03 Jul 2022

Can Ukraine Win?

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US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launcher.

Maybe, says Lawrence Freedman.

[T]he Russians are unlikely to keep on fighting should it become clear that they are likely to be defeated.

One lesson from the Snake Island episode, as well as the withdrawal from Kyiv, is that the Russian commanders can recognise when they are in a losing position and withdraw rather than take unnecessary punishment. Because we have been through a period of slow, grinding advances from Russia there is a tendency to assume that Ukraine will also have to overcome a tenacious Russian defence, that the third stage may look like the second, except with the roles reversed.

This is not as obvious as it may seem. Not only will Ukrainian tactics likely differ but, if they start being pushed back, the Russians will need to decide how much they really want to hold on to territory at the expense of preserving what is left of their army. If, at some point, the Russian command see only adverse trends ahead they may consider the long-term and the need to maintain their armed force to deal with future threats, other than Ukraine. Russia cannot afford an inch by inch retreat to the border, taking losses all the way. At some point they may need to cut their losses. This would be the point where they might urge Putin to engage in serious negotiations (for example reviving earlier proposals on a form of neutrality in return for full withdrawal) to provide political cover for their withdrawal.

Whether or not we get to this stage is a different matter. The challenge for Ukraine is to develop an offensive with some momentum to the point where there is no readily available way for it to be reversed by the Russians. This is a challenge because the Ukrainians will need to advance by means that do not solely involve direct assaults on Russians positions. Over the next few weeks we should start to get some sense of whether Ukraine can start to take the initiative and impose its own priorities on Russia rather than the other way round, and how well the Russians are able to respond to the steady improvement of Ukrainian capabilities. Should Ukrainian forces be able to create any momentum, however, then the situation could move in their favour very quickly. Can the Ukrainians win? Yes. Will the Ukrainians win? Not yet clear, but the possibility should not be dismissed.


4 Feedbacks on "Can Ukraine Win?"


Russia is using less than 1/3 of their active duty army in Ukraine, and haven’t called up reserves. They are in no danger of running out of men and equipment. And they’re still doing fairly well, especially given that Ukrainian forces in the field outnumber the Russians by about three to one.

Like the US in Vietnam, the Russians could shut down the resupply of weapons by closing Ukraine’s western border. They have chosen not to in order to keep international tensions low and show good faith to the West (which does not reciprocate at all).


I still think it would be worth a shot at having Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland to form their own alliance (FELLUP) apart from NATO and officially neutral. Thus, the states on Russia’s border would not be NATO, as it wants, but, armed to the teeth, which of course it doesn’t want. The first thing Russia loses, if it gets out of hand would be Kaliningrad. There is already some movement in that area anyway.

As I have said before, poor Ukraine, caught between stupid and stupider. I wouldn’t trust any alliance right now in which the USA has much sway . . . like NATO. The USA is not to be trusted anymore than Russia. Not that there is any threat of invasion, but the western democracies are just too fickle and untrustworthy.

Sweden might find FELLUP useful as well.

Gerard vanderleun

Sadly, Russia’s got this.

Dan Kurt

The West will fight to the last Ukrainian and no more. The American morons who are egging on this fight will wash their hands well before Russia calls General Winter to end this bloody farce. The coming year in Europe will be one sans Russian Oil, natural gas, and grain and remembered for generations for the empty bellies and unending chill in their homes along with the lack of jobs–factories can’t work without energy. Also, Brandon and the Ho will soon start a victory lap to celebrate the anniversary of their Afghanistan exit.

Dan Kurt


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