One month in, Russia's Ukraine offensive has faltered

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By Sergio Cantone
A Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces member holds an NLAW anti-tank weapon, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine
A Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces member holds an NLAW anti-tank weapon, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine   -  Copyright  Efrem Lukatsky/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

One month after the beginning of the war in Ukraine and the Russian invasion has turned into a burdensome military operation spread across the largest country in Europe.

According to the US State Department, Russia has lost between 7,000 and 15,000 casualties soldiers in just four weeks, heavy losses even compared with the ruinous Soviet army expedition in Afghanistan in the 80s.

If Carl von Clausewitz’s principle that ‘’war is merely the continuation of policy with other means’’ were reliable, both contenders are bound to fight longer, since the Kremlin has still not achieved its main political goals.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said Vladimir Putin “wants to surround the (Ukrainian) coast to the border with Moldova and isolate Ukraine from the sea.

"It wants to negotiate in earnest only when it has secured a position of strength," he said.

Niklas Nilsson, associate professor at the Swedish Defense University, agrees with that diagnosis.

“Even Mariupol would not satisfy the Russian regime and enable to motivate this operation and the war in Ukraine," Nilsson said.

Russia's offensive is slowing down: Ukraine claims that the Russian heavy convoys are stuck in the mud and that the operations are already in a stalemate.

“The operation was supposed to start two weeks earlier. Instead, it has begun at the beginning of the thawing," said Leo Péria-Peigné at the French Institute for International Relations.

"The tanks that left the roads were bogged down and the others created traffic jams because they could not get off-road."

'Kyiv is still an important objective'

Military experts and Western diplomats believe that Russia now is at the crossroads: if Moscow wants to go on with the war, it must change its strategy.

Despite strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian forces have reached the cities that are key military and political-strategic targets.

‘’Kyiv is still an important objective, if the Russians will be able to encircle it. It is not something that they are capable to do at the moment,” said Nilsson.

“That’s the reason why, Russian units around Kyiv are attempting to bring artillery closer to get the centre of Kyiv in the shooting distance and they are digging into defensive positions. They seem to have for the moment abandoned the idea to fully encircle Kyiv.’’

Russia wants to avoid street-by-street fighting, said Leo Péria-Peigné, stung by previous experience in Chechnya and Syria.

“The fighting in the streets are extremely difficult for a heavily mechanized army like the Russian one. In Ukraine, the Russians have entered easily into some small towns where they have been ambushed later on, and have suffered many losses” said Leo Péria-Peigné.