Russo-Ukrainian war, day 87: Russia’s attacks from Popasna area further threaten rest of Luhansk oblast

Russo Ukrainian war, day 87: Russia’s attacks from Popasna area further threaten rest of Luhansk oblast

 

Daily review

Russian forces continue multiple attacks in the Donbas region, as their so far unsuccessful offensive near Popasna further threatens the government-controlled Sievierodonetsk metropolitan area in Luhansk Oblast. Meanwhile in Ukraine’s south, Russia prepares for a Ukrainian counteroffensive or a protracted conflict.

Morning report day 87 – May 21

The report is based on media reports, expert analyses, and official information posted online.

Situation

According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 21.05.2022, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].

“Russian forces do not stop conducting offensive operations in the Eastern Operational Zone to establish full control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and maintain the land corridor with the temporarily occupied Crimea.

Russo-Ukrainian war, day 87: Russia's attacks from Popasna area further threaten Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk

The shelling continues along the entire line of contact and in the depths of the defense of our troops in the Donetsk operational area and the Sloviansk direction.

[Russian occupiers are launching missile strikes on infrastructure facilities and residential areas in Ukraine. Artillery shelling of Ukrainian cities continues, resulting in numerous civilian casualties.]

In the Volyn and Polissia direction, in general, the situation has not changed significantly. There is an increase in the system of electronic intelligence and electronic warfare in the border areas with Ukraine. [Units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus (up to seven battalions) perform tasks on a rotating basis to cover the section of the Ukrainian-Belarusian border.]

  • The threat of missiles and airstrikes on the objects of our State from the territory of Belarus remains.
  • [According to available information, two missile divisions of the Tochka-U tactical missile complex and the Tornado multiple rocket launcher division have been deployed at separate ranges in the territory of the Republic of Belarus.]
  • [Gathering for conscripts is planned to be held in the Gomel region from June 22 to July 1 this year.]
  • [The threat of rocket bombings and artillery shelling from the territory of the Republic of Belarus has not disappeared.]

In the Siverskyi direction, Russian forces fired on the positions of the Defence Forces in the areas of border Ukrainian settlements in the Sumy and Chernihiv oblasts.

  • [To clarify the position of our units, Russian forces conduct air reconnaissance with the use of UAVs and continue the engineering equipment of positions on the territory of the Russian Federation along the state border of Ukraine.]

In the Slobozhanskyi direction, the main efforts of Russian forces are focused on maintaining the occupied frontiers. Russian forces launched airstrikes on the village of Tsyrkuny. [The Russian aggressor fired artillery at the positions of our troops north of the city of Kharkiv. Inflicted airstrikes and conducted remote mining on the routes of possible deployment of units of the Defence Forces.]

  • Shortly, the grouping of Russian troops in the Kharkiv direction is expected to be strengthened by units from the 1st Tank Army of the Western Military District.
  • In the Sloviansk direction, the Russian aggressor is trying to resume the offensive. In particular, to ensure the forcing of the river Siverskyi Donets plans to build a crossing. [According to available information, in the area of ​​the village of Yaremivka, Russian forces are trying to build a pontoon crossing over the Siverskyi Donets River.]
  • [The enemy fired artillery at the positions of our troops south and southwest of the city of Izium. To clarify the position of our troops, he conducted air reconnaissance with two Orlan-10 UAVs.]
  • [In the temporarily occupied territories of Kharkiv oblast, the enemy continues to block the work of Ukrainian mobile operators, distributes propaganda materials and tries to broadcast Russian TV and radio channels.]

In the Donetsk direction, Russian forces are conducting active hostilities in the Sievierodonetsk, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Kurakhove directions.

  • In the Lyman direction, Russian occupiers plan to resume offensive operations in the direction of Yampil – Siversk with the forcing of the Siverskyi Donets River. In particular, in a certain area, there is a concentration of special equipment for guiding the pontoon-bridge crossing. To strengthen the grouping of Russian troops and intensify the offensive, Russian occupiers are transferring additional units.
  • [Yesterday, in the Lyman and Sievierodonetsk directions, Russian forces fired on the positions of our units in the areas of the settlements of Lyman, Siversk, Lysychansk, and Sievierodonetsk.]
  • [In the Bakhmut direction, with the support of artillery, Russian forces are conducting an offensive, trying to seize new frontiers in the area of ​​the settlement of Popasna, but have no success.]
  • [In the Kurakhove direction, with the support of artillery and assault aircraft, Russian forces launched an offensive in the direction of the settlement of Novomykhailivka (10 km south of Mariinka) but had no success.]
  • In the Zaporizhzhia direction, Russian forces fired on our troops.
  • In Mariupol, Russian forces are taking measures to restore the port. In particular, conducts the demining of port infrastructure. [Russian forces are filtering the local population.]
  • Eleven enemy attacks have been repulsed in Donetsk and Luhansk alone over the past 24 hours, eight tanks, three artillery systems, ten units of armored combat vehicles, three special armored vehicles and six units of enemy vehicles have been destroyed.

In the Pivdennyi Buh and Tavriya directions, Russian occupiers focused their main efforts on maintaining the occupied frontiers, conducting reconnaissance, engineering equipment of positions and logistical support of troops.

  • [Russian forces continue engineering work on the equipment of the second line of defense.]
  • In the Kryvyi Rih and Mykolayiv directions, Russian forces do not stop artillery shelling of units of our troops. There is an additional deployment of barrel and jet artillery units.
  • [In order to prevent the offensive of our units, the bridge over the Inhulets River near Davydiv Brid was mined.]
  • [As part of the completing of units that suffered casualties, in the area of ​​the village of Chornobaivka, Russian forces moved about 130 units of military equipment.]
  • [In the Tavriya direction, Russian forces took measures to provide logistics to the troops.]
  • [In the Besarabian direction, Russian special services are taking measures to destabilize the situation in the region. Information about the mining of social infrastructure facilities and so-called “state” institutions in the cities of Tiraspol, Bender, Dubossary and Rybnitsa has been spread again.]

Ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the Black and Azov Seas perform tasks to isolate the area of ​​hostilities, surveillance and fire support in the coastal direction.

Russian invaders continue to use terror tactics against Ukrainian civilians in the temporarily occupied territories. In particular, they prevent the evacuation of people from the Kherson region to the territory controlled by Ukraine and the opening of humanitarian corridors for the import of food, medicine and evacuation of the elderly, sick and children.

Two ground-based UAVs were hit by Air Force air defense units and the Air Force’s anti-aircraft missile units destroyed one UAV, a cruise missile and hit one so far unidentified target (presumably a helicopter).”

Russian forces are ready to launch 16 ‘3M-54 Kalibr’ missiles from the Black Sea, the Ukrayinska Pravda reports. “Two ships with a total volley of up to 16 ‘3M-54 Kalibr’ missiles are ready for use in the Black Sea,” the spokesman for the Ministry of Defense Oleksandr Motuzianyk said. The Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation continues to block civil shipping and ports of Ukraine. Enemy ships provide reconnaissance and fire support for occupying forces on land.

 

According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 24 hours):

  • The Russia-Ukraine war has seen Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) playing a pivotal role for both sides although they have suffered a high rate of attrition. UAVs have proved vulnerable both to being shot down and to electronic jamming.
  • Russia has attempted to implement the concept of ‘Reconnaissance Strike’ it refined in Syria, which uses reconnaissance UAVs to identify targets to be struck by combat jets or artillery. Russia is likely experiencing a shortage of appropriate reconnaissance UAVs for this task, which is exacerbated by limitations in its domestic manufacturing capacity resulting from sanctions.
  • Crewed Russian aircraft mostly continue to avoid conducting sorties over Ukrainian territory, likely because of the threat from intact Ukrainian air defense missiles systems. If Russia continues to lose UAVs at its current rate, Russian forces’ intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability will be further degraded, negatively impacting operational effectiveness.

As of Saturday 21 May, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:

Russian battle losses in Ukraine as of 21 May 2022, amid Russia's attacks from Popasna

Russian enemy suffered the greatest losses (of the last day) in the Bakhmut direction.

Humanitarian

The occupiers destroyed more than 11,000 houses in the Luhansk region, the Ukrayinska Pravda reports. “According to preliminary estimates, 3,188 apartment buildings and 8,100 private estates have been partially or completely destroyed,” Serhii Haidai, the Head of the Luhansk Oblast Military Administration, reported on Telegram.

Zelenskyy says all defenders will be evacuated from the Azovstal plant, the Ukrinform reports. “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he believes that the evacuation of Ukrainian defenders from the Azovstal steel plant will be completed in the near future. The evacuation of Ukrainian defenders from the Azovstal steel plant began on May 16. Some 53 severely wounded servicemen were taken to a medical facility in Novoazovsk, whereas another 211 defenders were evacuated through the humanitarian corridor to Olenivka with their subsequent return to the territory controlled by Ukraine through an exchange procedure.”

According to UNHCR 6,409,355 refugees have been registered as of May 19. The UN says that so far Poland has taken in 3,439,857 refugees, Romania 943,015, Russian Federation 887,651, Hungary 626,548, Republic of Moldova 467,636, Slovakia 432,502 and Belarus 27,308. Among those who fled Ukraine are also Ukrainian nationals with dual citizenship. An additional 105,000 people moved to the Russian Federation from Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts between 18 and 23 February.

The number of Ukrainians entering Ukraine since February 28 is 1,924,500 as of May 19. This figure reflects cross-border movements, which can be pendular and does not necessarily indicate sustainable returns.

OHCHR recorded 8,189 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of May 19. 3,838 were killed (including 256 children) and 4,351 injured (including 383 children).

Environmental

War to shrink Ukraine’s economy at least by a third – National Bank, the Ukrinform reports. “The National Bank of Ukraine estimates the war-related economic contraction by at least a third compared to pre-war levels. This was stated by the First Deputy Chair of the NBU, Kateryna Rozhkova, who spoke at a spring business forum in Lviv, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.

According to the senior official, it will depend on how long the war will last and what part of Ukraine’s territory it will cover. Thus, in March, hostilities engulfed 10 regions producing 55% of Ukraine’s total GDP. Already in April, hostilities covered areas that formed about 20% of GDP. At the same time, supply chains were destroyed throughout Ukraine.

“According to our estimates, the physical loss of business assets – premises, capacities, etc. – is estimated at about $100 billion. This is for today, but the war is still going on,” Rozhkova said. Advanter Group experts have estimated the total direct losses of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in Ukraine in the wake of the full-scale Russian invasion at $64-85 billion.

According to the NBU, as of late April, the number of enterprises that completely ceased operations fell to 17% from 32% recorded at the onset of the full-scale war.”

Legal

Russia mulls total mobilization in Mariupol this summer – city mayor’s advisor, the Ukrinform reports. “In Mariupol, the invaders will conduct a census of men aged 18 to 50 under the guise of forming a “labour reserve to clear the rubble,” while these men are most likely to be later drafted into the army to fight against Ukraine’s forces. This was announced on Telegram by the adviser to the Mariupol mayor, Petro Andryushchenko, Ukrinform reports.”

Ukraine's criminal proceedings against Russians (meanwhile, Russia's attacks from Popasna area further threaten Sievierodonetsk)232 children were killed and 430 children injured, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of May 21. 1,837 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 172 of them are destroyed fully. 13,093 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 6,068 crimes against national security were registered.

Support

The US aims to arm Ukraine with advanced anti-ship missiles to fight the Russian blockade, the Reuters reports. The White House is working to put advanced anti-ship missiles in the hands of Ukrainian fighters to help defeat Russia’s naval blockade, officials said, amid concerns more powerful weapons that could sink Russian warships would intensify the conflict.

Current and former US officials and congressional sources have cited roadblocks to sending longer range, more powerful weapons to Ukraine that include lengthy training requirements, difficulties maintaining equipment, or concerns US weaponry could be captured by Russian forces, in addition to the fear of escalation. But three US officials and two congressional sources said two types of powerful anti-ship missiles, the Harpoon made by Boeing (BA.N) and the Naval Strike Missile made by Kongsberg (KOG.OL) and Raytheon Technologies (RTX.N) were [under] consideration for either direct shipment to Ukraine or through a transfer from a European ally that has the missiles. […]

The Naval Strike Missile (NSM) can be launched from the Ukrainian coast and has a range of 250 km. It also takes less than 14 days of training to operate. The sources said NSMs were viewed as less logistically difficult than Harpoons because NATO allies could loan mobile ground launchers which are available and warheads from Norway.

The first two US officials and the congressional sources said the United States was trying to work out a way for Ukraine to obtain NSM and launchers from European allies. The congressional sources said another option would be for Norway to donate NSMs to Ukraine, an idea supported by Norwegian members of parliament. The Norwegian Ministry of Defense declined to comment on what additional contributions of arms and defense equipment it may consider offering to Ukraine. [ME: NSM is an intelligent, agile, low signature and sea-skimming missile with a passive seeker. It is a modern missile perfect for the task of sinking Russian warships. It has already been delivered with a Missile Launch Vehicle (MLV). Ukraine has wished for the missile for years already].

M113s and more Bushmasters for Ukraine, the Australian Defence Magazine reports.

The government is sending 14 M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and a further 20 Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles (PMVs) to Ukraine as it defends against a faltering Russian offensive in the eastern Donbas region.

Additionally, Australia will deliver 60 pallets of medical supplies, donated by Australian citizens, along with three pallets of radiation monitoring equipment and personal protective equipment, on behalf of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Authority (ARPANSA) and Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).”

Ukraine to receive the first batch of German Gepard anti-aircraft tanks in July – Spiegel, the Ukrinform reports.

Ukraine will receive 15 German Gepard anti-aircraft tanks already in July. This is the result of a conversation between German Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht and Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksii Reznikov, Ukrinform reports with reference to spiegel.de and the German Federal Ministry of Defense. The aid package also includes Bundeswehr training, the supply of almost 60,000 munitions and another 15 tanks in the summer.”

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1527699281561501699

EU plans hundred of billions to “rebuild Ukraine”, but issues remain, the European Pravda reports. ‘Rebuild Ukraine’ is the new tool for the reconstruction of Ukraine after the end of the war with Russia.

“The European Commission announced only the concept of this tool on May 18. It is just a concept because no one still knows the amount of aid and where these funds should be directed. According to the document, since “Russia’s aggression continues, the overall needs for the reconstruction of Ukraine are not yet known.” The European Commission only estimates that these needs will amount to hundreds of billions of euros and it may take more than a decade to fully recover

The EU outlined how it plans to organize assistance to Ukraine and what steps it expects from Kyiv in response.

Funds should be allocated by the European Union itself as well “as G7 and G20 partners and other third countries, as well as international financial institutions and international organizations.”

Meanwhile, the European Commission does not rule out that “frozen Russian assets” (the property of Russian or Belarusian individuals and companies subject to EU sanctions) may be used to finance part of the costs.

As the European Commission predicts, Ukraine should develop the recovery plan itself, but it will be approved by a special body – ‘The Ukraine reconstruction platform.’

The European Commission makes it clear that “a significant emphasis will be put on the rule of law reforms and fight against corruption, whilst investments, brought in line with climate, environmental and digital EU policies and standards, will help Ukraine emerge stronger and more resilient from the devastation of the Russian invasion.” “This is a very specific answer. The EU is ready to provide aid only after reforms,” Betlii summed up. 

Such a condition may provoke criticism from the Ukrainian authorities. Advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Oleh Ustenko, notes that we should distinguish between infrastructure rebuilding projects and reform projects. The president’s position is that infrastructure rebuilding projects should be implemented as soon as possible. People who have lost their homes do not have ten years to wait. […] Ustenko is convinced that funding of the infrastructure projects should not be accompanied by additional conditions from the European Commission.”

Canada to provide CAD 250M in additional support to Ukraine, the Ukrinform reports.

Canada will provide CAD 250 million (about $210 million) in additional support to Ukraine through the International Monetary Fund. That’s according to Canada’s Department of Finance, an Ukrinform correspondent reports. Together with previous financial support, this loan brings Canada’s financial commitment to Ukraine to $1.5 billion this year.”

Canada imposes additional sanctions on Russian oligarchs and bans some luxury goods trade, the Reuters reports.

The new measures would put restrictions on 14 individuals including Russian oligarchs, their family members and close associates of Vladimir Putin, according to an official statement. The import ban would target Russian goods including alcoholic beverages, seafood and non-industrial diamonds, while the export ban would target luxury goods such as footwear, luxury clothing and jewellery.”

G7 mulling Russian asset seizures to help rebuild Ukraine, German finance minister says, the Reuters reports. “Seizing Russian state assets to help finance the rebuilding of war-torn Ukraine remains a possibility, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said on Friday, but he added that no decision on the matter was taken at a meeting with his G7 counterparts.

New developments

  1. No compromise on Ukraine’s territorial integrity – President’s Office, the Ukrinform reports. “There will be no ‘Minsk-2’ or ‘Minsk-3.’ In principle, there can be no compromise on territorial integrity and sovereignty. These are fundamental things, Andrii Sybiha, Deputy Head of the Ukrainian President’s Office, said. On May 17, Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the head of the President’s Office, said that negotiations between Ukraine and Russia had been suspended due to Russia’s misunderstanding of the real state of affairs.”
  2. Cyber aggression against Russia and ‘sanctions attack’ in general, fails, the TASS reports. President Putin pointed out at a meeting of the Russian Security Council on Friday that cyber aggression against Russia, as well as the sanctions attack, has failed. “Already today we can say that cyber aggression against us, as well as in general the sanctions attack on Russia, have failed. On the whole, we were ready for this attack and this is the result of the systematic work that has been carried out in recent years,” the head of state [claimed].
  3. The Russian fake narrative on the so-called “US Biological Laboratories in Ukraine” continue to be promoted. “I would like to underscore that the dialogue that we had with the [Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Director Sergey Naryshkin] today, combined with the proof obtained by the commission, fully confirms the US-created network of biological intelligence worldwide and the implementation of active military-biological exploitation of the globe and Ukraine in particular. This essentially poses a serious global threat,” [Irina Yarovaya, Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Commission on Investigation of US Biological Laboratories in Ukraine] warned, according to TASS.

Assessment

On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Friday 20 May:

Situation as of 21 May 2022: Russia's attacks from Popasna area threaten Sievierodonetsk

Russian forces are focusing on digging in and reinforcing defensive positions in Kharkiv and along the Southern Axis in preparation for Ukrainian counteroffensives, while the majority of active offensive operations remain confined to Izium-Donetsk City arc and especially the Popasna-Sievierodonetsk area. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are creating secondary defensive lines on the Southern Axis, indicating that the Russian grouping in this area may be preparing for a major Ukrainian counter-offensive and a protracted conflict. Russian forces reportedly are holding defensive positions north of Kharkiv City following the success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive since May 5 and have conducted limited spoiling attacks either to give Russian forces time to complete their redeployment back to Russia in good order or to allow reinforcements to arrive to defend territory in Kharkiv Oblast. Significant Russian offensive operations are confined to the area of Sievierodonetsk. Russian troops have made marginal gains to the north, west and south of the city, especially around Popasna, in order to attempt to take control of Sievierodonetsk.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces may have made marginal gains to the north, west and south of Popasna in order to continue their offensive on Sievierodonetsk from the south.
  • Russian sources may be overstating the number of Ukrainian defenders who have been evacuated from Azovstal to either maximize the number of Russian prisoners of war who may be exchanged for Ukrainian soldiers or to avoid the embarrassment of admitting they have been locked into a months-long siege against only “hundreds” of Ukrainian soldiers.
  • Russian troops reportedly regained certain positions taken by the Ukrainian counteroffensive north of Kharkiv City.
  • Russian forces are likely preparing for a major Ukrainian counteroffensive and protracted conflict on the Southern Axis.

Putin in “absolute dead end” – he can’t stop the war, can’t win it, Ukraine’s intel chief says, the Ukrinform reports. Ukraine will fight until all Russian forces are expelled from its territory to the 1991 borders. At the moment, Vladimir Putin is at a dead end because he cannot stop the war and neither can he win it. This was stated in an interview with The Wall Street Journal by the head of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Major General Kyrylo Budanov, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Defense Ministry of Ukraine.

I don’t know any borders except the borders of 1991, Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov said, referring to the year of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union. “Who can force Ukraine to freeze the conflict? This is a war of all Ukrainians and if someone in the world thinks that they can dictate to Ukraine the conditions under which it can or cannot defend itself, then they are seriously mistaken.”

“Putin is in an absolute dead end. He cannot stop the war and he cannot win it. He cannot win for objective reasons. And to stop it, he must acknowledge that Russia is not at all the kind of strong and great state that he wanted to portray,” Gen. Budanov said.

“I am amazed by Russian stupidity. Out of all the options that Putin had before the beginning of the war, he chose the most brutal and the worst option for him,” said Gen. Budanov. “Russian specialists have repeatedly warned him that this option is the last one and has to be very carefully evaluated. They had much better options for him. Now we see the result.”

Budanov also stressed that to speed its counteroffensive Ukraine urgently needs medium- and long-range missile systems, large-caliber artillery and strike aircraft to offset Russian advantages in manpower and equipment.”

Consequences and what to do?

“The War in Ukraine Is Getting Complicated and America Isn’t Ready,” the Editorial Board of The New York Times wrote on Thursday. While I strongly disagree with its assessment and conclusion, it represents a view that probably is more widespread than I would like to believe. It, therefore, needs to be both presented, considered and met with counterarguments.

“The Senate passed a $40 billion emergency aid package for Ukraine on Thursday, but with a small group of isolationist Republicans loudly criticizing the spending and the war entering a new and complicated phase, continued bipartisan support is not guaranteed.

Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, warned the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that the next few months may be volatile. The conflict between Ukraine and Russia could take “a more unpredictable and potentially escalatory trajectory,” she said, with the increased likelihood that Russia could threaten to use nuclear weapons.

These are extraordinary costs and serious dangers and yet there are many questions that President Biden has yet to answer for the American public with regard to the continued involvement of the United States in this conflict.

In March, this board argued that the message from the United States and its allies to Ukrainians and Russians alike must be: No matter how long it takes, Ukraine will be free. Ukraine deserves support against Russia’s unprovoked aggression and the United States must lead its NATO allies in demonstrating to Vladimir Putin that the Atlantic alliance is willing and able to resist his revanchist ambitions.

That goal cannot shift, but in the end, it is still not in America’s best interest to plunge into an all-out war with Russia, even if a negotiated peace may require Ukraine to make some hard decisions. And the US aims and strategy in this war have become harder to discern, as the parameters of the mission appear to have changed.

Is the United States, for example, trying to help bring an end to this conflict, through a settlement that would allow for a sovereign Ukraine and some kind of relationship between the United States and Russia? Or is the United States now trying to weaken Russia permanently? Has the administration’s goal shifted to destabilizing Vladimir Putin or having him removed? Does the United States intend to hold Mr. Putin accountable as a war criminal? Or is the goal to try to avoid a wider war — and if so, how does crowing about providing US intelligence to kill Russians and sink one of their ships achieve this?

Without clarity on these questions, the White House not only risks losing Americans’ interest in supporting Ukrainians — who continue to suffer the loss of lives and livelihoods —  but also jeopardizes long-term peace and security on the European continent.

Americans have been galvanized by Ukraine’s suffering, but popular support for a war far from US shores will not continue indefinitely. Inflation is a much bigger issue for American voters than Ukraine and the disruptions to global food and energy markets are likely to intensify.

The current moment is a messy one in this conflict, which may explain President Biden and his cabinet’s reluctance to put down clear goal posts. All the more reason, then, for Mr. Biden to make the case to American voters, well before November, that support for Ukraine means support for democratic values and the right of countries to defend themselves against aggression — while peace and security remain the ideal outcome in this war.

It is tempting to see Ukraine’s stunning successes against Russia’s aggression as a sign that with sufficient American and European help, Ukraine is close to pushing Russia back to its positions before the invasion. But that is a dangerous assumption.

A decisive military victory for Ukraine over Russia, in which Ukraine regains all the territory Russia has seized since 2014, is not a realistic goal. Though Russia’s planning and fighting have been surprisingly sloppy, Russia remains too strong and Mr. Putin has invested too much personal prestige in the invasion to back down.

The United States and NATO are already deeply involved, militarily and economically. Unrealistic expectations could draw them ever deeper into a costly, drawn-out war. Russia, however battered and inept, is still capable of inflicting untold destruction on Ukraine and is still a nuclear superpower with an aggrieved, volatile despot who has shown little inclination toward a negotiated settlement. Ukraine and Russia now “appear further apart than at any other point in the nearly three-month-long war,” as The Times reported.

Recent bellicose statements from Washington — President Biden’s assertion that Mr. Putin “cannot remain in power,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s comment that Russia must be “weakened” and the pledge by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, that the United States would support Ukraine “until victory is won” — may be rousing proclamations of support, but they do not bring negotiations any closer.

In the end, it is the Ukrainians who must make the hard decisions: They are the ones fighting, dying and losing their homes to Russian aggression and it is they who must decide what an end to the war might look like. If the conflict does lead to real negotiations, it will be Ukrainian leaders who will have to make the painful territorial decisions that any compromise will demand.

The United States and NATO have demonstrated that they will support the Ukrainian fight with ample firepower and other means. And however the fighting ends, the United States and its allies must be prepared to help Ukraine rebuild.

But as the war continues, Mr. Biden should also make clear to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his people that there is a limit to how far the United States and NATO will go to confront Russia and limits to the arms, money and political support they can muster. It is imperative that the Ukrainian government’s decisions be based on a realistic assessment of its means and how much more destruction Ukraine can sustain.

Confronting this reality may be painful, but it is not appeasement. This is what governments are duty bound to do, not chase after an illusory “win.” Russia will be feeling the pain of isolation and debilitating economic sanctions for years to come and Mr. Putin will go down in history as a butcher. The challenge now is to shake off the euphoria, stop the taunting and focus on defining and completing the mission. America’s support for Ukraine is a test of its place in the world in the 21st century and Mr. Biden has an opportunity and an obligation to help define what that will be.”

ME: The opinion by The New York Times Editorial Board is built around the idea that a direct confrontation will ultimately lead to WW3 and nuclear war. More importantly, it is based on the idea that “A decisive military victory for Ukraine over Russia [with Western support], in which Ukraine regains all the territory Russia has seized since 2014, is not a realistic goal”. It simply states that Ukraine and the West cannot win because Russia is too strong, offering no analytical data to substantiate the conclusion. The conclusion is presented as Ukraine is pushing Russia back after having destroyed around a third of the forces that led the initial assault on 24 February. Even more importantly, it makes the paper before all heavy weapons from the West have been delivered; before the “lend-lease agreement” has taken effect and before the ink has dried on the latest bill providing a $40 billion emergency military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine and before, not at least, the West has come up with a feasible strategy that allows Ukraine to break the maritime embargo and re-establish control over its airspace.

The article does not mention the “Responsible to Protect” concept and the need for humanitarian intervention. It does not raise the call for a No-Fly Zone over Ukraine.

But most crucially, it does not even mention what is at stake. It argues for negotiations, compromises and concessions at the cost of Ukrainian territorial integrity, not realizing that the integrity of the security architecture that has ensured stability, prosperity and security in Europe since WW2 is at stake.

The article makes no consideration of the global consequences of making concessions to Russia and rewarding aggressions. Any concessions mean the West gave in to Russia. Any concessions mean that Ukraine has lost a bit of its territory and ultimately, a part of its sovereignty, leaving Russia with a launchpad for further wars and aggressions, allowing it to continue its hybrid war to undermine the Ukrainian statehood. Concessions will not least allow Russia to continue its perverse policy of “de-Nazification” of Ukraine, which in essence means destroying the Ukrainian culture, history, language and Ukrainians in the occupied territories.

It offers no reflection on what Russia has become and its wider aim and objectives. Nor does it reflect upon the fact that we are already exposed to a broader hybrid war by Russia. The analysis does not mention the long list of Russian transgressions in conflict with international law during the last 15 years. It does not even discuss the atrocities we have witnessed in Ukraine and that will continue as long as the war lasts. The Editorial Board argues over the heads of Ukraine and Ukrainians, indirectly implying that Ukraine can be forced to give up its fight for its full territorial integrity.

The title itself – “The War in Ukraine Is Getting Complicated and America Isn’t Ready” – underlines its disconnect with the realities. The war has been complicated for more than 8 years already. It is the same aggressor, the same war and the same aim and objective we have experienced since 2014. The Russian attempt to conduct a “Blitzkrieg” was an abnormality in what has always been a protracted war. The biggest difference between pre-invasion and today is that Russia is employing all arms and the West has finally been forced to engage.

It raises what it sees as fundamental questions, but which in part have already been answered. The US has clearly stated that it intends to ensure a Ukrainian win. As I have previously argued, what that win looks like is, however, unclear and how it intends to achieve and the wider consequences are unclear. I share the Editorial Board’s view that the lack of a clear, aim and objective and a supporting strategy is problematic.

Based on the measures taken so far, I would argue that a protracted war is met by a set of western military and non-military countermeasures that aim to end the war in years rather than weeks and months. Lacking the tools needed to evict Russia from Ukraine and establish Ukrainian control over its airspace and maritime domain, the present “strategy” is flawed. Its lack of consistency is reinforced by its timeline, which does not reflect the urgency of ending the war. All costs – from human suffering to the “tsunami of ripple effects” – are increasing by the day, which ultimately will probably result in an increasing Ukrainian disappointment on one side, as well as a gradual rise in discord over the increasingly higher costs of living, potentially at the cost of popular support for Ukraine in the West.

The conclusion that “a decisive military victory for Ukraine over Russia [with Western support], in which Ukraine regains all the territory Russia has seized since 2014, is not a realistic goal” does not hold water. Neither does its conclusion that a wider confrontation will automatically trigger a nuclear confrontation. The West is already exposed to a wider confrontation.

But its calls for a clarification of strategic aim and objective and a supporting strategy is supported.

 

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