Why Ukraine Is Winning
The great battle of our time
This is just rank speculation, but I think it’s safe to say that that there is some serious agita in the Kremlin these days. The lightning advance of Ukrainian forces has rattled Putin’s hawks and, even though it won‘t end the war, is dramatic evidence that Putin’s invasion has been an abysmal failure.
Make sure you read Cathy Young’s piece in today’s Bulwark: “Ukraine’s Momentum, Putin’s Fears.”
This is how the “spectacular rout of Russian armed forces in Ukraine,” looked over the weekend:
Via AP: “Russia announces troop pullback from Ukraine’s Kharkiv area”
“The Russian army in these days is demonstrating the best that it can do — showing its back,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video released by his office Saturday night. “And, of course, it’s a good decision for them to run.”
Via the NYT: “In stunning retreat, Russia loses key northeastern cities to Ukrainian offensive”
The Ukrainian offensive has reshaped what was becoming a grinding war of attrition. One village after another has fallen, including the west side of the town of Kupiansk, according to George Barros, an analyst for the Institute for the Study of War, and images of Ukrainian troops.
Via the Wapo: “Russian troops in big retreat as Ukraine offensive advances in Kharkiv”
As the advancing Ukrainian troops regained lost territory with shocking speed, liberating the town of Balakliya and raising their blue-and-yellow flag over the city of Izyum, jubilant Ukrainians and officials in Kyiv and Western capitals indulged in a daring hope: maybe the grinding, stalemated war was swinging their way.
And they’re not done yet. This morning:
The Ukrainian military claimed on Monday that it had retaken more territory in the south and was reiterating calls for Russian units fighting west of the Dnipro River in the Kherson region to surrender.
As Ukraine makes advances in the northeast of the country, its military has been carrying out another campaign in the south. There, thousands of Russian soldiers west of the Dnipro River appear to be increasingly isolated as Ukrainian attacks erode Russian defenses and shell bridges over the river, cutting the Russians off from resupply.
Although we try to avoid irrational exuberance here, this looks, smells, and tastes like… victory.
In its analysis, the Institute for the Study of War reports that “Ukraine has decisively won the Battle of Kharkiv Oblast, recovering its territory northwest, north, and northeast of the city and ending the Russian ground & artillery threat to Ukraine’s second-largest city.”
On Sunday, the ISW provided this revealing map:
Here is an updated map this morning:
How did they do it? The ISW analysis:
The Ukrainian success resulted from skillful campaign design and execution that included efforts to maximize the impact of Western weapons systems such as HIMARS.
Kyiv’s long discussion and then an announcement of a counter-offensive operation aimed at Kherson Oblast drew substantial Russian troops away from the sectors on which Ukrainian forces have conducted decisive attacks in the past several days.
Ukraine’s armed forces employed HIMARS and other Western systems to attack Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) in Kharkiv and Kherson Oblasts, setting conditions for the success of this operation. Ukrainian leaders discussed the strikes in the south much more ostentatiously, however, successfully confusing the Russians about their intentions in Kharkiv Oblast.
Western weapons systems were necessary but not sufficient to secure success for Ukraine. The Ukrainian employment of those systems in a well-designed and well-executed campaign has generated the remarkable success of the counter-offensive operations in Kharkiv Oblast.
But the analysis comes with this caveat:
The current counter-offensive will not end the war. The campaign in northeast Ukraine will eventually culminate, allowing the Russians to re-establish a tenable defensive line and possibly even conduct localized counterattacks. Ukraine will have to launch subsequent counter-offensive operations, likely several, to finish the liberation of Russian-occupied territory. The war remains likely to stretch into 2023.
This cascading failure is not playing well with Russia’s hawks:
For the cheerleaders, Russia’s retreat appeared to confirm their worst fears: that senior Russian officials were so concerned with maintaining a business-as-usual atmosphere back home that they had failed to commit the necessary equipment and personnel to fight a long war against a determined enemy.
“You’re throwing a billion-ruble party,” one pro-Russian blogger wrote in a widely circulated post on Saturday, referring to the Putin-led celebrations in Moscow commemorating the 875th anniversary of the city’s founding. “What is wrong with you? Not at the time of such a horrible failure.”
Via the Daily Beast: “In the face of major new setbacks in the war, Vladimir Putin’s cronies are now confessing that ‘mistakes’ were made—and they’re getting ‘worried.’”
With state TV studios full of doom and gloom, prominent pundits and experts seem to be preparing Russian audiences for future losses of occupied Ukrainian lands, which are being painstakingly reclaimed by the Ukrainian military. During Wednesday’s broadcast of the state TV show 60 Minutes, host Evgeny Popov said: “We wish courage to our warriors, who are indeed doing very important work, they are resisting an enormous horde that has been trained in the West.
Putin’s reaction? More terror.
Russia attacked power stations and other infrastructure Sunday, causing widespread outages across Ukraine as Kyiv's forces pressed a swift counteroffensive that has driven Moscow's troops from swaths of territory it had occupied in the northeast.
Here is President Zelenskyy’s reaction:
What a Ukrainian Victory Means
If the Ukrainians don’t simply hold out against Russia but actually defeat Russia’s massive army and force it to retreat, the positive reverberations will be felt across the globe. Populist nationalists around the world, from Viktor Orbán to Matteo Salvini to Marine Le Pen to Donald Trump, have expressed admiration for Putin’s style of strongman rule. A Russian defeat and humiliation will puncture this narrative of the advantages of authoritarian government, and might lead to a rekindling of democratic self-confidence. It has been easy for publics in Western democracies to take for granted the peace and prosperity brought about by the liberal world order. It may be the case that every generation needs to relearn the lesson that the alternatives to liberal democracy lead to violence, repression, and ultimately economic failure. Such a lesson will be driven home if the world sees brave Ukrainians fighting for their country succeed beyond all expectations.
Ukraine will win. Slava Ukraini!
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Speaking of “Semi-Fascism”
AZ GOP Senate nominee Blake Masters “absorbing the Viktor Orban lesson.”
And Never Forget…for the conspiracists, it’s always the Jews.
Tim’s Book Tour Continues:
Check it out. Our NYT best-selling colleague is on this road this week:
September 12th: Minneapolis-St. Paul
Lost Fox in St. Paul at 5:30 PM. Details here.
September 14th: Atlanta, Georgia
Virginia Highlands bookstore at 7PM. RSVP Here: Limited Space
September 15th: Tallahassee, Florida
Midtown Reader at 7PM. Facebook sign-up.
September 23: Austin, Texas
1. The Risk of the Right-Wing Push to Rewrite the Constitution
In today’s Bulwark, James M. Banner Jr. writes that it may take just a few more state legislatures to trigger an Article V convention.
Radical conservative activists are working with Republican state legislators to trigger an extraordinary special convention to rewrite the Constitution of the United States. The possibility of it actually happening is real enough that everyone needs to pay attention—fast.
2. What It’s Like to Get Texts Every Day From Afghans Fleeing Taliban Persecution
The text messages we received every day—and continue to receive even now, a year later—convey the despair of people being hunted:
Yes I am in the bus. Oh my gosh, please help me. We are on the way, [there] is shooting. I will [die] in here.
My brother is hiding in the trunk of his car. Is there anyone you can call?
I will kill myself before I let them take me.
As other forms of recourse disappeared with American personnel and infrastructure, these text messages became the only lifeline still available to Afghans. They would send photos of their bloodied and crying children so that we could truly understand what was at stake. Case managers, in turn, went days without sleep, sifting through thousands of messages across multiple platforms to confirm intelligence, arrange for safe transport, and, in many cases, field calls from Afghans. Often we answered a call to hear the person on the other end being captured—or actively tortured.
Politico’s Jack Shafer: “What the Truth Social Flop Says About Trump.”
But in his post-presidency and especially in the weeks following the Mar-a-Lago search and investigation, the show has gone stale. Vainly, he has sought to top himself by sharing QAnon-related material on Truth Social, denouncing the FBI like a madman trapped in a bunker, and calling for his reinstatement as the “rightful winner“ of the 2020 election.
He’s become a carnival geek biting the heads off of snakes, which can be a fabulous show the first couple of times you see it, but after that, meh.