Decision Time in Ukraine

 

In the Land of Confusion podcast covering the six-month anniversary of the start of the Ukraine War, I stated that the behavior of the Ukrainians over the last six weeks struck me as consistent with their shaping the battlefield for an offensive around Kherson. The types of strikes that Ukraine had been making were designed to isolate Russian forces in Kherson by cutting supply routes, destroying ammo and fuel dumps, and forcing the Russian aircraft out of Crimea.  I thought it would start in September, likely mid-September.

It appears I was off by a week or two. Both Ukrainian and Russian sources are reporting that such an offensive has begun.  At this point, both sides are declaring they are winning. That, too, is to be expected.

I will make another prediction: This offensive probably means the war will end within the next ten weeks. I am not predicting who will win — just that this battle will likely settle the war. If the Ukrainians succeed, the Russians will be playing the British at Yorktown. If the Russians succeed in stopping the Ukrainians, the Ukrainians will be playing the Germans in the Ardennes. In short, the loser will lack the military assets to continue the war.

We will know better in a week who the likely winner is.

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  1. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    hmmm. the war that the punditry thought would be over in 3 days, has now gone 6 months, with the Ukrainians launching what appears to be a significant counter offensive.   

    With both sides continuing to build armaments and military capabilities, and both prime players vehement and resolute, what is your reasoning on a 10 week time frame for a resolution?  

    I foresee a continued bloody slog for much longer, possibly, or even likely, many years. 

    The only thing that would totally alter that trajectory  in the next 10 weeks is Europe totally abandoning  support of Ukraine, because Russia fully chokes off their energy supply.

    But even with that, I think Ukraine persists with what they have left.  

    What do you see that is significant in 10 weeks? 

    • #1
  2. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Nohaaj (View Comment):
    With both sides continuing to build armaments and military capabilities,

    Thing is, the Ukes have the West to supply them with better stuff. The Russians don’t. They have massive artillery for indiscriminate city destruction, but that requires depots, which go boom when one smart American-made device pays a visit. Russia is used to killing cities that can’t fight back; it’s a different matter when their opponent has Starlink, US intel, and high-tech munitions. 

    and both prime players vehement and resolute, 

    Resolute comes in different flavors, though? Russian military leadership may be resolute in their desire to not prolong the attenuated demonstration of their inability to conquer Ukraine. They seemed so STRONK after barrel-bombing some Syrian cities, but up against a country led by an actor, they choke? Bad look.  

    The Ukrainian government is resolute not to let the invader win, because eff those guys. Different motivations produce different mindsets which produce different results. “Vehemence and resoluteness” do not seem to characterize the Russian grunts, few of whom are probably all het up about the Z crusade anymore. 

    • #2
  3. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Seawriter, why do you think that the West held back from supporting Ukraine this way when Russia took the Crimea and a big chunk of the Donbas in 2014?  A stitch in time etc.

    • #3
  4. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    The hole mess is the tipping point:

    • #4
  5. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    The whole mess is the tipping point:

    Every quickly. Heh heh.

    • #5
  6. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    The whole mess is the tipping point:

    Every quickly. Heh heh.

    Yes, amazingly quickly. For the sacrifice of Ukraine we’ll end the global warming hysteria, the green energy poverty plans, all in one swoop. Too bad thousands will die to prove them wrong.

    • #6
  7. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    The whole mess is the tipping point:

    Every quickly. Heh heh.

    Yes, amazingly quickly. For the sacrifice of Ukraine we’ll end the global warming hysteria, the green energy poverty plans, all in one swoop. Too bad thousands will die to prove them wrong.

    There I was, just enjoying the typo, and now you’re making me want to watch the thing.

    • #7
  8. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    The whole mess is the tipping point:

    Every quickly. Heh heh.

    Yes, amazingly quickly. For the sacrifice of Ukraine we’ll end the global warming hysteria, the green energy poverty plans, all in one swoop. Too bad thousands will die to prove them wrong.

    There I was, just enjoying the typo, and now you’re making me want to watch the thing.

    Well hopefully you go into the video in good cheer, it won’t last to the end of the video. His analysis is quite sobering.

    • #8
  9. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    The whole mess is the tipping point:

    Every quickly. Heh heh.

    Yes, amazingly quickly. For the sacrifice of Ukraine we’ll end the global warming hysteria, the green energy poverty plans, all in one swoop. Too bad thousands will die to prove them wrong.

    There I was, just enjoying the typo, and now you’re making me want to watch the thing.

    Well hopefully you go into the video in good cheer, it won’t last to the end of the video. His analysis is quite sobering.

    Yes, it was very depressing.

    • #9
  10. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Seawriter, why do you think that the West held back from supporting Ukraine this way when Russia took the Crimea and a big chunk of the Donbas in 2014? A stitch in time etc.

    That was during the Obama Administration. In my opinion (and that is all it is) they just could not be bothered. It would be hard and distract them from the goal of lowering the rise of the oceans and healing the planet. Europe took their lead from the US. History (in the form of appeasing Hitler or remaining steadfast against the Soviet Union until it collapsed under its own weight) did not matter since they were on the right side of the arc of history and did not need to look backwards.

    • #10
  11. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Nohaaj (View Comment):

    I foresee a continued bloody slog for much longer, possibly, or even likely, many years. 

    The only thing that would totally alter that trajectory  in the next 10 weeks is Europe totally abandoning  support of Ukraine, because Russia fully chokes off their energy supply.

    A long, bloody war is kind of what I saw. My prediction of the war ending in 10 weeks is premised on the belief that this feels like the Ukrainians are pushing all their chips in this offensive. If they succeed, they capture or destroy a significant portion of Russia’s field army. Not the field army in the Ukraine – its entire field army. They have lots of other troops, but can commit them only at the risk of leaving Russia vulnerable elsewhere, especially is regions with civil unrest. Plus they don’t have that many trained troops.

    If the Ukrainians fail, they they would have lost a good chunk of their own field army. This is a force that took them six months to build.  These are also almost certainly their best troops. Lose them and you lose the heart of your army. If the Russian forces are left largely intact, then Russian dreams of taking Odessa and holding  what they have seized so far become true. Plus, if the Ukrainians fail, Europe may well stop supporting them to receive Russian oil and gas.

    My point is one side or the other will lack the ability to continue the war (except as a guerilla action) when this battle is resolved.

    • #11
  12. DonG (CAGW is a Scam) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Scam)
    @DonG

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    The whole mess is the tipping point:

    Every quickly. Heh heh.

    It is all part of the plan.  

    • #12
  13. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Seawriter, why do you think that the West held back from supporting Ukraine this way when Russia took the Crimea and a big chunk of the Donbas in 2014? A stitch in time etc.

    Clue: The person in charge in the WH who whispered into the open mike in front of Putin and kept drawing imaginary red lines…….has the same people in charge now including his VP.  Poorly handled then and now……..

    • #13
  14. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Seawriter, why do you think that the West held back from supporting Ukraine this way when Russia took the Crimea and a big chunk of the Donbas in 2014? A stitch in time etc.

    Clue: The person in charge in the WH who whispered into the open mike in front of Putin and kept drawing imaginary red lines…….has the same people in charge now including his VP. Poorly handled then and now……..

    That, and the fact that boiling the frog slowly doesn’t evoke such a reaction in the west as doing it openly at such a large scale. Also, Ukraine was more prepared to respond, this time, militarily and socially.  Putin’s 2014 invasion made Ukrainian nationalists out of a lot of people who previously didn’t cherish a Ukrainian identity quite so strongly.  This time they knew which side they were on.  

    • #14
  15. Gary Robbins Member
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    Ukraine is fighting to defend itself.  Russia is a bully.  The rest of Europe has lived for 77 years since 1945 without such a large war in Europe, and they are unwilling to return to the Pre-World War II state of affairs of frequent wars.

    Ukraine has now suckered Russia into the Kherson area, and is destroying their bridges.  Ukraine is destroying airfields in Crimea.  Ukraine is destroying ammo dumps.  The Ukrainians can rearm by bringing food, arms and men in overland from the west.  The Russians cannot bring in food, arms and men from the east with the bridges over the Dnieper being destroyed.  This is not unlike how the British were trapped in Yorktown, unable to restock themselves, faced with an army that is coming closer and closer, and bent on driving the occupiers out.

    The Russian way of war has been massive artillery, flattening everything in front of it.  What happens when Russia runs out of ammunition?  Fight with sticks?  Throw rocks at the other side?  The supply lines from Russia to Kherson have been cut.  Already, Russia moved their command and control east of the Dnieper river.  Just as the Egyptians found that the Suez Canal was a significant barrier in the Yom Kippur War, the Russians are finding that they can’t get supplies across the Dnieper river, other than a trickle on barges which will be the next to be bombed.   Already the DNR and LNR troops in Kherson are fleeing the Ukrainians.  (DNR and LNR troops are quite poor when they fight outside of the DNR or LNR.)  The Russian troops will be fleeing them also.

    Russians have a strong memory of the past.  The classic 1925 film, The Battleship Potemkin, concerns the 1905 mutiny of ill fed and abused Russian sailors who revolted during the attack on Odessa, Ukraine’s third largest city just a few miles away from Kherson.  Russian soldiers just want to go home.  Putin’s dreams of glory and an expanded Russia hold no promise for them, only hunger and death.

    Once Kherson falls, this can set up a cascade effect.  Crimea is arid, and subsists on a canal from the Dnieper River.  That canal can be cut.  Crimea also subsists on the Kerch Strait Rail and Highway Bridges, which are 12 miles long.  So far these bridges have been out of range for the Ukrainians to destroy.  However, they won’t be forever.

    Ukraine is fighting for its independence, again.  This time they are going to win, again.

    • #15
  16. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    They will greet them with rose petals in Crimea…

    And Donbas…

    ??

    • #16
  17. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    Biden has failed in so many ways.  But in Ukraine, he has succeeded.  Ukraine is fighting for its independence, again.  This time they are going to win.

    I wonder if Biden’s assistance hasn’t been successful in spite of Biden.  I wish there was more information on arms that are actually getting to Ukraine in comparison to promises that were made, and on what schedule.  Of course, we wouldn’t want the Russians to have all that information, too, so I suppose we’ll have to wait to find out.

    • #17
  18. Gary Robbins Member
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    Biden has failed in so many ways. But in Ukraine, he has succeeded. Ukraine is fighting for its independence, again. This time they are going to win.

    I wonder if Biden’s assistance hasn’t been successful in spite of Biden. I wish there was more information on arms that are actually getting to Ukraine in comparison to promises that were made, and on what schedule. Of course, we wouldn’t want the Russians to have all that information, too, so I suppose we’ll have to wait to find out.

    You will note that I edited out the two sentences about Biden.  This is not about Biden, this is about Ukraine.  A large majority of Republicans supported arms for Ukraine.

    • #18
  19. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    I think that anyone who believes Biden willingly supports the Ukraine is an optimistic fool. Prior to the war, Biden was signaling his paymaster Putin the US would stand by and do nothing if Russia annexed Donbas and Luhansk.  Further, when Putin actually invaded, the first thing he did was offer Zelinsky a free ride out of town. (“I don’t need a ride, I need ammunition.”) Since then, Biden has been making big promises and delivering on them reluctantly and slowly. I suspect Biden wants Russia to win, but has been forced to support Ukraine due to public opinion.

    • #19
  20. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Nohaaj (View Comment):
    With both sides continuing to build armaments and military capabilities,

    Thing is, the Ukes have the West to supply them with better stuff. The Russians don’t. They have massive artillery for indiscriminate city destruction, but that requires depots, which go boom when one smart American-made device pays a visit. Russia is used to killing cities that can’t fight back; it’s a different matter when their opponent has Starlink, US intel, and high-tech munitions.

    and both prime players vehement and resolute,

    Resolute comes in different flavors, though? Russian military leadership may be resolute in their desire to not prolong the attenuated demonstration of their inability to conquer Ukraine. They seemed so STRONK after barrel-bombing some Syrian cities, but up against a country led by an actor, they choke? Bad look.

    The Ukrainian government is resolute not to let the invader win, because eff those guys. Different motivations produce different mindsets which produce different results. “Vehemence and resoluteness” do not seem to characterize the Russian grunts, few of whom are probably all het up about the Z crusade anymore.

    I’m not going to go into strategy specifics, but I would point out that winners in wars aren’t always who has the best military capability.

    examples:

    Salamis

    British Navy vs Armada

    American Revolution

    • #20
  21. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Ukraine is fighting to defend itself.

    When it comes to the Donbas, there is some argument to be made they were fighting to defend themselves, as well.

    • #21
  22. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    US, British, and other Western intelligence sources believe that Russia’s losses, dead and wounded are 70,000 to 90,000.

    Russia has raised the volunteer enlistment age to 40 years old. Some Russian units are refusing to fight, and some have been fighting against other Russian units.

    Even if Ukraine’s big push isn’t a complete success Russian hopes of being on the Polish border is not going to happen anytime soon.

    Link

    • #22
  23. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Stina (View Comment):

    I’m not going to go into strategy specifics, but I would point out that winners in wars aren’t always who has the best military capability.

    examples:

    Salamis

    British Navy vs Armada

    American Revolution

    I could argue that the winners were the side that had the best military capability in all three of those. Having a large army doesn’t matter if you cannot get it to the battlefield. Additionally, in all three the victors either had superior weapons or tactics or both.

    • #23
  24. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    I’m not going to go into strategy specifics, but I would point out that winners in wars aren’t always who has the best military capability.

    examples:

    Salamis

    British Navy vs Armada

    American Revolution

    I could argue that the winners were the side that had the best military capability in all three of those. Having a large army doesn’t matter if you cannot get it to the battlefield. Additionally, in all three the victors either had superior weapons or tactics or both.

    Then, North Viet Nam/Viet Cong vs. USA.

    What you’re doing, Seawriter, is defining “best military capability” as being whatever led to victory.

    Otherwise, thank you for a perceptive and stimulating post.

    • #24
  25. DrewInWisconsin, Oik Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oik
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    I think that anyone who believes Biden willingly supports the Ukraine is an optimistic fool. Prior to the war, Biden was signaling his paymaster Putin the US would stand by and do nothing if Russia annexed Donbas and Luhansk.  Further, when Putin actually invaded, the first thing he did was offer Zelinsky a free ride out of town. (“I don’t need a ride, I need ammunition.”) Since then, Biden has been making big promises and delivering on them reluctantly and slowly. I suspect Biden wants Russia to win, but has been forced to support Ukraine due to public opinion.

    Don’t forget — the Biden administration is still working with Russia to give billions to Iran and help them acquire nukes. They’ve been doing this all along. So any anti-Russia talk from the Biden administration is just empty rhetoric for consumption by the masses.

    • #25
  26. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    Biden has failed in so many ways. But in Ukraine, he has succeeded. Ukraine is fighting for its independence, again. This time they are going to win.

    I wonder if Biden’s assistance hasn’t been successful in spite of Biden. I wish there was more information on arms that are actually getting to Ukraine in comparison to promises that were made, and on what schedule. Of course, we wouldn’t want the Russians to have all that information, too, so I suppose we’ll have to wait to find out.

    You will note that I edited out the two sentences about Biden. This is not about Biden, this is about Ukraine. A large majority of Republicans supported arms for Ukraine.

    Yes, supporting Ukraine is good.

    However this situation was created by the loud and public insistence that Ukraine would become a member of NATO. This is a non starter for the Russia foreign policy establishment – not just Putin. Any Russian leader would have eventually attacked Ukraine to prevent it from joining NATO. This war was predictable and preventable.

    It also highlights the folly of the 1990’s Ukrainian government giving Soviet nuclear weapons back to Russia. The Ukrainians where given assurances by the Clinton administration that if they gave up the nukes the west would defend Ukraine. They should have insisted on full NATO membership then, to give up the nukes.  IF in either case – they’d kept the nukes or got NATO membership the war would not be happening today.

    • #26
  27. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    I’m not going to go into strategy specifics, but I would point out that winners in wars aren’t always who has the best military capability.

    examples:

    Salamis

    British Navy vs Armada

    American Revolution

    I could argue that the winners were the side that had the best military capability in all three of those. Having a large army doesn’t matter if you cannot get it to the battlefield. Additionally, in all three the victors either had superior weapons or tactics or both.

    Then, North Viet Nam/Viet Cong vs. USA.

    What you’re doing, Seawriter, is defining “best military capability” as being whatever led to victory.

    Otherwise, thank you for a perceptive and stimulating post.

    NVA vs US is a much better example. That was a voluntary loss by the US. Not so much in the other three. The Persians could not defeat the Greeks and eventually the Greeks came after the Persians. The Spanish tried to launch several other armadas against England and failed every time.  There was no way they could have beaten England (and it was still England with not quite a Royal Navy – that emerged in the Stuart era), and Britain was involved in a world war by 1779 and literally had no forces to send to the American colonies. (It was under threat of invasion.) 

    By contrast, the US still had the resources available to win in Vietnam, and even the ARVN was holding its own – and even beginning to prevail until the Democrat-controlled Congress cut off aid in order to ensure a North Vietnamese victory. 

    By the way, when I visited Vietnam in 2019 I was surprised how many Vietnamese wanted the US as an ally against China. That included veterans who fought for the North. They wanted us on their side next time, because we fought so well.

    • #27
  28. DrewInWisconsin, Oik Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oik
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Somehow people seem convinced that Ukraine suddenly ceased being the world’s money laundromat the moment Russia attacked. No, dude, the laundering simply accelerated. And now there was a made-to-order excuse for throwing more money into the machine.

    • #28
  29. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    DrewInWisconsin, Oik (View Comment):

    Somehow people seem convinced that Ukraine suddenly ceased being the world’s money laundromat the moment Russia attacked. No, dude, the laundering simply accelerated. And now there was a made-to-order excuse for throwing more money into the machine.

    Russia is ranked higher than Ukraine when it comes to corruption. Ukraine is ranked at 122 among 180 nations. Russia is ranked at 136. The higher the score the more corrupt a nation is.

    Neither score is anything to be proud of but any belief that a Russian victory and an invasion of Ukraine is just, deserved, and a virtuous war is nonsense.

    Link

    • #29
  30. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    I’m not going to go into strategy specifics, but I would point out that winners in wars aren’t always who has the best military capability.

    examples:

    Salamis

    British Navy vs Armada

    American Revolution

    I could argue that the winners were the side that had the best military capability in all three of those. Having a large army doesn’t matter if you cannot get it to the battlefield. Additionally, in all three the victors either had superior weapons or tactics or both.

    Lileks wasn’t discussing tactics and strategy. He was comparing equipment quality.

    • #30
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