Showing posts with label Ukranian War: Six Months On. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ukranian War: Six Months On. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Ukranian War: Six Months On

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Ukranian War: Six Months On 

Слава Україні !


Six long months of war and a sense it was only a prologue


Bruno Maçães
Author Dawn of Eurasia (2018) Belt and Road (2019) History Has Begun (2020) Geopolitics for the End Time (2021) and the bestseller ‘Manifesto of Virtualism’

Do you also get the sense that it was only a prologue ? I've gathered up some reports for y'all:
 ~ From Foreign Policy:
 A signal date—six months into the war, just after the death of a Putin propagandist—has everyone in Kyiv on edge.
By , a Pentagon and national security reporter at Foreign Policy,, and , an intern at Foreign Policy. - August 23, 2022, 5:57 PM

"A year ago Wednesday, more than 5,000 Ukrainian and foreign troops made their way down the Khreshchatyk, Kyiv’s main drag, and past the Maidan—the square where Ukrainians rose up against the country’s pro-Russian leader in 2013—to celebrate 30 years of independence from the Soviet Union. Ukrainian Air Force jets, British Typhoons, and American F-16s flew over the city as delegates from nearly 50 countries took in the spectacle.

Today, on the eve of Ukraine’s Independence Day celebrations, the streets of Kyiv are eerily quiet, officials said. After Ukrainian officials filled Khreshchatyk with burned-out Russian tanks and artillery pieces destroyed in the six-month war over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered members of parliament and government workers to be sent home and banned Independence Day festivities in anticipation of possible Russian missile strikes on the capital.

A European diplomat told Foreign Policy that some embassies were putting their staffs closer to bunkers and sending local Ukrainian employees living on the outskirts of Kyiv to hotels with bunkers to protect them in the event of a Russian missile strike on Wednesday, which will also mark six months since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“We all consider Kyiv the most dangerous place tomorrow,” said Oleksiy Goncharenko, a Ukrainian lawmaker from Odesa. “It’s absolutely impossible to predict.”

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv also urged U.S. citizens to leave Ukraine by ground as soon as possible, citing State Department reports that Russia could launch strikes against Ukrainian civilian infrastructure and government facilities. The alarm grew further after the daughter of a prominent Russian nationalist and sometime Kremlin whisperer died in a car bombing in Russia over the weekend, something Russian security services quickly, and without evidence, blamed on a host of foreign actors.

“We don’t know what things are going to look like two days from now, [but] obviously we don’t want to see any more violence than we’ve already seen over the past six months,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told CNN Tuesday morning.

The prospect of Russian strikes on Kyiv, the first in weeks, is also alarming Western officials, as the Kremlin has become increasingly reliant on unguided munitions that could overshoot their targets and hit civilian areas. The European diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the security situation, said that Russia’s increasing lack of precision with long-range strikes has officials worried about possible civilian damage if the Kremlin does indeed put Kyiv in the crosshairs. Loading precision weapons for strikes, such as Kalibr cruise missiles, could take days, the European diplomat said.

There is precedent for Russia making such strikes. After Russia’s Victory Day parade in May celebrating the Soviet Union’s victory on the eastern front in World War II, Russian strikes pounded the port city of Odesa and besieged Mariupol, which was occupied by Russian forces just weeks later. Goncharenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker from Odesa, said that Russia had already closed off airspace on its Western border with Ukraine in possible anticipation of strikes. Ukrainian lawmakers said that Russia had also moved multiple launch rocket systems to allied Belarus, which borders Ukraine from the north, to be used in possible strikes.

Russia’s leveling of threats against Ukraine around its Independence Day is historically new, said Markian Dobczansky, an associate of the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University. In 2001, Putin attended a military parade in Kyiv celebrating the 10th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence. But in recent years, the day has taken on a more formalized expression of Ukrainian state values, especially since 2014, Dobczansky said. Russia’s latest threats “follow a pattern of Russia trying to intimidate Ukrainians and demoralize them,” he said, in keeping with its attacks on civilian buildings.

Ukrainian independence also marks an important date for Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians, NATO countries whose independence movements came alongside Ukraine’s after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, said Steven Seegel, a professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.


Others think the security measures, including Zelensky’s decision to cancel public events in Kyiv, were prudent, owing to the possibility of Russian retaliation as Ukraine tries to take the initiative in a southern counteroffensive.

“That and this car bombing in Russia, likely an internal action gone wrong, would lead to the idea that the Russians would lash out,” said Mick Mulroy, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense during the Trump administration. The United States is also set to announce a further $3 billion military aid package to Kyiv on Wednesday, the largest batch of American assistance since Russia’s full-scale invasion six months ago, which is likely to focus on long-term assistance, such as providing drones.

“People are right to be cautious,” said Seegel, especially given the significance of the date, the six-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

Though Western and Ukrainian officials believe that Russia has already used many of its levers of conventional military escalation in six months of war in Ukraine, such as expanding the battlefield away from military targets to hit schools, hospitals, churches, theaters, and other public gathering spots, a second Ukrainian official said that Russian provocations could also target civilian and critical infrastructure, such as the energy grid, logistics facilities, and warehouses. (Russia took over a Ukrainian nuclear power plant this spring and keeps lobbing explosive shells at it when not trying to steal its electricity output.)

Sasha Ustinova, another Ukrainian lawmaker, said that Russia might also stage show trials for some of the captured defenders of Mariupol’s Azovstal steel factory, the besieged city’s last remaining holdout that surrendered to Russian forces in May.

A Ukrainian military intelligence alert said Tuesday that Russia’s shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, had raised radioactive dust clouds around the plant and caused elevated radiation levels in the surrounding area.

“They can do something like they did in Olenivka, where they literally killed all of our war prisoners and said it was a [U.S.-supplied] HIMARs,” Ustinova said. “The Russians don’t care.”



 ~ From the Wall Street Journal  - Video and audio on the link.

After Six Months of War in Ukraine, Momentum Tilts Against Russia  

Moscow retains firepower advantage, but Kyiv is starting to take the initiative, while Western support for Ukraine is holding firm despite economic pain

 By Marcus Walker and Gordon Lubold - Aug. 23, 2022 5:30 am ET

"Six months after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, signs are accumulating that the balance on the military and economic battlefields is slowly tilting the way of Kyiv and its Western backers.

In the biggest war between European countries since World War II, the death and destruction have no end in sight. Ukraine is still struggling against Russia’s advantage in raw firepower, but the country’s defenders are increasingly hitting Russian logistics and bases, including in Crimea, as they receive more Western weapons.

A drone strike on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea on Saturday was one of many recent signs that Russia’s rear areas are increasingly vulnerable to Ukrainian attack.

Political and popular backing for Ukraine in the U.S. and most of Europe remains robust, despite fears that a drawn-out war and rising energy and food prices could undermine Western unity.

The U.S., in particular, is sending Ukraine steadily growing quantities of advanced weapons such as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or Himars, as well as crucial financial support. The U.S. announced another nearly $800 million in military assistance for Ukraine on Friday, including drones, artillery and ammunition. For the first time, the package includes mine-clearing equipment and tactical vehicles that suggest the U.S. is arming Ukraine in new ways to retake lost territory.

“The Russian military has lost much of what momentum it had and has redeployed a lot of its forces in anticipation of a Ukrainian offensive in the southern part of the country,” said Michael Kofman, director of Russia studies program at CNA, a defense research organization in Arlington, Va.

“I don’t think there is a natural stalemate on the ground,” he said. “I think there is at least another chapter to play out before winter.”

The outcome of that effort is far from clear, but the fate of the conflict now lies with what the Ukrainians are able to achieve.

Both sides are believed to have lost tens of thousands of soldiers killed or wounded since Moscow’s full-scale attack began on Feb. 24. Russia is struggling even more than Ukraine to replace losses of troops and materiel, relying on mercenaries, proxy militias and old tanks to fill the gaps. Russia’s economy is facing a far deeper recession than Western nations.

Some results of the war already seem settled. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to rewrite the ending of the Cold War by restoring Moscow’s historic sphere of influence in Eastern Europe has failed. His war on Ukraine has instead united almost all of Europe against him, revivifying the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is poised to add Sweden and Finland as new members.

Widespread evidence of alleged Russian atrocities against Ukrainians and Mr. Putin’s weaponization of energy, food and even nuclear safety have made his regime a pariah throughout the developed world—although not in the Global South, where skepticism toward the West runs deep.

And Ukraine has already achieved a political win by surviving as an independent country, against expectations in Moscow as well as many Western capitals that Kyiv would collapse under Russia’s onslaught. The war has reinforced Ukraine’s distinct national identity and its determination to reorient its economy, politics and security arrangements toward the West.

But the final outcome of the war remains as uncertain as its duration. Russia still has far more artillery and shells. The difficulty of advancing over open ground makes it hard for Ukraine to retake occupied land. Western military aid, especially from Europe, remains slow and stuttering from Kyiv’s perspective. Many Western policy makers continue to doubt that Ukraine can achieve military victory short of a level of Western support that might risk escalation into a direct war with Russia.

The Biden administration has been circumspect from the start, sending weapons in fits and starts and only providing more advanced capabilities such as Himars after weeks or months of careful consideration, fearing escalation or that equipment could fall into the wrong hands. The contemplative approach has opened the U.S. up to criticism that it didn’t move fast enough initially, even as U.S. officials contend they are getting materiel into Ukraine as fast as possible.

Ukraine’s badly damaged economy has begun to stabilize, but its government is acutely short of money, partly because the European Union hasn’t delivered on its promises of financial aid. Money-printing to pay for the war risks undermining Ukraine’s currency. 

And the harshest economic fallout won’t hit Europe until early 2023, when winter will test the EU’s frantic preparations for living without Russian gas.

It is normal for all sides to feel pain in a war of attrition, however. The question is which side can outlast the other and impose its will.

As summer ends, Ukraine’s defenders are showing a newfound ability to strike deep behind Russian lines, including in the Crimea and Kherson regions of Ukraine’s Russian-occupied south.

Russia’s offensive in the eastern Donbas area is losing steam. Moscow has been forced to redeploy its troops to shore up vulnerable positions in the south. Retaking large territories from Russian occupiers remains a formidable challenge for Ukraine’s soldiers, however.

“Ukraine has gained the strategic initiative. But we don’t know what they can do with it yet,” said François Heisbourg, a former French official and special adviser at the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research.

Ukraine’s southern counteroffensive won’t be a mass frontal assault on Russian lines, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in an interview. Rather, he said, Ukraine will try to replicate the strategy it used to defend Kyiv: attacking Russian logistics behind the front line, including with guerrilla tactics, to degrade Russia’s ability to wage war and force a withdrawal.

“The Russians need ammunition, fuel and field headquarters that are close to the front. We destroy the fuel and ammunition, then there is confusion because there is no headquarters, so it is already a demoralized army. Then you start to strike and slice it up,” Mr. Podolyak said. “It worked in the defense of Kyiv, and it will work the same way in the counteroffensive.”

Mr. Podolyak said Ukraine needs more Himars and attack drones that can pierce Russian electronic-warfare defenses.

U.S. defense officials believe that while neither side is gaining significant ground against the other in the current phase of fighting, Ukrainian attacks on Russian infrastructure deep behind the front line show how the initiative has shifted.

The war is entering a different phase compared with two months ago, when Russian forces had more momentum in the battle for Donbas, a senior Pentagon official said on Friday. “I would say that you are seeing a complete and total lack of progress by the Russians on the battlefield,” the official said.

Meanwhile, the EU remains on high alert about running out of energy this winter, though some say the risk of an outright natural-gas shortage is subsiding as countries buy up non-Russian gas and EU efforts to save energy and share supplies take effect.

Energy analysts say Europe’s outlook is less dire than it looked earlier this summer. Russia’s dramatic cut to gas deliveries to Germany via the Nord Stream pipeline, now operating at only 20% of its capacity, has forced the EU into action to buy enough liquefied natural gas and ensure it can reach all parts of the bloc. The EU is now racing against time to build LNG terminals in time for next spring, when the region’s gas reservoirs, which are now filling up, will be depleted again.

“We’re not forecasting gas shortages or electrical blackouts,” said James Huckstepp, European gas analyst at S&P Global Commodity Insights. But he said risks remain, including failure to complete new infrastructure in time, and the weather.

“Even if Putin cuts the much-reduced gas deliveries via Nord Stream to zero, we think Europe can get through winter, provided temperatures are normal,” said Mr. Huckstepp. But a combination of a total Russian cutoff and a particularly cold winter could force rationing for factories and households.

Even without rationing, economists expect the combination of high energy and food prices, rising interest rates and a global slowdown to push much of Europe into at least a shallow recession this winter. A sharper energy crunch would almost certainly spell a deep recession.

Russia’s economic outlook is much worse than the West’s—although possibly less bad than predicted early this year, after Moscow stabilized the ruble and restored its oil exports. The International Monetary Fund now forecasts that Russian gross domestic product will contract 6% this year and shrink further for years to come.

A detailed Yale University study published in July looked at the state of Russia’s trade, industries and finances and concluded the country’s situation is more dramatic than the IMF forecast or Russian official data suggest, with the authors writing, “Business retreats and sanctions are catastrophically crippling the Russian economy.”

So far, Russia’s dwindling economic prospects haven’t moved Mr. Putin to end the war. Western officials say the goal of sanctions is to weaken his industrial and military capabilities, rather than to change his mind.

But Russia’s strategy of using economic pressure to undermine Western political support for Ukraine isn’t working either, so far.

Mr. Putin’s determination to continue the war and evidence of widespread alleged Russian atrocities against Ukrainians have left the EU with little choice but to continue to support Kyiv and sanction Moscow.

Public support for Ukraine remains high around Europe and North America. Despite anger over inflation and high energy bills, opinion polls show most Europeans aren’t blaming the problem on support for Ukraine. Calls to lift sanctions on Moscow remain largely limited to far-left and far-right politicians or figures with a history of pro-Russia sympathies.

Political divisions within the West have diminished since this spring, when leaders from France, Germany and Italy called for an early cease-fire in Ukraine. That infuriated countries in Northern and Eastern Europe that feel more exposed to Russian expansionism: Poland, the Baltic countries and others argued that a cease-fire that left Moscow occupying 20% of Ukraine would reward its aggression.

French President Emmanuel Macron faced particularly sharp criticism around Europe for his conciliatory rhetoric toward Mr. Putin, repeatedly saying Russia shouldn’t be humiliated.

“The speed at which we were losing all credibility in the eastern half of Europe convinced Macron that it is not possible to play both sides,” said Mr. Heisbourg. Since a high-profile trip to Kyiv in June, Mr. Macron has swung more strongly behind the common NATO position of support for Ukraine.

The U.S. has pumped about $10.6 billion of military aid into Ukraine since the Biden administration entered office, with more assistance expected in the coming weeks. There is little sign that support for Ukraine is flagging in the U.S.

“Most Americans are sympathetic to Ukraine and Zelensky has become a folk hero in a sense with a very large percentage of the population,” said Larry Sabato, a political analyst at the University of Virginia. Sustaining large amounts of assistance might become harder if the war goes on for many years, he said.

Some analysts say there could be more opposition to support for Ukraine in Congress if Republicans gain control of one or both houses after the November midterm elections.

But a congressional staffer believes the Republicans won’t relent in their support.

“The votes will be there for Ukraine,” the staffer said in a text. “It’ll be a lot like the NATO accession vote for Finland and Sweden in the Senate, a lot of churn, but intellectually honest Republicans know what’s at stake in Ukraine.”

James Marson contributed to this article.


More opinions, more projections and really worth the read as well as their other reports and maps:


  Six Months Since Russia Invaded Ukraine: What's Next ? 

Experts analyse the past six months and predict how the conflict may evolve.

The Pictures

 ~ From AP:

 AP PHOTOS: 6 Months of War Told in Shutter Clicks 




Take Care y'all.