Putin’s War in Ukraine at a Standstill, Western Officials Say

August 19, 2022

  • Russia and Ukraine currently incapable of decisive impact
  • Western officials speaking on condition of anonymity
A soldier stands in trenches on the Kherson frontline in the Mykolaiv region of Ukraine, Aug. 8. Photographer: Wojciech Grzedzinski /The Washington Post/Getty Images

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is at a near-operational standstill, with neither side currently able to launch an offensive that would materially affect the course of the conflict, according to an assessment from Western officials.

With both sides more conscious that they face a marathon rather than a sprint in a war already close to six months old, the tempo of the conflict has slowed, the officials said on condition of anonymity. They said the question now is whether Ukraine can generate a credible counterattack in the fall.

The assessment comes after a period in which officials in Kyiv had been talking up the possibility of an imminent counteroffensive to retake Kherson, a river port city of some 290,000 that Russian forces captured as they swept through the south of the country at the start of the war.

The city is on the western bank of the massive Dnipro River, and has become increasingly precarious for Russian forces to defend and supply as Ukrainian artillery has destroyed available bridges.

Kremlin May Delay Annexation Moves as Invasion Progress Slows

That threat prompted Russian commanders to transfer forces from the main battlefields of the Donbas region, further east. Together with Ukrainian attacks on supply lines deep behind Russian lines, enabled by the arrival of US High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, that weakened the Russian advance and reduced soaring Ukrainian casualties.

The Russian reinforcements to the southern front are digging in, however, making any immediate Ukrainian counteroffensive — which typically would require three times as many attacking infantry as defenders to succeed — more challenging and less likely. 

Instead, independent military analysts see Ukraine as trying to grind down Russian supply lines until combat operations become untenable, a strategy dependent on a continued flow of long-range artillery and ammunition from the US. 

Already, the Russian campaign in Ukraine faces an acute shortage of munitions and is struggling to replace lost personnel, the Western officials said. Ukraine nevertheless continues to be outgunned in the artillery duels of the Donbas, while the city of Kharkiv has again come under heavy bombardment.

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is struggling to function, with half its naval aviation combat jets out of use after explosions at the Saki airfield, in Crimea, on Aug. 9, according to the Western officials, adding that this has stymied Russia’s ability to convincingly threaten an amphibious assault on Odesa.


  1. “With both sides more conscious that they face a marathon rather than a sprint in a war already close to six months old, the tempo of the conflict has slowed, the officials said on condition of anonymity.”

    Ukraine’s pace has always been slow and careful. The fact is that the mafia advance was brought to a standstill nearly in every sector of front line. Next, it’ll be turned into a retreat and finally, it ends in a defeat. If things go well enough, the real finale is the disintegration of mafia land and the imprisonment of every war criminal still alive by then.

    • Great, another standstill observer. While UA is shelling Crimea and scattering the rats, and the starving rats in Kherson are preparing for death all this guy sees is no advancement from Putin. I guess we know which side he is pulling for.

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