Introduction to translation
Within the heated debates about the scenarios for the end of the Russian war on Ukraine;
The scenario of Ukraine's attempt to regain all of its pre-invasion territories, including Crimea, which Russia seized in 2014, is no longer a fantasy after Kyiv's military successes in recent months.
This is what the three analysts, Patrick Tucker, Caitlin Kenny, and Elizabeth Howe, discuss in their report published in Defense One magazine, which specializes in military affairs.
The report reviews a number of possible plans that Ukraine may follow to restore Crimea, and the possibility of their success or not. It also discusses the potential reinforcements that Ukraine may need from the United States and the West to undertake such an operation.
Since Russia's annexation of Crimea on the Black Sea in 2014, Moscow has worked to fortify Crimea militarily by establishing military bases, installing missile launchers, and most importantly building a bridge linking Crimea to Russian territory, as it has diplomatically fortified it, warning that any landing of NATO forces To the island may invoke a nuclear response.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Alexei Reznikov described the order to retake Crimea as "a strategic goal for Ukraine, as it considers Crimea to be Ukrainian territory".
However, the stunning success of the Ukrainian counterattacks against the Russian forces that have been waging war on Ukraine since last February has led many to speculate that the Ukrainian army may continue its quest to retake Crimea.
But experts have warned that such a campaign would be much more difficult than Ukraine regaining the cities of "Kharkiv" or "Kherson", which it managed to snatch recently with great difficulty.
Is there a Ukrainian attempt to regain Crimea in the hands of Ukrainian leaders?
In June, Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov called it "a strategic goal for Ukraine, as it considers Crimea to be Ukrainian territory."
But Reznikov also said in the same month that his government would consult with its allies and partners on how to implement the order.
US officials have explicitly tried to dissuade Kyiv from its intention several times. On November 16, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said during a press conference held by the Pentagon that Ukraine would recover all of its territory from Russia as it was before. War, including Crimea, "is not very likely in the near future."
At the same press conference, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said: "The issue of Crimea is for the Ukrainian leadership to consider and resolve."
Like other officials in the Biden administration, Austin avoided overtly pushing Ukrainian leaders in a certain direction, adding, "We will do everything we can to ensure that Ukrainians have all the means necessary to achieve their goals and ends, and as such the aims and purpose of this fight belong to them alone. We have not and will not dictate." Ukrainians have to do what they can or cannot do."
Sevastopol port on the Black Sea, Crimea (Reuters)
According to a number of analysts, the restoration of Crimea will not be an easy task, and it is not even possible in the short term, as the first difficulty is the landing of soldiers on the peninsula, which is connected to Ukrainian lands by a narrow isthmus.
"There's only two ways to get to Crimea," says Retired Australian Major General Mick Ryan. "If you go by air, you'd need air forces in fairly large numbers, which I don't think Ukraine has. You could also carry out an amphibious mission, but again, The Ukrainians do not have great capabilities of this kind (such as amphibious assault vehicles). Therefore, since the implementation of any invasion of Crimea must include these elements, the Ukrainian military operation will most likely be on the ground.
An amphibious landing is not at all on the cards, says Marc Cancian, a senior consultant in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
As for the air, despite the impregnable Russian naval force stationed outside the city of "Sevastopol" (the capital of Crimea), Russian warships were subjected to strikes and harassment from Ukrainian missiles and drones.
“As far as the Ukrainian Navy is concerned, it is insufficient for a mission like an amphibious landing,” Kansyan explained. “Russia also has some surface-to-surface naval fighters, as well as a number of submarines, so it would be difficult to attempt an amphibious mission. Amphibious operations are realistically difficult for us.” Anyway, if you don't have air and sea superiority, which the Ukrainians don't have, it's basically impossible."
Should Ukrainian forces attempt to recapture Crimea, Kansyan believes they would likely start from an area called Sivash, whose shallow lakes might allow troops to cross during low tide, which did happen twice during World War II.
"This will be done with the help of a lot of Himars artillery on the other bank, then crossing using boats and forming a coastal bridge, and then pressing to advance by land."
Such a fleet could be formed with warplanes and civilian aircraft, making it "similar to the Battle of Dunkirk fleet", according to Cancian, who added that the Ukrainian navy could support such a move through some guerrilla warfare tactics, possibly including a naval strike using drones targeting ships. The Russian warplane is similar to the strike that it actually carried out last October.
Another route for the invasion would be by land, said Michael Kaufman, head of Russian studies at the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), from Ukraine's recently reconquered territory in Kherson province overlooking the five-kilometer-wide Perekop isthmus.
Ukrainian forces may start with a barrage of missiles from the GMLRS launcher system.
Kaufman adds: "If the Ukrainians were able to advance further south, perhaps they could launch a deliberate bombing of Crimea or parts of the peninsula, which would make the position of the Russians there precarious. But I doubt that Ukraine intends to launch a large-scale military operation in order to invade Crimea. In the end, it's all speculation."
A Russian red line and American hesitation
Kaufman warns that the current progress towards the south, given the Russian forces' ability to use the Dnieper River as a natural barrier, is much more difficult than previous Ukrainian advances.
Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said that if Ukraine tried to take such a step, it might first try to cut the line between Russian forces in the Donbass region and their counterparts stationed deep in the Dnieper River to the east, adding: " I think they will try and move in different directions."
Most likely, the strategy will involve constantly testing along the Russian front line to identify the weakest areas, and then swarming there as quickly as possible.
However, Rob Lee made it clear that in light of the Russian forces' concentration now on the area east of the river, "it may make it easier for Russia to move some of these forces" and thwart any Ukrainian attempt to advance.
Not all analysts are so pessimistic about Ukraine's attempt to retake Crimea. Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who served as commander of the US Army in Europe and is now an adviser to Human Rights First, said he recently met with members of the General Staff in The Ukrainian army was deeply impressed by their methodical plans to retake Crimea.
The new concentrations of Ukraine near Kherson give a base for firing with the aim of destroying the Russian forces stationed on the eastern bank of the Dnieper River.
"That would be terrible for the Russians," Hodges says, "because it's such a wide open plain and bad weather that it's relatively easy for the Ukrainians to hit them, but more importantly the logistics in the area."
Hodges says that Ukraine will likely make more attempts to destroy the Russian bridge over the Kerch Strait, which was partially destroyed in the October attack, and that the Ukrainians will be able to attack Russian supply lines along the southern part of the country, and they can carry out these attempts. In January (next), and possibly the liberation of Crimea by the summer.
“Look at Crimea as a trap for Russia,” Hodges said, warning that Ukraine's chances of success could improve with longer-range missiles such as the ATACMS missile systems that can hit targets 300 kilometers away: “ By that I mean that they could target Sevastopol from the city of Odessa, and they could start immediately if they had those capabilities.”
Despite many reassuring statements in support of Ukraine, US officials have shown no interest in giving Ukraine such long-range weapons.
In a previous article on the "Defense One" website published last September, Patrick Tucker wrote about the United States' reluctance to provide Ukraine with long-range weapons, and its serious response to Russia's warnings that arming Kyiv with "Atakims" weapons is a red line.
A former high-ranking official at the US State Department, whose name was not disclosed, said that the instructions given to him indicate that Washington will not do "Sina and Sada, because Sina and Sada are escalatory steps in the eyes of the Russians, and this is the natural position of the Biden administration."
However, he added, "There are things we were told in January that were escalatory, and then we quickly gave them to Ukraine in February. What we weren't allowed to give in February, we were soon given to Kyiv in April." .
Translation: Hadeer Abdel Azim
This report is translated from Defense One and does not necessarily reflect the location of Meydan.