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The war in the Ukraine is about to go through a phase change as the Ukrainian initiative comes to an end this autumn. For most of the year, the war has been characterized by Western initiates, along with Ukrainian military action. Planning and publicizing the Ukrainian spring offensive dominated the first half of the year, while the last three months have been dominated by the offensive itself. By all accounts this will run out of steam in the next few weeks.
According to Western media, the point of the counter-offensive was to use NATO trained brigades using Western equipment and tactics to break through Russian defenses in the south and create a corridor to the Sea of Azov. This would split Russian forces and isolate the Crimea. The assumption was that the Russian army would abandon their positions rather than fight. This in turn would create a political crisis in Russia, perhaps forcing a withdraw from Ukraine.
What happened instead was the newly trained Ukrainian units charged headlong into massive minefields while being slammed with Russian artillery. The internet was full of videos showing burning NATO equipment and desperate Ukrainian soldiers trying to escape the minefields. Western sources indicate Ukraine lost a third of this force in the first weeks of the offensive. This map of the southern defensive lines shows how little progress the Ukrainians have made in three months.
In addition to the big push in the south, the Ukrainians tried to retake Bakhmut, which they had lost in the spring. By all accounts this was a total failure and they ceased trying to retake the city. Those forces have been diverted to the south for one last shot at making some progress. Right now, the Ukrainians are putting their last Western units into a final push to capture a tiny village called Robotino. This appears to be the final battle of the Ukrainian counter-offensive.
On the public relations front, Ukraine has been launching small drone attacks against buildings in the Moscow suburbs. They have also launched attacks against Crimea using their remaining Storm Shadow missiles they got from Britain, as well as the small, improvised drones they have been using on civilian targets. These efforts have no military value, but they are seen as moral boosters. The images are quickly spread around by Western media.
The long and short of this is the West appears to be in a panic over the results, especially in the south. The narrative said that Russia is a paper tiger, and the army would break at the first sign of Western equipment. At this point, the Ukrainians were supposed to be bathing in the Sea of Azov. Instead, billions in NATO gear lies in ruins in a place now called Bradley Park. It is called that by the Ukrainians because it contains so many bombed out Bradley fighting vehicles.
There is now a growing concern that the Ukrainian army is running out of men and material to continue fighting. That speaks to the horrific losses they have taken in this ill-fated counter-offensive, but also the long toll of the war. As a result, Ukraine is stepping up mobilization efforts. There are rumors that that Zelensky will call for a full mobilization of Ukraine, which means that every available male will be called to service and maybe even the females of military age.
The one area where Ukraine has had some success is in the Black Sea, where they have been using sea drones to harass Russian shipping. There is speculation that they are using Romania to launch and control these British made drones and maybe there are British contractors helping them. American Reaper drones are also active in the Black Sea, suggesting they help locate targets. Regardless, the Black Sea has become a problem for the Russian navy and Russian shipping.
The question is what comes next. There are rumors that the Russians have been plotting an offensive of their own. This may simply be echoes from the Battle of Kursk, which took place eighty years ago in the same location. In that battle, the Soviet army stood their ground against a massive German offensive, then counter attacked, leading to one of the biggest tank battles in history. The Russians are obsessed with their history, so this may be the source of those rumors.
On the other hand, the Russians have been advancing along the northern part of the line of contact, to the point where Ukraine has evacuated the strategic city of Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region. This has led to speculation that Russia may be planning to capture Kharkiv city, which is the second largest city in Ukraine. They could also swing south and cut off supply lines to the Ukrainian army in the Donbas. The Russians supposedly have over 100,000 men in this area.
The other possibility is that the Ukrainians had to strip this area of men and equipment in order to supply their offensive in the south. As a result, the Russians are taking advantage of the situation to capture these important transport hubs. In other words, they are simply filling a void left by the Ukrainians, and it has nothing to do with their plans for the fall and winter. Either way, the collapse of this part of the Ukrainian lines supports the lack of manpower claims.
This leads to the topic of what comes next. As this phase of the war reaches its end over the next few weeks, the ball will now be in the court of the Russians, who have spent a year building up forces in Ukraine. They could go on the offensive or simply continue to grind away at the Ukrainian army. They could also begin to work on the Ukrainian infrastructure as a way to weaken their resolve. Of course, a major winter offensive is also a possibility.
There is also the question as to what the West does now that their great Ukrainian counter-offensive narrative is in tatters. For now, they seem to be contenting themselves with a blame game focused on the Ukrainians. The neocons are blaming the Ukrainian general for not following their orders, while the Pentagon is pointing the finger at Zelensky for meddling in the military planning. Out of this will come a new narrative, but its details remain a mystery at this point.
Then there is the election calendar. The Poles have elections is October, which will be an interesting look at European public opinion. There is no anti-war party in Poland to speak of, so it is going to be a more subtle read on how the ruling party has managed the war to this point. In June, the Germans have an election. The AfD is an anti-war party and they have jumped in the polls. So much so that the German government is threatening to ban the party entirely.
Of course, the American presidential election cycle has started. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the anti-war option on the Democrat side. The regime has banned any serious polling on him, but they must be worried as they have pulled Bernie Sanders out of mothballs to campaign in New Hampshire. Then you have Trump who is the enemy of the neocons and the military industrial complex. His swarthy mini-me, Vivek Ramaswamy, has also taken a strong anti-war position.
The bottom line is there is no path to victory for Ukraine. This phase of the war which has gone on for close to a year makes that abundantly clear. While the Ukraine army has fought heroically, they are outmanned and outgunned. Now that the West is out of weapons to send to them and Western domestic politics is about to take center stage, Ukraine will be faced with some grim choices. The big question is how a Western defeat plays out over the next year.
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