The West Seems To Be Winning Everything But The War In Ukraine

The West Seems To Be Winning Everything But The War In Ukraine

by Venu Gopal Narayanan - Oct 20, 2022 02:41 PM +05:30 IST
The West Seems To Be Winning Everything But The War In UkraineThe West has no cogent strategy for the war in Ukraine
  • In the absence of any cogent strategy, what the West has, instead, is a bundle of tactics masquerading as strategy.

The war in Ukraine entered a new phase on 10 October, when Russia unleashed a devastating barrage of missile strikes on key infrastructure, command, and logistical targets in Ukraine.

A third of the country’s power grid collapsed instantly, and it was forced to resort to ‘rolling-blackouts’. We call this ‘load-shedding’ in India – a process by which electricity is provided to different areas in turn because supply is limited.

This strike was followed by a new stratagem – further attacks on energy infrastructure and transportation hubs, using kamikaze drones and cruise missiles launched from strategic bombers operating over the Caspian Sea.

At the same time, heavy Russian reinforcements entered the theatre of war, and commenced methodical assaults on multiple points along a frontline which stretches for a 1000 miles.

While very little of the information coming out of Ukraine is verified, the situation as on date is broadly this:

Situation map as on 17 October 2022
Situation map as on 17 October 2022

Battles involving artillery, armour, mechanized infantry, and the now-ubiquitous drones are on at dozens of places. The Russians are having to slog because the Ukrainians are well-armed with hand-held anti-tank missiles.

Cities like Lvov and Vinnitsa in western Ukraine, and the capital, Kiev, which had, thus far, been largely spared Russia’s wrath, are now being subjected to daily bombings.

The targets, spread across the country, are mainly substations and supply nodes. A number of thermal power plants have also been put out of action.

Map of Russian strikes on Ukrainian power grids
Map of Russian strikes on Ukrainian power grids

With winter approaching, logic would dictate that the west stop supporting Ukraine, so that a ceasefire be negotiated, and peace talks begin. But the west’s first response to this new phase of the war has been to speed up the supply of more arms to Kiev.

This is unfortunate, since it is patently obvious that perpetuating this proxy conflict will only bring greater misery to Ukraine (not to mention an inexorable worsening of the terrible economic and energy crises which have gripped Europe in a fatal clasp since the summer).

Objectivity does not permit us to lay the blame of that eventuality at Moscow’s doorstep because, all said and done, the Russians are prosecuting a military policy which was clearly enunciated by their President, Vladimir Putin, on multiple occasions since 24 February 2022 when the conflict began.

Those words merit repetition now because they succinctly define Russia’s unchanged political and military objectives even as on date:

  • ‘Any further expansion of the North Atlantic alliance’s infrastructure or the ongoing efforts to gain a military foothold of the Ukrainian territory are unacceptable for us’

  • ‘The purpose of this operation is to protect people who, for eight years now, have been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kiev regime [in those provinces with an ethnic-Russian majority]’

  • ‘We will seek to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine’

  • ‘It is not our plan to occupy the Ukrainian territory’

  • ‘The current events have nothing to do with a desire to infringe on the interests of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. They are connected with the defending Russia from those who have taken Ukraine hostage and are trying to use it against our country and our people’

  • ‘At the end of the day, the future of Russia is in the hands of its multi-ethnic people, as has always been the case in our history. This means that the decisions that I made will be executed, that we will achieve the goals we have set, and reliably guarantee the security of our Motherland’

Obviously, then, the Russians will not stop until they have achieved these goals which, they believe, are central to their national aims and regional security.

Ukraine, on the other hand, does not have a strategy for multiple reasons.

First, it is not in control if its decision-making; the west is. If toppling a democratically elected Ukrainian government in 2013-14 through an engineered colour revolution was an epochal mistake, then the ‘installation’ of Volodymyr Zelensky as President in 2019 is an unconscionable tragedy.

Second, there is a studiously-unstated disconnect between the Ukrainian political and military leadership. The government wants this war but the military does not.

Third, Ukraine has no clear political objectives for the simple reason that its promoters don’t have one either. All they have is a nebulous intent to drastically reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian energy, expand NATO eastwards and closer to the Russian border, and regain control of the global oil price.

In the absence of any cogent strategy, what they have, instead, is a bundle of tactics masquerading as strategy. But this can never work because it is the same mistake which they made in Afghanistan – trying to fight an unwinnable war with unachievable objectives.

Emile Simpson has written about this fatal error at length in his seminal book on their debacle in Afghanistan, ‘War from the ground up’.

In it, he laboriously explains how, in the absence of precise goals, workable plans, and valid, relevant strategies, the higher direction of war degenerates into an endless Brownian motion of combat which serves no other real purpose than to conjure an image of earnest activity.

In such situations, an overweening, exponential, generational advantage in military technology (such as satellites, guided missiles, stealth aircraft, and drones) is liberally applied in a cavalier push-button-war manner, to ensure that military reverses are few.

In relative terms, it is a contest of epochs, like using swords to fight against Stinger missiles. Yet the problem, as history shows, is that this technological superiority may help you take an area, but it won’t let you hold it.

This is what happened to the Americans in Vietnam, to us in Sri Lanka, to the Chinese in Vietnam, the Russians in Afghanistan, the Americans in Iraq, and the west in Ukraine.

It is worse for them in Ukraine because that vital technological superiority necessary to prevent military reverses simply doesn’t exist. The Russians have shown that their own weapons platforms, troops, and their conduct of military operations, are as good as, or in some cases better than, what the west has supplied Ukraine.

Significantly, in addition, the Russians have an Air Force; Ukraine doesn’t!

And this is after the west trained the Ukrainian forces, constructed an elaborate media narrative, armed them to the teeth, deployed ‘military advisors’, flooded the place with the latest, most sophisticated weapons systems, positioned an obedient, pliant regime in Kiev, and are providing actionable real-time intelligence.

But still, none of that has prevented the Russians from gradually evicting the Ukrainian forces from most of the four provinces with an ethnic Russian majority (Lugansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson); from putting half the Ukrainian power grid out of service; from bombing cities, formations, and strategic points at will; or from formally incorporating these four provinces into the Russian federation.

This inchoate approach, led primarily by America, will only delay the inevitable, and its continued application will be interpreted by objective, rational, knowledgeable analysts and military professionals only as a mark of irrational political cluelessness.

One does not need to be a Clausewitz or a Jomini to realize that if the political objectives are not achieved, and especially, if it doesn’t look like they will ever be achieved, that this is, then, an unwarranted ‘March of folly’ which will plunge the citizens of Ukraine further into the pits of despair.

It has no moral or rational basis.

Therefore, at some senior level, and at some point of time, it will have to be accepted that this war was engineered to fashion a new hate object, to fill the void created by Joe Biden’s abrupt decision to exit Afghanistan in a humiliating and chaotic rush, and to buy time until they are in a position to take on China (if that is ever possible).

What the west is trying to achieve in Ukraine – politically, strategically and tactically – can best be summed up by legendary Israeli General Moshe Dayan’s caustic comment on the American effort in Vietnam: ‘They’re winning everything but the war!’

Venu Gopal Narayanan is an independent upstream petroleum consultant who focuses on energy, geopolitics, current affairs and electoral arithmetic. He tweets at @ideorogue.
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

An Appeal...

Dear Reader,

As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.

Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.

We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.

Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.

Become A Patron
Become A Subscriber
Comments ↓
Get Swarajya in your inbox everyday. Subscribe here.

Latest Articles

    Artboard 4Created with Sketch.