Ukraine’s Situation Dire as War Enters Third Year

U.S. sent M1 Abrams tanks and Patriot missile systems to Ukraine with no plans for repair
U.S. sent M1 Abrams tanks and Patriot missile systems to Ukraine with no plans for repair.

By David Sole

Just two years ago, on February 24, 2022, the Russian Federation launched its Special Military Operation into Ukraine. Russia’s aims were to stop the Ukrainians from years of attacks against ethnic Russians in the Luhansk and Donetsk Peoples’ Republics. It was widely reported that the government in Kiev was installed by a U.S. organized 2014 coup d’etat and that regime had caused the deaths of over 15,000 Ukrainian citizens who refused to go along with the rightwing government.

Russia also had made it clear that it would not allow Ukraine to join the NATO alliance which would put U.S./NATO bases, troops and weapons on its long border with Ukraine. Since the 2014 coup, Ukraine had been building up its military, which had incorporated openly pro-Nazi militias, with NATO aid. Russia had the additional goal of “denazification” of Ukraine’s military.

Despite massive infusion of western military equipment, western training of its troops and western guidance on the ground of military operations, Ukraine now finds itself hard pressed all along the 600 mile long line of contact. The much touted Spring Offensive, launched June 4, 2023 by Ukraine, went on for four months with no serious gains. Since then the Russian military has been pressing forward all across the front.

The most recent Ukrainian defeat has come in Avdeyevka, a fortified city just outside of Russian held Donetsk City. On February 17, after months of fighting, Ukraine’s commander, General Syrsky, ordered a full withdrawal from Avdeyevka. Since 2014 the city had been militarily built up and fortified. But Russia had almost completely surrounded the Ukrainians and were pressing forward on three sides. The order to “retreat” came after Ukrainian units fled the city leaving behind most of their weapons.

The losses suffered in Avdeyevka by the Ukrainian forces are severe. It is known that Ukraine has been running out of ammunition and has been unable to replace front line casualties.The Russian Ministry of Defense says that 1,500 Ukrainian troops were killed in Adveyevka just in the past days.  The New York Times reported after interviewing several Ukrainian soldiers abandoning Avdeyevka that between 850 and 1,000 of their comrades had been taken prisoner by the rapidly advancing Russians.

The current situation also differs from the previous Russian capture of Bakhmut in May 2023. This time the Russian forces are both mopping up pockets of Ukrainian soldiers left in Avdeyevka while other Russian forces are strong enough to pursue the retreating Ukrainians

Russian attacks are also ongoing on the southern Zaporizhzhia front and the northeastern battle fronts. The New York Times warned on February 17 that there were “Five places Russia is fighting to break through Ukrainian lines.” The Times admitted that “outmanned and outgunned, the Ukrainian ground forces are in perhaps their most precarious position since the opening months of the war.”

It does not appear that the Ukrainians will be able to reverse their losses. They already fired the top military leader, General Zaluzhny, along with five other generals. This came only 9 days prior to their loss of Avdeyevka. U.S. military assistance and financial aid to run Ukraine’s government has been stalled in Congress for months. Even if that funding is passed it isn’t likely that the U.S. or the other western donors have the capacity to provide the weapons and ammunition needed by Ukraine.

Even if large quantities of weapons continue to flow to Ukraine, a recent report from General Robert Storch of the Pentagon’s Department of Defense Inspector exposed that “The United States has not prepared a comprehensive maintenance plan for military equipment, including M1 Abrams tanks and Patriot air defense systems.” This means that all the heavy armor and missile systems were sent “without a plan to ensure their long-term usefulness.”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is stepping in with a bandaid to help Ukraine with $900 million as part of “a four-year $15.6 billion loan that the Washington-based institution approved for Ukraine last year.” Bloomberg reported that an announcement of the payment was close to being publicly announced. The package of aid for Ukraine stuck in Congress is for another $60 billion following two years of funds totaling over $75 billion. Europe has provided an estimated $107 billion.

With its Ukrainian proxies facing more and more losses and possible collapse, some in the U.S. government are privately thinking about a negotiated settlement, something that was absolutely out of the question to the neocon wing that promoted the war in the first place. The New York Times, often a conduit to ruling class thinking, reported February 24 “In the view of Charles A. Kupchan, a Georgetown University professor who served as a national security official in the Obama administration, that means the United States should be exploring ways to get negotiations started to end the war.”

The U.S. neocon hard-liners in both big business parties, however, still are pushing against any negotiations. Despite Ukraine’s dismal failure of battlefield efforts and economic sanctions against Russia, they insist that the war continue. They promote inflated Russian losses of killed and wounded without any evidence and despite the actual high casualty rate for Ukrainians. And according to the Times the “Biden administration officials still insist that Mr. Putin has already suffered a ‘strategic defeat.’”

The coming months will show whether the Ukrainian military can withstand the enormous Russian pressure. An old adage has it that “facts are stubborn things.” At what point will the facts push the parties to the negotiating table is anyone’s guess. Or will a sudden and catastrophic collapse of the Ukrainian military forces or political leadership precipitate a dangerous intervention by U.S./NATO forces directly into the conflict with inevitable world shattering consequences?

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