In the weeks prior to the start of the Russo-Ukrainian War, Marine Corps University hosted a four-day wargame to forecast the war’s course. That wargame proved remarkably prescient, accurately predicting almost all of Russia’s major combat movements in the first week of operations. As the war entered its second month, the Marine Corps War College and the Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Future Warfare reopened the wargame with the aim of exploring how the future fight might develop, with a particular emphasis on a national resistance scenario in a Russian-occupied Ukraine.
Our wargame’s advisors came from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, including United States military officers, representatives from NATO countries, two experts on internal Russian decision-making, and a retired Ukrainian colonel with experience on the Ukrainian general staff. The second iteration’s most significant change to gameplay was a switch from each turn representing a single day to three-month turns. This was done to allow us to play out a full year of combat operations within the time allotted to complete the wargame. Lengthening the game turn duration required a higher degree of adjudication abstraction than our previous wargame, but it proved essential to enabling players to look at broader operational and strategic considerations over the duration of a protracted conflict.
After applying expected geostrategic and operational developments over the remainder of this year and into the start of 2023, we determined the Russians reached an operational culmination well-short of their maximal objectives. Given the combination of Ukraine’s proven will and its capabilities in a defensive fight, the prospects for Russian forces in heavy urban combat proved daunting. By the end of the summer, Russia no longer possessed the forces to pursue major simultaneous objectives nor the combat power to conquer a major city. All was not rosy for the Ukrainians, who lacked the combat power to go on the offensive and eject Russia from the occupied territories. With neither side able to achieve decisive military effects in the offense, without exception, the combined teams predicted that without a negotiated settlement the war is headed toward an indefinite stalemate.
The ramifications of such an outcome are immense. First, of course, is the toll in human suffering, as losses mount on both sides, and the refugee crisis remains unalleviated for a year or more. For the United States, a stalemate means that the ad-hoc defense-related resupply arrangements require systemization and the establishment of a quasi-permanent logistics infrastructure. Ukraine’s future success also requires the establishment of training centers that can regenerate Ukraine’s frontline combat power and allow these forces to reenter the fight.
As we conducted the wargame, the surprises came fast and furious. The first was we entered the wargame with a flawed assumption about Russia’s prospects. Initially, we assessed that over the next four months the weight of the Russian force would gradually wear down Ukraine’s military and allow for a complete occupation of the country. After conducting open-source analysis to develop a current operating picture and assessing losses since the start of the war, the team agreed to fast forward one month and assume the collapse of Mariupol, Sumy, and Konotop. The wargamers were then tasked to determine the major operational movements for the summer 2022 campaign, using as the key decision how Russia would employ the maneuver forces freed up by these successes and the option to employ forces held in reserve. In weighing and then employing the wargame to test courses of action, it rapidly became clear that Russia lacks the combat power to collapse the Ukrainian military this summer.
Another surprise for the wargame was the validation of how national leaders’ political objectives trounce the best military advice provided by generals. As the summer campaign played out, the “generals” (wargamers) were forced to decide how best to employ military forces, and shift combat resources, including strategic reserves, to accomplish objectives. Political requirements dominated military decision-making, as the expert military advice on future operations was overruled in favor of seizing objectives deemed more politically important. In this case, our Vladimir Putin ordered spectacular victories were necessary to sustain his own power, repeatedly saying that the postwar condition of the army was of small consequence.
Summer and Fall 2022
Russia’s summer 2022 move prioritized political objectives to achieve iconic successes over improvements of the overall military situation. Despite increasing Ukrainian partisan activity in occupied areas, Russia launched localized and limited offensives in pursuit of these objectives. However, apart from Mariupol, these objectives proved elusive, and most of the Russian-Ukrainian front lines barely budged. The only major exception was a local Ukrainian counterattack that retook a sizable amount of territory northwest of Kyiv.
The major takeaway from this first move is that, despite the lack of movement, frontline attrition remained frightful. Although Russia continues suffering higher attrition rates than its opponent, Ukrainian forces are far from unscathed. The most damaging losses for the Russians are in experienced officers, troops, and armored vehicles, which are the primary targets of local counter-attacks given increasing numbers of portable antitank weapons. The wargame highlighted Ukrainian capabilities to employ killer-drones to knock out Russian vehicles, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, and self-propelled artillery. Open sources claim that Ukraine has over fifty such weapons on near-constant patrols and this number is growing. If only one drone in ten kills a vehicle each day, that equates to 150 vehicles a month and 1,350 Russian vehicles losses between now and Christmas. Moreover, the wargame-imposed daily success rate of a mere ten percent is likely a gross underestimate. Add to this the losses inflicted from thousands of anti-tank weapons and the Russians soon ran short on modern armor to support combat operations. Over the wargame’s year-long course, Russian losses in troops and vehicles approached the entire amount it had built up around the perimeter of Ukraine at the conflict’s start.
Despite our intention to devote the rest of the wargame to a possible insurgency or national resistance campaign, the fact that, even if Ukraine was not winning the war, it was certainly not losing it, caused a re-evaluation. As Ukraine still had an intact, discernible, and well-manned front line, it was decided to let the wargame continue on its natural course. What was apparent to all was that the wargame was starting to parallel the situation the warring parties found themselves in 1915, with both sides unable to launch major offensives as manpower and munitions stocks were nearly exhausted.
As the war progressed, attrition challenged both armies’ ability to create operational reserves, as all available forces were required to sustain the line. Thus, by mid-summer, Russia lacked the capacity to conduct more than one operational offensive at a time, and its force would rapidly culminate in front of fierce Ukrainian resistance. For the Ukrainians, they were still holding a long defensive line with an ever-shrinking force, opening the possibility of multiple Russian breakthroughs.
Similarly, both sides in our wargame were limited by a lack of munitions. Current reporting appears to give the Ukrainians an edge, as they are apparently attacking throughout the theater, employing thousands of Javelins and other antitank systems. While important, a superiority in munitions does not equate to a capability to conduct a large-scale offensive to retake lost ground. The initiative remains with the Russians, but grievous and continuing losses limited Russian striking power. Furthermore, with the Russian economy under sustained international assault, it may not be able to resupply munitions, particularly precision-guided missiles and bombs, which already appear to be in critically limited supply. As a result, we reduced the striking capacity of formations as the lack of resupply took its toll.
In game terms, during the summer and fall campaigns, the Russians remained capable of applying pressure at many points along the front but could no longer sustain the four major offensives they initiated the war with. Just sustaining their isolation attempts on Kyiv and Kharkiv consumed and fixed the majority of Russia’s available combat power. As the second turn concluded, taking the conflict into December, the Russians, with severely depleted forces, were forced to make hard choices. Our Russian generals advised shifting to an eastern strategy similar to what Russia announced late last week. But they were overruled by Putin, who insisted on capturing Odessa, despite a lack of progress against Kyiv and Kharkiv.
Thus, Russia employed its strategic reserves for an offensive in the south that culminated short of capturing Odessa. The impact was to extend the front without achieving anything of military or political significance, while also eliminating any further reserve formations in theater. The wargamers did take some time to explore the eastern strategy, and although it likely would have initially caused significant Ukrainian military losses, the Russian offensive culminated before Dnipro and the Dnieper crossings, and with Kharkiv still controlled by Ukraine.
As its losses mounted and Russian forces prepared to conduct a winter offensive, Ukraine, in the winter turn, faced the decision to either defend in place and continue to contest the Donbas and Kharkiv or withdraw most of its forces back to cover the city of Dnipro and the Dnieper River crossings. A withdrawal, by reducing the front by several hundred miles, freed up substantial forces for reemployment around Kyiv or in the south. It also ceded key terrain in the Donbas and Kharkiv regions. Defending forward would have increased Ukrainian leverage in strategic negotiations but risked a Russian envelopment of the center of Ukrainian defenses. The wargamers opted for a withdrawal of much of the combat power back toward the west, while still holding Kharkiv as an eastern bastion.
During the wargame, adjudicators allowed both sides to sustain the personnel strength of many units through various means—volunteers and reserve manpower for Ukraine, and drafts of new conscripts and foreign mercenaries for the Russians. What could not be replaced in any great numbers, by either side, were vehicle losses. These losses impacted the Russians far more than the Ukrainians on the defense. By the end of a year, vehicle losses brought offensive operations to a near standstill—a natural culminating point.
The game ended with Ukraine growing stronger, but still incapable of retaking lost territory. Russia, on the other hand, needed a prolonged operational and strategic reset, no longer having the combat power to sustain a major advance and with little hope of reviving such power in the near term.
Ultimately, both sides lack the forces to achieve their ideal outcomes. Without a political compromise, we predicted the military aspects of this conflict will be characterized by stalemate, limited advances, high casualties, and massive equipment attrition on both sides over the next twelve months. Given Putin’s political position, the Russian army will be under heavy pressure to achieve success, which may lead to desperate employment of chemical weapons and/or tactical nuclear weapons to end the battlefield stalemate. However, players assessed that resorting to such tactics invites a United States and NATO response that would be cataclysmic for Russian hopes of ultimate success.
Reluctance on behalf of the United States and NATO to intervene hampers the development of logistics infrastructure needed to provide humanitarian assistance. The wargame indicated a growing demand for some international intervention to address the humanitarian crisis. The wargame also indicated that there are opportunities to conduct limited interventions to preserve and protect humanitarian concerns without presenting a direct challenge to Putin’s political and military operations. A bias toward avoiding the risk of escalation should not prevent consideration of intervention scenarios, such as humanitarian corridors or the establishment of safe havens within Ukraine.
The wargame allowed for differing levels of force generation under several scenarios. The establishment of a force generation capacity to train and equip shattered or new Ukrainian formations, outside of Ukrainian territory, had a marked positive impact in Ukraine’s ability to sustain its defensive positions. Similarly, anything that can be done to interfere with Russian force regeneration further limited its capacity to conduct further assaults. Still, without a sustained flow of munitions and equipment, Ukraine will be challenged to maintain its defensive positions. As for Russia, the game indicated that it will soon lack sufficient trained infantry to capture any major Ukrainian city after Mariupol falls, and will be unable to capture, nor even threaten the defensive viability of, Kyiv or Odesa. Kharkiv remained at risk of becoming isolated. But the wargamers assessed Russia lacks the combat power to quickly seize the city. Kharkiv may be able to hold out until year’s end and beyond unless the Russians halt all other operations to mass combat power around the city. Even then, such an assault will be an extremely costly operation, leaving Russia scant resources to do much else, while opening other areas to Ukrainian counterattack.
The wargame assumed Putin will remain unfazed by economic sanctions until their impact makes it impossible to rebuild his devastated ground forces without a national mobilization, which our experts believe presents a real risk to his regime’s survival. However, throughout the wargame, the economic sanctions imposed upon Russia were a constant backdrop to all else going on. If Russia remains cut off from capital markets, its energy industry sanctioned, and the country’s institutions removed from SWIFT, rapid economic collapse is likely. In that case, Russia will be unable to sustain the likely year-long conflict simulated in the wargame.
Finally, the possibility of a rapid Ukrainian collapse cannot be ruled out. But the wargame did not show any path where such an outcome is likely, as long as the West continues to sustain Ukraine’s resistance. In fact, this wargame indicates it may be time to start talking about the implications of an unambiguous Ukrainian battlefield victory.
After our first wargame, we had the luxury of looking backward to determine the accuracy of the game’s predictions. The results were good enough to give us the confidence to employ the game to look into a more distant future. Still, this is a wargame, and real-life human interactions in the bloody cauldron of war can easily confound our team’s predictions. Still, the game presents a set of interesting possibilities, all of which require more through examination by policy experts, tasked to prepare answers to a problem that seemed absurd in late February 2022–that Ukraine would still be holding its own against the Russian colossus a year hence.
James Lacey, PhD, is the Horner Chair of War Studies at Marine Corps University. He is the author of The Washington War, Gods of War, and the forthcoming Rome: A Strategy for Empire.
Tim Barrick is a retired Marine Corps colonel and the director of wargaming at Marine Corps University.
Nathan Barrick, PhD, a strategist at United States Special Operations Command, is currently a student at the Marine Corps War College and a former US Army Russian foreign area officer.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Marine Corps University, the US Marine Corps, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.
Image credit: James Lacey, Tim Barrick, and Nathan Barrick
First to Fight Marine wargamers in action. 🙂
Being a wargame designer myself, I do see their scenario to be too narrow in scope – assumptions Dr. Francis Kapper and I discussed together deep in the Pentagon in Summer 1981. (See his 2 seminal wargaming articles – about crisis simulations and about professional use of hobby games – on my CoatneyHistory webpage.)
I stand correctly accused of being an inductive – impressionist, as Bruce Geryk described in his interview of me – designer, not a rifle-barrel-counting deductive designer like those who produce many excellent tactical and operational games, especially professionally as in this case.
Look at the outrage about the Bucha killings – which can be questioned* – and the war-altering propaganda/media/political/strategic power that is already exerting.
But the use of tactical nuclear (but probably not uncontrollably messy chemical) weapons or other areal weapons like thermobar(bar)ic bombs to annihilate entire areas infested with antiair and antitank missile carrying infantry … and anything else living … must be considered *and included* in such an operational game like this.
The Ukrainians so backed by NATO can indeed win this conventional war, as they are already proving. In fact, it was always obvious the Russians could never match NATO conventionally in a direct war or an indirect war such as this, unless in Ukraine's case the ethnic Russian Ukrainians *could* have been a tipping factor which they have not been, if only because of Ukraine's security police (who are rounding up hundreds of ethnic Russians in Ukraine-controlled East Ukraine at this moment, according to reports … and what will happen to them?)
The strategic as well as operational and tactical incompetence of the Russians is stupefying. The moment the Swedes – outside NATO Article 5 collective defense protection entirely … although that does not protect members either, getting themselves into the war with weapons shipments like this – announced they were sending weapons to Ukraine, the Russians could have declared war on them with the nuclear ultimatum for Unconditional Surrender, just like we forced Japan's surrender in 1945, albeit after having to actually use the weapons.
(In Russia Today, there is a column by then Duma leader and now FSB director Sergey Naryshkin condemning our war-ending atom bombs to be "war crimes." Have they tied their own hands with their own propaganda lie?!)
Is the time for such a strategic option now past? Can Russia survive without it? Russia canNOT maintain/survive the economic, military material, and human costs of a conventional war (they are losing), operationally or politically. They MUST. END. this war to their security advantage.
In any case, this war did NOT have to happen at all, and I believe I have already posted on MWI 9 motives for certain leaders in the West opposing the Russians getting a fair security treaty … for those leaders wanting this war to happen … and to continue, regardless of the destruction and human suffering and death.
*There are 3 credible sources that the sniper killings which escalated the 2014 Kyiv demonstrations into a revolution were actually by the opposition ultra-nationalists who overthrew the Yanukovich government in what was actually a coup … and became the government theselves.
So for propaganda if there were killings it might well not have been the Russians. The identities and loyalties of the victims must be verified. My free-to-read-on-the-net (ibiblio) masters thesis is on the 1940 Katyn Massacre as a Cold War issue, and a bullet through the back of the head looks like secret police work. Note also moderate Kyiv negotiator Denis Kireev's killing by them.
In sum, the Russians invaded to end this war already 8 years too long and are unlikely to let it get any longer.
This 8 year war was already in the process of winding down. The high casualty figure generally used by Russians (which they blame entirely on Ukraine, without admitting to cause any themselves!) is the high end of international estimates, and heavily weighted to 2014. Over the past 2 years, the OSCE monitors have recorded 149 deaths for 2020 and 110 for 2021. Even if we assume the war were to grind on at that rate, it is evident that Russia, claiming to want to "end" an 8 year old war, has caused 200 years of casualties and is still going!
So its clear that with the war winding down, someone wanted it wound up.
That would be Putin.
With Ukraine steadily being drawn into the Western world, and making progress by every metric, (Note that although Ukraine was below Russia in GDP, it was better in GINI, indicating that for the average person, life was better) Ukraine was only getting stronger with each passing month. Putin decided that the odds would begin to change, and his chances of a successful conquest would only decline.
That is the only reason for the attack. It has nothing to do with "nazis" (Russia has far more), civilian deaths (Russia caused far more), mistreatment of ethnic Russians (the last independent polling showed them favoring re-uniting with Ukraine) or any threat to Russia (laughable).
One man's dreams of Russian Lebensraum and military glory.
Appalling Putinist drivel disguised as a balanced academic view. Your first * set off alarm bells and by your baseless accusations of ethnic Russians being “rounded up” your full fledged QAnon views burst through in full.
"SBU detain over 350 Russian saboteurs since start of invasion."
March 25, 2022 2:52 pm by The Kyiv Independent"
"Witchhunt in Ukraine against journalists, activists and left-wing politicians"
21.03.22 – Oleg Yasinsky – Pressenza
"A Nation of Spy-Catchers: Fear of Saboteurs Has Ukrainians on Edge
There are checkpoints, hotlines and apps for reporting suspicious activities. Ukrainians worry about saboteurs mixing among them, sowing mistrust and spreading misinformation."
NY Times 31Mar22
Russian Ministry of Defense: Ukrainian State Security Agency conducts large-scale arrests in Kharkiv!
2022-04-09 07:45 HKT
Recently, according to Russian media reports, the head of the Russian Ministry of Defense announced to the public that the Ukrainian Security Service launched a large-scale arrest operation in Kharkiv, and the arrest targets were people who have a good impression of Russia or are pro-Russian.
The latter was from iNews which appears to be based in Indonesia and independent.
And no, I'm not into QAnon or Alex Jones or the rest of their ilk.
I grew up Presbyterian. Thinking honestly, independently, and objectively was/is our cross to bear.
I think you're making an error of essentialising people. Being ethnic Russian doesn't magically give pro-Russian views. Even in Russia there are people who are against the war. In Ukraine it's probably way more. Especially after Mariupol.
"Left-wing politicians" probably means tankies (authoritarian-left Soviet Union apologists) since Ukrainian anarchists are anti-Russia.
Why too narrow in scope?
In any event… we will running a global wargame in late May, including the space domain. It will hard to get any broader in scope than that 🙂
Hopefully, it will be over by then, Jim.
Have you tried my little Postcard Guadalcanal yet? You can even print it off in beaucoup copies in postcard format to mail/give to family and friends. REAL proud of my icons, including that 1st Marine Div "1."
Nate, As always, great job. But predictions are the work of wizards. This war game had rules. In war, the rules always change. For example, if the coefficient of "collateral damage" from the fire of the Russian Army is increased (now it is close, if not to 0, then to 1 maximum), thereby reducing the percentage of losses of Russian soldiers.
Low Coatney, thank you for your honest comment on the events in Butch. Now honesty is courage. Bravo.
Spasiba bolshaya (and/or whatever that is in Ukrainian) for your thanks, Andrey.
If you and yours are endangered by this tragedy, I hope you will be safe.
Indeed, as terminally dangerous as it is, I hope we too – especially our children – will survive this, safe.
Life has turned out so that all my relatives are in Ukraine, and my friends and I are in Russia. My heart is breaking. But this work had to be done. Никто кроме нас.
I told relatives in February, javelins and NLAWs were difference makers. Now they have switchblade 300s and Puma integration. Their effectiveness will allow continual takeout of Russian command and control. Now we see switchblade 600 (a few) introduced. Each one of them should search out key assets like ammo dumps. British Starstreak making an impressive showing. Rerun those simulations and add more weight to standoff weapons. Thanks.
I read very carefully the way your first wargame evolved and have to give credit for how close it was to the way operations evolved. But, I am not quite sure that the new one will be as close to reality, for two reasons.
1. It has been obvious for some time (prior to the end of March) that the center of gravity of the RU effort has moved to the eastern front ( namely the Donbas area) and then the Russians withdrew from some of the previous axis of advance. It seems that they now follow a more or less sequential plan, first to force the capitulation of Mariupol (while replenishing forces in the East and holding territory in the south) and then to execute a douple envelopment of the JFO area in Donbas, forcing the defence to abandone previously fortified positions along the Donbas frontline, exposing themseves on the move, or become encircled. I dont see RU forces storming Kharkiv or any other major city, at least not before they accomblish this primary mission – to force the capitulation or destruction of the JFO force and gain control of all the major routes/raileways in the East
2. This moves the operational center of gravity much closer to already occupied areas/Crimea/Russia territories and far away from western Ukraine. Will the UKR side be able to replenish supplies,over this HUGE operational distance or reinforce the defence? This is a big question, that probably deserves a negative answer for as long as RU side has control of the air in the east, and the Dnipro river becomes an obstacle for the UKR side.
So, despite the exemplary results of UKR forces in the first phase of the war, which apparently started with overly ambitious plans by the RU side, the situation now does not look rosy for UKR at all. I believe a stalemate over the next few months, will be a best case scenario for UKR and a resounding defeat for RU and Putin. But I would not bet my money on it.
I agree with GEORGE on all points. I will add a little about the reassessment of the impact of aid from Ukraine's allies. Equipment, instructors and mercenaries coming from the West are priority targets for precision weapons. An example is the strike yesterday at the Lozovaya railway station only after heavy equipment from Europe arrived there. Or another example is the destruction of the Yavorovsky training ground after the accumulation of a sufficient number of foreign mercenaries and instructors there. Do not forget the greed of the capitalists – to sell scrap metal more expensive. For example, the Czech Republic sent T-72B and BMP-2 tanks with faulty guidance systems to Ukraine, which is why this equipment was not used and was not sold by capitalists to ISIS)). Tanks from the Czech Republic, by the way, have not yet arrived on the territory of Ukraine, so they are still intact. Also pay attention to the fact that so far there have been no strikes on railway junctions and railway tracks in the west of Ukraine through which reinforcements can arrive at the third line of defense – in Poltava, Dnipro and Zaporozhye. After all, there is a risk of sending reinforcements there from Western Ukraine. There are no questions why ? The reason is definitely not that there are no missiles. This is your homework))).
Adjustment . "I agree with GEORGE on all points. Except for the output. There will be no pause. No external pressure matters to Putin. "
The wargame's "Putin" sounds like an charicature of the actual Putin. Putin is in no way looking for "glorious victories" at expense of pragmatic strategic victories. Yet you admit your "Putin" acted very much on those assumptions. Guess you need a NEW "Putin".
That's precisely what Putin has done. Glory over strategic vision.
Let's consider what Putin actually wins if he does his "best probable case", that is, gets a chunk of Ukraine.
He wins: A chunk of Ukraine, the poorest nation in Europe.
Now let's consider what he loses:
Nato becomes stronger relative to Russia, not only through the possible addition of Sweden and Finland but through the entire alliance taking the Russian threat seriously again, pumping money into revitalizing the military, etc. Remember that the Russian economy is about equal to Italy. In the long run it cannot win an economic contest with Europe, as long as Europe chooses to engage.
Elsewhere, Japan is waking up. They have started referring to the Kuriles as "illegally occupied" and have determined that long range deep strikes can fall into their definition of "defense".
A large part of Ukraine will remain. Ukraine has always been ambivalent to Russia, with a strong cultural connection and hostility, at the same time. But there have always been Russia-friendly voices. Those will be gone. The Ukraine that comes out of this war will see Russia as a brutal enemy. This will be a generational thing. It will take a major shift in Russia's government to change this. Putin has thrown all the Russia-friendly voices in Ukraine out the window, and they will not come back.
The economic damage wrought by sanctions, of course. And they are causing a lot of pain, judging by the efforts Russia is making to deny it.
Loss of global respect for the Russian military. At best its a joke. At worst, a tragedy. Maybe he thought this would impress the rest of the world; the actual effect is the opposite.
And for the finale: Ukraine will not join NATO. But in any war plan, Russia must now assume that if a major war with NATO breaks out, Ukraine will seize any opportunity to jump in and reclaim lost territory. So Russia has to revise war plans to assume that Ukraine is de facto a NATO member in the event of major war. And clearly Russia cannot handle Ukraine AND NATO, simultaneously, in a conventional war. So Russia has cut its own throat in the conventional military balance in Europe.
But of course, they will have a few Ukrainian provinces! Putin thinks he is playing "Risk" and is clearly unable to think beyond that level.
In retrospect, the wargame's Putin actually sounds less dangerous than the current timeline's version of him.
Incredible coming back to this on 22nd September 2022, after an unprecedented Ukrainian operational success retook most of Kharkhov Region, cut the main supplies into Luhansk Region at Kupyansk, forced the Russians to give up their attempt at northern envelopment of the Donbas defensive group by withdrawing from an isolated and nearly pocketed Izyum, and led to a significant collapse in Russian manpower and morale.
The result of this was that Putin just declared 'partial' mobilisation of 300,000 which was already in execution the same day, and with a potential real goal of adding 1M to the manpower pools – but with hardly anyone left to (re)train said reservists up to operational effectiveness, let alone in time to stop further Ukrainian potential resurgence, including in the virtually isolated Kherson area. This on top of continued high attrition of (for Russia) largely irreplaceable mechanised equipment.
How was this done – by strong support from allies leading to HIMARS and MLRS being deployed, to devastating effect, vs the Russians, exactly by creating an operational reserve using western equipment and trained units, and with significant numbers of additional cadres under training and equipment under way.
Unfortunately, Russia is openly accelerating annexation of the remaining occupied territory, to join Crimea, and threatening to use any and everything to 'defend territorial sovereignty, whilst, ironically, accusing the west of nuclear blackmail. Alongside this, regularly shelling the ZNPP nuclear reactor complex and pretending it was the Ukrainians sending magically u-turning shells.
It would be interesting to see if this was a wildcard/so unlikely scenario it was not foreseen in the above wargame, or if the wargame informed the best direction the west could equip and train the Ukrainian armed forces with, or even if the elan of the Ukrainians was a force multiplier that had not been reckoned with
It is worth noting that the Ukrainian offensive had eerily similarities to 'von Manstein's Backhand Blow' – in almost the same location but 69 years later – and unfortunately without the pocket at the end. The Russians seem so keen to fetishise WWII as part of their new national fascism that they forgot to learn the solid lessons from that war.
Anyway, fascinating article thanks! Just wanted to reconnect with 'the perspective from the future' – but we have a long way to go before the final result is known (including if this spreads).
My personal hope is that this becomes a combination of a 'Russian Vietnam' (except in this case the antagonist is actually capable of defeating them in open battle) – if Afghanistan was not that already – leading to a repeat of 1919 without the resulting Lenin. Large, poorly supplied and led armies with unsustainable loss rates and terrible morale. fighting a war of choice, tend to not end well.
Could I add: The lede photo shows what looks like well developed map and counters – is this an internal wargame or a repurposing of a commercial system?
Where can In get a digital copy of that game?