Intense urban combat is underway, but is it slowing the Russian advance despite their overwhelming numerical advantage?
Speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels Belgium, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley made clear that Ukrainians have a chance, telling an audience “there are no inevitabilities in war.”
To a certain extent, it would seem that urban, dismounted warfare might favor the Ukrainians given their tactical successes so far. Ukrainians also know the terrain and building structures that they could use to their advantage, and have demonstrated proficiency in using dispersed units to stage ambushes, hit-and-run attacks, and decentralized attack operations. Can this Ukrainian warfighting advantage, fortified by a fighting spirit unique to those fighting for their homeland, manage to hold off and prevail against a much larger Russian force?
“I would say that the numbers clearly favor the Russians. In terms of artillery, they do outnumber, they out-gun and out-range. You've heard that many, many times -- and they do have enough forces. But there's -- the Russians have run into a lot of problems,” Milley explained.
Milley noted that, although Russia is gaining ground and does have a massive numerical advantage, fighting in Severodonetsk will continue.
“In Severodonetsk, the city is probably three-quarters taken by Russian forces, but the Ukrainians are fighting them street-by-street, house-by-house, and it's not a done deal,” he added.
Russian numerical superiority will allow its forces to hold captured territory. For example, if Ukrainians push Russian forces back or retake occupied ground, holding that territory will be challenging. Ukraine’s force may not have enough soldiers to occupy and defend areas they have taken back. This could present problems because once an area is cleared of Russian troops, Ukrainian forces will need to hold that territory by maintaining a continual presence. This may be one reason why Russians are reportedly making slow gains. Or, perhaps it is simply because they retake the same areas after being pushed back by Ukrainians who are unable to hold the ground.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.