Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Don’t look now but Ukraine is winning

There has been a subtle but important shift in Ukraine. It’s not necessarily a recent shift, but it has become apparent that the tide of the war has turned. 

Last spring, Russia celebrated the capture of Bakhmut, a strategically meaningless city, but that seems to have been the last time that Russia made offensive gains. The costly battle which may well have been a sacrifice ploy by Ukraine to bleed the Russian army of manpower, is reminiscent of Pyrrhus’s statement, “Another such victory, and we are undone.”

Max Kukurudziak On


Since Bakhmut, Russia has shifted to the defensive. Moreover, Russia has lost one of its most effective commanders, Yevgeny Progozhin, first to an abortive revolt and the, more permanently in the aviation equivalent of falling out of a 40,000-foot window.

Russia has also shifted to a strategy of terror bombing of Ukrainian cities with missiles and drones. The problem with this strategy is that it has not worked historically. Bombing civilians has been a strategy in many wars by now and it usually fails. 

The strategy has roots in German zeppelin raids during World War I but came came into its own during World War II when the Germans again mounted their “Blitz” campaign against England. Since then, the Allies have bombed German and Japanese civilians, the US bombed the Vietnamese, and the Coalition bombed Iraq among other examples. The common thread is that these bombing campaigns all failed to end their wars, often unifying opposition instead. The Blitz even inspired the famous “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster.

There are a few examples of airpower being used against civilians to win military victories. The best two that come to mind are German attacks on refugees columns in the early, Blitzkrieg days of WWII, which helped to clog roads that could have been used by defending armies, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Interestingly, the Japanese military even attempted a coup to stop the surrender after the bombing of Nagasaki. Authoritarian regimes don’t act to protect the lives of their citizens.

Recent stories show that Russia is scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of both men and equipment. Putin is courting North Korea as an arms supplier and has been recruiting soldiers in Cuba, a practice that the Cuban government is putting a stop to.

On the other hand, Ukraine is growing militarily stronger with more deliveries of Western weapons and its own technological advances in automated warfare. Despite the lack of air supremacy, Ukraine has pierced Russian defensive lines in the south and made gains around Bakhmut in the north. 

Ukraine has also carried the war home to Mother Russia. A long string of unexplained fires and explosions have dogged Russian bases and military industries. Drones have targeted military installations deep inside Russia and commando raids have hit closer behind Russian lines. 

Clever strategies and high technology have allowed Ukraine to overcome its relative lack of manpower when compared to Russia. High tech weapons have saved countless Ukrainian lives, not to mention Ukrainian freedom.

Ukraine is winning the war of public opinion as well. I have a Ukrainian flag on my Twitter bio (I’m not going to call it “X”), and I can’t tell you the number of times that has been used as an ad hominem attack against me. 

But I had the last laugh when the majority of Republican candidates at their first primary debate came out strongly in favor of aid to Ukraine, both as a good thing in itself as well as being a deterrent to China. Only Vivek Ramaswamy openly opposed Ukraine aid, although Ron DeSantis waffled on the issue. Presumptive nominee Donald Trump is also weak on Ukraine, having called for tying aid to probes of Joe Biden, but a large segment (although not a majority) of Republicans are supportive of aid to Ukraine.

My belief is that MAGA is driving down Republican support for Ukraine for several reasons. One of the most obvious is the misinformation being pushed about Zelensky and the Ukrainian government, some of which is anti-Semitic and most of which is Putinist propaganda. I think that a lot of this stems from a simple desire to be against whatever Joe Biden is for, but I also think it goes back to Zelensky and Ukraine’s role in Trump’s first impeachment, which MAGA has never forgotten or forgiven.

The good news is that Ukraine is winning, albeit slowly. One of the major outcomes of the 2024 election will be whether we and the West keep up the logistical support that will allow them to keep winning. Even with the possibility of a MAGA president, many congressional Republicans can be counted on to keep the aid flowing.

Ukraine won’t win and end the war tomorrow, but they might well do so next year or the one after. The war of attrition characterized by fortifications and minefields has made it difficult and slow to make gains, but what we’ve learned from other wars is that when those lines are pierced, collapse can often come quickly, especially when the enemy has little in the way of reserves. That may be the case for Russian where the conscription age keeps increasing and the morale of soldiers, who are often poorly trained and equipped, has plummeted as they are used for cannon fodder.

The war isn’t over yet, but winning takes time. That’s especially true if protecting the lives of your soldiers is a priority.

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MARK LEE DICKSON, who was mentioned in yesterday’s post, contacted me with a correction about his organization, which is not affiliated with Texas Right to Life. His organization is Right to Life of East Texas, not Texas Right to Life. He also sent a variety of documentation about the Llano ordinance, which is really too much to replicate or discuss here, but I will share a letter from several state legislators, omitting some of the signature pages.

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