Russian forces in Ukraine can't be outflanked, a US veteran training Ukrainian troops said.
He told Insider that Ukraine has no choice but to take the risky move of going "straight up the middle."
He said Russia is good at defense, but Ukraine has made progress in its counteroffensive.
Russia's defensive lines are impossible to outflank, which means Ukrainian forces have to find a way to punch through their middle without becoming encircled, a US veteran training Ukrainian soldiers told Insider.
The soldier, who has the call sign Jackie, fought in Afghanistan and Iraq before working as a training contractor for the US military. He said he responded to Ukraine's request for international volunteers shortly after Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.
Jackie has fought alongside Ukrainian troops at Kupiansk and in Bakhmut. He is now away from the front line, training hundreds of soldiers in Ukraine's territorial defense forces – light infantry which will be used to secure territory retaken from Russia.
He said that while he doesn't like the way Russia has structured its defenses "because it sort of requires a bit of human sacrifice, like many Russian operations," they are formidable and "extremely difficult to penetrate."
"If you think you're clever and you think you can go around to some clever place to beat the Russian line, you're going to encounter another Russian line, and if you want to go around them, we're going to encounter another Russian line," he said.
"You'll not find some clever means to penetrate," he added. "You are going to have to go straight up the middle and you're just going to have to pick where the middle is."
In fact, he said the only advantage that anyone fighting Russian forces has is that "they don't know the exact second that you're coming."
But, he said, you can't surprise Russia with the size of your force because of the level of drone surveillance in this war.
"You can pick the time, but that's about it."
Jackie said the tactic of going straight up the middle is risky. "If you don't have enough forces to continue to push through the center of your breach, then what you're going to end up with is an encirclement," he said, adding that those forces can then be lost.
Get it wrong and "all you end up doing is pocketing your own forces for Russia to completely, completely destroy," he said.
Still, he makes it clear that Ukraine has little choice.
Ukraine launched its latest counteroffensive in June and has made some progress, but without any large-scale breakthroughs.
Ukrainian officials and soldiers have pushed back on criticism that the counteroffensive has been slow, citing Russia's deep defenses and advantages in troop numbers.
Jackie agreed, saying Ukraine had made more progress than he expected given Russia's advantages in manpower and strong defenses like minefields.
"I was kind of expecting maybe one breakout and then basically having to readjust to that single breakout, but then Russia would also adjust," he said.
Instead, he said, Ukraine is making tangible progress in multiple areas and has more to come.
"What you have not seen is you have not seen our uppercut for this counteroffensive," he said. "You have not seen that at all."
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