Why Ukraine wanted the Russians to cross the border?

Ukraine’s static defensive lines are built further away from their border.

Shankar Narayan
7 min readMay 16, 2024

The pace of the Russian offensive in the northeast has markedly slowed down in the last two days. They do have troops in the north. The Northern Group of the Russian armed forces has an estimated 50,000 troops spread across three oblasts: Bryansk, Kursk, and Belgorod.

Northern Ukraine

However, the size of Russia’s armed forces’ northern incursion into Ukraine has been contained and has not swelled. Russia did not send all 50,000 troops into Ukraine. A bulk of their forces still remain within their borders.

However, as reports indicate, Ukraine did not build any static defensive structures at the border. Their defensive lines start a good ten to twenty kilometers from the border.

Ukraine wanted the Russians to come in


  • Why did Ukraine leave the border towns undefended?
  • Why did they not build permanent fortifications closer to the border, but instead built them 12 to 20 kilometers away?
  • Why did they give nearly 12 kilometers of easy access for the Russian armed forces to advance?

The reason is the American administration’s decision to prohibit Ukrainian troops from using American weapons to strike at Russian positions established behind the border.

Let’s say Ukraine builds a trench line two kilometers from the border, and Russian troops start lobbing artillery shells into the Ukrainian trench line. The first shell falls a few meters from where Ukrainian troops are stationed. Their counter-battery units are nearby and quickly locate the Russian artillery unit. Under normal conditions, they would return fire and take out the artillery unit from which the Russians are firing.

When Ukraine positions its troops so close to the border, there is no way to engage in counter-battery fire. To be honest, the situation is still the same at 20 kilometers. However, the Russians now have to get a little closer to the border to fire at Ukraine’s frontline defenses.

The space Ukraine has left between their border and the first defensive line in the northeast provides them with the breathing room to draw the Russian infantry closer and mount a mobile defense.

Ukraine wants Russia to enter their territory in order to engage them in combat. That’s why they’ve left space along their part of the border. This strategy might seem mindbogglingly risky. The pressure on the American administration to lift these restrictions is increasing as a result.

This highlights the American administration’s failure to grasp the enemy’s tactics and respond effectively. Did their war planners not anticipate this scenario? When you draw a line in the sand and declare that not a single bullet should cross it, the enemy can simply sit on the other side of the line and act with impunity.

So, they can come in, shoot, and kill any number of Ukrainians, hop onto a vehicle, cross the border, light up a bonfire, and have a dance party.

The mistake Russia made:

Things should not have stabilized this fast. It happened because of the ferocity of the Ukrainian response after the Russians entered through the North.

As soon as the Russians opened up the northern front, Ukraine escalated its attacks. Take a look at the daily personnel losses the Russians suffered in the last five days.

  • May 16th: 1,520
  • May 15th: 1,510
  • May 14th: 1,400
  • May 13th: 1,740
  • May 12th: 1,260

I felt that reaching 1,500 personnel losses would be a key target, and if achieved, it would apply the brakes on the Russian planning. Take a look at what I wrote on the day the Russians opened the new front.

We can say whatever we want, but at the end of the day, Russian planners are humans too. The Russians were losing around 1000 soldiers on the frontline every day before they decided to expand the frontline.

When they open a new front, you want to send a clear message to them. That is the only way to stop them. Since the United States will not allow Ukraine to fight with both hands, I saw only one solution to slow down the Russians and make sure that they do not send half of their northern grouping towards the Kharkiv oblast.

So, I thought that a sharp rise in casualty rates, if it can be dialed up by 50%, it will change the Russian calculus. It has to, isn’t it? Make no mistake, every day, paper after paper will go to the Russian high command. When the overlords in air-conditioned rooms in the Kremlin see the spike in casualty rates, showing a 50% increase, what will they do?

Will they send a bit more, or will they slow things down to reassess? They will look at where the additional casualties are coming from, which is invariably from the northeast, and that is where they will hit the slow-down button.

Ukraine has won the first round:

I don’t think this battle in the north is over. The pain Ukraine inflicted on the Russians in the north has made them pause. They will slow down for a bit. Then they will try again.

Ukraine should not stop and allow Russians to settledown in the north east.

As of today, the Russians have moved as two distinct groups in the northeast. There is a gap in the middle. At some point in time, they will try to close that gap, or maybe even add a few more positions to the left and right of these existing positions. They will try to create a bulge and keep expanding it.

Ukraine should do what the Russians did in Avdiivka: pin them in that pocket and extract as heavy a cost as they can on the Russians to hold these settlements. The cost Russians must pay to remain on this side of the border must remain exceedingly high. That is the only way to stop them from expanding their footprint in the region. If Ukraine shows weakness, Russia will expand. If Ukraine shows strength, Russia will curtail its operations.

Will the United States acknowledge its flaw and allow the Ukrainians to take the fight to the Russians?

You never know, as long as we have the same person who oversaw the botched Afghanistan withdrawal remaining at the top of the National Security team. But I do have high confidence in Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. There were times where he convinced his boss to take a forward-looking step.

Multiple media reports said that it was Mr. Blinken who convinced President Biden to send tanks to Ukraine. In a recent press conference, Mr. Blinken said that the United States does not encourage Ukraine to attack Russia with its weapons, but they can decide how they want to run the war.

This is not what the National Security Advisor of the United States, Mr. Jake Sullivan, said. I hope some journalist takes Mr. Blinken’s statement and asks Mr. Sullivan’s thoughts on the Secretary of State saying Ukraine can decide the way they want to run the war.

I’m not sure if the United States will free up Ukraine to properly defend itself. But this is also the first time I’m seeing a public divergence within Team Biden. And those words came from the one man who has my confidence.

So, I am hopeful.

There is something the United States can do to evict the Russians, even if they stick to their policy to not allow Ukraine cross the border.

Load em up with Bradleys.

M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle is on display during a training exercise at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif. Left Image in Public Domain. Image on the right is data from the manufacturer
  • The Bradley Fighting Vehicle is a formidable asset on the battlefield, equipped with a 25mm chain gun, TOW anti-tank missiles, and 7.62mm machine guns.
  • This combination of firepower enables it to engage and suppress Russian infantry from a distance, enhancing the safety of Ukrainian troops. Its well-sloped aluminum armor provides protection against small arms fire, shrapnel, and some anti-tank weapons, allowing it to approach and engage enemy positions, while reducing the risk of excessive casualties.
  • The Bradley’s tracked design offers excellent maneuverability, enabling it to traverse rough terrain and maintain pace with advancing infantry. Perfect tool for the current terrain.

It costs $3 million per unit, and according to European Security and Defense report published early this year, “The US Army operates around 3,700 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and holds an additional 2,800 in storage.”

The open terrain in the north will allow Ukraine to mount rapid counterattacks. The space Ukraine has, with the first defensive line miles away from the border, allows Ukraine to respond to this northern threat with a mobile defense strategy. So pack the Bradleys, reduce the number of infantry Ukraine needs, while increasing their ability to move in and out at an extremely fast pace.

If Russia keeps suffering in excess of 500 casualties in the north, they will pack their bags and leave. 500 a day translates to 15,000 in a month. That is 30 percent of the troop capacity of Russia’s northern group. It will be unsustainable, and Russians will withdraw on their own.


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Shankar Narayan

He didn't care what he had or what he had left, he cared only about what he must do.