Might Putin Just Declare Victory and Go Home?
When Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, most of the Western world assumed that his army would readily conquer the nation within a few weeks. I was among them, putting me in the company of almost all informed military strategists, foreign policy experts, and laymen alike, who expected a swift, if ugly, Russian victory.
Putin clearly thought so too.
But we are now 33 days into the invasion and the Kremlin’s forces are bogged down in a grinding war of attrition. The Russian advance has been halted on all fronts; indeed, Ukrainian counterattacks have even pushed the Russians back in some areas. No major cities have yet fallen, despite relentless, cowardly hammering by far-off Russian artillery, much of it aimed at brutally flattening Ukraine’s cities and deliberately targeting civilians in order to inflict as much pain as humanly possible.
Yet still the blue-and-yellow flag is flying.
The credit for this unlikely stalemate goes to the Ukrainian people, whose tenacity and determination in fighting foreign aggression by a monstrous autocrat are an inspiration to the world. Untrained Ukrainians of all ages have taken up arms and stymied the Russian invaders, a conscript army plagued by low morale and a general mystification of what the hell they are even doing there. Ukrainian fighter planes have been flying so low in attacking Russian forces that at least one UAF Su-27 returned to base with a street sign stuck to its jet intake after clipping it on a strafing run. That is really putting the “close” in “close air support.”
The Russian troops have been further bedeviled by logistical problems and long supply lines that have made it difficult for Vlad to keep them supplied with fuel, ammunition, spare parts, and even chow, proving the old saw that tactics is for amateurs while logistics is for pros. More prosaically, in the US Army we say, “If Joe don’t eat, Joe don’t fight.” Goes for Ivan too.
At the national level, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, an actor and comedian who found himself the unlikely president of his country in its darkest hour since the 1940s, has established himself as a heroic figure, “the Jewish Churchill,” as some are calling him. (NB: Actually, some believe that Churchill is the Jewish Churchill…