DThe apparently misguided missile on Polish territory has rightly kept the Western public very busy in the past week. After all, this is about the question of whether the Ukraine war on the NATO encroaches, if only by accident. It is not very reassuring that the American military leadership apparently failed to establish direct contact with the Russian chief of staff in the critical hours after the impact. The “professionalism” that the Kremlin spokesman patronizingly attested to the American government the next day was lacking in Moscow. The fact that Germany now wants to deliver a Patriot defense system to Poland is sensible and important help among allies.
Ultimately, however, the incident was just a small detail in a day that provided another fundamental insight: Russia is continuing the war with undiminished severity, despite recent setbacks at the front. With the largest airstrike since the beginning of the invasion, Putin not only demonstrated to the G-20 in Bali that he has no intention of Ukraine to drain Anything else would also be surprising, since his personal fate is very closely linked to the progress of the war.
Ukraine’s morale is boosted
The Russian air campaign serves not only to destroy civilian infrastructure. Putin’s commanders are apparently deliberately trying to wear down Ukraine’s air defenses in order to do something about one of Russia’s greatest disadvantages: the lack of air sovereignty over Ukraine. The force of the most recent wave of attacks shows that the Russians did not run out of ammunition quite as quickly as was widely assumed in the West.
That puts the Russian deduction into perspective a little Kherson. From a political point of view, it was a great success for Ukraine. The fact that the invaders had to give up the only regional capital they were able to capture after February 24, and that only shortly after the annexation, will boost the morale of soldiers and people in Ukraine.
It is not said that this defeat will also weaken Putin at home. Russia has become so much of a coercive and propaganda state that bad news of the war currently has no mobilizing effect, at least among the population. And in the power apparatus, the withdrawal was clearly well prepared. The nationalist Kremlin critics did not step out of line this time.
The Dnipro as a natural barrier
From a military point of view, retreating to the left bank of the Dnieper is even advantageous for Russian forces because the river provides a natural barrier. There are Western estimates that the Russian army can transfer up to half of the units withdrawn from Kherson to other sectors of the front, primarily in the Donbass. That would give her relief at a time when she is still filling her ranks with the recent mobilization. The fact that the Russians operated with too few soldiers over too large an area is considered to be one of their other major problems.
Therefore, despite their notable successes in front of Kyiv and in the east and south of the country, the Ukrainian armed forces cannot expect a victory against the invaders in the foreseeable future. The Russians still hold a broad corridor from Luhansk to Crimea, which is of paramount importance for Ukraine’s security and economy. In western analysis, another war of attrition is expected in the coming months.
For the first time, this prospect led to an open dissent among the American leadership about future strategy. Mark Milley, the President’s chief military adviser as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, advocates a diplomatic solution. He doesn’t believe that the Ukrainians will soon be able to drive the Russians out of their country (including Crimea). Apparently the general feared a development like in the First World War, where a long trench war brought heavy casualties but no decision. Biden, on the other hand, continues to retreat to the formula that the Ukrainians have to decide for themselves when and how they want to negotiate.
When they take place in Washington, such debates can have greater repercussions than in Europe. With bravery alone, the Ukrainians will not resist the Russians. The political, financial and, above all, military support of the leading Western power is essential for their survival. The fact that the House of Representatives now falls to the Republicans, whose Trumpist faction is critical of further aid for Ukraine, will not make things any easier for Biden. More than ever, the outcome of the war depends not only on whether the Ukrainians or the Russians hold out longer, but also on America’s patience.