Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Ukraine update - Bob Rae: "To base decisions on fear would be devastating for democracy"

I'm doing a Ukraine update every two or three weeks now - my last one was Dec 28, when I talked about the resilience and courage of the Ukraine people.
Tonight's update covers the recent events in Dnipro, as well as analyst expectations for the future -- it isn't victory, not yet, but the shape of victory is becoming clearer, and maybe that riderless horse isn't galloping quite so madly across history.
First, these Russian attacks on civilians are horrific:
Here is what analysts are saying they expect in 2023:
Ukraine enters the new year with four distinct advantages that thwart Russia’s capacity to survive and thrive in this new year: Initiative, ability to dictate the tempo of operations, achieving technological advantage, and Heart.
Many analysts were hypnotized a year ago by what they saw as Russia’s overwhelming firepower, modern weapons, and effective planning and leadership. Although the Ukrainians almost immediately proved far more formidable than nearly anyone had anticipated, lulls in the war play to the expectation that Russia will soon start massing its supposed great reserves and recover the situation on the battlefield. The underlying assumption is that Ukraine has little hope of ultimate triumph over a fully mobilized Russia. In this account, the longer the war goes on, and the more rounds of forced conscription that Vladimir Putin and his military impose on the Russian population, the more decisive Russia’s supposed advantages will be. In reality, the logistical, planning, and organizational failures that stalled Russia’s advance and allowed Ukraine to recapture territory are likely to keep occurring. As long as its NATO partners keep increasing their support, Ukraine is well positioned to win the war.
With the material aid from the West, as well as intelligence support and similarly discreet training and advising efforts, Ukraine has been able, by its own extraordinary efforts, to drive Russian forces from Kyiv in the north, Kharkiv in the east, and Kherson city in the south. To finish liberating its territory, however, and to decisively defeat Russia’s forces, Ukraine needs not only greater quantities but also different types of arms, including modern battle tanks, extensive air and antiballistic-missile defenses, and, above all, deep-attack systems such as the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and long-range unmanned aerial vehicles. With such weapons, Ukraine can and will repeat and expand the disruption of Russian logistics that enabled its earlier counteroffensives.
Cohen also points out the consequences to the world if Ukraine doesn't win this war decisively with conventional weapons, if a stalemate is allowed where Russia keeps some or all of the territory it had bulldozed already:
For other nations, the lesson of a Ukraine that is not allowed to win this war is very simple: get yourself nuclear weapons. Finns, Poles, Kazakhs, Ukrainians, for that matter, and many others will conclude that conventional strength alone is not enough. That South Korea’s leadership has begun talking about the need to reintroduce nuclear weapons to the peninsula is not coincidental.
In a world where a large predatory state is stalled but not beaten decisively, the only resort for its smaller neighbors is to acquire weapons of cataclysmic power. Their leaders would be irresponsible if they did not consider that option. And the leaders of the major Western states are not just irresponsible but willfully negligent if they fail to take the measures—all well within their power—to avoid the world that this failure would bequeath to succeeding generations.
Over at Daily Kos, Mark Sumner discusses the successful Russian capture of a Town Formerly Known as Soledar, and why Russia is redefining "success" downwards:
For more than a week, Russia has been claiming to have captured all of the town of Soledar. On Monday morning, that was still not completely true. However, during the day on Monday, Ukrainian forces either withdrew from or were pushed out of the Silj area on the extreme northwest of the town. With that, it was over: Russia really has captured all of Soledar.
What they got doesn’t amount to much—2 kilometers in which not a single building remains intact and most of the structures are absolutely flattened. Comparing satellite images of Soledar made a year ago to the current state is almost like looking at before and after images of construction, except in the wrong order. The Russians have unmade Soledar. Erased it. As with every town and village along this front going back to Popasna, they have removed Soledar from the Earth then parked their equipment on the space where it once stood.
The Russian media calls this “liberation.”
...Russia didn’t manage to capture Kyiv. So it redefined victory down to taking the eastern and southern areas of Ukraine. Then it failed to hold Kharkiv, so it redefined victory to capturing all of Luhansk and holding the sea coast. Kherson is Russia forever! Then Russia lost Kherson in an absolutely humiliating defeat. Then Russia decided that taking Bakhmut, Bakhmut would be a victory! Only they couldn’t capture Bakhmut.
Russia threw everything at Soledar because it needed a “win.” And any win would do. The strategic value of taking this flat space that used to hold a town is negligible, except in terms of the media reports announcing “Russia scores its first victory in months,” backed by the sound of 10,000 cheering tankies.
Which does make you think. Not so much about Soledar, but about exactly why Russia felt it needed a win so badly that it was willing to reset the bar of victory so low and raise the level of acceptable loss so high. It’s fair to say that the importance of Soledar isn’t well understood, and the answers won’t be found on a map of Ukraine.
The recent stories from Ukraine can be devastating:
But in counterpoint, here is some news about the progress Ukraine is making:
Update on armaments: In Russia, Putin's Whack-a-Mole game continues: Here's a tweet that will echo around the world - George Takei has 3.4 million followers: Finally, this:

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