U.S. and UK strategists this summer advised their Ukrainian counterparts against launching an offensive in Zaporizhzhya Oblast and recommended focusing only on the Kherson direction, The Washington Post wrote on Dec. 29.
According to the publication, in July, representatives of the Ukrainian, American and British commands gathered in Germany to discuss the strategy for the counteroffensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
At the time, the Ukrainians were considering a far broader counteroffensive across the entire southern front, including a drive to the coast in Zaporizhzhya Oblast that would sever Moscow’s coveted “land bridge”, connecting mainland Russia with occupied Crimea.
In a room full of maps and spreadsheets, the Ukrainians ran their own “tabletop exercise,” describing the order of battle — what formations they would use, where the units would go and in what sequence — and the likely Russian response.
According to the newspaper, as a result, the planners came to the conclusion that in the event of a broad offensive in the south, the Armed Forces of Ukraine would run out of steam before achieving their goals.
“This was them asking for our advice,” said a senior US defense official, who like others in this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military planning.
“And our advice was, ‘Hey, guys, you’re going to bite off more than you can chew. This isn’t going to work out well.’”
The Western advisors explained that an offensive in Zaporizhzhya Oblast could push the Ukrainian forces into a pocket the Russians could surround from Crimea and Russia.
The Washington Post added that U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan talked to the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, about the plans for a broad southern counteroffensive.
As a result, Ukraine’s command accepted the Western advice and launched a narrower counteroffensive, focusing on Kherson alone.
On Nov. 9, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered his troops to begin a retreat from Kherson amid Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive. As a result, the invaders were forced to take up defensive positions along the left bank of the Dnipro.
Two days later, on Nov. 11, the Ukrainian army entered Kherson.