Ukraine seemed to be doing so well in regaining territory for awhile, but not anymore, what happened?

In September 2022 the Ukrainian army wowed by taking back a large swarth of territory pretty much overnight. If they could keep doing that, they’d retake the rest of their homeland soon. Expectations for a spring offensive were high.

Ukraine’s actual counteroffensive was late coming, grinding, and costly. The Ukrainians have had success, but nothing as dramatic as last year. So what happened?

While this war has exposed many flaws in the Russian military, they’re not complete fools. They realized that they’d lost momentum of the offensive and dug into defensive positions. Now advancing Ukrainian forces have to deal with trenches, mines and dragon’s teeth. There’s unlikely to be anymore rapid gains for Ukraine in the near future.

Russia’s strategy for now seems to be to hold onto the territory they’ve seized. Their hope is that Ukraine’s Western backers will lose faith and cease support. Russia would particularly love it if Trump returned to the White House.

Can Ukraine still win?

Yes! Ukrainians have not lost the will to fight. About the only world leader with higher poll numbers than Putin is Volodymyr Zelenskyy. It won’t be easy, but as I said above, Ukraine is still making gains.

Can America help?

We could alter the entire course of the war without committing any troops if we wanted to.

A basic doctrine of American military strategy is to first pulverize your enemy with airpower, and then move in ground forces. Ukraine can’t do that. Its limited airpower is needed to keep Russia from having free reign over Ukrainian airspace, its offensive ability is limited. Hence to make gains, Ukrainian ground troops need to take on heavily fortified positions. America could disrupt the current state of the war by giving Ukraine planes.

Ukraine has recently been promised F-16s from Europe. This is certainly good, but the quantity being offered won’t change the tide of war. It might have changed things if they were given earlier, but now the planes will be replacing ones that have already been lost. To make a big impact, America needs to contribute planes.

Isn’t Elon Musk great for giving Ukraine Starlink satellite internet?

Actually Starlink turned out to be something of a Trojan Horse. Since his “gift” headlines have come out such as Musk Secretly Used Starlink to Foil Ukrainian Drone Attack on Russian Ships: Report and Elon Musk spoke with Vladimir Putin directly, Pentagon official says.

Musk should probably be in jail, for a lot of reasons. The US Government should take control of Starlink — after all, they paid for it.

Could the mutiny by Prigozhin’s Wagner group have overthrown Putin if they had stayed the course?

In a well orchestrated coup the plotters will seize the leaders, and then seize the means of communication and announce that the coup is already over and they are in control. Prigozhin had no chance of seizing Putin. This was not a well thought out scheme.

The revolt was somewhat revealing of the nature of Russia though. Russians didn’t come out to support Putin or Prigozhin. They mostly seemed amused, and content to wait and see how the whole thing played out. This speaks to a deep cynicism in the country where no one believes in anything.

Will Russia break up if they lose?

In 1991 Iraqi Kurds saw an opportunity. The government of Saddam Hussein had never looked weaker. Iraq’s ill conceived invasion of Kuwait had been easily routed by American led forces. This was on top of a decade of grinding war with Iran. If there was ever an opportunity to create an independent Kurdistan, this was it.

It was not meant to be. Hussein’s Suni dominated government might have been no match for collation forces, but they were still more unified then the rebels. The revolution was put down within a month. Dreams of a free Kurdistan remain a dream to this day.

There is a lesson here: even if a country loses a war, it usually does not mean the dissolution of that country.

As it became clear that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine wasn’t going nearly as well as it expected, armchair observers (myself included) began to speculate if losing this war might lead to the collapse of the Russian state.

Even Putin has said there is a risk of Russia breaking up, albeit he frames it as a kind of white genocide plotted by the West.

Russia does have a higher chance of breaking up than most states. However, the risk of most nations breaking up with the next 10 years is very low, generally a less than 1% chance. Russia’s chance of breaking up depends on how you define the question–if it loses control of Chechnya, which is about .1% of its territory, has it broken up? Russia’s chance of failing as a state is higher than most, but still probably only in the single digits. The next nation on Earth to fail is more likely to be somewhere small and poor that few outsiders are paying attention to right now.

I can still dream though. Down with the empire. Slava Ukraini.

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