Russian Military Operations in Ukraine in 2022 and the Year Ahead

An overview of testimony by Dara Massicot presented before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services on February 28, 2023.


Dara Massicot, Senior Policy Researcher

Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Wicker, members of the Committee and staff, thank you for inviting me to testify before you today. One year has passed since Russia launched its full scale invasion of Ukraine, and this grim milestone offers a moment of reflection.

On the eve of Russia's invasion last year, nearly 200,000 troops amassed on Ukraine's borders. The Ukrainian military and government transitioned to a higher level of readiness and state of emergency only a few weeks prior. The Russians did not prevail. They were instead routed outside many major cities and retreated on multiple occasions. The Russian command withheld its war plan from many elements of its invading force until the last minute due to excessive secrecy leading to multiple preventable errors on their side.

These mistakes then collided with fierce Ukrainian resistance in Western weapons, intelligence, training and planning support. Senior U.S. officials placed Russian casualties at well over 100,000. The damage to the Russian army, airborne and Special Forces is systemic and severe and since last summer has hindered the Russian military's ability to make large territorial gains.

The past year of war has come at a high cost to Ukraine, which is now largely dependent on weapons provided by the West. The Russian military has inflicted severe damage on Ukrainian cities and critical infrastructure, and its forces stand accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against Ukrainians. Millions of Ukrainians are internally and externally displaced.

Russia, for its part, has untapped manpower that numbers in the low millions. The Kremlin is pressuring its defense industrial base to produce more key munitions, but it has not yet fully activated its wartime authorities. Without mobilizing more men and pulling more equipment from the reserves, another new incursion into northeastern Ukraine, such as the Kharkiv region, would be difficult and in my opinion, another ground attack on Kiev seems well beyond the ability of Russian forces now.

Russian combat potential is diminished due to the losses that it has sustained. It is trying to overcome these deficits by consolidating its positions, generating more manpower and equipment and using brute force tactics. Defending against this renewed offensive is taking a toll on Ukrainian forces, and Russia is actively digging in with fortifications, trenches and minefields to make it costly for Ukraine to liberate more of its territory moving forward. The capabilities of both sides are being worn down and Ukraine will need continued and predictable support as Russia digs deep into its reserves.