Ukrainian artillerymen check their weapons before heading to the frontline in Kherson. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images). In my recent posts, here and here, I have been arguing that the war with Russia has shifted in Ukraine’s favour. This is because of Russia’s difficulties in replacing its lost equipment and recruiting more men for the front as Ukraine takes advantage of an influx of modern Western weapons. Ukraine’s Defence Minister Olesky Reznikov has praised his ‘gunners’ for using HIMARS multiple rocket launchers ‘very precisely – they work like a surgeon with a scalpel.’ Over recent weeks these gunners have successfully attacked more than a hundred ‘high-value’ targets, including, according to a
I agree with Lawrence about the 'realists' who call for a Russian friendly peace treaty. They are not realists, they are living in a fantasy world - and not a particularly pleasant one either. Neither side is showing the slightest interest in a lasting peace treaty and I can't see the Ukrainians having any faith at all that Putin and his pals will keep their side of any bargain. A skepticism shared by just about anyone with a memory and knowledge of the track record of the Moscow regime.
Hi Lawrence, I'd be interested know how you check any optimism bias in these posts. To a lay reader they come across as incredibly balanced about the opportunities and challenges for Ukraine to win the war, but I wonder if you have specific techniques to achieve that? We're all looking for good news after all.
"He concluded that the ‘Ukrainians may have a window in which they can take advantage of what may turn out to be only a temporary Russian weakness.’"
One critical aspect is whether and if when the Russians mobilize. The second aspect is the ability of the Ukrainians to train and equip heavy units needed for offensive operations. The Ukrainians have more infantry, the Russians still more useful hardware and ammunition.
A too early Ukrainian offensive that is not really decisive but triggers the Russian mobilization may be counterproductive as the Russians would use the winter to fill their depleted infantry units which are essential for a successful defense, i.e. the Russians would be much better shape next year.
The alternative for the Ukrainians is to wait with an offensive until spring 2023, use the time for training and for attrition of good Russian equipment and have a larger window of opportunity in 2023, the risk here is of course that the Russians still mobilize during winter.
Personally, I would wait until 2023 with an offensive.
Ukrainian leaders have given end of summer as the time for a counter-offensive for months. Most people seemed to ignore these claims but this has always made the most sense considering the timeframe of their mobilization. Keep in mind that they're holding their cards close to their chest in terms of how large their army is becoming. People keep assessing their capabilities based on the beginning of the war or where they were last month. But this thing is moving.
Ukraine is a large nation, fully mobilizing, being armed with superior Western weapons.
If they're hitting the Russians in Kherson, it's because they're ready to do it. And it's a juicy target as the Russians are over-extended and their entire position on the west bank can be carved into isolated pieces by dropping the bridges across the Dneiper and across the tributaries. Russia is in deep trouble.
On the one hand, it is difficult to imagine a viable future Ukrainian state that does not include Kherson and southern Ukraine.
On the other hand, if Ukraine succeeds in retaking Kherson, that would mean a major defeat to Russia that could not be dissimulated from its population. In particular, it would mean isolation of Crimea (cutting the land connection and water resources, possibly allowing the destruction of the Crimea bridge). In such a situation, the Russian regime seems posed to try to seek salvation in escalating the conflict further. And the Russian population at large might support and expect such a reaction.
What to answer to analysts who claim that a major Russian setback in southern Ukraine will lead to further escalation of the conflict, ultimately possibly nuclear? Do you see a chance of a defeated Russia simply retreating from Ukraine, without trying to employ all of its considerable resources before? You once wrote that nuclear escalation would solve none of Russia’s problems, but it seems to me that a display of resolve could well succeed in intimidating the Western population.
Agreed, but I think this analysis and conclusions are in no way exceptional. Well stated, however. When Russia brandishes its nuclear armament, US, French and British representatives might ask how many nuclear weapons Moscow would like to receive, because the order book is taking reservations. The West has been admirably restrained about equipping Ukraine and making military adjustments of its own forces, hoping to clearly avoid any escalatory behavior. If this is unappreciated by Russia, and does not engender reciprocal behavior, behavior can change.
Hi Lawrence, if it’s in your “wheelhouse” at the moment, it would be great to get your thoughts from you on US/China/Taiwan and the Pelosi trip at some point. Thx!
The Russian Regime may very well use nuclear weapons against the Ukraine once it realises that it loses this war. The rationale being that Russia's existence is in danger or, more accurately, that Putin's henchmens' grip over Russia is in danger. So, I am not convinced, that Putin will not use his nuclear bombs as he is as unhinged as everyone's favourite black sheep Adolf Hitler.
The deal to export Ukraine's grain will produce a sham of historic proportion: Russia will bask in UN praise for providing a corridor through its own blockade and bringing relief from Mideast/Africa famine that it alone has caused. Ukraine is desperate. It has to implement the deal even in the face of Russia's attacks. It must at the same time ask NATO to help it keep the grain flowing but under Ukraine's sovereign aegis. NATO could readily provide a peaceful but defended near-shore corridor, entirely in territorial waters, from Odesa to the Bosporus. Russia is likely incapable of interdicting it. Even trying to do so would demonstrate Russia's indifference to the threat of world famine, undercut its diplomatic line, and neuter its propaganda. Ukraine should do this no matter what else it does on the ground.
Ukraine may have to defend territory it takes back from the Russians. I hope Ukraine now has a way to defend Kherson it did not use at the outset of the conflict.
Thank you for the excellent article. Fully support Ukraine retaking their territory. Do you foresee any circumstances where Russia would escalate/test the west further (e.g conventionally or otherwise) if Ukrainian counteroffensive(s) are successful, which will be far from palatable for a regime built on perceived ‘strength’?