tactics that align with Ukraine’s own tools and structure.
According to RUSI, Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces has been hindered by a lack of staff officers capable of coordinating large-scale attacks. However, the think tank warns that training Ukrainian officers based on NATO norms would be ineffective as those tactics are not widely understood by Kiev’s troops. Senior research fellow Jack Watling explains that if officers are taught NATO procedures but are then placed back in Ukraine where their colleagues do not understand the terminology, they will revert to what their colleagues are familiar with.
This recommendation from RUSI comes at a time when Western leaders are growing increasingly frustrated with Ukraine’s struggles in its counteroffensive efforts. Media reports have suggested that US officials are annoyed by Ukraine’s reluctance to accept their advice on how to carry out attacks against Russian positions. The New York Times reported that Washington is critical of Ukraine’s dispersal of troops across the front lines, rather than concentrating forces on high-priority targets in the south.
In addition, a leaked German intelligence report in July highlighted that Ukraine’s troops were failing to make progress in their counteroffensive because they were not fully implementing Western tactics they were trained on. The Bundeswehr complained that Ukraine’s military was promoting soldiers with combat experience rather than those with NATO-standard training, which resulted in “wrong and dangerous decisions.”
In response to these criticisms, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry took to social media to remind everyone that no one understands the war better than they do. The defense ministry declared that if Kiev had listened to non-Ukrainians at the onset of the Russian offensive in February 2022, they would no longer exist. However, the Russian Defense Ministry estimates that Ukraine lost over 43,000 troops and numerous Western-supplied tanks and infantry vehicles in just the first two months of the counteroffensive. Russian President Vladimir Putin has described Ukraine’s operations as a failure, citing the unsustainable rate of equipment loss.
RUSI’s analysis suggests that attempts to make rapid gains against Russian defenses have led to an unsustainable rate of equipment loss. The think tank emphasizes that more deliberate operations have been making slow progress, with advances as little as 140 meters a day, giving Russian forces time to regroup. RUSI also notes that limited training time in the West is a challenge for Ukraine, as it constantly needs new troops to replenish its forces.
The offensive operations launched by Ukraine in early June have faced significant obstacles, including thick Russian minefields, heavily fortified defensive positions, and a lack of sufficient artillery and air support. These factors have contributed to the difficulties in achieving successful counteroffensive operations.
In conclusion, RUSI advises Western trainers to adapt their instruction to align with Ukraine’s own tools and structure, rather than imposing NATO-style tactics. This approach aims to address the challenges currently faced by Ukrainian forces and improve the effectiveness of their counteroffensive efforts against Russian forces.