Putin’s Ukraine Gamble turns to a very different battlefield

The plains seem to favor Russia’s raw weapon advantage. But as a defensive power, Ukraine has an advantage in attacking Russian troops from entrenched positions when advancing across open terrain and within artillery range.

Both sides assemble troops for a major battle, with Russian forces regrouping after being defeated and driven out of Kyiv, their units fragmented by heavy casualties and loss of equipment.

Overall, Russia has increased the number of battalion combat groups in the east to 40 — up to 40,000 troops — from 30 this month this month, with more reinforcements on the way, Pentagon officials said. Moscow has withdrawn up to 40,000 troops from northern Ukraine to reorganize, rearm and resupply in Russia and Belarus, and is expected to move at least some eastward by driving through Russia over the next few weeks

Ukraine’s army in the east was estimated at around 30,000 men before Russia invaded. After repelling the Russian attack on Kyiv, elite military units were deployed to eastern Ukraine, but it is difficult to estimate the size and strength of Ukrainian forces there now. The units are smaller and more mobile than Russian ones, and the government has not released details of their movements.

In this new phase of the war, the Ukrainians will need a new arsenal of weapons — particularly long-range artillery and multiple-missile systems. They will also need more armored vehicles to protect their forces and to tow artillery pieces to the front lines.

Western countries are responding to this need. Slovakia this week supplied Ukraine with a powerful long-range anti-aircraft missile system, the S-300. And on Wednesday President Biden announced an $800 million military aid package for Ukraine that included for the first time more powerful weapons, including 18 155mm howitzers, 40,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and 200 armored personnel carriers.

Weapons from the West have caught Russia’s attention. Moscow sent a formal diplomatic note of protest to warn the United States of “unpredictable consequences” of shipping such weapons, American officials said on Friday. Putin’s Ukraine Gamble turns to a very different battlefield

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