In the new offensive in the Ukraine War, can new recruits, high morale and heavy weapons tip the balance?

A former deputy minister of defense in Ukraine tells Grid why she has high hopes for a new counteroffensive.

To get a better understanding of this phase of the conflict, Grid spoke with Alina Frolova, who served as Ukraine’s deputy minister of defense from 2019 to 2020 and is today deputy chair of the Kyiv-based think tank Centre for Defence Strategies.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Alina Frolova: Well, I think that there are a mixture of targets. First of all, it’s to retake the territories. The south is quite critical for the Ukrainian economy and critical for access to the sea. And with this, we can also isolate the Russian forces on the right bank of the Dnieper River. This is the only point where they crossed the river and where they’ve tried to fix their position for further developments.

And, of course, this is the first big counteroffensive the Ukrainians have done. For us, it’s very important to demonstrate to Ukrainian citizens and to foreign decision-makers that Ukraine is capable of doing this. Everyone understands there can be different levels of success, but we need to demonstrate these capabilities because that will really influence the weapons supply and delivery.

And last, it also took some Russian forces away from other areas of the country.

Obviously, with any offensive or counteroffensive, there’s always more losses and more risk.

Now, a substantial part of their personnel is young and not professional military. It looks like they’re just bringing in new people who aren’t qualified to do the mission.

As for arms and equipment, the situation just one month ago was much worse. Now we have more and more intense arrival of foreign assistance and we have a clear prognosis of what will arrive and when it will arrive. It’s become more and more systematic. I still, frankly, don’t think we can expect to have the same numbers as Russia in terms of weapons and equipment.

The biggest concern for now is still ammunition. It’s quite heavily used. The delivery and production of ammunition is the principal point for now.

In terms of service and maintenance, I don’t know the real situation from the field, but I do expect it could be a problematic issue. We now have what the military calls a “zoo”: multiple types of weapons and equipment from different countries, and all of them require a different approach to service. So, it’s a challenge obviously.

Frankly, I don’t know how the [U.N.] mission can influence this. People who are under the guns, I don’t think they will be able to speak about the real situation, and the Russians won’t show what’s really happening. We need to take every chance we have, but I don’t think we should have high expectations for this mission.

I think that Crimea will be released after all the rest of continental Ukraine is released. But before this will happen, a lot of actions need to be taken. And it’s still a question of if Putin will still be in power at this moment. If he is, it will be difficult.

I’m sure it’s something that our military and our general staff are planning for, but it’s not the first priority right now.

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