Small gains and heavy casualties mark opening phase of Ukrainian counteroffensive, giving heart to Putin

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Small gains and heavy casualties mark opening phase of Ukrainian counteroffensive, giving heart to Putin

MEASURED IN METERS: After more than a week of probing Russian defenses, Ukraine’s counteroffensive has yet to make a major breakthrough, instead liberating a series of small villages and often measuring daily gains in meters, not miles.

“Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in at least three directions and made further limited territorial gains,” said the Institute for the Study of War, quoting Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar as reporting Ukraine advanced 250 meters northeast of Bakhmut and by 200 meters to the south of Bakhmut. “Malyar also reported that Ukrainian forces advanced 500-1,000m in the past 24 hours around the administrative border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts, liberating around three square kilometers (1.8 miles) of territory in the area.”

Ukrainian forces have been hampered by heavy rains and impassable muddy fields, and the few journalists who have made it to the front lines or talked to front-line troops report that Russian airstrikes and artillery barrages have taken a toll.

An account in the Washington Post of an early battle on June 5 described a unit that came under heavy mortar fire as it attempted to advance south of Velyka Novosilka, in the southeast Donetsk region. “There were fewer than 50 men in the unit,” according to a soldier interviewed by the newspaper, “and 30 did not return — they were killed, wounded or captured by the enemy. Five of the unit’s armored vehicles were destroyed within the first hour.”

The remaining Ukrainian troops went on to help liberate four small villages.

PUTIN’S UNCHALLENGED CLAIMS: With Ukraine providing no information about its losses of troops or equipment, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been free to make expansive claims of success, as he did yesterday when he met with a group of journalists and military bloggers.

Unlike many Kremlin meetings where Putin maintains a healthy distance from others, photos on his official site showed him shoulder to shoulder with 18 reporters around a long oval table.

“What can I say? The enemy was not successful in any sector. They suffered big losses,” Putin told the group. “They are approaching a number that can be called catastrophic … this ratio of 1 to 10 is in our favor. Our losses are one-tenth of the losses of the Ukrainian forces.”

“The situation is even more serious with armor,” Putin continued. “They lost over 160 tanks and more than 360 armored vehicles of different types … By my calculations, these losses are about 25 or maybe 30% of the equipment supplied from abroad … As for our losses,” he said. “We lost 54 tanks, some of which can be restored and repaired.”

“The Kremlin will cynically attempt to play up any Ukrainian difficulties to undercut support for security assistance to Kyiv, knowing that Russia cannot defeat Ukraine if Washington and its European allies continue to provide Kyiv the means to defend itself against Putin’s unprovoked invasion,” Bradley Bowman, military analyst for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Washington Examiner.

“We can expect Ukrainians to fight with determination and advanced Western weapons will help, but going on the offensive against an entrenched, forewarned, and well-armed adversary is difficult,” Bowman said. “We should expect some setbacks. We should also expect large quantities of the combat equipment provided to Kyiv to be destroyed given the nature of the battlefield in Ukraine, as well as the posture and capabilities of the Russians. Destroyed equipment will need to be replaced. Damaged equipment will need to be repaired.”


STILL EARLY DAYS: Before a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department yesterday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged patience and resolve as Ukraine has yet to commit the bulk of its Western-trained and equipped forces to the counteroffensive.

“They are making advances; they are gaining ground,” Stoltenberg said. “This is still early days, but what we all know is that the more land the Ukrainians are able to liberate, the stronger their hand will be at the negotiating table and the more likely it is that President Putin will understand that he will never win.”

“There have been many initial reports about success or failure in this offensive. We should remain wary of these in the short term and not rush to judgment about the overall success or otherwise of the Ukrainian offensives,” tweeted military analyst Mick Ryan, a retired Australian major general.

“Strategic patience is essential,” Ryan wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald. “These kinds of operations often unfold slowly at first, and then, as they generate tempo, can evolve very rapidly. We must be patient over the coming weeks. In saving their nation, the Ukrainians are attempting the most difficult form of military operation possible. They are not working to the comfortable timelines of the Western media or commentators.”


Good Wednesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Conrad Hoyt. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.


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HAPPENING TODAY: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will brief reporters at 8:30 a.m., ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels. In addition to discussing continued military support for Ukraine, the ministers will be laying the groundwork for next month’s leaders summit in Lithuania, where all the allies are expected to commit to increased defense spending, especially to replace stocks of weapons and ammunition sent to Ukraine.

“I expect allies to agree that 2% of GDP for defense has to be a minimum of what allies have to invest in our shared security,” Stoltenberg said.

This week’s defense ministerial comes as senior NATO officials from Sweden, Finland, and Turkey are meeting in Ankara today to try to break an impasse that has so far frustrated Sweden’s bid to join the alliance.

“I feel confident that Sweden will become a full member of the alliance. And they have come a long way [since] last year,” said Stoltenberg in an interview with CNN. “Sweden has delivered on their commitments they made at the NATO summit last year in Madrid … just this week, a new decision to extradite a person connected to PKK — and that proves that Sweden is delivering and it also shows that Sweden is ready to be fully ratified as a member.”

ALSO TODAY: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley are in Wiesbaden, Germany, meeting with U.S. troops supporting the Security Assistance Group-Ukraine. Tomorrow, they will lead an in-person meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels that will precede the defense ministers meeting.

THE LATEST AID PACKAGE: Ahead of the contact group meeting, the Pentagon announced the 40th drawdown of equipment and ammunition from U.S. military inventories, and as expected, it included 25 armored fighting vehicles that will help Ukraine replace losses suffered on the battlefield.

At yesterday’s Pentagon briefing, deputy spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said the $325 million package was put together before the counteroffensive started just over a week ago.

“We were always going to assess that there was going to be damages and casualties of capabilities and systems that have been provided to the Ukrainians,” Singh told reporters. “I don’t know that it’d be a one-to-one ratio every time,” she said, adding battlefield losses were “something that went into our calculations.”

The package includes 15 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, ten Stryker armored personnel carriers, and an array of artillery, anti-armor systems and ammunition, including:

Munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) Stinger anti-aircraft systems Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds Javelin anti-armor systems Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) anti-tank missiles AT-4 anti-armor systems Over 22 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenades Demolition munitions for obstacle clearing Tactical secure communications support equipment Spare parts and other field equipment


SMITH: TUBERVILLE’S HOLD HARMS READINESS: At yesterday’s Senate confirmation hearing for Gen. Eric Smith to be the next commandant of the Marine Corps, Smith, who is currently the assistant commandant, agreed under questioning that Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) the hold placed on all three and four-star promotions, including his own, is harming the readiness of the military.

“Would you say that this consistent blocking of these nominations is compromising national security?” asked Sen. Angus King (I-ME).

“Sir, I think it certainly compromises our ability to be most ready,” replied Smith. “I’ll give you one short example, sir. Marine Expeditionary Force, our largest one, has about 48,000 Marines in it; there’s supposed to be a three-star and a one-star in charge … When the three-star soon retires … there’ll be a one-star, fairly new one, in charge of that 48,000 person Marine Expeditionary force.

“And that compromises readiness and decision-making and the effectiveness of that division?” King asked.

“Sir, it does,” Smith said.

Earlier in the hearing, Tuberville said he looked forward to supporting Smith’s nomination, with no acknowledgment that his hold protesting the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy could prevent his timely confirmation.


The Rundown

Washington Examiner: Putin says dam destruction ‘disrupted’ Ukrainian counteroffensive

Washington Examiner: Russia refuses to give security guarantees to UN rescue teams aiding Ukrainian flood victims

Washington Examiner: Why Russia is escalating its targeting of Ukrainian civilians

Washington Examiner: CIA reportedly warned Ukraine not to attack Nord Stream last year

Washington Examiner: Lawmakers urge Biden to punish South Africa for alleged support for Russia in war

Washington Examiner: Belarusian leader warns he’s prepared to use Russian nuclear weapon to repel attack

Washington Examiner: Donald Trump arrested: Five takeaways from former president’s Miami arraignment

Washington Examiner: Marine Corps’ brand: ‘I’m not sure you’re good enough to be a Marine’

Washington Examiner: Marjorie Taylor Greene says she’s a ‘no’ on defense bill if it includes funding for Ukraine

Washington Examiner: Opinion: Adm. Samuel Paparo is the right choice for chief of naval operations

AP: Russian missile strike in Ukraine’s south, shelling in east kill at least 6 people

Washington Post: On front lines of Ukraine counteroffensive, soldiers pay heavy price

New York Times: Every Block Is Another Battle: Ukraine’s Latest Eastern Stand

New York Times: Hitting Back, Russia Fights To Recapture Donbas Land

Washington Post: GOP senator blocks arms sale to Hungary for stalling Sweden’s NATO bid

New York Times: Allies Pressure Biden to Hasten NATO Membership for Ukraine

Task & Purpose: The US military is struggling to account for equipment sent to Ukraine

Bloomberg: Pentagon Seeks Ways To Streamline Foreign Military Sales To Allies

CNN: Blinken Speaks With Chinese Foreign Minister Ahead Of Expected High-Stakes Visit To Beijing

Defense One: House Lawmakers Push Alternate F-35 Engine

The War Zone: Flying QF-16 ‘Zombie Vipers’ That Were Born to Die

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Space National Guard Gains Steam in House

Air & Space Forces Magazine: KC-135s Pull Off ‘Monumental’ Air Bridge to Get Scores of Aircraft to Exercise in Europe

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Lawmakers Want to Know: How Will The Air Force Defend Austere ‘ACE’ Bases?

Space News: Space Force eager to harness satellite-servicing technologies

DefenseScoop: Legislators call for reorganizing Pentagon’s R&D office, shifting focus to commercial tech integration

Defense News: Five urgent steps to prevent American military defeat in the Pacific Tank Terminated’: Ukraine Footage Shows Russian T-80BVM Destroyed Booker M10: Meet the U.S. Army’s New Armored Combat Vehicle 7,000 Dead: Ukraine’s Big Offensive Is Big Trouble for Putin

The Cipher Brief: Intel Report from Ukraine as it Launches Counteroffensive

The Cipher Brief: As America’s Nuclear Arsenal Upgrades, Usual Testing is Scrapped

The Cipher Brief: What History Reveals About America’s Top Secrets



8 a.m. 2425 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia — Association of the U.S. Army “Hot Topic” forum: “Building the Army of 2030: Maturing the Cyber Domain,” with Lt. Gen. Maria Barrett, commanding general of the Army Cyber Command: former Army Undersecretary Patrick Murphy; and Energy Department CIO Ann Dunkin

8:30 a.m. Brussels, Belgium — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg press conference ahead of two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers

9 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. — Center for Strategic and International Studies and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council U.S.-Indo-Pacific Conference: “The U.S. relationship with ASEAN and the Quad, including the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework,” from June 14-15

10 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee markup of H.R. 2670, the “National Defense Authorization Act for FY2024”

10 a.m. 2172 Rayburn — House Foreign Affairs Indo-Pacific Subcommittee hearing on “Achieving Peace through Strength in the Indo-Pacific: Examining the FY2024 Budget Priorities,” with testimony from Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs; and Clay Epperson, acting deputy assistant administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development Asia Bureau

10 a.m. — Atlantic Council discussion: “NATO membership and security guarantees: Getting Ukraine right at the Vilnius summit,” with Kyllike Sillaste-Elling, Estonian undersecretary for political affairs; and former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Daniel Fried, fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center

2 p.m. — Defense Priorities virtual discussion: “Ukraine’s counteroffensive: The view from the frontlines,” with Rajan Menon, director of grand strategy, Defense Priorities; and moderator Benjamin Friedman, policy director, Defense Priorities

2 p.m. HVC-210, U.S. Capitol — House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on “Assessing U.S. Efforts to Counter China’s Coercive Belt and Road Diplomacy,” with testimony from Geoffrey Pyatt, assistant secretary of state for energy resources; Arun Venkataraman, assistant commerce secretary for global markets and director general of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service; and Andrew Herscowitz, chief development officer for the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation


4 a.m. Brussels, Belgium — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley lead an in-person meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group ahead of NATO Defense Ministerial

9 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Defense One Tech Summit on how emerging technologies are shaping the military tactics and national-security strategies of tomorrow, with Charles Luftig, deputy director of national intelligence for policy and capabilities; Michael Horowitz, director, DOD Emerging Capabilities Policy Office, Kusti Salm, permanent secretary of the Estonian Ministry of Defense; Maynard Holliday, deputy defense CTO; and Space Force Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of space operations

9 a.m. — Business Council for International Understanding off-the-record and closed press discussion: “Australia’s Strategic Defense Review and Australian defense priorities,” with Royal Australian Navy Rear Adm. Ian Murray, Australian defense attache to the United States

9 a.m. 616 Rhode Island Ave. NW — Center for Strategic and International Studies and U.S.-ASEAN Business Council U.S.-Indo-Pacific Conference: “The U.S. relationship with ASEAN and the Quad, including the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework”

9:30 a.m. 215 Dirksen — U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing: “Europe, the United States, and Relations with China: Convergence or Divergence?”

9:30 a.m. 1030 15th St. NW — Atlantic Council Central and Eastern European Energy Security Conference

2:30 p.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW — Brookings Institution discussion: “Evaluating NATO enlargement since the end of the Cold War,” with Joshua Itzkowitz Shifrinson, associate professor at the University of Maryland; Jim Townsend, adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security’s Transatlantic Security Program; Susan Colbourn, associate director of Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy; and Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent at the New York Times


12 p.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual book discussion: By All Means Available: Memoirs of a Life in Intelligence, Special Operations, and Strategy, with author Michael Vickers, former undersecretary of defense for intelligence

9 a.m. — Atlantic Council virtual discussion: “U.S.-China lessons from Ukraine: Fueling more dangerous Taiwan tensions,” with Andrew Nien-Dzu Yang, secretary general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies; retired Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; and Jane Rickards, Taiwan correspondent at the Economist

11 a.m. 2101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia — National Defense Industrial Association closed press meeting of the Logistics Management Division with Leigh Method, deputy assistant defense secretary for logistics [email protected]

QUOTE OF THE DAY “Going on the offensive against an entrenched, forewarned, and well-armed adversary is difficult. We should expect some setbacks. We should also expect large quantities of the combat equipment provided to Kyiv to be destroyed given the nature of the battlefield in Ukraine, as well as the posture and capabilities of the Russians.” Bradley Bowman, military analyst for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, warning against rushing to judgment about the success of Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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