Ukraine, Russia ‘enter standoff as they prepare for battle in Donbass’

The prediction came from Britain’s chief of staff, who highlighted a number of military blunders by the Kremlin that he said would have hampered the advance of the invading forces

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Ukraine and Russia are facing a “stalemate” as they prepare for a major battle in Donbass, Britain’s top soldier warned today.

The looming battle for the key eastern region bordering Russia is likely to be hampered by wet, swampy terrain, Chief of Staff General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith predicted.

Kremlin forces are “currently on an operational pause as they regroup for a renewed offensive in the southeast,” the army chief told the Policy Exchange think tank.

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“Whether this will be the decisive battle or not – at the moment we measure this campaign in days. I think we should expect to measure it in months if not years,” General Sir Mark said.

Chief of Staff General Sir Mark Carleton Smith



“Perhaps at this rate, the most likely, immediate, and preliminary outcome is a military, tactical standoff in Donbass with a Russian regime that may have some measure of success to its credit, and that may act as a possible launch pad for a subsequent campaign.

“I don’t think the international community and Europe can even live comfortably with a frozen conflict in Ukraine.”

He highlighted seasonal conditions that could derail Moscow’s recent plan to seize military advantage.

“‘General Winter’ is busy handing over General Mud,” said General Sir Mark.

“It’s just another way in which the Russian planners have been loose and loose with some of the practical realities of the campaign they have begun.

Ukrainian forces fire GRAD missiles at Russian positions in Donbass


Agency Anadolu via Getty Images)

“It took them momentum, it cost them a lot of casualties and it led them into this operational pause and a major reassessment of the objectives of the operation.”

His American counterpart, US Army Chief of Staff General James McConville, backed the weather warnings.

“It’s raining, it’s wet… armored vehicles – as they operate this type of terrain, which is very wet and swampy, they tend to spend a lot of time salvaging and that will force them to stay on the roads,” he said.

“Staying on roads gives defenders a lot of opportunities to (damage) them.

Ukrainian soldiers sit on an armored military vehicle in the Donbass region


AFP via Getty Images)

“It robs the offensive of the ability they want to maneuver with.”

General Sir Mark accused Russian troops of failing to learn lessons from Britain’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Comparing the Kremlin’s attack on Ukrainian cities to the relentless beating of the Chechen capital Grozny two decades ago, he said: “I had assumed that they would have learned different lessons from our own experience of our interventions over the past 20 years, and they had a carefully constructed hybrid playbook paired with a deadly and formidable arsenal of conventional abilities.

“They had experimented with it in Syria, Libya, in the Caucasus – I assumed that they would pursue their strategy in Ukraine more indirectly and asymmetrically.

“The fact that they went all in with a strategy that is really similar to Grozny as opposed to keyhole surgery was a surprise.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin


(Getty Images)

General Sir Mark admitted he was “surprised” that Kremlin forces hadn’t fared better during the invasion – and stressed the “countless mistakes they made”.

He said the battle plan was “poorly executed” and cited “inadequate reconnaissance and information preparation.”

“Your commanders struggle to manage and replenish the force and seem to lack low-level initiative. When Plan A clearly faltered, it took them some time to reconfigure,” he said.

“We’re about 47/48 days into a war they assumed might have lasted five or seven.”

He estimates that since the war broke out on February 24, between 10,000 and 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed and between 20,000 and 30,000 injured.

But General Sir Mark said the conflict showed the era of big battles on land was not over.

Troops in front of the southern port city of Mariupol



“Many have prophesied the potential end of land maneuvers as a viable tool of warfare,” he said.

“But I don’t think the land war we’re discovering today was really an aberration.”
However, the senior military officer added: “The economics of the battlefield appear to be changing in relation to new technologies.

“What we can see in Ukraine today is a modernized and lethal conventional inventory of Russian capabilities finding themselves vulnerable — very expensive, fairly exquisite, virtually irreplaceable platforms being destroyed by much cheaper disposable capabilities.

“There is clearly something for the defense industries and armies of the future.”

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