Without Crimea, Ukraine will never win
The Ukrainian General Staff set an amazing example for European military planners. Their work is methodical, professional and disciplined. The Russians have never been able to match their understanding of battlefield operational design and operational security. Thus, we can safely conclude that, with the right weaponry, Ukraine can prevent a major Russian breakthrough almost anywhere on the battlefield. But more than that, Ukraine could take back Crimea this year.
Currently, Kyiv appears to be building up a division-sized or larger armored force that is poised to serve as a breakthrough formation for the next major offensive phase of the campaign. My guess is that it will be at least two months, but rather three, before they can do so. It will be built mainly on Ukrainian armored vehicles that they already have or have captured.
Of course, Western tanks would provide an additional deadly advantage, even if the promised numbers were much lower than requested. But now Zelenskiy has turned his attention to long-range precision-guided missiles, which he knows will play a critical role in efforts to liberate Crimea. They could be used to isolate the peninsula, allowing its troops to then attack open Russian installations.
This is where Western strategy runs into its biggest challenge, as we have not yet decided whether to support Zelenskiy’s Crimea policy at all. The answer should be obvious, because without the return of Crimea, Ukraine is practically unable to win this war. As long as Putin has a foothold on Ukrainian territory, he will always be able to manipulate Ukrainian society and the economy. Simply put, do we want Ukraine’s victory or not?
Unfortunately, Pentagon officials such as Colin Kahl, Under Secretary of Defense for Political Affairs, appear to be conflicted. They should be reminded that Ukraine has already shown its ability to isolate Crimea in a disciplined manner.
For example, the most famous Russian fixed line (LOS) in Crimea, passing through the Kerch bridge, was seriously damaged several months ago and will not be fully restored until spring. I expect the Ukrainians to try to make sure it never gets fully refurbished. And another major land LOK — the so-called “land bridge” between Crimea and Rostov — is also under the gun of Ukrainian forces.
These are the only two land LOCs that connect Crimea with Russia. Both are clearly vulnerable. Ukraine could easily destroy them in weeks, but only if we send in our most advanced long-range missiles.
For example, we can easily deploy an Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) that will greatly improve the ability of Ukrainian forces to strike the Russian land bridge, hitting river crossings, logistics hubs, railroads, headquarters, troop concentrations, and ammunition depots. . Such missiles can be supplemented by armed Gray Eagle drones and ground-based small diameter bombs (SDBs).
In addition, it is possible to strike at vulnerable targets on the Crimean peninsula, including the Russian naval base in Sevastopol, a large logistics hub in Dzhankoy and the air base in Saki. And, of course, the same missiles ensure that Russia will never be able to rebuild the Kerch Bridge.