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Ukraine, between survival and victory | International

by Isabella Walker
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Two years ago, Putin was preparing to complete the task he began in 2014 of definitively placing Ukraine under the Russian orbit, with a lightning operation that would depose Zelensky and place a manageable puppet in his place. He was counting on the fact that the Ukrainian troops would offer almost no resistance and that the international community would accept the fait accompli, limiting itself to the traditional empty condemnations.

Ukraine, for its part, was facing an existential challenge and with Zelensky’s surprising leadership was showing civic and military signs of being combat-ready. Meanwhile, Washington, having irresponsibly contributed to further unbalancing the continental security order, saw an opportunity to mire Moscow in a war dynamic, degrading a strategic rival thanks to Ukrainian sacrifice, without having to engage in direct combat.

Today Putin has ruined his image as a fine strategist, accumulating errors that can only be explained by the enlightened bubble of unreality in which he must be installed, and Russia has left its image as a military superpower in oblivion. Both the planning and execution of its military actions – from the failure of the air and mechanized operation to take Hostomel airport and forcefully enter Kiev, to the failure to gain control of the airspace even today – show shortcomings structural resulting from both corruption and corruption. the lack of professionalism and tactical autonomy of middle managers.

On the contrary, Zelensky has become a central point of reference, both before his people and before the world, and his armed forces are probably the most operational military machine on the continent. It is surprising how they managed to assimilate increasingly sophisticated command and control materials and techniques so quickly, to the point of recovering much of the terrain initially controlled by the enemies, putting the Russian Black Sea fleet in check without having its own navy. and progressively expand its attacks throughout Russian territory, overcoming its anti-aircraft defenses. Meanwhile, Washington has had enough to spend just 5% of its defense budget and mobilize its European allies to shoulder much of the burden on Kiev’s behalf, to weaken Russia to the limit and, among other the other, doing business selling gas and weapons. to their allies.

In any case, beyond the creativity demonstrated by the Ukrainian army in exploiting every opportunity, obtaining tactical advantages and even forcing Russia to adopt a defensive posture, the passage of time is taking its toll. The counteroffensive launched in June failed to cut the land corridor connecting Russia to Crimea and now Moscow seems able to take advantage of Ukrainian difficulties due to the lack of artillery ammunition and fresh material. However, Russia is far from achieving its goals.

And if its situation has not worsened now, it is mainly because its demographic superiority and the repression of its citizens give Putin ample space to continue sending more cannon fodder to the Ukrainian slaughterhouse, taking on losses that no democratic ruler could sustain. Added to this is its ability to ease the impact of sanctions and its greater economic and industrial potential to withstand a long war.

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Looking ahead, it is easy to conclude that Ukraine will do everything in its power not only to resist, but to defeat Russia. It remains to be seen whether those who support him are on the same wavelength as him. Because it is very different to support him “for as long as necessary” – simply avoiding his defeat, feeding him drop by drop – than to help him achieve victory, providing him with the necessary ammunition and weapons (F-16 aircraft, ATACMS and Taurus missiles) . To date, the first option prevails, imposed by Washington and Berlin, for fear that Russia will decide to react against NATO countries or escalate the conflict to the nuclear level. A real strategic dilemma.

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