Towards a new French doctrine of support for Ukraine to contain the rise in power of the Russian armies?

In just a few days, the announcements made by the French president and the Minister of the Armed Forces have outlined a doctrine of support for Ukraine, radically different from that applied until now by Paris, but also by the other European chancelleries.

France agrees, in fact, to devote part of the production of its own defense industry to the Ukrainian war effort, moving from one-off aid of materials taken from the inventories of the armies, to lasting aid in the duration. In doing so, France takes its place in the standoff between Kyiv and Moscow, with the hope of convincing the Europeans to do the same, the only alternative to contain the rise in power of the Russian armies.

The front in Ukraine still active, but frozen for a year and a half

The first months of Russian aggression against Ukraine gave rise to rapid advances, first by Russian forces, particularly in the south of the country, then by Ukrainian armies, regaining a significant part of the ground previously lost, after the failure of the Russian offensive and the withdrawal order given by General Surovikin to the surviving forces, the last of the prepared defense lines.

Leoaprd 2A4 Ukraine
The majority of equipment sent to Ukraine by Europe or the United States was taken from the inventories of the armies.

This Ukrainian counter-offensive was marked by the withdrawal of Russian forces from the north of the country, allowing the Ukrainians to clear Kyiv and Kharkiv, and in the south, beyond the Dnieper, with the abandonment of the city of Kherson.

Since the end of this phase, at the beginning of autumn 2022, the front has evolved very little, despite a major spring counter-offensive launched by Ukraine in May 2023, then a counter-offensive of winter launched by Russia since November 2023.

Each time, attempts at breakthroughs, both Russian and Ukrainian, came up against well-prepared defensive devices, supported by significant artillery forces, and protected by dense anti-aircraft defense. In fact, all attempts at offensive or counter-offensive, now that the entire front is protected, on both sides, by impregnable defensive infrastructures, have ended in marginal territorial gains, for losses very high.

In other words, now that the two armies are entrenched, the operational situation is approaching that which prevailed in the last part of the Korean War, in 1952, when neither the Chinese nor the United States , supported by their Western allies, failed to achieve significant offensive success, without losing all of the forces involved, effectively preventing any subsequent mobile exploitation.

This observation is not surprising, however. Indeed, since the start of the conflict, only one part of the front has remained frozen, the line of contact between the two armies in Donbass. Like the entire front today, it was, in fact, largely protected by important defensive devices, both on the Russian and Ukrainian sides, after 6 years of war in the region.

Caesar Ukraine
Ukrainian artillery manages to contain Russian offensives against well-prepared defensive lines.

As such, if the Russian general staff made numerous errors during the initial offensive in February and March 2022, it never tried to break through on this front which was rightly judged to be far too difficult.

In fact, today, the potential conclusion of this war in Ukraine depends more than ever on the possibility, for one or the other of the belligerents, of creating a very favorable balance of power, by relying on its mobilization capacities, and its industrial capacities.

In these areas, Moscow has a much greater potential advantage than Kyiv, with a population three times larger and fully docile, and a defense industry already much larger before the war, and now growing rapidly.

The only alternative, for Kyiv, is therefore to succeed in obtaining from its allies the means to contain the evolution of this balance of power, so that even if the Russian armies were to attempt a new offensive, they would not succeed in bring a different result from recent months.

A new French doctrine of support for Ukraine to contain the rise in power of the Russian armies

Until now, the French, like the vast majority of Europeans, had been content to deliver second-hand equipment taken from the inventories of its armies, or from stocks of reserve equipment. Thus, the Caesar cannons, the VABs, the AMX-10RC, the Crotale systems or the Mamba battery, sent to Ukraine in 2022 and 2023, were taken from French units.

Caesar production Bourges Nexter
Nexter has significantly increased the production rate of its Canon CAESAR guns over the past two years.

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