Ukraine’s mercurial President Volodymyr Zelenskyy did not allow his country’s limitations while trying to pave its future with NATO and the EU.
The fourth week into the war, the Ukrainian Army’s determined resistance has ably fended off an all-powerful Russian Army’s march. One may feel tempted to predict that the brave defenders will prevail over the aggressors. But, it isn’t happening. Ukrainian forces fighting using guerrilla tactics with small-calibre weapons look far-fetched from gaining any ground, forcing a retreat or taking the attack on the Russian lands. The Russia Ukraine war has turned into the worst humanitarian crisis after World War II.
Ukraine’s mercurial President Volodymyr Zelenskyy did not allow his country’s limitations while trying to pave its future with NATO and the EU. Is it impossible for Kyiv to negotiate peace with Moscow, given the pressure from the nationalist camps and “civil society,” and the hand of the US, directing all of the above? If there was a slightest chance, even a small window for talks with Putin that Zelenskyy avoided. History will hold him equally responsible for the destruction of Ukraine along with Putin.
Russia’s nuclear deterrent is ensuring that Ukraine isn’t able to find any of the world’s most powerful countries intervening militarily to save it from falling apart. The world powers are more interested in mocking Russia and demonising President Putin than saving Ukraine. No attempts are made to understand Russian concerns!
Zelenskyy has put all his eggs in NATO’s basket and is literally begging them day-in-day-out for military aid and to declare Ukraine a no-fly zone. In the last month, the world has seen President Zelenskyy’s live monologues and flip-flops from pleading with NATO for military intervention to denouncing NATO and pleading with Russia for talks.
President Zelenskyy, a great performer, is exceptional at waging a media-social media-based information war. Zelenskyy, ably supported by the west, is winning the information war and is his speeches to the US Congress, EU, British and Canadian parliaments are breaking the internet. But that is not something the political leader of a country under attack is expected to do. There is not an iota of information in the public domain about his diplomatic endeavours for preventing this avoidable war. Unless there is a major diplomatic breakthrough in the talks, Ukraine cannot be saved. President Zelenskyy’s pampered ego mustn’t rise to levels from where he cannot see what is good for his people and get down to the pedestal to avoid the inevitable.
Vested interests from the west are more and more intending to expand the war without getting directly involved in it. Theatrics like Invitations to President Zelenskyy to address various parliaments in the middle of the war and the western media’s war frenzy suggests immense instigation on their part. Although sitting on the fence, Blinken and Nuland want Zelenskyy to fight the war to the last Ukrainian.
Where is the sense of meeting aggression with more aggression?
The US is giving daily briefings on the conflict, which they are neither fighting nor have any locus standee. The Western alliance has imposed a number of sanctions on Russia. But the question remains, will these sanctions bring back lost lives? Has the West ruined another country?
Unfortunately, to date, other than the spirited Ukrainian resistance, one is yet to see any outside military deterrents to the war. President Biden is jittery and afraid to militarily intervene in the Ukraine conflict, but calls India “shaky”. In 1971, India intervened in the raging humanitarian crisis in East Pakistan to liberate the Bengalis from the clutches of the Pakistan Army’s genocidal frenzy. The US sent its seventh fleet to prevent India from liberating Bangladesh. They failed. The US Navy that carried out un-informed freedom of navigation operations in India’s sovereign waters is yet to replicate the same in the contested waters of the Sea of Azov, the Black Sea Coast, the Kerch Strait off the coast of the Crimean peninsula.
Where have all the world’s sane voices gone? Instead of mediating and using the diplomatic leverage earned after years of peace and normalization of trade relations, the President of the world’s oldest and most powerful democracy, indulges in cheap theatrics and name-calling while dubbing President Putin as a “butcher” “who cannot remain in power”. Rejecting ceasefire negotiations, dumping vast amounts of weapons, engineering more NATO expansion, threatening to send troops, and now even threatening to depose Putin, the Biden administration’s goal is not to mitigate the Russia Ukraine conflict but to add fuel to the already raging fire.
President Putin has clearly stated the objectives of this special operation to his military leadership in his declaration of war speech to the nation on February 24: “to strive for demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine”, was the top of his agenda. ‘Ukraine should not be part of the NATO, Donetsk and Luhansk to be recognized as independent states, Crimea to be recognised as part of Russia’ were also his declared strategic aims.
Apart from the stated objectives, Putin seems more focused on the Black Sea. Russia, once in control of Ukraine’s entire 1,400 kilometres of Black Sea coastline, will get to influence the Mediterranean and Atlantic spheres. The Black Sea is Russia’s entrance to the world. Russians have more or less achieved what they were out to in Ukraine.
Western commentators are writing Russian obituaries, terming the month-old campaign as a Russian loss. Having known Russia due to the country's close coordination with India on defence, I don't see them setting any unrealistic goals for their military advance. Only a novice would claim Russian advances as non-substantial.
As per western estimates, Russia has between 1,00,000 and 1,90,000 troops deployed in and around Ukraine. There are multiple stories and reports from western media houses claiming, “Russia is losing the war. They do not have the logistical capability, with the military offensive “stalled”, in frustration Russia has deliberately targeted civilians and flattened cities.” India’s rescue of more than 22,000 students from the war-torn country with only one injured and one unfortunate casualty, presents enough evidence refuting any narrative of Russia’s is the intentional targeting of civilians or annihilation of Ukrainian cities.
Claims of the Russian Army’s logistical incompetency are bonkers! A month of sustained military offensive shows mitigating of all the logistical challenges by the Russian material-technical support brigades. It is often claimed that the longer the conflict lasts, it will degrade Russia’s fighting capabilities and will hurt the aggressor. These reports underestimate Russia’s military capabilities and underscore the fact that Russia is one of the world’s biggest arms and ammunition manufacturers and exporters. 11 years into the Syrian conflict, Russia is neither tired nor losing.
During 1971, India-Pakistan war, missiles launched from India’s small number of Russian make missile boats reigned in devastation at Karachi harbour, which kept burning for more than a fortnight. Just imagine the devastating impact of Russia’s full military might on Ukraine!
President Putin is holding back as most of his airstrikes are targeting the Ukrainian armed forces while avoiding civilian casualties. On the very first day of the 1993 Iraq war, the US flew more air sorties and fired more ammunition on Iraq than Russia did in the last one month in Ukraine. In the previous 30 days of conflict, Russia has flown approximately 1800 sorties and launched some 1200 missiles targeting Ukraine.
One month of war has caused significant damage to civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. Zelenskyy terms Russian airstrikes as war crimes while Russia defends its actions, citing the Ukrainian military’s hiding amongst the civilians and launching guerrilla attacks on Russian troops. Strikes on a paediatrics hospital, a library, a theatre remain contested by both sides as Russia blames Ukraine for false flag operation while Ukraine blames Russia for war crimes.
There is no denial of the fact that Russian forces have faced huge resistance from brave Ukrainians fighting to save their motherland. Russian forces arrived in Ukraine considering themselves as the liberators of the erstwhile USSR state. They faced stiff opposition from patriotic Ukrainians shouting slogans, hurling abuses and asking them to go back. The ingrained Ukrainian spirit of freedom was a huge psychological setback for the men of the Russian Armed Forces. Being a complete professional force, the Russian Armed Forces have by now overcome the moral dilemma of common Ukrainian’s hostile behaviour and are continuing to successfully operate according to their leadership’s objectives. Ukrainian forces’ spirited defiance hasn’t deterred the Russians a bit from pursuing their objectives.
A month into the invasion, grappling with widespread sanctions and proxy support to Ukraine from the west, Russia is hurting. Some OSINT reports suggest significant losses to the Russian military’s tip of the spear, the Battalion Tactical Group or BTG, their combined-arms manoeuvre units. There are videos circulating of Russian POWs being tortured by Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian soldiers video calling the family of a deceased Russian soldier to mock and swear at them using the POWs’ phones. Cruel treatment of Russian POWs will have unintended consequences.
A hurting Russia is not good for Ukraine. Russian losses wouldn’t translate into a Russian pullback. This will not happen. Ground-level setbacks will push Russia to escalate the war and intensify air attacks, which would bring in more and more collateral damage to besieged Ukraine. The angered superpower will use its arsenal to bring in such devastation that will raze the major Ukrainian cities to the ground.
There is criticism of Russia that they have not been able to steamroll over Ukraine despite of committing a large number of invading forces. President Putin sees Ukraine as sovereign territory of the erstwhile Soviet Union, thus avoiding large scale destruction of civilian infrastructure and mostly refraining from direct attacks on innocent civilians. If one goes soft on the enemy, losses are likely to be more.
Russia and Ukraine are likely to meet for face-to-face peace talks on Tuesday. A graceful, well-negotiated exit from the present conflict would mean Ukraine, its people and the lands will survive.
The writer is a Veteran of the Indian Navy and the Author of the book, ‘Balakot Air-Strike’. He can be followed on Twitter @mananbhattnavy.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own and do not reflect those of DNA)