Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive against Russia has been hindered by delays in Western military assistance and bureaucratic hurdles, according to a British military expert. In an article published in The Observer, Jack Watling, a senior research fellow for land warfare at the Royal United Services Institute, criticized the West for its slow response and warned that it will have to face the consequences unless it changes its approach to aiding Ukraine.
Watling highlighted several serious mistakes made by the West in preparing for Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which, according to Moscow, has so far failed to make any progress. He pointed out that Ukraine had clearly communicated to Western capitals its requirements for success on the battlefield as early as last year. These requirements included artillery, engineering capability, protected mobility, air defense systems, and personnel training. While Ukraine received sufficient artillery and protected mobility, it faced difficulties in obtaining other items on the list.
One major issue was the delay in approving the delivery of heavy tanks and infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine. Despite Kiev’s repeated requests for this assistance, it was not approved until January 2023. Watling emphasized that these months of delays gave Russian forces ample time to build up their defenses, making the task even more challenging for the Ukrainians.
Watling also criticized the training provided to Ukraine by the West, stating that it was poorly designed. During exercises conducted in Western countries, Ukrainian units were unable to “train as they fight” due to legal constraints on flying drones and the inability to use their own software not certified by NATO.
Furthermore, Watling pointed out that while Western militaries made efforts to adapt to the conflict in Ukraine, other government branches lagged behind. The strain on NATO stockpiles had been evident since July 2022, but NATO countries were slow in expanding munitions production, creating further difficulties for Ukraine.
Ukraine launched a large-scale counteroffensive against Russia in early June, but all of its attacks have failed with significant losses, according to Moscow’s Defense Ministry. Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Ukraine had lost over 26,000 troops since the start of the counteroffensive.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky acknowledged the difficulties and admitted that the counteroffensive was developing slower than desired. He attempted to shift the blame for the apparent failures to the West, citing a lack of sufficient munitions, weaponry, and training.
In conclusion, Watling’s analysis highlights the delays and bureaucratic hurdles faced by Ukraine in receiving Western military assistance. These delays provided Russia with an opportunity to strengthen its defenses, making the task of Ukraine’s counteroffensive more challenging. The article underscores the need for the West to reassess its approach and provide timely and effective support to Ukraine to avoid paying the price for its peace-time mindset.