Russia continues to encircle the major Ukrainian cities, Kiev and the cities in the east and south. The Russians are trying to get to Odessa which is an important prize. To get there they will have to conquer or encircle and then bypass the city of Nikolaev. Nikolaev has an excellent location when it comes to defence. There is a wide river with few crossing points. It could be a particularly tough nut to crack.
The media keep repeating that there are many civilian casualties. All civilian casualties are absolutely terrible, but objectively speaking it’s not true. There are 40 million Ukrainians. All reports – so far – mention less than 500 civilian fatalities. Compare this to the Israeli invasions of the Gaza strip. The Gaza strip has only a fraction of the Ukrainian population, but Israel easily kills over a thousand civilians in similar operations, many of them children. (Israel’s invasion of the Gaza strip in the summer of 2014 resulted in 1,462 Palestinian civilians being killed, 551 were children and 299 women).This is a sensitive issue and every casualty is a casualty that should never have happened, but the Russians could easily kill thousands of innocent civilians. Clearly they are showing SOME restraint. Also, just think about how the Serbs besieged Sarajevo and unremittingly sniped at the trapped civilians there. There is no comparison. The Russians are not commiting genocide. But it’s interesting. When Russia hits a school the immediate commentary is that it’s barbaric and intentional. When Israel does it, it’s an accident.
The Russian war effort is still not going all that well however. Some of their aircraft seem to have been shot down. What makes them extremely vulnerable though is their ridiculously bad supply system. They don’t have enough fuel trucks to keep the tanks rolling and the Ukrainians know this. Every fuel truck lost hits them more than a knocked out tank. The Russians have a vast park of tanks, so they won’t run out of those. But yeah, when you can’t get fuel to your tanks they become sitting ducks. The Russians are even plagued by food shortages. They are being forced to ‘live off the country’. Which – in this modern era – means: plundering Ukrainian supermarkets. You can imagine that this is bad for morale and severely hampers their tactical performance. It’s also not going to win them any brownie points from the already enraged Ukrainians.
An offensive that loses momentum risks getting bogged down forever. Just think of the Battle of The Bulge in 1944. The Russians should secure all Ukrainian harbours and Kiev has to fall or at least be completely cut off so no lethal aid can be delivered anymore.
The Russians should also be worried about NATO countries somehow giving fighter jets to the Ukrainians. Ukrainian pilots could be given jets which they then could use from Polish airfields. This is a risky step towards further escalation since the Russians could then bomb those Polish airfields or even throw a ‘tactical’ nuclear bomb on one of them.
The Russians should be able to eventually strangle the conventional Ukrainian army to death, but then they face occupying half or all of the country. A daunting task that will not turn out well for them. Victory on the battlefield will not be the end of Russia’s troubles. It’s not even a sure thing.
The Ukrainians should keep taking out Russian vehicles, especially all transport vehicles. They have the means to do this. They should keep the idea alive that their resistance is effective. If the international community is confronted with a decisive Russian victory talk of helping hem militarily will quickly peter out, because nobody wants to die for Ukraine. As long as the Ukrainians seem to have a shot at stopping the Russians the west will keep trying to supply them with weapons. It would also be good for them to lure the Russians into their cities where the death toll will certainly rise on both sides. This will demoralize the Russians and get the Ukrainians even more sympathy from the international community.
The western public has already embraced the Ukrainians as a modern romantic version of the Spartans at Thermopylae. One of the stories that have shaped western identity and sympathies a lot. We all love a tough underdog. Yet not everyone in the west is so convinced that Zelensky is Harry Potter and Putin is Voldemort. Here are some social media posts that go against the repetitive tone of the extremely biased media circus which is covering this as a Netflix thriller with clear good guys and clear bad guys.
PS. The Russian map you see in the picture describes the Ukrainian cities captured by the Russians as having been ‘liberated’. I think that at this point not even the Russians believe this.