Results: The Armed Forces of Ukraine. Mykola Bielieskov

Results: The Armed Forces of Ukraine. Mykola Bielieskov

For the fourth year in a row, the Svidomi online media have been holding summary live streams at the end of December to talk about what has changed in Ukraine over the year in various areas: the military, culture, education, foreign and domestic policy. 

We will discuss the Armed Forces of Ukraine with, senior Come Back Alive Foundation analyst and chief National Institute for Strategic Studies consultant. 

Achievements and failures in 2023

The most outstanding achievement is the success at sea. The result exceeded all expectations. After Russia withdrew from the grain deal, the Russians believed they would have more instruments to pressure Ukrainians. However, Ukraine has pushed the surface component of the Russian Black Sea Fleet out of the western part of the Black Sea. The corridor that exists from the ports of the northwestern part of the Black Sea region is fully controlled by the Ukrainian Defence Forces.

Another positive development is the supply of a number of weapon systems that have been successfully integrated, mastered, and effectively used by the Armed Forces. Especially the Patriot air defence system, which was used to shoot down a Kinzhal missile in May 2023 and a number of successful ambushes in Russia using this system. 

The Storm Shadow missile system was integrated into the Su-24M and used effectively during offensives in the south and strikes on military infrastructure in the temporarily occupied Crimea. 

A number of operations in Russia were also successful, such as when a Russian Tu-22M3 was destroyed. An operation to eliminate the submarine commander responsible for the attack on Vinnytsia in 2022. 

The situation at the front 

The Robotyne offensive at the end of August was the biggest success regarding territory and attempts to conduct offensive operations. The defence forces did their best. The Russians were well prepared — they regrouped and conducted additional mobilisation. 

As a result of the Kakhovka HPP being blown up in June 2023, it was difficult to immediately implement the plan to advance on the left bank of the Dnipro in the Kherson region. Ukraine cannot advance further, despite the successes in the air and the reduced use of aviation by the Russians, because it is difficult to move more serious assets (pontoon bridges, ferries, equipment, personnel).

At present, except for Krynky in the Kherson region, Russians are conducting offensive operations in all directions.

Weapons from Western partners

The West provided weapons for offensive operations, so foreign partners had certain expectations of a counter-offensive. It is challenging to implement it in practice. It is essential for Ukraine to properly communicate any changes in tactics and events on the frontline to avoid creating a vacuum in the transition of hostilities. 

The decision to transfer weapons for 2023 began to be planned in the autumn of 2022 and was approved in January 2023. The Russians had time to prepare as well. The main problem is the time and speed of decision-making and implementation by foreign partners. Also, Western countries did not take into account all the realities, so expectations of a counteroffensive were overstated. 


The main problem is that the reserve population of people ready to join the army voluntarily is over. The system of encouragement and pressure is not working. 

Mobilisation is necessary because there will be no one to hold the frontline. However, the risk of death outweighs the desire to fight. The main issue is not the institutional organisation but the awareness of the risk of death in society. Today, many people prioritise living a stable life. 

However, if the decision to mobilise is not made now, it will not get better later. 

There may be a shortage of resources to train new soldiers, but then we can engage foreign partners. The main task is to reach a fundamental consensus and social agreement in society that we are facing an existential war, so mobilisation must occur; otherwise, there will be no country. 

Reducing the conscription age to 25 is justified because young people between 25 and 30 can perform tasks more efficiently due to their better physical condition. There is a nuance: if we lose young people, we lose the future. 

Military needs and domestic production

From the first day, we have been fighting in conditions of deficit. In March 2023, artillery was operating at 20%, and in the summer, it was 40%. Now, the deficit is decreasing because the pre-war Western stockpile has been exhausted. The only question is the depth of this deficit. The use of weapons is higher than their production.  The daily rate of shells has decreased. 

Due to the lack of resources, we cannot become self-sufficient. No NATO country, except for the United States, will be able to support itself. We will not be able to produce everything, as this resource consumption will not always be effective. 

One million drones in 2024

Most likely, this included not only attack, but also reconnaissance and maritime drones. Drones are important, but it's worth keeping in mind that their effectiveness may decline in six months, just like any weapon. It's better to have more modest expectations and a realistic view of the situation. We can invest a lot of resources, but we won't get the expected result. 

What to expect from 2024?

The main success will be holding all the territories we control. It will also include preparing engineering positions for defence and striking at the positions of the Russian army. Ensure the right balance of depletion of the Russians in favour of Ukraine. We plan to create conditions for an offensive in 2024 and 2025.