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Why Russia likely won't win the fight in Ukraine's cities

Rogue Valley

Putin = War Criminal
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Why Russia likely won't win the fight in Ukraine's cities

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4.18.22
Russia’s main drive to capture Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, has faltered. But its sieges of cities in the east continue apace, as millions either flee, are forced underground or are reportedly taken to Russia by force. Thousands of innocents are presumed dead. At this stage, the fighting in Ukraine’s urban areas is about to enter a new and potentially more lethal phase. Although Ukraine is a traditionally agrarian society with some industry in its east, cities are its focal points and will decide the fate of the war. To win the war, Russia must still take Kyiv and raise the Russian flag over Maidan, the capital’s Independence Square. But to take the capital, it requires the conquest of several key nodes to gain control over critical chokepoints and shipping routes. Here is where the war has gone — and probably will continue to go — wrong for Russia. Urban warfare is the most complex, hardest type of warfare for even the best-trained and equipped military in the world. That spells doom for Russia’s forces as it enters the next phase of the war, which will require the penetration of Ukraine’s major cities. Urban warfare requires nimbleness, agility, sophisticated intelligence-gathering operations, doctrine to overcome the inherent challenges of the urban terrain, formations of artillery, tanks, infantry, engineers working in concert, disciplined rank-and-file, strict command and control with authority devolved down to junior officers in the field, and knowledge of local terrain. Russia has none of this.

Yet even the best-trained military in the world would struggle to conquer and control a country as large as Ukraine. And urban warfare reduces all the strengths of the attacker, even if it is a superior military force. The attackers lack situational awareness to see into dense terrain with full clarity. They are confined to narrow streets and alleys, and are prevented from spreading out to support each other. Nor does Russia have sufficient forces — even if reinforced by Chechen or Syrian mercenaries — to control Ukraine’s cities. U.S. Army doctrine says that to hold urban terrain, a military needs three to five times the troops required in any other environment. But doctrine matters too. Russia discovered what many armies have learned from history: Bombing cities does not force their inhabitants to give up. It did not do so in the 1942 battle of Stalingrad, the 1945 battle of Berlin, or the 2003 U.S. invasion of Baghdad — ground forces must go in to clear and hold the city if it is to be taken. The paradox of urban warfare is that the more you bomb a city, the harder it is to take. Even though cities like Mariupol may look like post-apocalyptic hellscapes, they are the worst places for an invading army to target. That is the only piece of good news going for Ukraine.


With enough heavy weapons, I believe the Ukrainians can hold and even liberate areas.

But the West isn't doing enough to date. Those 18 US howitzers roughly constitute a US Artillery Battalion. The 40,000 artillery shells can be expended rather quickly.

Joe Biden and Germany need to step it up significantly. The next month will be critical.
 
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