Small Wars Journal

Analytical material on the security situation in Ukraine as of January 2024, with a forecast of the development of events for the spring campaign.

Fri, 01/12/2024 - 9:21pm

Analytical material on the security situation in Ukraine as of January 2024, with a forecast of the development of events for the spring campaign."

By Vlad Dut

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

                                                                                                Sun Tzu's "The Art of War"


The objective of this study is to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the security situation in Ukraine across various domains: in the air (ACC), on land (LCC), at sea (MCC), in cyberspace (Cyber), and in space (Space). The aim is to fully understand the current situation and predict its medium-term development within the framework of applying NATO principles.

An additional task involves identifying the 'Centre of Gravity (COG),' a crucial aspect that often receives insufficient attention in contemporary operational planning and combat strategies.

The aim of this study is to conduct a critical evaluation of the current security situation in the most threatening areas of the front to achieve a realistic understanding and to propose measures for its improvement. Acquiring a thorough awareness of the situation during the period of russian aggression is crucial for identifying correct priorities in neutralizing the enemy's offensive potential by the military-political leadership of Ukraine. This approach also allows for consideration of the genuine challenges faced by the civilian population.


1. The security situation in the regions of Ukraine in the air(ACC), on land(LCC), at sea(MCC), in cyber(Cyber) and outer space(Space).

2. Center of gravity (COG) according to Carl von Clausewitz. The current COG of the russian occupation forces.

3. Current critical gaps in the Defense Forces of Ukraine and their likely solutions.

4. Conclusion.


The security situation in Ukraine is marked by a high degree of complexity, leading to an inaccurate assessment of medium and long-term risks. This miscalculation reached a critical juncture by the end of December 2023.

Reflecting on Ukraine's defensive and offensive actions throughout 2023, it is evident that the anticipated outcomes, established as objectives the previous year, were not fully realized. Unwarranted expectations resulted from a combination of consequences and miscalculations at both the political and military levels within Ukraine and, to a significant extent, among our allies, notably the USA[1].

The unsuccessful campaign on the Orihiv front served as a sobering moment for all participants in the so-called counter-offensive. This setback, occurring during the autumn-winter period, compelled a more realistic assessment of the Russian-Ukrainian war, particularly for Ukraine's political leadership and civilian population.

Ukraine is fighting against the powerful russian military machine, which holds superiority in various aspects. Hence, there is no need to seek out betrayal, particularly at this moment, as the war is ongoing, and the final results will only be evident after the cessation of hostilities.

As noted earlier, the ongoing war represents the world's largest armed confrontation since the Second World War. It involves a range of tactics, from mass infantry and armored vehicle attacks to highly precise cyber assaults capable of paralyzing a state for several days. Consequently, not everything can be meticulously planned and executed, given the absence of a template or standard for the correct conduct of the present war. The russian Federation poses a unique challenge, distinct from countries like Afghanistan or Iraq, where securing a specific border might be achieved solely with infantry—an approach that does not align with the complex realities faced by Ukraine.

  1. The security situation in Ukraine as of December-January 2023/2024 is challenging, marked by the offensive of Russian troops in the northeast and east of Ukraine, with initial actions unfolding in the southeast. This offensive involves a potent strike group that was assembled during the covert mobilization of the Russian Federation in the spring-summer period of the current year. Notably, Russian units are adhering to previously defined strategic and operational goals established in 2022/2023, with only minimal adjustments depending on the situation.

The strategic goals of the Russian Federation in Ukraine have remained consistent since the onset of the invasion and are as follows:


  1. 'Denazification,' which aims to eradicate Ukrainian identity in all its manifestations.
  2. A shift in Ukraine's political course involves halting the western trajectory of the country's development and redirecting its political and economic orientation towards Moscow[2].

As the full-scale invasion unfolded, additional objectives came to light:

  1. The reduction of Western support for Ukraine through non-kinetic actions aimed at altering the political situations of partner countries such as Slovakia, Poland, the Netherlands, and others. In our view, this newly crystallized goal takes precedence for the russian Federation, directing the maximum allowable resources to achieve the utmost result.
  2. The goal of reducing the economic functioning of Ukraine involves both kinetic and non-kinetic influence by the special services of the russian Federation on key sectors. This includes missile strikes targeting the fuel and energy complex, attacks on sea/land trade infrastructure, and the use of proxy groups to block borders, all contributing to the destabilization of socio-political processes in Ukraine and beyond[3].

These strategic goals of russia remain permanent, experiencing only minimal changes as certain effects are achieved. Yet, it is precisely from these strategic goals that the operational goals emerge, determining the most relevant plan of action in Ukraine.

Operational goals of the russian Federation in Ukraine:


1. Full occupation of Donetsk and Luhansk regions to confirm their intentions to protect the so-called terrorist states and the zone of interest[4].

2. To counteract the offensive maneuvers of the Defense Forces of Ukraine in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, aiming to safeguard the integrity of communication lines (LOC - line of communication) in the South[5].

3. To reestablish full control (Sea Control) in the western part of the Black Sea, enabling the russian side to obstruct the actions of the Naval Forces of Ukraine (FOM/FON) and control trade routes.

Social and political:

4. Undermining the reputational and ideological trust of Ukrainian society in the top political and military leadership of Ukraine through informational and psychological operations, employing non-kinetic actions that involve discrediting and manipulation.


5. Employ non-kinetic and kinetic methods to delay the construction and deployment of Ukraine's Military-Industrial Complex, taking advantage of a 90% reduction in Western aid. For instance, impede the delivery of essential components and parts from China required for the production of FPV drones and other critical resources.

The execution of strategic and operational goals during the 2022-2023 campaign in Moscow showcased the high professionalism and expertise of the strategic and operational-strategic headquarters. In our assessment, they adeptly leverage their capabilities, conducting operations at a level that proves detrimental to the Ukrainian side. The higher headquarters of the russian military demonstrate a commendable proficiency in military management, effectively orchestrating a dynamic combination of forces and resources across various domains—land, air, sea, cybernetic, and space—to fulfill multi-level objectives. It is the adept coordination, management, and synchronization of these headquarters on both vertical and horizontal axes that, in our view, contribute significantly to their effectiveness.

For instance, the russian Federation's offensive operation near the city of Avdiivka exemplifies a meticulously organized and coordinated effort by the headquarters element. This operation witnessed the engagement of approximately 40-50 thousand troops with effective battlefield management[6]. Over a span of two months, russia incurred losses of around 13,000 personnel and 200-250 units of heavy armored vehicles in the Avdiivka direction, yet without diminishing the momentum and scope of the offensive. An additional factor contributing to effectiveness is the judicious utilization of the russian Air Force (ACC). This includes guided missile strikes, kamikaze drones of various types, and missile strikes targeting critical elements of the Ukrainian side, specifically the 2-3 echelons of defense. This illustrates the operational/strategic headquarters and commands' proficiency in creating a synergistic utilization of diverse weaponry across different domains to achieve desired outcomes. In essence, airspace complements land space (and vice versa), combining various methods for inflicting damage.

The present security situation in Ukraine, in contrast to the enemy's summer campaign, has witnessed several changes. As a consequence, the offensive initiative shifted to the russian side in the autumn of 2023. Although the utilization format of the russian Federation's forces and resources did not undergo significant alterations from previous attempts, it was notably adapted to the prevailing circumstances.

I will delve into a more detailed security analysis across five areas, each governed by the combat statutes of NATO alliance member countries, regulating their operations. It's crucial to note that each application of a specific effect by the russian forces and resources is complementary and may partially overlap.

Land Component Command (LLC or land component). The situation on the conflict lines is challenging, primarily because of the engagement of pre-positioned russian reserves in the area of hostilities. Further exacerbating the scenario is the limitation of assistance from Western countries, encompassing a comprehensive range of ammunition. This restriction has led to a significant decline in the Ukrainian firing rate across various calibers, such as 155 mm, 152 mm, 122 mm, 120 mm, and others, by approximately 5-6 times.
In 2023, the primary objective for russian troops was to impede the advancement of Ukrainian offensive operations in the southeast. Simultaneously, by diverting the most combat-ready units of the Ukrainian army to the focal point of the attack, russia bolstered its armed forces through enticing financial incentives and effective propaganda[7]. Exactly, while specific units were occupied with restraining and neutralizing Ukrainian attacks, russia was concurrently engaged in the active establishment of new units. Furthermore, the most proficient and combat-ready units experienced an organizational advancement, exemplified by the deployment of a majority of russian Air Force regiments to the divisional level[8].

Hence, in September-October 2023, the new waves of attacks by russian units shifted their focus from a defensive posture to an offensive one, targeting the following directions:

  1. Kupyansk Direction:

Russian units are attempting to compel the Defense Forces of Ukraine toward the city of Kupyansk, intending to cover a crucial transport hub with fire. This maneuver aims to neutralize potential Ukrainian offensive actions towards the western side of the Luhansk region. An additional objective for russia is to entirely restrict or limit maneuverability in the eastern part of the Oskil River. This direction is advantageous for the russian side, given the short logistics route from russian territory. The use of the Kupyansk freight-Valuyki railway branch facilitates maintaining the offensive pace. This is primarily achieved through the implementation of wave tactics in russian infantry attacks, following the algorithm:

  1. Group No. 1 "Assault":
    • Comprising 15-25 individuals, supported by 1-2 tanks or BMP and concentrated artillery fire, captures the Ukrainian position.
  2. Group No. 2 "Diggers":
    • Also consisting of a similar number of personnel, immediately moves to the freshly captured position. Here, the group focuses on swift engineering improvements. Group No. 1 retreats to restore combat capability, incurring losses of 50-60% of the initial number.
  3. Group No. 3 "Defensive Infantry":
    • Takes over the already improved position and initiates assigned duties.

Upon restoring combat capability (which may take 1-2 days, at times due to the russian HQ's reluctance to allow for extended reformation), Group No. 1 resumes the offensive following the outlined algorithm.

These offensive operations predominantly occur in the vicinity of the settlements of Lyman First and Synkivka, aiming to penetrate the defense of Ukraine's forward positions. This poses additional challenges for the Ukrainian side, particularly along the Oskil River, constraining actions and limiting the expansive use of the territory.

Simultaneously with the offensive operation, the forces and resources of russia significantly increased the use of the air component compared to the summer. They employed air defense systems to target the logistics routes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and potentially locate Ukrainian headquarters and UAV "Lancet" for artillery strikes and other purposes. As a result, in the future, the russian Federation's forces will aim to sustain their offensive pace while experiencing a considerable loss of human resources. The Defense Forces of Ukraine, leveraging a substantial number of UAVs across various platforms and FPV drones, will adopt a static strategy to entangle and deplete the opponent.

  1. Donetsk Direction:

Encompassing Avdiyivka, Krasnohorivka, and Mariinka, this direction signifies the second main vector of russian offensive actions. The objective is to secure the northern side of the city of Avdiyivka, compelling the withdrawal of the Defense Forces of Ukraine from the city and occupying strategically unfavorable defense lines to further advance their success.

The russian Federation concentrated approximately 40-50 thousand units in an attempt to capture Avdiyivka. However, they encountered a well-prepared Ukrainian defense line, prompting attempts to advance using heavily armored vehicles[9].

After nearly three months of the offensive, the russian achievements are deemed unsuccessful, considering the significant personnel losses (13 thousand) and the loss of approximately 220 units of equipment. These losses indicate a setback with elements of failure and the potential for further degradation of combat capabilities in the coming 1-2 months[10].

By penetrating the Ukrainian defense line at the beginning of October, the russian forces were initially successful in partially advancing and creating a wedge to expand their presence north of the city of Avdiyivka. While this tactic proved effective in the initial phase, the stoppage of movement and stabilization of the situation allowed the Ukrainian side to inflict significant fire damage using group weapons such as grenade launchers, mortars, and large-caliber machine guns, rendering the russian units vulnerable within the wedge.

Currently, to ensure their survival, russian units need to move forward. However, this is hindered by the Ukrainian control of the Avdiyivka Coke chemical plant and its adjacent infrastructure. Consequently, Ukrainian Defense Forces have shifted their focus from flanking Avdiyivka to launching an offensive in the northern direction towards Novobakhmutivka and Rozhivka, where the terrain is more favorable for the Ukrainian side.

In the future, it is anticipated that the russian offensive in the Avdiivka direction will slow down due to significant manpower losses, an unfavorable tactical position, a shortage of artillery means, and shells, which is increasing daily.

  1. Zaporizhia Direction:

Currently, the Zaporizhia direction is marked by a relatively unstable area of hostilities, but future developments suggest a potential escalation.

Following the Ukrainian offensive campaign in the Orihiv and Staromayor areas, it is anticipated that russian Federation units will attempt to reclaim previously lost positions in the medium term, thereby nullifying Ukrainian successes in 2023.

Along the Orihiv defense line, the russian side has concentrated combat-ready units of infantry and mechanized units. At the height of the Ukrainian offensive, these units are already attempting to seize the initiative and counterattack. Increased russian activity in this direction is expected in February-March 2024, involving the deployment of additional units.

In the Staromayor tactical area, the situation mirrors the previous one. However, as of December 2023, the russian forces are demonstrating more active offensive actions to reclaim previously captured positions. The primary focus of the enemy is on capturing (or at least bringing under fire control) the section of the Staromayorsk-Rivnopillya road, a strategically significant logistical route for the Ukrainian Defense Forces. The russian side initiated this intention as early as November 2023.

Overall, the main objective for the russians in the southern direction is to maintain static defense and, under favorable conditions, launch counterattacks. This strategy aims to draw additional Ukrainian units and assets away from the Kupyansk and Donetsk directions, leading to their weakening[11].
In general, Land Component Commands (LCCs) of the russian side, during offensive actions, adhere to the following principles of Clausewitzian war[12]:

  • Mass: This involves the extensive use of russian troops characterized by mass attacks and assaults, often resulting in significant personnel losses, reaching up to 50%. This strategy entails engaging superior forces relative to the opponent.
  • Objective: The russian side is known for a clear definition of its ultimate goal and the implementation of strategic plans to achieve it.
  • Maneuver: The russian forces exhibit the ability to swiftly transfer their units across substantial distances, utilizing railways, air transport, or road infrastructure. Tactically, maneuverability contributes to unexpected directions of attack, exemplified by the unexpected move in Avdiivka on October 6, 2023.

Air Component Command (ACC or Air Forces): The russian Air Component Command is distinguished by the active utilization of aviation, missiles, or unmanned platforms to target critical infrastructure elements within Ukraine. To conduct a more detailed analysis of the russian air element, it can be divided into the following subgroups, each with its specific purpose and expected final result.

  1. Missile Attacks:
    • A diverse array of missiles is utilized in missile attacks, primarily targeting essential nodes within the energy industry, logistics, or operational-strategic and political-level headquarters. Given the costly nature of missile strikes, they are strategically deployed to neutralize Ukrainian high-value targets (HVTs) within the infrastructure.
  2. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Strikes:
    • UAV strikes focus on disrupting elements of medium-level critical infrastructure, characterized by a mass application approach owing to their cost-effectiveness, being more economical than missiles. The ongoing production of Shahed-type UAVs contributes to their widespread use. A recent observed tactic involves the initial launch of 2-3 units, followed by a mass launch of 10-20 units in the subsequent days, contingent upon the success of the initial strikes. It is imperative to wait for a few days for a detailed analysis before initiating the mass launch.
  3. Military Aviation Employment:
    • Tactical, operational, and strategic aviation play crucial roles in the military strategies of the russian Federation. These aircraft are utilized to conduct strikes, including the deployment of missile platforms, aimed at diminishing the effectiveness of the Ukrainian military. The predominant use of russian aviation involves the deployment of the KAB-500 series of munitions, enhanced with a retrofitted GPS guidance system, effectively targeting military and logistical objectives. This approach was notably prominent during the attacks on the city of Avdiyivka, taking advantage of favorable front line conditions and rapid movement along the route from russian territory.

As of today, the functionality of the russian ACC is limited due to the saturation of air defense equipment by the Ukrainian side, supported by partner countries. Ukrainian air defense systems are particularly concentrated in the cities such as Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Dnipro, as well as along the southern regions of Ukraine. However, this limitation does not extend to the use of Shahed-type kamikaze drones, the production of which has significantly increased compared to 2022 in russia. For example, russia has announced its intention to produce 6,000 drones by the summer of 2025, evidenced by the construction of a new plant in Tatarstan[13]. In September-October alone, russia managed to launch 151 drones on the territory of Ukraine. An added threat to Ukraine is the substantial quantity of S-300 missiles in the russian Federation, amounting to approximately 7,000 missiles[14]. These missiles possess formidable destructive capabilities and are challenging to intercept. As a result, the russian ACC maintains a pivotal role in terms of its functionality and capacity to conduct subsequent strikes. This ensures the potential for adaptability and a combination of strategies to counter ongoing Ukrainian defensive measures.

The Maritime Component Command (MCC) of russia remains unaltered, with a diminished presence in the Black Sea attributed to the abundant deployment of unmanned naval platforms (USVs) by the Ukrainian side.

Ukraine's novel military concept, encompassing Sea Deny (disrupting enemy actions), Sea Control (water area control), and even Sea Command (preventing the construction or repair of enemy assets), has demonstrated that restraining enemy actions doesn't necessitate an expensive fleet or any fleet at all. This effect can be achieved through numerous relatively inexpensive unmanned platforms (priced at 500-700 thousand dollars). Even in the event of an attack by 10 units, 7-8 units are expected to be destroyed, leaving the remaining 2 to inflict significant damage. However, the sustainability of Sea Control established by Ukraine in the western part of the Black Sea may be subject to change in the future, considering russia's potential to devise proportional countermeasures. Although unconfirmed in reality and possibly initiated for propaganda purposes, russia is reportedly constructing and developing unmanned sea platforms that could disrupt the security situation in the region[15].

Hence, in the foreseeable future, the Ukrainian side will uphold control in the Black Sea waters through the deployment of Sea Baby and Magura sea drones, along with Vilkha, Neptune, Storm Shadow, and SCALP missiles. Nonetheless, the long-term scenario could witness alterations with the introduction of russian countermeasures, currently in the design phase.

The cybersphere (Cyber) in the russo-Ukrainian war is progressively assuming a novel role, exerting non-kinetic influence on the stable functioning of the state apparatus, indirectly impacting the military domain.

A prominent instance is the cyber attack on the Ukrainian communications monopolist "Kyivstar" on December 12, 2023. This incident marked the most extensive assault on Ukraine's telecommunications infrastructure, rendering 24 million subscribers without communication[16]. It wasn't until December 21 that the company fully restored its functionality, highlighting the adversary's effective operation in cyberspace.

Henceforth, it is likely that the russians will incorporate cyber attacks into military scenarios, informed by a meticulous analysis of past applications. Considering potential challenges in the medium and long term, the following measures should be instituted:

  • Duplicate all networks, particularly in the public sector, with alternative communication channels.
  • Amidst the era of total digitalization, reserve space for the operation of analog management.
  • Establish dedicated military IT units within the structural subdivisions of the Commands of the branches, consisting of non-military personnel (due to their non-stereotypical thinking). These units will be responsible for developing and ensuring the functionality of cyberspace. An IT specialist can disrupt the functionality of 2-3 attack aircraft positions, inflicting losses on the russian side in cyberspace.

Considering the repercussions of the "Kyivstar" attack, the significance of cyberspace is poised to increase in the future. Hacker attacks orchestrated under the direction of the russian GRU are likely to recur and escalate in their impact on the overall functioning of Ukraine's state apparatus[17].

Space - As of now, russian space capabilities are not sufficiently advanced to pose a large-scale threat to the Defense Forces of Ukraine. However, in collaboration with partner countries, particularly China, there exists a theoretical possibility for such a threat to materialize.

The focus of the russian Federation's sphere is primarily manifested through the activities of the Soyuz series satellites, primarily tasked with:

  1. Aerial photography of the territory of Ukraine and its allies to document and monitor changes and the concentration of forces.
  2. Ensuring the functionality of the Glonass navigation system, which serves as the primary navigation system for the russian army and weapon systems.

As of April 2023, russia possesses approximately 100 satellites responsible for space operations[18]. However, upon closer analysis, we posit that the actual number of satellites capable of active functionality is no more than 5-7 units, apart from russian propaganda.

Even though russia launched new satellites of the Soyuz-2 series from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on November 25, August 7, May 23, and March 23, in 2023[19], this development is not expected to significantly impact the course of the russo-Ukrainian war due to the absence of Western technologies, which remain inaccessible due to sanctions.

Therefore, the role of outer space for the russian Federation is expected to have a limited character, primarily serving a propaganda purpose to cater to the domestic audience. This role is not anticipated to exert a significant impact on the Ukrainian Defence Forces.

II. Center of Gravity (COG) is a military term referring to the source of strength, balance, or stability required by military forces to maintain function. Centres of gravity exist for all belligerents and at all tactical, strategic, and operational levels of war simultaneously. The concept was initially developed by Karl von Clausewitz and detailed in his work "On War"[20]. COG represents a robust physical element at the operational or tactical level of the opponent, enabling them to achieve successful results and dominate on the battlefield.

In our assessment, concerning the operational and tactical aspects within the forces and means of the russian Federation during the russo-Ukrainian war, the dominant factor in the current period is radio-electronic warfare. This element, in the systemic context, prevails over Ukrainian analogues.

table 1

The Center of Gravity in Electronic Warfare (COG EW) exhibits a variable nature, given the proactive efforts of the Ukrainian side to enhance its systems and devise solutions to diminish russian electronic influence across all levels of systems. The most pertinent application of russian Federation's EW is observed in the realm of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). As the utilization of UAVs has significantly increased from both sides, the significance of safeguarding counterparts from the opponent's UAVs has proportionally escalated.

The existing russian means at the operational level of Electronic Warfare (EW) are directed towards diminishing the effectiveness of high-precision munitions (HIMARS, for instance, struggles to accurately hit the target due to active shifting of programmed GPS coordinates by the russian forces). Additionally, these means are employed to counter the use of Ukrainian UAVs such as Leka, PD-2, Valkyrie, Bayraktar, among others, in their rear areas. Furthermore, they are utilized for the detection of zones with unusual frequency amplitudes (Harris) and their subsequent disruption.

Consequently, the role of the russian Federation in Electronic Radio-frequency Combat (ERB) demonstrates high efficiency and exhibits a trend towards continuous improvement and development[21].

III. In December 2023 and January 2024, Ukraine confronted a multitude of challenges that directly impacted the military strategy on the battlefronts. The primary concern revolves around international support from allies, upon whom there is a substantial reliance for financial, humanitarian, and military assistance.

In the military-political sphere, several critical factors have emerged, exerting medium and long-term influence on combat operations for the Defense Forces of Ukraine.



table 2

The factors mentioned above have only a peripheral connection to the military aspects of Ukraine's security sector functioning. However, their resolution holds strategic importance, except for point 4. The following military factors are directly significant, as the outcome of the hostilities in 2024 hinges on their resolution.

1.Integration of multimedia at all levels of unit command. Currently, the conduct of hostilities has evolved following a structured algorithm:

table 3


Hence, the one who first employs this algorithm within reasonable limits swiftly gains control over the battlefield, nullifying any opponent's initiative. This algorithm is standard at the battalion-brigade level, where the entire horizontal and vertical chain of command resides within the same unit, fostering personal acquaintance among members.

In other scenarios, such as with quickly formed units or tactical groups in the theater of operations, there is diminished combat effectiveness and algorithm execution due to the low efficacy of command and control (C2) and weak horizontal-vertical communications.

Consequently, the prompt detection, exchange, and real-time indication of targets stand as contemporary imperatives for combat operations. Those who adeptly apply this formula gain a strategic advantage, contingent upon the available variety of types and classes of weapons capable of swiftly engaging and eliminating the target.

2.Saturation of technical means of intelligence and observation is a crucial aspect. The extensive front line with russia spans approximately 3,750 km, necessitating substantial resources and combat units to forestall any sudden attacks on Ukrainian territory[22]. The active front line, measuring 1,500 km, is a constant theater of combat clashes. Both sections of the front, despite varying amplitudes of warfare, demand continuous attention from units, creating a significant distraction. Therefore, to safeguard against enemy actions, maintaining round-the-clock surveillance is imperative. This can be achieved through technical means of intelligence, including stationary day/night/thermal cameras, motion sensors, and heavy UAVs that receive uninterrupted power through a wired connection from the ground.

Unlike the adversary, Ukraine faces challenges related to a lower mobilization capacity. To mitigate the threat posed by these challenges, it is essential to adopt a nuanced approach. Partner countries with ample technical resources or experience in addressing similar challenges (such as the USA, Japan, Estonia, and others) could assist in enhancing border security and fortifying the contact line.

Furthermore, augmenting the arsenal of technical intelligence means will amplify combat effectiveness, facilitating more precise and rapid responses to emerging threats. Special attention should be given to unmanned combat modules capable of autonomously engaging the most critical areas of concern.

The decision to construct defensive positions for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd echelons, along with their engineering fortification, was officially endorsed by the top political leadership on November 17, 2023. This decision consolidates efforts to initiate the construction of defensive positions spanning the entire front line, with particular emphasis on regions experiencing active hostilities[23].

In the first half of 2022, the Defense Forces of Ukraine adopted a strategy of mobile and maneuverable defense, emphasizing decentralization of command and active engagement at the battalion and company tactical group levels. However, as the front line stabilized in the latter half of 2022 and into 2023, responsibility for actions transitioned to the brigade level. During the static defense in eastern Ukraine, brigade-level forces were primarily responsible for constructing the first-line defense, while the construction of the 2nd and 3rd front lines occurred at lower levels, handled by the Defense Forces of Ukraine themselves. This decentralization presented challenges due to limited resources and the need to fulfill multiple tasks effectively.

In 2015, the Cabinet of Ministers assigned a specific task to all regional state administrations: to secure designated sections of the front line and construct the 2nd and 3rd echelons of defense using civilian contractors. The Regional State Administrations took on the political responsibility of directing the region's maximum resources to their assigned zones and successfully fulfilled the task[24]. The effectiveness of this project was demonstrated by the successful defense of the Defense Forces of Ukraine in 2022-2023, which has maintained defense in these positions despite ongoing attacks from the russian side.

Therefore, re-consolidating certain sections of the front/line of demarcation under the control of Regional State Administrations to create a multi-echelon front line spanning 1,500 km would be an effective solution to enhance the security of Ukraine's territory. This approach would relieve the military of construction tasks, enabling them to focus on other essential duties.

3.Establishment of a new command dedicated to unmanned platforms. Currently, unmanned platforms are intricately integrated into the system of combat operations, providing significant improvements in speed, efficiency, and synchronicity in achieving results. When discussing unmanned platforms, there is a common understanding, in most cases, of aerial vehicles, with less emphasis on marine drones.

As the year 2023 marked the emergence of FPV drones in the rus-Ukrainian war, the ongoing trend of improvement and development is expected to persist. To ensure that the Ukrainian side maintains technological and operational superiority on the modern battlefield, it is imperative to initiate the creation of a strategy, doctrine, and legal framework promptly. Managing and professionally developing this newly formed trend is crucial to channel its direction effectively.

Currently, Ukraine has a diverse range of UAVs at its disposal, spanning strategic (such as Bayraktar), operational (including Leleka, PD-2, Valkyrie, and others), and tactical (like FPV drones, Mavic, Autel, and others). These UAVs serve the interests of HQ at all levels, yet there is a notable absence of a comprehensive application strategy. Furthermore, the valuable experience and skills gained during combat operations in one unit have not been systematically organized and shared with other units.

The utilization of unmanned platforms not only enhances military capabilities but also presents a financial advantage. The cost-effectiveness of tactical-level UAVs, when compared to the expenses associated with compensating the families of fallen soldiers (amounting to 15 million per family), highlights the economic benefits. The efficiency of a UAV at the tactical level can replace the activities of 8-10 servicemen, making it a cost-effective alternative, even when factoring in potential combat losses.

The advancement of unmanned platforms is intricately connected to the enhancement of countermeasures, particularly in the realm of electronic warfare (EW). Ukrainian EW systems, in collaboration with unmanned systems, are undergoing pertinent development after a comprehensive analysis and identification of the Center of Gravity (COG) of the russian Federation. This strategic approach is directly targeted at diminishing the efficiency of Ukrainian operations.

Hence, crafting a fresh concept for employing unmanned systems in terrestrial, aerial, and maritime domains (with potential future considerations in the space domain) mandates the initiation of proactive measures to stay ahead of the opposing force.

These points possess these characteristics, and if necessary, they can be further scrutinized and elaborated by the scientific institutes of the educational institutions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. These institutions should examine the present and the past, and predict potential future development options. In a period of change and development, success belongs to those who can quickly learn, adapt, and evolve. For instance, a decisive factor in the victory of the Entente coalition in the First World War was the innovative use of tanks by the British at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Despite initial critics and opponents during the implementation of tank usage, the psychological impact they created significantly contributed to the victory of the Entente alliance. Therefore, technology is always evolving, and development leads to victory.

The advancement of unmanned platforms is intricately tied to the evolution of their countermeasures, specifically electronic warfare (EW). Given the analysis and identification of the Center of Gravity (COG) of the russian Federation, focused on diminishing Ukrainian efficiency, there is a pressing need for the concurrent development of Ukrainian EW capabilities alongside unmanned systems. Consequently, the establishment of a novel concept for the utilization of unmanned systems across land, air, and sea domains (with potential future considerations in the space sphere) necessitates proactive initiatives to stay ahead of the opposing party.

IV. The security situation in Ukraine as of December 2023 is challenging but not critical, as it currently permeates all facets of the information space. This was primarily attributable to a series of steps which were not professionally implemented by the military-political leadership at the beginning of 2023, subsequently leading to further russian actions. These missteps include:

  • Failure to accurately assess the real state and position of russian occupying forces along the main offensive line during the summer campaign.
  • Displaying excessive optimism and expectations in the open information space concerning russian units, shifting focus from recognizing the professional and specialized nature of the russian Federation's army towards disdain and underestimation of their professionalism.
  • Insufficient communication between the operational and strategic headquarters of the Defense Forces of Ukraine and partner countries. The Ukrainian side failed to convey the actual state of affairs (attributed to the constant emphasis on adopting NATO standards without synchronized joint military actions) during offensive operations. Simultaneously, the side of the partner countries, primarily the USA, failed to comprehend the current trends in the russo-Ukrainian war.
  • A minimal number of training sessions by instructors from partner countries for operational and operational-strategic level Ukrainian headquarters. Due to time constraints, there was a failure to grasp the concept of the 5-dimensional battle and a lack of adequate resources.
  • The russian side's rapid adaptation to counter the use of Western weapons and the accelerated construction of defensively fortified positions with engineering enhancements, among other factors.

These steps resulted in the russian side seizing the initiative and launching offensive operations in the Kupyansk and Donetsk directions in the fall of 2023. These offensives persisted for 2-3 months, yielding only tactical achievements without significant strategic or operational gains. They are nearing a critical point of culmination and the loss of further capabilities. This situation is attributed to the substantial losses suffered by the russian Federation in terms of manpower, equipment, and the utilization of low-quality ammunition purchased from North Korea and other sources[25].

Despite the nearing culmination of offensive actions and the depletion of offensive potential, the russian side shows no strategic intention to de-escalate and is actively building up its combat capabilities. In the coming year, the budget of the Ministry of Defense of the russian Federation is set to reach a record level in its entire history, amounting to 40% of the entire country's budget, specifically 72.1 billion US dollars[26]. This substantial allocation from the state budget doesn't include federal (regional) funding for the power sector of the russian Federation. This extensive financial allocation indicates a determination to continue the invasion of Ukraine in the long term.

The following intentions characterize approximate russian plans for 2024:

 1. The russian Federation continues the formation of new military units and conducts a broad recruitment campaign to popularize military service through a multiple increase in monetary support;

 2. The accumulation of stocks of missile platforms, which in 2023 will be used less for strikes on Ukrainian territory, however, increasing their production in the city of Yekaterinburg. For example, stocks of quantitative missiles in August 2023 amounted to 585 units, and in November they already amounted to 875, producing 70-80 units per month[27]. A similar situation can be seen in the 2-3 times increased manufactured UAVs of various application levels.

3. Transferring the work of all factories of the military-industrial complex to 3 shifts, increasing the production of weapons accordingly. It is reasonable to assume that there is an ability to manufacture 200 pieces of equipment from scratch, to restore much more.

4. The civilian population of the russian Federation maintains a high level of trust in its political leadership, providing full support in armed aggression against Ukraine. According to social polls, 74% of respondents in the russian Federation support the war, while only 18% are against it which does not demonstrate a contradiction against war[28].

The security forecast for the spring of 2024 indicates intentions to intensify offensive actions in the eastern region of Ukraine, with the goal of fully occupying the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The heightened offensive actions will be accompanied by numerous psychological operations and information measures by the russian side against the Ukrainian population, aiming to instill distrust and encourage them to sign a peace treaty that is unfavorable for Kyiv.

Despite the security challenges and problems, Ukraine is resisting any manifestations of russian aggression by employing increased non-traditional and hybrid methods of war. There is already a significant boost in the production of unmanned platforms of various application levels, which is expected to have a substantial impact on the battlefield.

While the decision to provide military support is pending in the US Congress, it is anticipated to materialize no later than January 2024, with efforts to systematize and synchronize actions with all partner states. The temporary pause in US aid is being partially supplemented by Germany, covering a portion of the current deficit[29].

Historically, wars have witnessed varying degrees of success and failure. However, the key to victory lies in the ability to thoroughly assess miscalculations, introduce corrections to existing processes, and prevent their recurrence. Therefore, for a Ukrainian victory, the algorithm of "awareness-assessment-analysis-making changes-re-analysis" should become a dogma across all spheres and structures, a process that is already actively underway.

Most importantly, the mere existence of Ukraine as a nation and a state is a significant victory, despite facing deficits in various aspects, we keep fighting and we will be victorious.

Glory to Ukraine.

Sincerely, Vlad Dut.



[1] Ukrainian military portal:

[2] Modern war institute:

[3] Apostrophe International

[4] BBC News:

[5] Ukrainska Pravda:

[6] Zaxid.Net

[7] Associated Press:

[8] Ukr.Net:

[9] The new voice of Ukraine:

[10] Forbes:


[11] Unian:

[12] ClausevitaStudies

[13] Washington Post:

[14] Defense Express: _ale_dlja_vijni_v_ukrajini_virishila_vzjati_menshe_sotni_v_bilorusi-9638.html


[15] .Defense Express:

[16] Atlantic Council:

[17] Forbes Ukraine:

[18] Radio Liberty:


[19] Janes: https:

[20] Major Mark P. Krieger Jr., U.S. Army: chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/


[21] The Economist: .pd&utm_source=google&ppccampaignID=18151738051&ppcadID=&utm_campaign=a.22brand_pmax&


[23] Government Portal:


[25] Politico:


[26] ISW:


[27] ISW:

[28] Glavkom:


[29] Reuters:


About the Author(s)

Vlad Dut (pseudonym for obvious  security reasons) is a Ukrainian active duty officer who has participated in combat since 2014. In July 2014 he was wounded in Lugansk region. He has studied in USA and Estonia as a military student.