This is the article I intended to write but Michael Vlahos beat me to it. Why try to reinvent the wheel when Michael makes a perfect one? Vlahos wrote, The Ukrainian Army Is Breaking. Here are the highlights (I encourage you to read his entire article.)
A defeated army and a broken one are two different things. An army merely defeated in battle can often make successful withdrawals, reform itself, and reconstitute its strength—as Rome did after its humiliation at Cannae, eventually destroying its great rival, Carthage. But when whole armies break, when they lose their will to fight, the whole nation can likewise break. That is what happened to the great empires in World War I. It is also the fate awaiting the Ukrainian army. . . .
The first negative-feedback bellow is when a war that began full of high hopes seems suddenly unwinnable. Early victories are now old memories. More battles are lost than won, and the costs of battle keep rising to the very threshold of human endurance—and then rise again. The second is when external support from friends and allies begins to evaporate. This is an especially acute negative factor if allied support is the emotional foundation of the army’s belief in ultimate victory. Third and finally, those who initiated the war, those who promised a road paved with victory, and who vowed that the world would support the army until victory was won—no matter how long it takes—are increasingly seen as liars and deceivers. The army—the entire nation—has been betrayed by its leaders.
All this has descended on Ukraine in the past six weeks.
There have been no victories—not even bloody and debilitating wins like in the Fourth Battle of Karkhov—for nearly a year. Western leaders still profess that their support will continue. Yet the Western Alliance now admits it didn’t give Ukrainians nearly enough good stuff for even modest tactical gains in their ongoing, sacrificial offensive—and knew it going in. And increasingly, Ukrainian unit-level commanders are accusing higher leaders of simply using them as cannon-fodder to satisfy NATO overlords. Not just platoons, but larger units are surrendering to Russian forces. Morale is cratering. . . .
Yet in casualties-to-population terms, Ukrainian military losses, after more than 500 days of war, are approaching those sustained by Germany in World War I over more than 1,500 days. This is a catastrophic attrition rate, compounded by all three negative feedback loops that can break an army and a nation. Throughout the spring and summer, Ukrainian forces were thrown into battle and ground down. By autumn, the fighting army will have been spent—the tragic fate of Ukraine’s Best in 2023. By September, what is left will be twisting, and bending toward breaking, in the remorseless winds of war.
Without massive combat air support, mobile artillery and mobile air defense, Ukrainian troops are sitting ducks and cannot breach the Surovikin defensive lines that were built starting last October. The bravery, the will to fight and the desire for victory on the part of the Ukrainian forces are not enough to overwhelm Russia’s integrated defense, which employs ISR, artillery, air strikes, tanks and ground forces in a coordinated operation. Any large movement of Ukrainian forces is detected by Russia and the attacking Ukrainians are met with a barrage of bombs, missiles and shells. Ukraine’s ground forces have paid a terrible price and Kiev does not have the manpower resources to replace its losses.
It appears that the Ukrainians are trying to re-group, but there is no clear strategic plan to defeat the robust Russian defenses. August is likely to be the decisive moment in the war in Ukraine — the forces Ukraine assembled for the long-awaited counter offensive have been decimated and Ukraine now confronts the dilemma of trying to replace losses in men and material without having time to train a new army that is capable of continuing the fight. I believe that this means that Zelensky’s days in power are numbered.