WASHINGTON — Senior Ukrainian officers stepped up intelligence sharing with their American counterparts over the summer time as they started to plan the counteroffensive that allowed them to make dramatic beneficial properties within the northeast in current days, a shift that allowed the US to offer higher and extra related details about Russian weaknesses, in response to American officers.
All through the conflict, the US has supplied Ukraine with info on command posts, ammunition depots and different key nodes within the Russian army traces. Such real-time intelligence has allowed the Ukrainians — who U.S. officers acknowledge have performed the decisive function in planning and execution — to focus on Russian forces, kill senior generals and drive ammunition provides to be moved farther from the Russian entrance traces.
However earlier within the conflict, American intelligence officers mentioned they usually had a greater understanding of Russia’s army plans than of Ukraine’s. Involved that sharing their operational plans might spotlight weaknesses and discourage continued American help, the Ukrainians have been intently guarding their operational plans whilst American intelligence was gathering exact particulars on what the Kremlin was ordering and Russian commanders have been planning.
However as Ukraine laid its plans to strike again in opposition to the Russians, senior leaders in Kyiv determined that sharing extra info with the US would assist safe extra help, American officers mentioned.
Senior U.S. officers declined to say how a lot particulars from the counteroffensive plan Ukraine had shared and the way a lot recommendation the US had supplied. However one official mentioned Individuals had “consistently” mentioned with Kyiv ways in which Ukraine might blunt the Russian advance within the nation’s east.
The beneficial properties within the northeast, together with the recapture of Izium, a key railway hub, have been an important advances Ukraine has made to date, senior American officers mentioned.
It isn’t but clear how a lot broad strategic significance these beneficial properties can have, however there are indicators that the present offensive could possibly be the early phases of a drive that might push again the Russian entrance line considerably, army specialists and former intelligence officers mentioned.
“I’ve thought for a number of months that Ukraine was going to push Russia again to the 23 February traces by the top of the 12 months,” mentioned retired Lt. Gen. Frederick B. Hodges, a former prime U.S. Military commander in Europe, referring to the eve of the Russian invasion. “I watch the Russian logistics, and it simply seemed to me that they can’t maintain this. Their morale and self-discipline and all their manpower points — it’s simply not sustainable for them to do what they have been attempting to do.”
Common Hodges mentioned the current success indicated that Ukraine’s efforts to retake land within the south and east might unfold extra rapidly than he had beforehand assessed, even setting the stage for an try to retake Crimea subsequent 12 months. Different specialists agreed that the tide is perhaps turning for Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian army’s counteroffensive is shifting sooner and taking terrain even sooner than anticipated,” mentioned Mick Mulroy, a former Pentagon official and C.I.A. officer. “Now could be the time for the Ukrainian military to take advantage of each alternative they should degrade and destroy the Russian capability to battle.”
Present and former U.S. officers praised the sophistication of the Ukrainian preparations for the counteroffensive. The choice by Ukraine to closely publicize its counteroffensive within the south earlier than hanging within the northeast is a regular method for misdirection utilized by the American Particular Operations troops who’ve been coaching the Ukrainians for the reason that annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“These guys have been skilled for eight years by Particular Ops,” mentioned Evelyn Farkas, the highest Pentagon official for Ukraine within the Obama administration. “They’ve been taught about irregular warfare. They’ve been taught by our intelligence operators about deception and psychological operations.”
Despite the fact that the push within the south could have been one thing of a feint, officers say it additionally has significance. Even small beneficial properties within the south will make it far harder for Russian forces to seize the port metropolis of Odesa, a wartime aim of President Vladimir V. Putin.
However, present U.S. officers have been reserved on Saturday, saying it was too early to find out whether or not the Ukrainian army might sustain its drive.
The offensive will pressure the Ukrainians, who’ve suffered from shortages in provide, significantly artillery rounds. Their military, too, has taken powerful casualties. Occurring the offensive is tougher and harder to keep up than a protection. Some American officers consider the extra profitable Ukraine is within the subsequent few days, the extra Russia will search for methods to strike again.
However the brand new offensive has demonstrated how the Russian forces haven’t been in a position to overcome the elemental issues laid naked within the opening days of the battle, American officers mentioned.
The Russian army continues to wrestle to get its safe communications to work and to unravel its logistics issues. It has additionally not been in a position to ramp up its industrial base to fulfill the calls for of the conflict, a number of officers mentioned. Ukrainian air defenses nonetheless threaten Russian plane, hampering Moscow from utilizing the complete potential of its army.
Russia might revisit its resolution to not conduct a large-scale draft to construct forces for a renewed push into Ukraine. Mr. Putin might additionally look to make use of completely different techniques in a brand new section of the conflict, particularly if he thinks Ukraine’s morale receives a severe enhance from the profitable counteroffensive. Some senior Ukrainian officers consider the Russians might resort to cyberattacks.
Georgii Dubynskyi, Ukraine’s deputy minister of digital transformation, predicted on Friday that within the coming months, because the climate cools, Russia would strive once more to assault the Ukrainian power grid, damaging electrical transmission or shutting down pipelines.
“The following section is, they are going to attempt to defeat our power and monetary sectors,” Mr. Dubynskyi mentioned. “We’ve seen this situation earlier than.”
Russia attacked Ukraine’s power grid in 2015. However this time, Ukraine expects Russia to make use of extra focused phishing assaults to take down components of the power grid or mix cyberattacks with a kinetic bombing marketing campaign.