It has been a month since I last wrote, as the newspaper was on its annual month-long summer hiatus, and as has become obvious to most who are closely following the war in Ukraine, that conflict has evolved into somewhat of a predictable, slow-moving routine. The Russians have essentially realized that further territorial gains for them in Ukraine are unrealizable and have focused almost all of their efforts on trying to create impregnable defensive lines and fortifications to stop the Ukrainian counter-offensive. At the same time, they are continuing to destroy as much of the civilian Ukrainian infrastructure as possible using their seemingly endless supply of missiles and drones. Neither of these strategies has any chance of succeeding in the long run.
While it is true that many outside observers are disappointed in the slow pace of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, the Ukrainian military is making definite progress. The pace is slow because the Ukrainian military leadership is prioritizing keeping casualties as low as possible, in contrast to the inhumane Russian predilection for massive frontal attacks that pay no heed to how many Russian lives are lost in such efforts. The Russians have created deep and heavily mined defensive lines. According to Ukrainian military sources, in some areas they have encountered densities as high as five mines per square metre.
Despite all this, Ukrainian forces have been successful in gaining ground in three sectors of the over thousand-kilometre-long front line. Around Bakhmut, Ukrainian ground forces have been forcing the Russians back from the territories they captured earlier this year and will likely liberate the town in the coming weeks. Further south, along the Zaporizhian front, Ukrainian forces have achieved partial breakthroughs in two sectors – south of Orikhiv and south of Staromaiorske, and as they pour more reinforcements and reserves to exploit their successes here, it is not inconceivable that the momentum could accelerate to the point where they are able to push through to the Black Sea and cut off Russia’s land corridor to Crimea. Combined with the recent Ukrainian attacks that have destroyed or damaged most of the bridges leading into Crimea, this would make it very difficult if not impossible for the Russians to maintain their hold on the Crimean Peninsula.
Of course, nothing is certain in times of war, and though Ukraine has gone on the offensive and has demonstrated tactical superiority and competence over the Russian forces, the end game in this war could still prove to be a challenging undertaking costing many lives and taking many more months, if not years to accomplish. Although Russia has lost somewhere between a quarter million to a million soldiers killed, wounded or captured, it is still capable of marshalling millions more to take their place. They may be poorly trained, poorly equipped and poorly led, but there is still something to be said about the strength of sheer numbers. It may also have exhausted most of its stocks of modern missiles, tanks and other military equipment, yet it still enjoys a clear superiority in air power and in the sheer quantity of explosives it can inflict on both military and civilian Ukrainian targets.
The deciding factor in this war though, may not actually lie in what happens on the battlefield, but on what is going on behind the scenes in the halls of the Kremlin.
Putin has already lost the war for all intents and purposes. His ambitious initial dreams of a quick victory have all evaporated. Russia has become a pariah in the eyes of most of the world, and the Russian economy is in free fall. The Russian elite have seen their fortunes evaporating with each passing day. Putin’s gamble has failed and his hold on power becomes ever more tenuous with each Ukrainian victory. Should the war continue to drag on for months or years, it becomes ever more than likely that the ruling elite will eventually decide to cut their losses and make Putin disappear. Under that scenario, the war could end very quickly.
For the moment though, the war goes on with all the attendant death and destruction. The rest of the free world must keep supplying Ukraine with all the military tools it needs to keep the Russian barbarians at bay. Psychopaths like Putin must not be allowed to hold world peace hostage to their whims. The outcome of this conflict will be a determining factor in deciding the geopolitical future of the world and civilization as we know it.