It’s all about hope, and then doing something with it.
A year ago Russia escalated the long border conflict to a full war. As Russian tanks went racing over the Ukrainian border without any infantry support I saw hope for Ukraine. Then when wave after wave of VDV air assaults near Kyiv via helicopter were repulsed, I knew Ukraine had hope too, and they were using it fighting back.
We had a debate in a thread or two I wrote around then about the value of hope. Some people saw it as the wishy washy sit on your hands and hope someone else does something for you sort of thing. Others saw it as the fools errand type. Some thought of it as a necessary prerequisite for action. I saw it as the ability to conceive of a better future worth fighting for. I’m sure I’m missing a few types. We were all right. It’s all about which one you choose to follow.
My hopes of a quick Ukrainian win inside of a year did not pan out. I hadn’t counted on the Russians still using WW2 era suicidal wave tactics. I had thought they had learned something with Afghanistan where over 10 years they lost 15,000 troops and it had a significant political impact. Now they’ve lost 10 times that amount in 1 year. They unfortunately learned the lesson of using soldiers from populations people didn’t care as much about. They commit one genocide on their own minorities to assist in the attempted genocide of Ukraine.
The despair many had a year ago about Ukraine’s chances still creeps into coverage of this war. When Ukraine goes too long without an offensive we start hearing about Russian “gains” and inevitability no matter how small they are. I really can’t stand NPR coverage of the conflict where Pessimism is considered Realism. The first two weeks of the war here on Daily Kos some commenters mocked any chance for Ukraine claiming a Russian victory was the only possible outcome and anything else was naive. I’m glad they were wrong.
There is still a large hill for Ukraine to climb. The Russians don’t have an army so much as they have a state sponsored criminal band of thugs. The thing about criminals is they prey on the weak. In their own ranks, those on the bottom level are expendable. The thing about thugs is they are dangerous if you are not prepared for them. Even when you have a superior force, the can still strike out to cause significant damage. But what criminal enterprises cannot do is function at the level of a true military. Most higher level militaries reject the use of criminals in combat units because they are unpredictable, undisciplined, and cause more trouble than they are worth. The Russians use criminals because they fit right into their state sponsored criminal enterprise. Their violence and ruthlessness are desired traits for units with an expected life span measured in days.
But Ukraine has a real military. One with discipline, training, real skills, and it supports initiative. Compassion is a trait they are willing to display because their compassion is not a weakness but a strength. They fight to keep their people alive and free. They fight because they care about each other. They fight because they know the brutality of the Russian system and reject it. Corruption is not easy to fight, but they are doing their best to rid their own country of the corruption that plagues Russia.
Ukraine will win this war. Not just because they are strong, competent, resourceful and brave. But because they can see the better future ahead of them. They see a continued democracy and they see the clear enemy they need to defeat to make it happen. Those of us in the countries supporting Ukraine need to keep encouraging our governments to support Ukraine. The more high quality tools the Ukrainians get, the faster this war is over. Don’t fall prey to the doom and loom of Russian fortifications. World War II saw many fortification lines which took years to build with impressive hardened emplacements, and none of them worked in the end. Fortifications help, but only to a point. The law of diminishing returns is quite steep with them.
It’s a shame the Ukrainians did not get a cold enough winter to launch another offensive. The ground never froze hard enough or long enough for them to risk anything big. With weather in mind, it’s a fantastic thing that Ukraine had the discipline to not launch a large attack even as some in the media point towards their inaction as a weakness. It is great strength to know the correct time to attack and to have the patience to wait for it.
Provided Ukraine gets sufficient quantity of equipment necessary for a combined arms offensive, they will win. While the newer vehicles are better, more resilient, and will lead to quicker success, even the older equipment will appear magical in the hands of Ukrainian’s soldiers trained and disciplined in their proper use. Ukraine will pick one or two points in the line. They will isolate it and decrease supply to it with missiles and artillery. They will focus a large amount of artillery in that section to remove Russian artillery, command, and unit concentrations. Then they cross over the pathetic ditches and small concrete “dragon’s teeth” everyone is worried about. They will have special engineering charges and specialized tanks to clear the minefields quickly. The ditches can be filled by a tank with a bulldozer blade. Then they are off to the races.
This time, with more time to organize the offensive, more time to train, and more time to learn communications equipment and techniques, Ukraine should be able to extend their offensive longer than the Kharkiv offensive was able to go. From the beginning, even when Russians pretended to have BTGs, the Russians have never been good in quickly changing conditions. Conscripts are not easily moved into new positions and quickly organized into fighting shape. Russia has difficulty coordinating tanks, artillery, and infantry when the situation is static. Get them on the move and they should be far worse.
I have great hope for Ukraine this year. I think there is a possibility that they wrap things up this summer. That possibility mainly is based upon just how much training they are able to do now and just how much more equipment they can get and be prepared with in time for the dry season. In World War 2, armies crossed this section of Ukraine in a time space of months, not years. The more the allied countries help Ukraine to prepare with equipment and training, the more likely this becomes.
I do recognize the possibility of it taking another summer if next year’s winter is also not conducive to military operations. There is only so much anyone can do in a limited time. Perhaps there is not enough time this spring to prepare for taking everything this summer. But what they can’t do this summer, they will finish in 2024. That I have no doubt about at all.
Russia is a criminal enterprise. They are incapable of creating a professional military. They can gather thugs together and give them some impressive looking equipment. But they will always lack the freedom of thought and initiative required to fight a well organized enemy who is properly supported.
The Ukrainians are giving the world a massive gift right now. They are standing up to corrupt anti-democratic forces which plague us everywhere in the world. Their fight against Putin is our fight against corrupt American Billionaires. Their fight against a major fossil fuel producer is our fight against big oil in getting climate change under control.
Their HOPE is bright and inspirational. Their HOPE can inspire us in our collective fight to literally save this world. We need to see there is a chance at a positive future, and then when need to act on it. Ukraine is the spark to help the world do just that. Democracy and compassion can, and will, succeed!
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I will be at an event in San Francisco tomorrow supporting Ukraine. I’ll arrive at the Ferry Building at 11:45 and hang out outside of the Ferry Building on the bay side near “Book Passage” bookstore. I haven’t figure out yet how to make myself recognizable. I’ll update when I do.