It is a great pity that President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington was not postponed for a few weeks, when the outcome of the Ukrainian offensive will be entirely clear. Whatever the outcome, there will be critically important issues that the US and Ukrainian presidents will need to discuss—above all, that of US and Ukrainian strategies and goals when it comes to negotiations with Russia.
However, since this issue is extremely painful and difficult, the strong temptation for both administrations will be to kick it down the road as far as possible. That has indeed been true of much of the Biden administration’s approach to Ukraine and Russia since it first took office.
The Ukraine war’s course thus far—as well as the whole of military history—should caution us against making firm predictions for the result of any military campaign. At present however, the Ukrainian attempt to cut or threaten Russian land communications to Crimea appears to be failing. In three months, the Ukrainian army has only succeeded in piercing the first of several lines of Russian defenses, at enormous cost in casualties.
Attempts to portray the Ukrainian recapture of the village of Robotyne as a great victory are unhappily reminiscent of British and French offensives on the Western Front during the First World War, when the seizure after months of fighting and at dreadful cost of miserable hamlets like Passchendaele were also celebrated as great victories, for want of anything else to celebrate. Moreover, in what has become a battle of attrition, it is not at all clear that time favors Ukraine. Not merely is Ukraine a much smaller country than Russia, with a much smaller industrial base, but the shifts in military technology that helped Ukraine when Russia was attacking are now helping Russia when it is Ukraine that is trying to advance.
Read the full piece in The Nation.