I initially thought this would be a very easy war for the Russians to win, and that victory would be secured within a few days tops due to mass surrender on the part of Ukraine. I was not alone in this belief–I follow a few Russian accounts on Twitter and they were extremely optimistic at the start of this war, probably a product of nationalistic bias. Western defense and intelligence agencies thought Kiev would fall within 96 hours. But those initial prognostications were incorrect.
Whether Western defense and intelligence predicted a near-instant Russian victory because they actually believed it, or because they were trying to set an impossibly high bar for Russia to clear that would in turn give way to the “Russia is failing” narrative, it’s anyone’s guess.
The fact is, Ukraine has the 22nd ranked military in the world, which puts it ahead of countries like Canada and Poland. And Ukraine has received billions in American arms, funding and support over the past 8 years or so. That matters. Ukraine was never going to be some pushover, and we were wrong for assuming otherwise.
The reality is that we probably should not have predicted an incredibly easy Russian victory in the first place. This was always going to be a real war—Ukraine, given its apparent importance to America and NATO—was never going to fall easily and quickly. This was not going to be a repeat of the 2008 Russo-Georgian war, where Russia took care of business within a week. Ukraine has a far more powerful military than Georgia.
I assume Putin and his generals knew all this going in, and that they were and remain far more realistic about the timetable of this war than all the outside voices.
Despite the apparent “disappointing progress” by the Russians, there has never been any moment over the past week where I personally was anything less than 100% convinced of an eventual Russian victory, but the Western media has a way of warping and manipulating people’s outlooks and expectations.
Even when we think of wars in the past that were easily and quickly won, none of them were won this quickly.
- Iraq in 2003: The war began on March 19, Baghdad fell on April 10 (22 days), and on May 1, George Bush gave his infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech declaring major combat operations in Iraq over. 43 days from beginning to “Mission Accomplished.”
- The German/Soviet Invasion of Poland in 1939: took 35 days, from September 1 to October 6. And that’s with the Germans invading from the west and the Soviets invading from the east.
- The Fall of France, 1940: This is always held up as the easiest military victory in history and a shining example of the cowardice of the French, but it still took the Nazis 46 days to force the French to surrender. The invasion began May 10 and France fell on June 25.
- The Six Day War, 1967: Israel shockingly defeated Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq within 6 days, although this was a unique circumstance in which Israel was able to launch a surprise attack that basically completely obliterated Egypt’s Air Force to begin the fighting. I would not use the Six Day War as the standard to which all other military actions must be measured, although it was a highly impressive display of power and efficacy by the Israelis.
The Ukrainian war is going on a week now and it appears the Russians are well on their way to, by any historical standard, a quick and decisive victory, regardless of what westerners on social media believe.
The capture of Kherson could well be the moment things tipped decisively in Russia’s favor, however.
I think the Russians had Kherson under control by Tuesday but the western media only began confirming it and reporting it on Wednesday. Regardless, this is a big development.
Now it’s not as if it was a big surprise, but what it does mean is that victory is drawing nearer for Russia.
The Dnieper River is really the biggest obstacle the Russians face in Ukraine in terms of geography. There are no major mountain ranges or dense swamps or bogs or deserts or steppes to speak of—Ukraine is generally just a big, wide open plain similar to America’s upper Midwest. The Dnieper splits the country in two.
As you can see, it’s quite wide at some points—5, 10, 15 even 20 miles at its widest. And Ukrainian troops have blown up bridges at various points along the River, which represents serious setbacks for the Russians.
I understand modern warfare is heavily reliant on air supremacy and drones and missiles, but nothing can ever change the fact that you can’t surround and hold territory without ground forces. And if your ground forces can’t traverse a river they need to traverse, you’re not going to have a whole bunch of success.
Crossing and eventually controlling the Dnieper is a huge part of this war. And the Russian capture of Kherson means Russia is well on their way to doing so.
“In the North, the Dnieper river is very, very wide and offers a huge natural defense barrier which has also for now prevented attacks on Kyiv from the western flank. However far away in the South, Russia has a way around it, and this has the following implications.
From taking Kherson, Russia will first advance to cut off and isolate Odessa, this landlocks Ukraine. Whilst doing this it will proceed to commence an offensive into western Ukraine and subsequently confront Ukrainian forces from the South, distracting from their Kyiv positions.
Meanwhile, Russian forces will also advance back East towards the River, fortify their control over it and then subsequently cut off the Ukrainian army in the west from that of the East, ending their supply lines in turn.
If Ukraine had committed to a stronger defense of the Kherson area, they might have held Russia back entirely from crossing the Dnieper and left the sole flank above Kyiv on the west side isolated, keeping the bulk of Russian forces in the East.
In a nutshell: Russia has just made the opening move as part of an effort to cut the Ukrainian forces in two. This is why the capture of Kherson is underrated. The western media are misleading people by assuming that stalling Russian advances in Kyiv and Kharkiv will beat them.”
Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was extremely important in terms of their ability to wage this present war. Crimea gave the Russians both the opportunity to launch an invasion from the south–in addition to their invasions from the north and the east–and also gives Russia the ability to cut Ukraine off from the Black Sea.
The key to military success is encirclement–to encircle your enemy is to defeat your enemy. When an enemy is encircled sufficiently, their surrender is only a matter of time. You have cut them off from their supply lines, and supply lines are the lifeblood of every army.
With the capture of Kherson, Russian forces will now be able to advance on Kiev from the south, and begin the process of cutting Ukraine in half. They will essentially encircle all of Eastern Ukraine, where the bulk of the Ukrainian army is located, and after that, they’ll be able to maintain their siege of Kiev while pushing westward. The pace of the Russian advance will snowball over time as more territory comes under their control, and more Ukrainian troops are either killed or captured.