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War in Ukraine: Latest Developments

War in Ukraine: Latest Developments

  • Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
  • 16
    2022
    Nov
    12:44 pm

Ukrainian forces have ‘recaptured’ Kherson. This, however, is the result not of a battle for the city but of a decision by the new Russian commander to withdraw from areas west of the River Dnieper. Russian supply lines had become too extended and were too vulnerable to attack. Although the withdrawal was in response to a real military threat created by Ukrainian forces, talk of Ukraine ‘winning the war’ bears no relation to reality. On the contrary, Ukraine now faces a sharp deterioration in its position.

During the first stage of the war, now drawing to a close, Ukraine’s impressive performance was facilitated by a combination of two factors. On the one hand, the old Russian command had complacently overestimated Russian superiority, failing to realize the extent to which it had been weakened by mismanagement, corruption, and low morale, and adopted an overambitious war plan. On the other hand, Ukraine derived enormous benefit from a massive supply of advanced Western weaponry, including ‘game changers’ like  the ‘iconic’ shoulder-fired precision-guided Javelin antitank missile, the 155-millimeter long-range (up to 40 km) M777 howitzer, and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). 

This supply is now rapidly diminishing. US stocks have fallen to levels that the Pentagon is determined to reserve for other contingencies, such as war with China or in Korea. New and expanded production on the scale needed to support a long conventional proxy war with Russia would take up to four years to develop, even in the unlikely event that the US economy is placed on a wartime footing. For the time being at least, Ukraine will have to make do with smaller quantities of less powerful weapons – for instance, 105-millimeter howitzers with smaller payload and shorter range (11 km).[1]

Ukraine’s proclaimed war aim of expelling Russian forces from the whole of Ukraine no longer seems realistic, if it ever was. It is especially unrealistic for Ukraine to aim at reconquest of the Donbas, Crimea, and the land bridge connecting the two – areas where powerful Russian forces are concentrated and deeply entrenched. It is these areas that Russia will surely insist on keeping in the ‘realistic’ negotiations for which foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is calling. 

The missile explosion on November 15 in the Polish village of Przewodow, just four miles from the Ukrainian border, reminds us of the ever-present risk of the war in Ukraine escalating to nuclear Armageddon by accident or misperception. Although the response of Western leaders to this incident has been restrained, the risk remains so long as hostilities continue.[2] Alternatively, prolongation of the war may lead to Armageddon by stages, with Ukrainian setbacks increasing pressure for perilous measures like a ‘no fly zone,’ open deployment of NATO ground troops (some are already covertly present as trainers), or even battlefield use of tactical nuclear weapons.     

Can this grim prospect be averted? Winter is approaching. Let it come soon and let it be severe enough to impose a pause in hostilities. That would create favorable conditions for a ceasefire and negotiations to end the war. However that may be, let us hope — and demand — that good sense prevails.

For more detailed and wider-ranging discussions of the situation, I recommend the videos below:

(1) Aaron Mate of The Grayzone talking with retired Army Colonel and adviser to the Pentagon Doug Macgregor;

(2) Aaron Mate with Professor Richard Sakwa of the University of Kent at Canterbury (UK);

(3) Dimitri Lascaris of The Real News Network with former US Marine Corps intelligence officer Scott Ritter.

Richard Sakwa with The Grayzone

Scott Ritter with TRNN

Notes

[1] Natasha Turak, 9/28/22. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/09/28/the-us-and-europe-are-running-out-of-weapons-to-send-to-ukraine.html

[2] The growing risk of nuclear Armageddon cannot be ignored. Ali Abunimah with Rania Khalek, 10/26/22. https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/growing-risk-nuclear-armageddon-cannot-be-ignored