The Tankies have long demanded Ukraine give Russia some of its territory for “peace,” really concerned for Vladimir Putin’s ability to “save face.” Apparently, it’s very important for bullies to get what they want. French President Emmanuel Macron warned Ukraine and Europe against “giv[ing] in to the temptation” to humiliate Russia. Weirdly, he didn’t offer up any part of France for Putin to save face. The New York Times editorial board claimed that a “decisive military victory for Ukraine over Russia, in which Ukraine regains all the territory Russia has seized since 2014, is not a realistic goal.” Of course, it is absolutely a realistic goal, yet they proclaimed that “If the conflict does lead to real negotiations, it will be Ukrainian leaders who will have to make the painful territorial decisions that any compromise will demand.” Why should they? Why not offer up Alaska to Russia to salve their wounded pride?
Too many people are uncomfortable at the sight of a bloody war and would rather it end, rewarding Putin for his violent actions, than work to deny him any gains. In the end, whether it’s Macron or The NY Times editorial board, they all pay service to Ukraine’s choice in the matter. But what they’re really saying, as the NY Times did, is that allies “should also make clear to President Volodymyr Zelensky and his people that there is a limit to how far the United States and NATO will go to confront Russia, and limits to the arms, money and political support they can muster. It is imperative that the Ukrainian government’s decisions be based on a realistic assessment of its means and how much more destruction Ukraine can sustain.”
How magnanimous of the NY Times editorial board to decide for President Joe Biden and Congress what kind of aid to send, and how much of its own destruction Ukraine should be able to tolerate. Did I say “magnanimous”? I meant arrogant.
The proper response to that pile of bullshit was “fuck you,” but Ukraine was far more diplomatic:
The myth of Russia’s military supremacy lives, and too many people refuse to acknowledge what we’ve seen on the battlefield for nearly three months—an inept, crumbling, ineffective army that can’t manage more than a few kilometers of gains here and there. Indeed, for the second straight day, despite Russia’s breakthrough at Popasna last week, this was the daily battlefield report:
Ukraine’s General Staff acknowledged the stalemate by claiming that Russia was “creating conditions” for resuming their offensive. In other words, consolidating forces, resupplying those troops, developing new defensive entrenchments to defend those gains, and fortifying supply lines. That’s also what Ukraine said about Russian forces stuck outside of Kyiv, Russian forces stuck in the Izyum salient, Russian forces down in Kherson, etc. Russia is always resupplying and preparing for new offensives, yet it seldom manages to execute on them.
Is past Russian ineptness proof of future Russian ineffectiveness? Of course not. That entire Donbas line is under intense artillery pressure alongside endless (and suicidal) charges. The sheer weight of that artillery tonnage is likely to lead to additional tactical breakthroughs here and there. But every day Russia fails to advance, losing forces to Ukraine’s defenders, is one day closer to Russia’s culmination—the inflection point in which Russia’s army will no longer be able to wage offensive operations.
We see that already in the south, where Russia has spent more energy and time digging new defensive emplacements than in trying to push into new Ukrainian-held territory. We’re seeing it north of Kharkiv, where Russia seems focused on establishing a buffer zone at its border, keeping Ukrainian artillery out of range of Belgerod, Russia, and the logistical hub at Vovchansk, than in recapturing territory it lost in recent weeks close to Kharkiv. We’re seeing it around Izyum, where Russia is fiercely resisting a low-key Ukrainian counter-offensive to the salient’s west, with few efforts to push out of its existing positions.
And it might not be long before we see it on the main Donbas front, particularly if the offensives against Severodonetsk and Lysychansk lose steam. Or maybe even of they capture them. There’s no way Russian forces have the juice to challenge the bigger and better-defended strongholds at Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.
Within the next 4-6 weeks, if not sooner, I fully expect Russia’s offensive operations to fizzle, and for a transition to a full defensive posture. Putin will declare victory, claiming all he ever really wanted was a land bridge to Crimea. And then he’ll demand negotiations to cement that new status quo, much like 2014 cemented Crimea and the separatist Donbas regions as Russian territory.
But why would Ukraine do that, as new armored brigades come online, and the overall size of its armed forces swells from 700,000 today, to over 1 million in a couple of months? What makes the NY Times think that recapturing Russian-held territory is so unrealistic, when Ukraine has already pushed Russia out from over half of the territory it captured at the start of the war, prior to receiving critical offensive weapons from the West?
Ultimately, Ukraine will decide if and when to head back to the negotiating table. But given the atrocities Russia has committed, compounded by its eliminationist genocidal talk, Ukraine is more than willing to suffer horrendous casualties (50-100 dead Ukrainian servicemembers per day on the Donbas front, according the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy) in order to defend its freedom. For Ukraine, the war is existential, and freezing the conflict in place will only guarantee it will need to be rekindled again in the future. There is no scenario in which Russia willingly surrenders Kherson, Crimea, Mariupol, or the pieces of the Donbas it still holds. Why let Russia rebuild its army and fix its operational defects? Why scare off potential foreign investment out of fear of continued war? Ukraine really has no choice. Now is the time to press its advantage.
If the West wants the war the end faster, there’s one way to accomplish that: speed up deliveries of the heavy weaponry Ukraine needs to liberate its territory. The sooner Ukraine can stand up new offensive units, the sooner we can get to the part everyone is desperately waiting for: peace, reconstruction, and the return of normalcy for the Ukrainian people.
Ukrainian soldiers know how to have fun amidst the darkness.
Russian forces have launched an all-out assault on the city of Lyman, one of two left on the Russian-side of the Donets river in that Izyum-Lyman-Severodonetsk, axis in the northern part of the Donbas. (Russia already has Izyum. Severodonetsk would be the last.)
If and when Russia takes Lyman, Ukraine can just cross the river. It’s amazing Ukraine fights so hard for these towns when there’s a natural defensive barrier just behind them. It speaks to their doctrine of making Russia pay dearly for every meter of land.
Shit’s getting real.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.