Like most people, I have been watching the Ukrainian military’s stalwart defence of their country. I have tried not to watch too many videos or listen to too many talking heads because, let’s face it, most of these people tell us NOTHING. The internet is full of click-bait and newspapers are not far behind.
Friends and neighbours have been asking me what I think will happen. Answer: I honestly do not know. I have opinions, but my opinions are worth little more than most other peoples’. That said, here is what I think:
In the short term the Russians will consolidate their gains and move from offence to defence. They will shorten their exposed flanks and their lines of communications in order to establish some sort of order and control. Their military is suffering high casualties and their poor leadership and even worse concepts of communication and logistics will need to be corrected before they can consolidate. Every platoon commander knows that. The real question is what will happen in the long term.
In the long term (and here we enter the nether-world of prediction) they have won a pyrrhic victory, which will eventually eat them alive. The Ukrainians have demonstrated that they would rather die fighting than accommodate the Russian Bear and that means that they will fight until there is nothing left to fight over. Russian soldiers have now demonstrated that they are not willing to die to expand Russian influence but Ukrainian soldiers have demonstrated the opposite. To use a term that evokes the US struggle in Viet Nam, Russia finds itself in a quagmire. The difference is that they cannot simply declare victory and go home. This a permanent thorn in their side.
Meanwhile back in Russia . . . sooner or later the population will calculate how many of their sons, brothers, fathers will never come home and when consumer goods that Tzar Vladimir had been using to keep them complacent evaporate and staples begin to get scarce, some might wonder why they have been complacent. I am not suggesting another Russian Revolution but internal instability coupled with external military operations is an almost unbearable load for any government, whether dictator or parliamentarian.
Carl von Clausewitz reminded us that war has its own grammar but not its own logic. The former is military; the latter is political. Until there is a political solution, the proverbial thorn that the Bear has purposely put in its own paw will remain and will grow more painful with time.