Take a good look at this map. From Kherson in the south to Yanshulivka in the north covers a distance of approximately 1000 miles. That is akin to the distance from Washington, DC to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Or, to put it in European terms, that equates roughly to the distance between Paris, France and Warsaw, Poland. My point is simple — this is a huge amount of territory to cover in a ground war and requires both Ukraine and Russia to tackle the problem of where to deploy their respective troops, artillery and tanks.
One of the major problems Ukraine is struggling to solve is that its existing tank force has been degraded severely, which accounts for pleas from Ukrainian President Zelensky and General Zalushny for hundreds of replacement tanks from the West. Ukraine also is struggling to deal with its depleted troop strength and is forcibly “recruiting” conscripts as young as 16 and as old as 60. Ukraine faces the challenge of determining where to deploy its remaining forces in sufficient strength to blunt a Russian offensive.
Russia, by contrast, faces no such limitations. Russian factories continue to churn out new tanks to replace those lost in battle and has expanded its enlisted manpower by calling on reserves. Russia has one other advantage that it has exploited to great effect — i.e., it is able to train its forces in Russia in secure locations and equip them with the skills necessary to fight effectively on the battlefield. Ukraine does not. The replacements it has rounded up must be sent to NATO countries for training because Ukrainian military bases in Western Ukraine are vulnerable to Russian missile attacks.
The war in Ukraine is not confined to the steppes of Eastern Ukraine. It is being played out as a global drama pitting Russia against the United States and Europe. The coming week will some very bizarre and potentially consequential political theater. Vladimir Putin is scheduled to speak on Tuesday amid expectations that he will announce an expanded relationship with Belarus and acknowledge that Russia is at war with NATO. Putin could draw a bright red line warning NATO that if it sends more sophisticated weaponry to Ukraine that Russia will act to protect itself.
On the same day, bumbling Joe Biden will show up in Warsaw for a speech that will not change Ukraine’s desperate situation and will likely further harden Russian resolve to seek victory on the battlefield rather than at the negotiation table. Biden is expected to plead with the Russian people to rid themselves of Putin. I am sure that will resonate with the Russian people (not!). Biden’s speech will not calm growing anxiety among NATO allies. The visual alone of a frail, demented Biden will play alongside the image of a calm but determined Putin.
Up to this point the Western strategy, under U.S. leadership, has included vilifying all things Russian and trying to punish the Russian people economically. There is a possibility that Biden will strike a more conciliatory tone in his speech towards the Russian people and try to shift the narrative that his is a war against Putin the tyrant, not the people of Russia. If he does that it will set off alarm bells in Ukraine. Zelensky and his crowd may interpret this as an early indicator that the U.S. is preparing to jettison them if the situation on the battlefield worsens for Ukraine.
If you have not seen Alexander Mercouris or Brian Berletic’s latest video casts on these issues I recommend them to you.