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“For Ukraine, there is a sober military reality”

Writing in Belgian magazine Trends, Professor Marc De Vos comments how things stand during the Ukraine war:

“At the cost of many human lives and equipment, Ukraine has already recaptured several hundred square kilometers of territory. But Russia occupies some 160,000 square kilometers, an area twice the size of the Benelux. Lacking a strong air force, the Ukrainian army has to imitate World War I: bomb the entrenched enemy with artillery and then throw men and materiel against it.

I am not a military expert and I do not have a crystal ball. I read that the Russian defenses could still break like glass or be punctured with a domino effect on logistics for large parts of the Russian line. I hope and thumb. But for now, the observation is that the Russians appear to be much stronger on defense than on offense, that Europe and the U.S. have waited too long to grant Ukraine the fighter jets with which to flatten defensive lines, and that the front is in danger of becoming deadlocked.

That sober military reality mimicks economic reality. Despite an unprecedented barrage of trade sanctions, despite the boycott of Russian gas and oil, despite the ban on technology and arms supplies to Russia, the Russian economy remains robust and arms production is running at full capacity. Observers point out that Russia can handle the war financially for years to come, that the Russian economy, meanwhile, is a true war economy that also sustains its population, and that the international sanctions system leaks like a sieve.

Politically and geopolitically, too, Vladimir Putin is proving more resilient than many expected. Ukraine, the United States and Europe must move heaven and earth to get any non-Western countries to go along with the sanctions regime against Russia. China continues to reach out to Russia. The Russian population is gagged and offers a deep reserve of manpower that the Kremlin can mobilize digitally instantaneously. The bizarre rebellion of the Wagner militia is actually turning against Europe, as expelled mercenaries run amok on the border with Poland.

Against that backdrop, the political clock is ticking in the United States, where the presidential election campaign is imminent.
It is peak Ukraine: American political support for Ukraine can only taper off under the inevitable criticism that an election campaign will unleash.The US, meanwhile, has put nearly $77 billion in military, humanitarian, financial and security support for Ukraine on the table. The longer a breakthrough on the front is delayed, the more pressing the political question of whether the American public can continue to pay for it for much longer.”