Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Perhaps all war is a matter of pride. Arguably, sometimes resources are involved, as many have suggested was the case in Afghanistan, but it’s pride that makes a nation believe they can take those resources with force. It’s also pride that makes a nation defend itself.
Ukraine could easily roll over like a puppy hoping Russia will scratch its belly. Russian pride caused the invasion, and with their military resources they first amassed what was referred to as an “overwhelming invading force”. This was generally agreed upon by pretty much everybody. How easy would it be for the Ukraine to protect their people and their infrastructure by simply accepting that they would lose the war and give up?
And, no, I’m not suggesting that they should have. As I write this, the good people of Kyiv are fighting like monsters, and seem to be surprising Putin with a stronger resistance than he had anticipated. I’m proud of them for doing so, but it’s not just the Ukrainian armed forces. President Zelenskyy promised to put weapons in the hands of any civilians who want them when Russia first began their intrusion into Ukrainian land. By the time this post is published, it’s very possible the Kyiv has fallen, but even when it falls, chances are it won’t fall.
As Russia learned in Afghanistan (as we had to learn ourselves), defeating a country’s army does not mean an end of the war. Ukrainian citizens will likely take up arms and resist Russia as well, much, I’m sure, as they did when the Ukraine first fought for sovereignty. Russians fought in Afghanistan for ten years, and finally pulled out as Russian citizens were tired of their friends and children coming home in boxes.
One of my favorite stories from World War II, possibly apocryphal, dealt with the German bombardment of London. Early in the days of the defense, the British military made a tactical error. Initially, their anti-aircraft cannons were positioned such that as they fired at German bombers, they were firing over London itself, the very city they were protecting. The story deals with a woman hosting her friend in her damaged home for tea early in the war. Her guest commented how loathsome the Germans were for damaging such a fine home, and the woman responded, indignant and angry, saying that she was proud that the Germans did NOT hit her home, but it was a British shell that had done so.
It would be easy for the Ukrainian government to capitulate to Russian demands, officially stepping down to the overwhelming force while secretly assigning their military to resistance groups. But pride, of course, won’t allow that. No, tradition dictates that first the country put up the fight that their military had trained for. Being apart from NATO, Ukraine stands alone, and proud. I was under the impression that Ukrainian airspace was taken by Russia early in the invasion, but today (as I write this), President Biden described it as “contested”. That’s a far cry from taken, as it implies that the aerial battle continues. Unfortunately, even contested airspace is too dangerous for delivery of supplies to the Ukrainian army (other methods are being considered), but they haven’t given up their airspace. I love that. Russia is so disillusioned by the resistance they’re meeting that they are considering massive bombardments in response. As terrible as this would be, it also pleases me as it means that Russia is starting to panic and rethink the “savvy wisdom” (as Trump called it) of starting this madness in the first place.
When the Knights Templar fell to the Catholic Church and the Papal order to have all Templars arrested, most of the knights managed to get away. But they didn’t surrender. They went into hiding, often going to join friendly armies to continue their fight. These armies, one of which was believed to be the Scottish army, happily accepted them, recognizing their skills and experience. If, as predicted, the Ukrainian army falls, I doubt they will simply lay down their arms and surrender. Some will, but many will take their training with them, and continue their fight with the citizens of the Ukraine who will find ways, openly or from the shadow, to continue the fight. Nazi Germany discovered the lesson the hard way, in France. Even after defeating the government, the German troops came to fight an angry, skilled, intelligent and effective underground French Resistance. No, they couldn’t push the occupying force out of France, but they were so effective that their legend lives on today. Russia may be able to officially take the Ukraine, but I doubt that their army will ever be able to sleep restfully while occupying it.