Ukraine and its successful resistance

Ricardo Israel

Nothing or almost nothing that was anticipated for Russian Victory Day was fulfilled. It may be that international analysts have not been very accurate with Putin, but the parade was made without major announcements and without the display of new weapons.

That was the great surprise, that there were no surprises, since in other countries that suffered the Second World War there is nothing similar in pomp or significance to what is the Russian commemoration of what is still known as the “great patriotic war” and its 24 million victims. That is why the absence of known foreign leaders among allies is striking.

In any case there is a message and a big one, that the conflict entered a new stage. Forgotten any possibility of a quick victory, the war has entered a long conflict, one of attrition, where Ukraine runs the risk that the rest of the world will forget and Russia, that its economic resources will not allow it to sustain this new scenario, where its conflict is against the West as a whole, and what started as a financial punishment and a cancellation of the country has been transformed into an economic war, and where the US has evolved from support for Ukraine to seek without complexes – although they still do not say it officially – the fall of Putin, and its reports to the New York Times include information for Ukrainians to sink ships and eliminate Russian generals.

In addition to the nuclear rhetoric, as it has already paid costs for its illegal invasion, Russia itself seems to be evolving towards a possible expansion of the conflict, with threats that include possible attacks on European neighbors, through which the delivery of weapons, such as Poland, occurs. Above all, with the idea of definitively uniting territories inhabited by ethnic Russians who have functioned autonomously since the disintegration of the USSR, and where there are millions of Russian speakers, who have passports and who as life and history are not in black and white, were blamed and had varied problems along with the creation of the new republics. It includes a self-administered territory near the Baltic countries, the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, Transnistria in Moldova, and several other places. The novelty would be that Russia would take not only the step of a recognition that already exists, but of formally integrating them into the mother country.

The bottom line of this column is that this new stage is only possible because of the very successful military resistance of Ukraine, which has been one of the surprises of this war, recalling that of the Vietnamese against the Chinese in the 70s or that of Finland against the former USSR in 1939-40.

This resistance has been unexpected to many who remembered the poor performance in 2014 in the very rapid Russian occupation of Crimea and its defeat to separatist forces in the Donbass. This good performance has attracted attention in actions such as the defense of Kiev and having stopped what was supposed to be a rapid advance of a superior force, for which the first great battle was key, which prevented the occupation of the airport of the capital, and therefore, the arrival of airborne troops and aircraft in a similar way to what happened in Syria.

There is no doubt that they learned from the lessons of their previous failures as well as that Russia and its erroneous intelligence led to failure in such ways as that resistance would be minimal, that they could find support for a coup, and that ethnic Russians would welcome it. There was therefore no military walk and if an exhibition of serious problems in logistics and training, which led Russia to this new stage where it seeks to control the contiguous territories, that is, more or less what it already had, and where the novelty would be to try to join Crimea on land and deny Ukraine access to the sea to transform it into a locked country, that is, what would be behind the Mariupol tragedy

Military success also involves the rise to command of a new generation of officers who have learned from past mistakes and inadequacies, and who have moved almost entirely away from old Soviet doctrines, an expression of which is General Valery Zaluzhny, who has led the resistance and who is part of the first generation of officers fully trained after independence. The fundamental feature of the Ukrainian strategy has been agility and decentralization, with the very effective use of something as traditional as artillery, but also the confirmation of the military utility of drones, including those of Turkish origin that had already recently proven their usefulness for Azerbaijan in 2020 in its conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.

There are elements that have occurred in asymmetric wars and in the hybrid part of war, but undoubtedly there has been innovation on the part of Ukraine in this confrontation between regular armies. The first thing is the use of technology, and this is shown in small units that face tanks and mechanized units with very advanced weaponry. In that sense, the Ukrainians and their NATO advisers seem to have read very well the kind of invasion they were going to have, and the modernization of their post 2014 armed forces was done for that scenario. This use of technology would be very unhelpful if it had not been accompanied by large doses of courage and motivation, in addition to much support from the population that has contributed with its resistance to make it difficult to occupy places conquered by Moscow.

The response of the West has also been much more decisive than in 2014 and this includes a lot of technology, not only from states but also from private companies such as the satellites that Elon Musk has provided to keep Ukraine connected to the internet. That support was vital to prevent the quick victory that was intended in the beginning. Where it has been well noticed is in the use of military artificial intelligence, which also includes the data delivered in real time by so many millions of cell phones and that have allowed snipers to eliminate Russian high commands.

In any case, so far there are red lines that have not been crossed in support of Ukraine, at least two, that the weapons provided are defensive and not offensive (for example, there are no missiles that allow to attack the heart of Russia) and avoid any possibility of direct confrontation between US and Russian troops.

In addition to the technology and use of small arms that can be carried by the soldier himself such as the Javelin portable missile, the successful Ukrainian strategy was organized through many small and mobile groups that confront and defeat a stronger and heavier opponent, in what I call the Mohamed Ali strategy, the one that allowed him to defeat George Foreman in Zaire, 1974. To the above, the information provided by artificial intelligence is added to locate the enemy and proceed to its elimination by knowing where it is, even if it comes from the NATO, whether they are generals or naval units.

This strategy has made it possible to demolish many assumptions about Russia and its strength, which has shown a lower power than expected, which is not necessarily good news since it has opened an unexpected stage, where we must fear both its fragility and its strength, since if the scenario of a prolonged war is confirmed, many uncertainties open for which there are no answers. And in the war history of Russia, we find great successes such as the defeats of Napoleon and Hitler, but also great failures as with Japan in 1905 and in Afghanistan (1978-1992).

This new scenario draws an interdependent world with global consequences that are already noticeable in the supply chain, in the provision of food and fertilizers, given the role played even by Ukraine itself; in the energy market given the importance of Russia. Also in inflation, although this element existed in the US and other countries before the invasion, as well as uncertainty about political changes in the legislative elections in November as well as about the strength of the dollar, on which depend both, the success of the financial isolation of Russia and the very issuance of money that Washington is doing to finance Ukraine.

To what has been said, we must add the great doubt of whether this new scenario benefits or harms China, since depending on its evolution, it could be a great winner in its role as a great power, and without firing a shot.

But this scenario simply would not exist without the success that Ukraine has had in a resistance that has bogged down Russia and that, despite everything, perhaps leads to the occupation of part of the south and east. It is the price that Ukraine is paying for something that will be remembered by historians of the future as its great patriotic war, the simile of the second world war for the former USSR, the war that has forged its national unity and that it demonstrated to utopian speeches, because countries still need to have armed forces.

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