A friend – probably sick of hearing about inflation – actually (gasp) asked for an update on Ukraine. So here goes.
The last few 3 months would seem to support the “stalemate” view of the war. Except for one minor detail. The Russians have actually been pushing an offensive with pretty much everything they’ve got. They just don’t got very much left…
You don’t have to be a military expert to conclude that the attacking side is in deep doo-doo when a “big push” offensive is indistinguishable from “stalemate.” The Russians have fought themselves to an exhausted standstill.
Ukraine is preparing its own offensive. With luck, they will punch through somewhere. If they do, they have a pretty good shot at precipitating a rout – see “exhausted standstill.” Will Ukraine get a breakthrough? Napoleon (apocryphally) gives us the most honest answer.
I would rather have a general who was lucky than one who was good. – Napoleon Bonaparte
Watch for a sharp shock campaign of farther-behind-the-lines strikes. Followed by a big push in the place(s) Ukraine thinks the Russians are weakest. What specific territory they capture doesn’t matter nearly as much as getting far enough behind enough Russians to spark a rout. The target is the Russian Army itself, not the geography.
Ukraine does bring a lot to make its own luck. They…
- …can choose time and place.
- …have a HUGE number of freshly trained (albeit green) troops. The units getting exhausted fighting Russia to a standstill around Bahkmut don’t need to carry an attack.
- … have brand new Western hardware. A lot of this equipment is massively advantaged vs the Soviet-era gear the Russians (barely) have. Russia is now bringing T-55 tanks (built in the 1950’s) to the front because they ran out of 1960’s era T-62’s… Those things are all one-shot deathtraps for their poor crews.
Most importantly, Ukraine probably have a “secret” stock of longer-range missiles, bombs, and drones than can seriously disrupt Russian supply and command points. They already did this did this out to a certain range with the HIMARS missiles. With longer-range weapons, they can blast a whole bunch of new targets. The way supply chain networks work, even small lengthening of the individual web links sums up to major reduction in total carrying capacity.
So if Ukraine’s luck holds, we could be looking at the War ending (in fact if not officially) in the next few months. That would be a good thing for markets, the economy, and the world.
What if luck doesn’t show up? What if Ukraine…
- …doesn’t break through?
- …does break through, but the Russians miraculously re-group and hold?
…then we might be facing a stalemate.
Ukraine will still have “won.” If they don’t backslide into cronyism, they have won a place in modern, prosperous Europe. They won’t be a Russian satellite.
Russia will still have lost. It has destroyed the weapons stockpiles it inherited from the Soviet Union. Modern-day Russia doesn’t have the economic capacity to replace it all. It will take ages to replace what little it can. Putin is probably dead or near-dead before that happens.
But it would be really nice if Ukraine won big. Because then Putin and all he stands for will lose big. The Chinese lose big. And that is, ultimately, hopefully a good outcome for the US and the world.