‘Amateurs study tactics,’ an old military adage goes. ‘Professionals study logistics.’ The military situation in the ground in the Ukraine exemplifies this adage almost entirely. The pro-Russian separatist forces have a secure, uninterrupted supply line that stretches from the eastern Ukraine to the Russian side of the border. Not only are they able to replace material loses from Russian stocks at a fast rate, the tacit participation of Russian military forces in the fighting has guaranteed success on the battlefield as well as ensuring the security of the supply line.
On the other side of the line, Ukrainian forces have not been able to even marginally stem the flow of supplies coming west. Nor have they been able to resupply at the same rate as their opponents. Their stocks are finite and resupply from the West has come in dribs and drabs instead of a consistent flow. Even worse for the generals in Kiev is the realization that material aid from the United States and European nations has not included large amounts of military goods. The US and Europe are taking every step possible not to escalate the fighting.
Combat units go through ammunition and spare parts at a very rapid clip when hostilities break out. Armored vehicles, helicopters and aircraft break down or suffer battle damage and have to be repaired or replaced. The Ukrainian military cupboard is growing empty. To say nothing about replacing weapons, aircraft and vehicles that are lost in battle. Kiev’s forces are being bled dry with no hopes of major resupply on the horizon while the separatists enjoy an unfettered supply line with access to every material good they need and more.
US intelligence sources and eyewitness reports from the ground have confirmed the arrival of Russian made vehicles and heavy munitions in eastern Ukraine. On Tuesday, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported that some of its group members personally witnessed a convoy of 43 large green trucks heading towards Donetsk. According to the report, some of the vehicles were hauling 120mm artillery pieces behind them. A similar report was received last week concerning the arrival of tanks and other heavy equipment in the area.
Clearly, something is going on. It appears that the Russians are resupplying the separatists in preparation for the resumption of offensive operations. Ukrainian positions in the eastern part of the country have been enduring artillery fire for the past few days. Preparatory fire most likely. The cease-fire agreement has already been stretched to the breaking point in some respects and broken in others. Fighting is going to resume on a wide scale in the near future. The primary questions right now are: how far do the separatists plan to expand their territorial gains? Will the Russians overtly intervene in the fighting with regular forces this time?
I will explore answers to those questions tomorrow. The coming days are going to be crucial. Expect daily updates at the very least.