A Successful Breakthrough by Ukraine

Written by Henrik Rothen

Jan.25 - 2024 1:03 PM CET

Photo: Yanosh Nemesh / Shutterstock.com
Photo: Yanosh Nemesh / Shutterstock.com
A Successful Breakthrough by Ukraine.

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As the war in Ukraine, initiated by Putin, enters its 700th day, a new phase emerges with an uncertain outcome. Despite the gloom that replaced early 2023 optimism, a successful breakthrough by Kyiv's forces in the Black Sea signifies a potential path to Putin's defeat. This achievement includes the destruction of 20% of Russia's Black Sea Fleet and the expulsion of numerous warships from Sevastopol, Crimea. Remarkably, Ukraine has made these strides without a battle fleet of its own.

Ukraine's transformation of the power balance in the Black Sea is attributed to the skill, audacity, and ingenuity of its military, combined with substantial supplies of Western weapons and the ability to use them without being hindered by misplaced fears of escalation.

This analysis, as noted by the Atlantic Council, suggests that applying this winning combination to Ukraine's broader war effort could pave the way for Russia's possible defeat.

Before the full-scale invasion two years ago, Russia's dominance over the Black Sea seemed almost certain. Outmatched on the sea more than on land, Ukraine seemed no match for Russia's Black Sea Fleet's power.

Putin, confident in his position, began blockading Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea under the guise of naval exercises two weeks before the ground invasion.

The first significant naval engagement happened hours into the invasion when Russia's powerful Black Sea Fleet flagship, Moskva, approached Ukraine's Snake Island but was sunk by Ukrainian forces months later.

The UK's decision in May 2023 to provide Ukraine with long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles set the stage for the spectacular progress that followed. In July, France joined in by supplying its SCALP cruise missiles, dramatically enhancing Ukraine's capacity to strike targets in Crimea.

In the latter half of the year, Ukraine bombarded a series of Russian warships, logistic centers, air defense systems, and command centers across the occupied Crimean peninsula. Utilizing domestically produced naval drones effectively, Ukraine struck the Russian fleet in Crimea and the northern Black Sea. This missile and drone campaign eventually forced the commanders of Russia's Black Sea Fleet to acknowledge their position was no longer tenable. By early October, Russia had withdrawn most of its remaining warships and submarines from Crimea to the relative safety of Russian ports.

Russia's naval withdrawal allowed Ukraine to end the blockade of its seaports and resume commercial shipping. Ukraine's significant gains in the Black Sea showcase what can be achieved when its partners overcome escalation fears and provide Ukrainian commanders with sufficient weapons without imposing artificial usage restrictions.

Despite Ukraine's increasingly bold attacks on targets in Crimea, Putin failed to escalate significantly. Instead, faced with unfavorable new military realities in the Black Sea, the Russian fleet quietly retreated. Ukraine's strategic success in the Black Sea offers important lessons for future warfare, highlighting the Ukrainian military's capacity to seamlessly integrate the latest Western weapon systems into its offensive operations and confirming Russia's inability to defend against this increased Ukrainian firepower.

In 2024, Ukraine's partners must draw logical conclusions from the developments in the Black Sea and apply them to devise a winning strategy for Kyiv's troops in the ongoing war.

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