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American-backed Ukrainian attack to recapture Zaporizhzia nuclear power plant is a critical part of the Western strategy

Eventually, Ukrainian officials believe their long-term success requires progress on the original goals in the discarded strategy, including recapturing the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia

The Critical Moment Behind Ukraine’s Rapid Advance, New York Times, By Julian E. BarnesEric Schmitt and Helene Cooper, Sept. 13, 2022

WASHINGTON — The strategy behind Ukraine’s rapid military gains in recent days began to take shape months ago during a series of intense conversations between Ukrainian and U.S. officials about the way forward in the war against Russia, according to American officials.

The counteroffensive — revised this summer from its original form after urgent discussions between senior U.S. and Ukrainian officials — has succeeded beyond most predictions………..

The work began soon after President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told his generals he wanted to make a dramatic move to demonstrate that his country could push back on the Russian invasion. Under his orders, the Ukrainian military devised a plan to launch a broad assault across the south to reclaim Kherson and cut off Mariupol from the Russian force in the east.

……………………………………..Long reluctant to share details of their plans, the Ukrainian commanders started opening up more to American and British intelligence officials and seeking advice.

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, and Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to Mr. Zelensky, spoke multiple times about the planning for the counteroffensive, according to a senior administration official. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and senior Ukrainian military leaders regularly discussed intelligence and military support.

And in Kyiv, Ukrainian and British military officials continued working together while the new American defense attaché, Brig. Gen. Garrick Harmon, began having daily sessions with Ukraine’s top officers…………….

This account of the lead-up to the counteroffensive is based on interviews with multiple senior American officials and others briefed on the classified discussions between Washington and Kyiv that helped Ukrainian commanders shape the battle. Many spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the secret nature of the talks…………………………

“We did do some modeling and some tabletop exercises,” Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s policy chief, said in a telephone interview. “That set of exercises suggested that certain avenues for a counteroffensive were likely to be more successful than others. We provided that advice, and then the Ukrainians internalized that and made their own decision.”…………………………………………………….

Instead of one large offensive, the Ukrainian military proposed two. One, in Kherson, would most likely take days or weeks before any dramatic results because of the concentration of Russian troops. The other was planned for near Kharkiv.

Together Britain, the United States and Ukraine conducted an assessment of the new plan, trying to war game it once more. This time officials from the three countries agreed it would work — and give Mr. Zelensky what he wanted: a big, clear victory.

But the plan, according to an officer on the general staff in Kyiv, depended entirely on the size and pace of additional military aid from the United States.

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that had used older Soviet weapons, exhausted most of its own ammunition. Learning how to use new weapons systems in the middle of the war is difficult. But so far the risky move has proved successful. More than 800,000 rounds of 155-millimeter artillery shells, for instance, have been sent to Kyiv, helping fuel its current offensives. The United States alone has committed more than $14.5 billion in military aid since the war started in February.

Before the counteroffensive, Ukraine’s armed forces sent the United States a detailed list of weapons they needed to make the plan successful, according to the Ukrainian officer.

Specific weapons, like the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, are having an outsize effect on the battlefield. The satellite-guided rockets fired by these launch vehicles, called GMLRS, each contain a warhead with 200 pounds of explosives and have been used in recent weeks by Ukrainian forces to destroy more than 400 Russian arms depots, command posts and other targets, American officials said.

More recently, Ukrainian forces have put American-supplied HARM air-launched missiles on Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets, which no air force had ever done. The missiles have been particularly effective in destroying Russian radars.

“We are seeing real and measurable gains from Ukraine in the use of these systems,” General Milley said last week in Germany at a meeting of 50 countries that are helping Ukraine with military and humanitarian aid. “They’re having great difficulty resupplying their forces and replacing their combat losses.”

Ukrainian and American officials said the now weekly or biweekly Pentagon announcements of new shipments of weapons and munitions from American stockpiles have given Kyiv’s senior commanders the confidence to plan complex simultaneous offensives.

“The importance of Western military support is not just in specific weapons systems, but in the assurance and confidence that the Ukrainians can use in their future planning,” said Jack Watling, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, who recently returned from Ukraine……….

Eventually, Ukrainian officials believe their long-term success requires progress on the original goals in the discarded strategy, including recapturing the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia,…………….

While Ukraine may have an opportunity to recapture more territory in the east, U.S. and Ukrainian officials say the south is the most important theater of the war.

“Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are likely potential objectives,” said Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at CNA, a defense research institute. “We might see further Ukrainian Army operations to achieve breakthroughs there in the future.”……….  https://archive.ph/ABurb#selection-933.0-945.244

September 21, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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