Espreso. Global

Ukrainian army has potential to throw knockout punch to Russian troops – military expert Dan Rice

29 March, 2023 Wednesday

Military expert and president of the American University in Kyiv Dan Rice, in an interview with Volodymyr Ostapchuk, host of the Spotlight Ukraine program on Espreso, shared how successful Ukraine's counteroffensive could be given the Western weapons supplied and when to expect a breakthrough 


Ukraine is preparing for a spring counteroffensive with insufficient amounts of weapons and ammunition, according to the Institute for the Study of War. How successful will the counteroffensive be in this case?

I don't agree with that assessment. You know that it is never enough, you always want more. But I do believe that the Ukrainian army is stronger, better trained and has better resources than a year ago. And I think the counteroffensive will be very successful. I think that the Kherson and Kharkiv offensives that took place in the fall can be significantly overshadowed by this offensive, which can be even more strategic and hopefully deliver a knockout punch to the Russian army.

In a recent interview with the Ukrainian media, you said that the Ukrainian army is waiting for the right time to launch a successful counteroffensive. Should we expect it this spring, this fall, or maybe we should wait until next year?

I am no longer a special adviser to General Zaluzhnyi, as I am focused only on the American University in Kyiv and a number of programs we are launching at this wonderful university. But I don't have any information about where exactly and when this will happen. I've met with American generals in Germany and the Pentagon, and I'm very familiar with what happens in war. I think that Putin made every mistake possible, and the attack in February 2022 was the wrong time for an armored force to try to go through Ukraine. The same as now, so you saw that the Russians made the wrong offensive at the wrong time. We need the ground to harden in the sun so that the armored troops can level it. 

I believe that the Ukrainian army is stronger and better than it was a year ago, and there will be a counteroffensive at the appropriate time that will have appropriate consequences. The big question is not when and where that will happen, and I don't have any intelligence on that, but I could make some guesses, but it would not be appropriate from an operational security perspective. I think the question is whether it will be enough to win this year, and I think we know that the Ukrainian military, the American military and NATO are preparing for a long war and hoping for a short war. So I hope that it will be a big counteroffensive that will be able to destroy the Russian army.

Even compared to what happened last fall in the Kherson and Kharkiv regions?

Hopefully, I think the Ukrainian military has a lot more capabilities now. I think they are stronger now, as they are being trained in the UK, France and Poland. It was an amazing international effort of 65 countries to support Ukraine. It's already the most capable army in all of Europe, so now, with all the support from the West, I believe it has enough combat potential to deliver a knockout blow. The question will be whether it will be the size of Kharkiv or Kherson, or even bigger. And, hopefully, a degraded Russian army loses 25,000 killed and 60-75,000 wounded every month. So by the time the counteroffensive happens, I think you will see a much weakened army that will hopefully collapse.

How weak is the Russian army compared to what we saw just a year ago?

If you can imagine the perception of the Russian army on February 23, 2022, when the whole world, including military experts, thought that Kyiv would fall within a week, and now, a year later, you know they took an estimated 165,000 dead, 300,000 wounded, you know you're looking at half a million wounded or dead Russians, and they lost all their young officers. So you're dealing with a conscript army that has no leader against a Ukrainian army that won the battle for Kyiv and has become much stronger this year. I mean, if you're going to make a prediction, you have to say that the Ukrainian military is likely to destroy the Russian army, and the Russian army has zero combat capability to conduct offensive operations at this point.

But still, given what you just said, US officials have warned that Russia is preparing for a new offensive, and in the next couple of weeks, maybe even a month, it could be multidirectional. How threatening is that?

Hitler was preparing for an offensive in April 1945. So, you can plan all these things, but the reality is that they just don't have the equipment and the troops. They can make it up and mobilize half a million Russians. And you know, obviously, it's terrifying for Ukrainian soldiers to face large human waves of Russian troops coming at them. But from a strategic point of view, the Russians simply don't have the combat capability. They are much weaker, and the Ukrainian military is much, much stronger. And now, with the full weight of the West behind Ukraine, with training, equipment, intelligence and weapons, the Ukrainian army is much stronger than it was a year ago, and the Russian army has not only been weaker, but it has been poorly managed. 

And in fact, it's just more brutal and more of a Russian horde of rapists, looters and murderers than an army, it's not an effective army. I mean, it's not an army. A professional army would never behave the way the Russians do, and the situation is only getting worse as they die en masse. So I think there will be a strategic counteroffensive, and the question will be whether it will be a knockout blow or whether it will just help push the war forward so that in 2024 we win.


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