UKRAINE — RECURRING TRAGEDY OF HUMAN HISTORY
By Vincent Lyn
To understand the conflict in Ukraine you have to recognize that there are two wars underway right now.
The Russia-Ukraine War
The first, obviously, is Putin's genocidal assault on Ukraine and the fact of the matter is that Russia is solely responsible for everything that has happened since February 24th — all of it!
Whatever problems I might have with a neighbor, the moment I pick up my shotgun and kick in their front door not only they, but everyone in the vicinity, has an obligation to respond with force.
That's the implicit bargain we make living in a community: to have each other's backs in dangerous times.
The reason why the political Left in the United States is a perpetual shambles is that its leading voices have forgotten this intrinsic truth.
War is ugly, awful, horrific and to be avoided at all reasonable cost — but if you claim to have someone's back only to turn around and make self-serving excuses to stay clear of the fight when it gets too rough, no one will be there for you when your turn comes.
And it will. It always does, in this life, sooner or later.
And in the case of Russia and Ukraine, the aggressor is clear: whatever nasty business Ukraine might have been involved in pales in comparison to what Putin unleashed. Immediately before the attack began, every indication was that Russia was planning to do what it is doing right now — grind Ukraine’s best military forces in Donbas into dust.
It didn’t have the forces mustered for a full-on occupation, or even simply to secure Kyiv. That was why American intelligence estimates cited by Biden were so unbelievable in the days before it all began — and were largely incorrect about how swiftly Ukraine would fall.
Turns out, Putin’s intelligence services were just as wrong. They underestimated Ukraine’s will to fight, so the initial attack was both too heavy to play off as part of a plan to liberate Donbas and too light to succeed.
The result? At least ten thousand casualties in a month and a world shocked by Russian brutality that, had it been limited to Donbas alone, would never have been believed because western journalists were mainly based in Kyiv.
Just like America’s mad invasion of Iraq in 2003 did, with just as little effect on the aggressor. A moment that proved to Russia, China, and everyone else uncertain of America’s true intentions after the Cold War that the USA could not be trusted.
But even as Putin’s initial assault was a failure in the north, it saw substantial successes in the south. Many commentators criticized the Russian effort for failing to concentrate on one objective, yet the approach actually worked out reasonably well — Ukraine couldn’t defend everywhere, so the victories near Kyiv were balanced by losses in Kherson and Izyum.
In both sectors, pushing forces across a major river has dramatically complicated Ukraine’s defense efforts. Terrain remains the god of warfare, and in the sensors-rich environment soldiers have to try to survive in nowadays pushing across rivers is almost suicidal — a fact that has shaped the conflict more than any other since day one.
So once Russia pulled back from Kyiv, it used these bridgeheads to threaten Ukraine’s supply lines to Luhansk and Donetsk during the Battle of Donbas. Fortunately, Ukraine used the time gained holding off the assault groups nearing Kyiv to fortify in the east, keeping Russia’s progress slow.
All war is, in fact, a battle of attrition on some level — sudden movements represent one side or the other losing too much combat capability to carry on the fight. And one of the most decisive shifts in Russian operational patterns has been a marked move away from direct confrontations between ground units and towards wholesale annihilation of the battlefield, even in cities.
This has dramatically reduced Russia’s casualty rate, meaning that despite the slow pace of advance Russian battalions are likely no longer being exhausted by the dozen. They aren’t trying to advance while facing attacks from all sides by Ukrainian troops using local terrain to their advantage.
What movies and TV don’t teach people about real warfare is the degree to which trained soldiers are deeply averse to risk. Pretty much the moment a tank or dismounted soldier comes under fire, their advance is done until someone else gets in position to suppress the shooter.
Nobody sane charges into a hail of bullets and shells, because they’re dead if they try. What gets seen on a modern battlefield gets killed extremely fast thanks to technology. So all ground-level combat winds up being a series of ambushes, each side weakening the other’s capabilities until they can push to take control of whatever terrain they’ve been send to seize.
There are no true revolutions in military affairs, just shifts in the mix of capabilities available to fighters. Every time a war breaks out, each side is forced to re-learn this most basic lesson.
Command and control is rigid, distant commanders trying to order the movements of small units without understanding their situation. People think soldiers blindly follow orders, but the reality of survival on the battlefield makes command difficult, often impossible.
Putin is reportedly making tactical level decisions, which may be why Russian actions often seem so responsive to the news. As an example, just the other day Zmiiny or Snake Island was abandoned by Russian forces in a major victory for Ukraine.
This was a crucial win, as it will prevent Russia from installing anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles capable of sustaining the blockade of Ukraine’s coast. There is now zero chance of a major Russian landing near Odessa, freeing up Ukrainian forces to fight elsewhere.
Yet just the next day a missile hit a resort in Odessa, killing at least twenty-one people, including another child. This isn’t the first time a major strike has occurred around the same time as some other political event, like a visit from foreign leaders — Putin is deliberately using his military to send messages just like a mob boss.
Unfortunately, cowed by Putin’s non-credible nuclear threats, Biden and most of NATO is slow-rolling deliveries of vital military aid that are now all that keeps Ukraine in the fight. Four full months into this war, Ukraine’s entire army could have easily been halfway through being re-equipped with modern NATO standard gear that would keep more of its soldiers alive as well as knock out Russian artillery batteries.
The United States alone has thousands of armored vehicles superior to most Russian gear just sitting in storage. Yet the Biden administration is content to send packets of four or eight rocket launchers and a few dozen towed artillery guns, sending a clear signal to the world that it intends to force Ukraine to accept the loss of Donbas in order to end the conflict.
Some ally — but it’s all part of the deeper conflict Ukraine has been dragged into.
The Russia-NATO War
Here’s where the second war comes in — the simmering conflict between NATO and Russia that set the stage for Putin’s murderous assault on Ukraine.
Basically, any rational observer ought to be able to see now that NATO is brazenly using Ukraine for its own ends. At the same time leaders constantly proclaim their unwavering support for Ukraine, they’re still using Putin’s nuclear arsenal as an excuse to do everything they can to try and end the fighting in a stalemate.
Generally you should avoid doing what your enemy’s propaganda anticipates. Russian trolls make a dangerously good point when they argue NATO is fighting Russia to the last drop of Ukrainian blood — this kind of accusation resonates, especially when it matches outward appearances.
It doesn’t help that NATO’s leaders lie as brazenly as Russia’s, acting like the incorporation of Sweden and Finland is some huge blow to Putin when both countries have been integrated into NATO structures for twenty years.
And at the same time, they’re allowing Russia’s maritime blockade of Ukraine’s coast to go on, an act that threatens to plunge millions of people around the world into famine. Most of the sanctions NATO has boosted have had more of a negative impact on people in Africa and Asia than in Russia, because Russia as a country is capable of being nearly self-sufficient in production of basic goods.
The truth is, a limited nuclear exchange — the only kind possible in a world where neither side truly believes in mutual assured destruction anymore, would kill fewer people than the global famine now primed to wreak havoc across the globe this winter.
But see, Americans would die instead of Ukrainians. And in the warped, narcissistic worldview of white progressives, that’s morally worse because… well, bigotry.
Sanctions are used as a cheap substitute for military force, which is why they never work — they hit targets in the wrong domain while inflicting worse collateral damage on bystanders than one of Russia’s shopping center seeking heavy missiles. They’re a cowards’ tactic that make the vulnerable pay for the inability of leaders to either make peace or win.
Most of the world can’t afford to sanction Russia, and since we’re all bound together in the global economy, sanctions simply unleashed an inflation bomb now set to throw the U.S into a weird stagflation recession.
The poor everywhere are getting slammed, and the crisis is amplifying divides in U.S society to a degree a million Russian trolls could hardly dream to achieve in a lifetime.
Also, by going after Russia’s monetary holdings abroad Biden has destabilized the dollar, accelerating the world’s inexorable shift towards a basket of currencies that will erode America’s economic power. Between this and basically leaving Afghanistan’s people to die after seizing the country’s foreign reserves because the U.S was mad it let the Taliban take Kabul, the USA’s credibility around the world is just done.
Nuclear war is the favorite bugaboo of progressives these days, despite close to zero among their ranks knowing the first thing about nuclear strategy or even basic military science. Because white progressives have made war into a fetish in the same way they have AR-15s, they refuse to study it as a science.
In doing so, they inadvertently do us all a service by proving exactly why nobody should ever defend them when the American alt-right comes for their rights.
When push comes to shove, they’ll throw anyone under the bus in order to preserve themselves. Their talk of “solidarity” is a stale slogan, a poison sapping true resistance, undermining effective action.
In any case, the Russia-NATO and Russia-Ukraine wars now intersect at single critical juncture: sending military aid to Ukraine.
A lot of people — especially progressives and, weirdly, alt-right conservatives — want to believe that cutting Ukraine off from military resupply will end the war. They think the best possible outcome is a cessation to major hostilities as soon as possible, whatever the cost, because war only breeds war.
They are wrong, due to the two-level nature of the conflict.
Putin wants Ukraine for self-centered ideological reasons, certainly. But Ukraine is also a vital chunk of strategic territory Russia cannot lose to NATO if it wants to preserve its national security against all threats.
That’s the hazard of being a huge country forced to deal with multiple fronts. Russia is an empire, the extension of the Duchy of Moscow from the Pacific to the Atlantic, a perfect mirror of Washington D.C. in the USA.
Size breeds paranoia, because you never know for sure where the next attack comes from. Russia is a deeply artificial country, through history mostly under the control of some other power — hence its’ leaders chronic anxiety. Russia is now dug in for a war that lasts indefinitely — it’s likely what Putin wanted all along.
The Biden Administration’s failure to forge a truly global coalition like George Bush managed to put together when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 means the NATO-Russia conflict is set to become a long, mutually destructive stalemate leading to the collapse of both sides before the decade is out.
Where This Leaves Ukraine
Ukraine will keep coming under attack so long as NATO and Russia both exist — that’s the awful truth. Ignoring it won’t make it go away.
A third option, a truly neutral international security organization, is desperately needed, but such a thing would threaten NATO and the U.S so will be opposed by them at any cost.
It is a very difficult thing to evacuate a pocket or salient nearly surrounded by an enemy with superior firepower. Yet Ukraine has pulled it off several times, preserving its forces for the fights yet to come.
Another river line some thirty kilometers east of Lysychansk forms a natural defensive barrier, and along it Ukraine might be able to hold Siversk, Krasna Hora, and Bakhmut until August or September, when hopefully new gear will start to have a serious impact on the battlefield.
Canada, the Baltic States, Poland, and a few other countries are starting to make good on promises of better gear. If the U.S might finally get off its ass and send what Ukraine needs with no limits, as it should, there is still a chance Ukraine could counterattack on several fronts before the autumn mud.
Russia is going to keep on coming until the leadership in Moscow knows it can’t achieve its aims in Ukraine.
The fighting will only end when Russia accepts Ukraine’s right to exist. And that can only happen if the cost of snuffing out Kyiv’s resistance is too high for Moscow to bear.
Ukraine’s forces are taking hundreds of casualties a day, which is not good considering they’re still outnumbered three to one in the theater and Russian loss rates have declined dramatically. If both are taking the same number of casualties, the future bodes poorly for Ukraine’s defense in the east, and elsewhere.
New and better weapons are coming, but in nowhere near the numbers necessary to stop the Russian tide from flowing in. There doesn’t seem to be any chance of Ukraine collapsing anytime soon, but all the predictions of imminent Russian collapse since March have been wrong, so the odds of it ever happening must be judged as exceedingly low.
And so Ukraine faces a brutal, grim summer, with the likelihood of many brave young men making the ultimate sacrifice. To end a war, a certain blood price must be paid. This is the recurring tragedy of human history. War can never be extinguished — only limited, controlled.
Give Ukraine everything it’s asking for as quickly as possible. This is only the first fight of many to come — and it will set the tone for all that follow.
Founder of We Can Save Children
Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization
Economic & Social Council at United Nations
Editor-in-Chief at Wall Street News Agency
Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts