Russia – after underestimating its enemy to an insane degree – has slowly brought in fresh troops. Their hold on several cities and quite a bit of territory looks firm. Perhaps we can conclude that once the Russians conquer some territory the Ukrainians are unable to take it back. This means that if the Russians can keep pounding away, Ukraine will fall eventually. Opinions are divided as to who is winning. I think the Russians still have the best chance of winning the conventional war IF they are smarter from now on and bring immense manpower to the front and concentrate on some essential targets and not on all targets all at once like they did at the outset.
It still looks like the Russians are not employing the best tactics to knock out the Ukrainian army in key areas. This may still be the ripple effect of having had a very bad start in this campaign along with low morale and not fully understanding how vulnerable armored vehicles have become. We seem to be in an era where the defensive is a lot stronger than the offensive. The biggest mystery is how it is possible that the Russians have not made better use of their vast air force. Maybe they are indeed trying to avoid killing too many people to at least some extent…
Morale may be low on the Russian side, but it’s not critically low and their morale may grow during the conflict. Morale was probably low because they did not see the Ukrainians as hostile to them. This will have changed. If the common Russian soldiers bore the Ukrainians no ill will at the start they will do so now. They will want to avenge themselves for the losses they have incurred. They will probably also want to redeem the reputation of the Russian army which took a nose dive at the start of the operation.
The Russians will try to inch closer to Kiev from the North and East. This is going well. With enough artillery in place the capital will become a dead zone for the Ukrainians, especially combined with the Russian air power, even if it’s not as overpowering as one would expect.
Kiev can still hold out, but if the Russians also make headway in the South and take Mykolaev and Odessa then the fate of Kiev will probably be sealed. Charkov is also still holding out. The offensive in the South and the actual attacks on Kiev are at present more important than Charkov. The Russians should just keep the Ukrainians there busy. The deciding factor will be Kiev. If Kiev falls this will be a severe psychological blow. The international community will also take this as a clear sign Russia is winning, even when this is not necessarily the case. From a purely military point of view Ukraine can theoretically resist Russia for many months to come even without the control of Kiev.
It’s reasonable to expect Kiev to fall in Russian hands at some point in the future. The Russians can and should take their time to accomplish this in a very systematic and meticulous way to make success certain. Perhaps it’s best too wait with an all out assault on Kiev until Odessa has been taken and the offensive can be supported from a southern and even western route as well. The Ukrainians cannot mount a counter-offensive strong enough to drive the Russians off, so as long as no inner turmoil within Russia backstabs this campaign time is actually on the Russian side for the coming weeks. The international community has made it clear they will not help Ukraine with boots on the ground or the transfer of military jets.
Without some major victory such as the fall of Kiev it’s unlikely Ukraine will submit to any terms. And if the war starts going significantly better for the Russians they don’t need the Ukrainians to agree to anything they can just impose their will. Even a complete military victory will not end Russia’s trouble as the civilian population seems hell bent on opposing Russian rule any which way it can, cheered on by the Americans who seek to benefit from this conflict and have already benefited. The US is crying crocodile tears over the loss of life in Ukraine, bur at the same time it is giddily counting its chickens. Europe will buy more energy and more weapons from the US. And that’s all that really matters.
The Ukrainians should drag this war out as long as possible and make this war too expensive for Russia hoping that sone sort of revolt will break out in Russia or that the Russian morale will drop so low that no serious offensive operations are possible anymore. Talk of the Belorussian army also invading Ukraine is not very essential to the outcome of this conflict. That army would face the same problems as the Russians only ten times worse. Plus, opposition against Lukashenko is a much more serious threat than the opposition against Putin. It would be no surprise if Lukashenko needs the bulk of its army close at hand to keep him and his buddies in the saddle. Joining a bleak Russian war effort now could be the death blow to his own regime.
Talk of the use of gas is just another way to demonize the Russians even more. At this stage the Russians can still win the military component of this conflict without resorting to gas. For historical and emotional reasons killing people with gas is somehow worse than killing them with knives, bullets, artillery shells or rockets and bombs. It’s perhaps the only thing that would trigger active NATO involvement in this conflict. Why would the Russians want to risk that?
So far they have correctly calculated that the west will not do anything that seriously interferes with Russia’s chances of winning this war.
What Russia will do with an unruly Ukraine after its military victory is a much harder question to answer. Local politicians will be arrested, but this will lead to protests. They can’t imprison 40 million people and if they install a pro-Russian government their military will have to stay in place to prop up that bound to be hated regime…
Russia could annex some parts of Ukraine and maintain a large military presence there indefinitely. These are only half measures however. There is no great solution here anymore. What is certain is that the Russian bombardments will intensify and that the Ukrainians will do whatever they can to accuse the Russians of war crimes, real and imagined, while commiting some of their own. The Russian ones will be on the news, the Ukrainian ones not so much. Such is the unbalanced coverage of this conflict.
For those who have missed the bare knuckle essence of what is going on you can see the explanation of Kamala Harris. We can only hope she intended this for an audience of three year olds.