Perhaps the biggest surprise of the Russo-Ukrainian War is the intensity with which a smaller and largely dismounted force of Ukrainian soldiers has been able to stop and destroy Russian mechanized vehicle attacks. Ukrainian defenders likely accomplished this in large measure through sheer force of will to protect their families and children from deliberate Russian attacks on civilians.
Another key part of their success is tactical acuity. Dispersed groups of dismounted Ukrainian soldiers armed with anti-tank weapons have been able to stage ambushes, hit-and-run strikes, and launch attacks from elevated or obscured positions to destroy Russian armored vehicles.
Another key component of Ukrainian tactical prowess was explained to The National Interest by a former U.S. Army commander who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and led the attacks on Iraqi Republican Guard forces at the Baghdad airport during the initial invasion. Retired Lt. Col. Scott Rutter, who was an Army Rifle Company commander, said the Iraqis tried to use intersections, cross-sections, and chokepoints to ambush approaching U.S. armored vehicles from tactically advantageous positions. “They had some success” using this strategy, Rutter said, however, the U.S. forces were able to quickly prevail in these now-famous encounters.
This strategy appears to also be helping Ukrainian fighters use anti-armor weapons to destroy advancing armored vehicle contingents. Russian mechanized forces have been decimated while crossing bridges or entering urban areas with uneven terrain. Ukrainian tactical success naturally relies on intangible variables such as tenacity, strong survival instinct, and widespread willingness to fight. Yet, Ukrainian willpower is matched with proper weaponry and tactical proficiency. This is likely why the Pentagon is sending thousands of rounds of ammunition, shoulder-fired anti-armor weapons, and even 1,000 more Javelins to Ukraine.
Following some small initial gains in eastern and southern Ukraine, Russian forces are largely stalled and Ukrainians are beginning to raise the prospect of a counterattack to “take back” or “reclaim” ground occupied by Russian forces.
Ukraine’s resolve and success, coupled with NATO’s interest in protecting its eastern flank from continued Russian aggression, is a key reason why the Biden administration recently authorized the single largest support package to Ukraine since the war began. The nearly $3 billion aid package is designed to provide long-term support and enable industry partners to produce new weapons for Ukraine.
“We are with Ukraine today, and alongside our Allies and partners, we will stick with Ukraine over the long haul,” Colin Kahl, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, told reporters during a press briefing.
“In light of this enduring commitment, the Department of Defense has decided to provide an additional $2.98 billion in security assistance to Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, or USAI,” Kahl said.
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.