The long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive that kicked off on June 4 has bogged down, with Moscow projecting Ukrainian losses at over 13,000 troops and hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles.
Ex-US Marine Corps intelligence officer Scott Ritter has told Sputnik that NATO knew the counteroffensive would fail from the start, and explained why.
Ukrainian officials admitted this week that Kiev’s counteroffensive against Russian forces is going “slower than desired,” with Ukraine’s Western sponsors admitting privately that the assault is “not meeting expectations on any front,” and that Russian defensive lines have proven well-fortified and too difficult to breach. Some Ukrainian officials remain defiant, with the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces announcing Friday that “everything is still ahead” and that the past three weeks have just been attempts to “probe” Russian defenses for weak spots.
The counteroffensive, which Russian United Nations ambassador Vassily Nebenzya characterized as “suicidal” on Friday, has featured military planners in Kiev throwing waves of troops, tanks and armored vehicles against elaborate Russian defenses consisting of infantry trenches, anti-personnel and anti-tank minefields, anti-tank dragon’s teeth and earthen beams. Russia has also secured air and artillery superiority, which seemed to have nullified Kiev’s NATO-provided intelligence capabilities.
The counteroffensive “never had a chance to succeed,” and those who planned it knew it, Scott Ritter told Sputnik’s New Rules podcast.
“And so if that’s the case, you have to ask yourself, why did this go forward? And I think it’s clear that this counteroffensive never had a legitimate military purpose. It was always done for political reasons,” Ritter said, stressing that it’s important to remember that NATO, in its quest to “hurt” Russia by pouring tens of billions of dollars into Ukraine, doesn’t actually care about Ukrainians.
“It was known that [heavy Ukrainian casualties] were going to occur, which means that NATO never cared about the Ukrainian forces, the Ukrainian soldiers, that NATO was always willing to sacrifice Ukrainian manpower to achieve a political objective, which means to shape the perception about the viability of continued assistance. That will, of course, be discussed by NATO when they convene their summit in Vilnius on July 11. And that’s the harsh fact. This counteroffensive never had a chance to succeed. NATO knew this, but they let it go forward, which means they don’t care about those 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers that have sacrificed everything for such a futile cause,” Ritter said.
The 13,000 troop estimate comes from Russian Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev, who cited the numbers at a meeting of the Russian Security Council this week. Patrushev said Ukraine has lost 246 tanks, including 13 supplied by the West, 595 armored fighting vehicles, 279 artillery and mortar systems, 42 multiple rocket launchers, two anti-aircraft missile systems, four helicopters, over 260 drones and 424 vehicles over the past three weeks. Commenting on the losses, President Putin said Kiev’s Western allies seem to have cynically “decided to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian.”
Ghosts of Afghanistan and NATO’s Reason for Being
Elaborating on the “politics” behind the counteroffensive, Ritter said it’s important to keep in mind that relatively recently, in August 2021, NATO and the US “suffered one of their greatest defeats up until that time,” perhaps “their greatest defeat,” with the disastrous defeat in and retreat from Afghanistan.
Ritter said that defeat “caused a lot of people in Europe” to reconsider NATO’s purpose and question its reason for existence. “If one of the goals of NATO is to create this unbreakable bond between the United States and its European partners, then Afghanistan showed that that bond is easily broken, that the United States is fully capable of walking away from a commitment that NATO has made,” he said.
Accordingly, Ritter noted, for the political elites who depend on structures like NATO, the European Union and the G7 and seek to hold on to power, the defeat was the “wrong direction,” and required for global events to be “redirected” to prevent the further disintegration of the alliance, and instead try to ensure its expansion.
“Ukraine became that issue. This was a deliberate provocation on the part of NATO to provoke Russia, to create the sense of crisis that would give relevance, renewed relevance to NATO. So when people say, ‘what is the purpose to be achieved by throwing tens of thousands of Ukrainians into an early grave, to sacrifice billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment, much of it Western-provided, what is gained from this?’ – what is gained is NATO being able to continue to cast Russia as a threat worthy of a revived NATO, to justify the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of military rearmament that would be necessary to transform NATO from the broken down military alliance that existed prior to the initiation of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine to this vision that people like Jens Stoltenberg and others have articulated of a renewed, revitalized, expanded, powerful NATO,” the observer said.
The alliance “needs” the Ukrainian conflict to continue, and may even be looking forward to Kiev suffering a loss in the conflict, Ritter emphasized. “They need, in many ways a Ukrainian defeat, because a Ukrainian defeat allows them to say that the Russian military that’s capable of defeating this Ukrainian force is a Russian military that can only be confronted by an emboldened, empowered, united NATO,” he said.
Counteroffensive According to NATO Doctrine
Elaborating on the factors he said helped stall the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Ritter said that the Russian defensive line created in Zaporozhye, Kherson and the Donbass wasn’t “just any fortified position,” and that for Ukraine’s offensive to breech the layered, fortified Russian positions to succeed, Kiev, in accordance with NATO doctrine, would have had to suppress Russia’s ability to “interdict, disrupt or otherwise bring harm to [its] assaulting force,” and to prevent Russian air power, artillery and electronic warfare from intervening.
The problem, Ritter said, is that this would have required Kiev to “have certain military capabilities” which simply “do not exist.”
“There is no Ukrainian air force capable of clearing the skies. The Russians have ensured in the lead up to this counteroffensive that they have suppressed Ukraine’s air defense system to a degree which the Ukrainians cannot use air defense to defend the area of interest to prevent Russian aircraft from imposing their will. The Ukrainians have insufficient artillery to suppress Russian artillery, and the Ukrainians don’t have adequate electronic warfare capability to jam Russian communications,” he explained. In other words, “all the things that would have to occur for any assault force to have a chance don’t exist. And NATO knew this.”
In this situation, the alliance effectively tricked Ukraine’s armed forces into agreeing to carry out a “suicide mission” by convincing them that the Russian defenders were just “poorly trained,” “recently mobilized troops” with low so low that they would drop their guns and flee at the first sign of trouble.
“They’ve also been told that Russian command and control is not effective. That the Russian generals are very lethargic, very slow to respond, or probably drinking and as a result, aren’t able to respond to a decisive thrust by the Ukrainians. They were told that it doesn’t matter about Russian artillery supremacy, they will be able to jam Russian communications so that the Russians can’t coordinate. And that it doesn’t matter about the Russian air force because the Russians had an air force back in September and October [during the so-called Kharkov and Kherson offensives, ed.], but the rapid pace of Ukrainian advance negated that. This is what the Ukrainians were told and it was all a lie. This was a suicide mission from the start. NATO knew this from the start and that’s the saddest reflection of all this, that NATO’s has deliberately misled their erstwhile ‘Ukrainian friends’ to carry out an attack which was as suicidal as the charge of the Light Brigade back in the Crimean War,” Ritter said.
‘It’s Only Going to Get Worse’
Asked to comment on recent Western media reports that Ukraine’s staggering losses have forced authorities in the country’s west to dig up old graves from earlier wars to make room for new casualties, Ritter predicted that its only “going to get worse for Ukraine” as time goes on, and their military continues to be ground up in the proxy war with Russia.
“The longer this war goes on, and I’m not talking about years, I’m talking about the coming weeks and months – more pressure is going to be put on Ukraine to generate new forces,” he predicted.
“As you hear right now, the need to do a mobilization to get 70,000 new troops up and running in as shorter period as possible. Why? Because Ukrainians know that the 60,000 that were trained by NATO are going to be destroyed. Now, where are those 70,000 going to get their training? How good is this training going to be? What is the quality of the officer corps that’s going to be commanding them, the non-commissioned officers? The answer is they’re not going to have good training. Their officers, well, they might be motivated, but poorly trained, incapable of doing complicated military tactics and operations. The same thing with their non-commissioned officers. You’re going to have a unit of men that barely knows how to get up in the morning, get dressed and stand in formation. And definitely, doesn’t know how to fall in on technologically advanced Western equipment and use it in the most sophisticated manner on the battlefield against an enemy who is everything the Ukrainians aren’t,” Ritter summed up.