When the current version of the war in Ukraine started almost three months ago the thought of Ukraine winning would have been considered outrageous. Today not so much. That leads me to ponder just what winning means in this situation. One thing is for certain: Ukraine is not the master of its own fate.
Russia appears to be headed for a defeat in Ukraine as long as the West keeps supporting Ukraine. I don’t know how crushing it will be. Remember both Russia and the United States suffered defeats in Afghanistan in the not that distant past. (You can call them what you want but it doesn’t change the fact that they were defeats.)
Ukraine is currently winning in that Russia should have been able to go through them like a hot knife through butter and that definitely didn’t happen. Two factors were at play. The first is the fight of the Ukrainian people under the incredible leadership of their president Volodymr Zelenskyy. Don’t ever discount that!
The second factor is the bulk of today’s discussion: the support Ukraine has received from the Joe Biden-led West. It is difficult, if not impossible, to put a monetary figure on the aid given Ukraine in military equipment and intelligence, food and clothing along with the economic losses suffered as a result of economic sanctions targeting Russia. All those factors are outside the direct control of Ukraine. The “spigot” can be turned off at any time and without the flow of that aid Ukraine is a dead duck.
The bottom line is that Ukraine can only win as long and as much as their allies allow them to. That brings us to the question of what defines a win.
I see no scenario where Ukraine will be allowed to physically take any Russian territory! I find it not only possible, but likely, that Ukraine will be allowed to launch attacks on Russian territory used for attacking it. In fact, I’d be surprised if that hasn’t already happened. Lobbing missiles or artillery shells is one thing; holding a town is quite another. There might be an incursion but that would only be to achieve a military objective and quickly followed by a withdrawal.
There is a wing of the Republican party (and make no mistake the United States is the leader of the international coalition supporting Ukraine) that is already balking at aid. I like to think of it as the Trump loyal and pro-Putin wing of the party. As of this writing Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is holding up the latest aid package which the House already passed despite some GOP objectors. Paul’s “justification” is that he wants some safeguards to make sure there is no hanky-panky going on. That is a noble cause but holding up the aid is not the prudent way to go about it. To channel FDR, when your neighbor’s house is on fire you aid them first and then send the inspectors.
I’m sure utopia to Ukraine is to get Russia out of their entire country including Crimea. It will be interesting if the West will support them to that point. I’m not ruling it out but it is far from a forgone conclusion. (Neither is any sort of Ukrainian victory if the West ever pulls the plug prematurely.) Ridding the rest of the country including the Donbass Region of Russians is a more likely outcome and would constitute a significant, if not complete, victory for the Ukrainians.
I was encouraged to see Mitch McConnell (who may well be evil but is smart including politically smart) lead a delegation to the region recently. That tells me that, at least for the moment, the non-Trump GOP establishment is solidly behind Ukraine.
I don’t ever see this war ending with a surrender. More likely Russia will simply pull out as it and America did in Afghanistan. At best I see some sort of de facto truce. How this will end is still very much up in the air and neither Ukraine nor Russia has total control of the outcome. The biggest danger is that the longer it goes on the closer it comes to becoming World War III and that would not end well.
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