Using a particular style of warfare, Ukrainians have largely refused to fight as the Russian military leadership wants them to. Australian military expert and ex-general Mick Ryan explains the “corrosion” tactics and how the “deep battle” in Donbass succeeded with Western support.

At the beginning of the war against Ukraine, the Russian leadership around President Vladimir Putin was probably hoping for a quick victory. As is well known, nothing came of it. More than five months after the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian army is still putting up fierce resistance.

According to ex-Australian general and military expert Mick Ryan, this is mainly due to the “corrosion” tactics used by the Ukrainians. In a Twitter thread, Ryan explains how it works and why Ukraine has had so many successes with it. However, Ukrainian tactics failed to stop the Russian offensive in Donbass.

“Ukraine is attacking the Russians where they are weak while they use part of their forces to delay the advance of the Russian army and frustrate the soldiers,” Ryan writes. That means: Attacks on communication networks, supply routes, the rear areas, artillery and generals in the command posts, explains the ex-general. This Ukrainian military strategy is being implemented with “courage and discipline,” judges Ryan.

Ryan continues: “In the battles for Kyiv and Kharkiv, the Ukrainians were able to bring the Russian army to a standstill because they broke through the attackers’ rear areas and were able to destroy parts of the Russian logistics.” “Weared down” Russian troops and significantly affected Russian morale, according to Ryan’s assessment.

But many things were different in the Donbass: Instead of a quick counterattack, the Ukrainian military strategy ended in a “fight of attrition”, analyzes Ryan. This was mainly due to the long front line in the Donbass and the concentration of the Russian offensive forces on the conurbations around the major cities of Sievjerodonetsk and Lysychansk. While the Ukrainians would have preferred to avoid this protracted fighting at the expense of many lives on both sides, this form of warfare is precisely in the interest of the Russians.

However, thanks to Western support, the Ukraine managed to change course: the so-called “deep battle”, an essential part of its corrosion strategy. Ukraine has been using the US Himar missile launcher system since the end of June. Ukrainian troops were able to use Himars against strategically important targets, most notably Russian military depots and command centers, and refocus their defensive operations.

Attacking command posts with high-ranking Russian commanders in particular is of crucial importance in the war, Ryan analyses. His explanation: If soldiers are targeted by the Ukrainians, important coordination hubs would be eliminated and the cohesion of the Russian troops would be weakened.

The corrosion of Russian morale would make the soldiers fight with less discipline, sometimes even refusing attacks and committing war crimes. The Russians are under pressure because of previous setbacks in southern Ukraine and are therefore taking greater tactical and operational risks in their warfare. For example, the newly established Russian volunteer battalions are neither well equipped nor adequately trained to sustain sustained attacks.

Ryan’s conclusion: “By wearing down the Russian military physically, morally, and intellectually, the Ukrainians have advanced the military arts. This is what the war of the 21st century looks like.” The Ukrainians are masters at it. She would have largely refused to fight the way Russia wanted.