The Ukrainian military has been long expected to launch a counteroffensive in the coming months in an effort to take back key Russian-occupied territories.
But as officials watch and wait, retired U.S. Army General Mark Hertling said the Ukrainian military will likely benefit by taking its time to map the attack, writing on Twitter Thursday that a counteroffensive “starts when the commander feels it’s the right time.”
“That’s an advantages of the offensive,” added Hertling, who served as commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe and the Seventh Army.
Hertling’s statements come after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during an interview with Eurovision News that Kyiv will “need to wait” before launching its offensive against Moscow troops, adding that Ukraine was waiting on some equipment.
“We are still expecting some things,” Zelensky said Thursday. “They will reinforce our counteroffensive and most importantly they will protect our people. We are expecting armored vehicles; they arrive in batches.”
“We can advance with what we’ve got and I think we can be successful but we will lose a lot of people; I think that is unacceptable,” he added. “We need to wait, we need a bit more time.”
Hertling’s assessment later in the day echoed Zelensky’s, breaking it down in terms of the military process, Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (RSOI).
“When units enter a combat zone, they are ‘received’ in country, ‘staged’ to move forward, then ‘moved’ to the combat area, and then integrated into a larger unit,” he said.
“Remember that Ukraine’s army has been receiving all kinds of different equipment from many different countries, and they are training at different [European Union] training areas on new skills with that equipment,” Hertling wrote. “Some training takes longer than other, depending on the kit.”
“When finished in, say, Germany, Poland, Estonia or other countries, they travel back to Ukraine & are ‘received’ & ‘staged’ with other types of partner units,” he continued. “Once all together, they ‘move’ forward, closer to the front lines, & are “integrated” into even larger units.”
“Now, multiply this by the estimated 9 Brigades … and it’s easy to understand why … it takes as long as it takes. Commanders assess when they’re ready.”
Ukraine’s defense against Russia has relied heavily on aid from Western allies, from critical artillery and weapons supplies to joint training sessions over the past several months. In particular, the U.S. Department of Defense has provided Kyiv with a steady stream of ammunition for its High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), which played a key role in Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive in September.
But, as Admiral Bob Bauer, chair of the NATO Military Committee, told reporters on Wednesday, Ukraine’s higher-quality equipment will still be put to the test against Russia’s “quantity” of troops.
Dale Buckner, CEO of the international security firm Global Guardian, previously told Newsweek, however, that the war in Ukraine “has proven that scale alone is not a factor the way it was in World War II.”
“Technology, training, will and morale, which the Ukrainians have, all matter,” he added.
Hertling added in his assessment Thursday that Ukraine’s patience in assembling all its moving parts will prove effective in the long run.
“Ukraine’s army will attack when they’re ready, at time and place(s) of their choosing, & they will be successful in their operation to regain sovereign territory, transitioning to offense takes significant preparation, coordination & synchronization,” he wrote. “This ain’t a video game.”
Newsweek has reached out to the Ukrainian defense ministry for comment.