Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Eight months ago (give or take), Russia invaded the Ukraine. At the time (as now), the Ukraine was not part of NATO, so there is no obligation for the US to get involved in the war. Regardless of what you might think of Biden (his popularity has been struggling all along during his presidency), he has kept us out of a shooting war with Russia. On the other hand, the US (and other nations) have been providing support to the Ukraine in the form of weapons and other types of aid, short of troops. This must be the dream of arms manufacturers, a live arena in which to test weapons against Russia without a “hot war” involving the US.
Putin was certain that the invasion of the Ukraine would be a cake walk, over in a matter of days, or weeks at the most. Many of the troops involved in the initial intrusion lacked ammo and supplies because a significant portion of their packs were dedicated to dress uniforms for the victory parades in their newly acquired territory. But the Ukrainians stood toe-to-toe with the invaders and fought back with far greater ferocity than expected by most, and least of all by Putin.
As weapons and aid poured into the Ukraine, Russia found itself increasingly cut off, financially and militarily. For a time, it looked as if China might back Russia and supply weapons, but the Chinese government was apparently intelligent enough to realize that their economy couldn’t stand the blow if sanctions such as those levied against Russia were directed towards them. Once again, the Russian economy was isolated, and near collapse. That their military is struggling is shown by the fact that Putin instituted their version of the draft to send more troops to the Ukrainian front (causing many people to flee or try to flee Russia to avoid fighting), increasing protests against the war and indications that Russia was running out of ammo and weapons. For the past few days, Ukrainian forces have rapidly pushed Russian troops back out of occupied territory, causing some to withdraw out of fear of becoming surrounded and cut off. While there is still occupied territory in the Ukraine by Russian forces, this territory is shrinking by leaps and bounds.
Of late, I’ve been wondering how the war will end, barring nuclear holocaust and assuming the success of the Ukrainian forces. Assuming that the Ukraine is successful in pushing the Russians out of the Ukraine, all the way back to the Russian border. What then? It seems like there are a few possibilities.
First, and probably the best choice, would be for the Ukrainian forces to stop at the border. Once there, they can dig in, and reinforce the border to dissuade further and future aggression. Once the war is thus concluded, it would be reasonable for the Ukraine to apply to and be accepted into NATO. Applying to NATO during a time of war would be the equivalent of applying for insurance after the health problems. But once independent again, it would be reasonable to accept the Ukraine into NATO to stand against further Russian aggression.
The other option might be for Ukrainian forces to continue past the border, invading Russia in retaliation for the initial invasion. The problem here is that such an action can only result in continued war and eventual defeat. The Ukrainian forces could only push as far into Russia as their troops and supplies allow, and once they reach their end, then the Russian forces would push back, and the great back-and-forth would continue. The only reason I can think for this scenario is to punish Russia, which would be a dangerous game indeed. I hope this does not happen.
But the wild card in all of the is the Crimea. In 2014, Russia “annexed” the Crimea, which at the time was Ukrainian territory, much as they have recently attempted to annex regions of Eastern Ukraine. This annexation was protested but never really opposed. Now the Crimea is still in the hands of Russia, but probably never should have been. The question becomes, even if the Ukrainian forces stop at the Russian border, will they attempt to retake the Crimea? The recent bombing of the bridge between the Crimea and Russia damaged the supply line for Russia to the troops in the Crimea. The bridge is the only link between Russia and the Crimea (save shipping) and did help in sending supplies to the invading Russian army through the Crimea. The damage to this bridge harms the supply line to the invading army, but could the bridge attack be the first step in retaking the Crimean Peninsula? Honestly, I’m not sure how I would feel if the Ukraine did take the action of reacquiring this land. It’s been eight years, after all, but still represents occupied territory. Perhaps Putin deserves to lose this land as well for his hubris in the Ukrainian invasion.