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Ukraine’s wartime counteroffensive against Russia could prove skeptics wrong


Kyiv launched a wave of attacks on Russian-controlled areas of southern Ukraine on Monday, touted as the first moves of a much-heralded Ukrainian counteroffensive to liberate the key port city of Kherson on the western bank of the Dnieper.

Yet skeptics – many of whom confidently predicted at the start of the war that Ukraine could not resist a Russian invasion and that Western military aid to Ukraine would make no difference – still cannot let in proof to the contrary. the path of their convictions.

Basically, this cohort wants Washington to suspend aid to pressure Kyiv to seek peace and concede Ukrainian lands seized by Russia rather than continue to resist.

When Russian forces finally managed to seize two major eastern cities in early July after months of struggle in their war against Ukraine, the doomsayers – from think tank analysts and academics to former foreign policy officials in going through the supposedly anti-imperialist leftists – again insisted that Ukraine had no hope of winning against the superior power of Russia. In anticipation of this week’s new operation, doubts persisted. A typical argument is that it would take a “miracle” for Ukraine to succeed.

Basically, this cohort wants Washington to suspend aid to pressure Kyiv to seek peace and concede Ukrainian lands seized by Russia rather than continue to resist. Give Russian President Vladimir Putin an excuse to declare victory, they claim, and he will use it to broker a peace deal and walk away with his pride intact.

Ukraine is inclined to do otherwise. Mykhailo Podolyak, a Advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyytweeted on Monday: “The only possible option for negotiations with Russia is carried out by a special Ukrainian delegation in the south and other directions of the front line.

Moscow, too, is sending no signal that it is ready to discuss a diplomatic resolution. The Russian government’s recent statement that it is still seeking to overthrow the Ukrainian government, combined with senior officials talking openly about destroying the concept of a Ukrainian nation (even though both goals now seem unachievable), should dispel the wishful thinking that Putin is in a compromising mood. .

In fact, Russia’s own army seems more pessimistic about its capabilities than the defeatist Ukrainians. Russian operations in eastern Ukraine have dwindled markedly in energy since July as Moscow shifted its forces to southern Ukraine awaiting a counteroffensive from Kherson. This is because both sides can see Russia’s vulnerability in this sector and how it gives Ukraine a credible chance to liberate Kherson.

The southern port city is politically and strategically important. Symbolically, it is significant because its residents actively resisted Russian occupation through civil disobedience and armed resistance, unlike many eastern towns that Ukrainian civilians largely evacuated when Russia captured them. In return, human rights groups have observed that Russian troops have abducted, tortured or killed many resisters, and Moscow is expected to hold a “referendum” aimed at creating a breakaway republic in the region.

Militarily, the city and its bridges serve as a Russian strongpoint on the southwestern bank of the Dnieper River, which cuts Ukraine in two. Russian control of Kherson allows the Kremlin to continue to use the city as a base to attempt to seize the nearby ports of Odessa and Mykolaiv, crippling Ukraine’s export-based economy. Conversely, the liberation of Kherson is probably a prerequisite for Ukraine to take over several other cities.

Kyiv made earlier efforts that didn’t bear much fruit in Kherson, but the tables turned at the end of July. Over the past month, Russian ammunition dumps have begun to evaporate in massive explosions during precision attacks by US-supplied rocket artillery systems, leading to a precipitous drop in Russian bombardment. , according to Ukrainian commanders. Ukraine also knocked out Russian air defense systems and killed several high-ranking commanders gathered at the headquarters, according to Ukrainian reports.

Then, this month, Ukrainian forces wiped out numerous Russian fighter jets on the ground and blew up depots in adjacent Crimea using as-yet-undisclosed means. This came as a huge shock, as Crimea – seized by Russian troops in 2014 – was considered so firmly under Russian control that it was once again frequented by Russian holidaymakers this summer.

At the same time, Russia’s hold on the banks of a mostly Ukrainian-controlled river is inherently difficult to defend, as supplies and reinforcements are blocked by a limited number of bridges and ferries. US-supplied HIMARS artillery also allowed Ukraine to precisely target these bridges, damaging them heavily.

Of course, no one should take it for granted that these strategies guarantee Ukrainian victory. Attacking prepared defensive positions is usually difficult and expensive, and Russia has heavily fortified the outskirts of Kherson. Ukrainian troops must undertake large-scale operations coordination of infantry, tanks, artillery and air power to succeed – a combined arms operation which the Ukrainian army has little experience in carrying out on such a scale. Russia itself has failed disastrously in carrying out this type of delicate operation.

And Ukraine has fight smart, as he cannot generate the numerical superiority that usually assures victory by brute force (calculated simplistically as a 3 to 1 ratio of attackers to defenders), especially taking into account Russian reserves now deployed nearby. To achieve a victory, Ukraine likely must have fielded a large, fresh force that has received more extensive training than usual, perhaps including exercises with NATO instructors elsewhere in Europe. And Ukraine’s counter-offensive could, at least initially, take the form of several short jumps rather than a sustained push so as not to overload its forces.

So much is uncertain in times of war. However, this month we have clearly reached the point where the Russian military can no longer “continue its steady advance”, as Moscow supporters have often boasted – and this is preparing for the counterattack of Ukraine.

Accordingly, the West should continue to support Ukraine so that it can retake the territories occupied by Russia rather than following the advice of the pessimists. Some have a history of pro-Putin and anti-Ukrainian rhetoric or openly display their complete lack of interest in anything happening outside US borders or are so-called anti-imperialists who seem ready to sing the praises of an invasion if Washington objects. . Others rightly lament the horrific violence of this war but are too quick to reward indefensible aggression in the hope of a quick resolution.

American and European weapons have already helped halt Russia’s slow advance in the east and created the potential for a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south. If this aid can be sustained – and undeniably there are challenges and costs involved – it will make the invasion of Russia less and less sustainable. This is ultimately what will seriously weaken the Kremlin’s illegal occupation of Ukrainian cities and its willingness to take what it wants by force, which poses a threat not only to Ukraine but also to the United States. and their allies.



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