Could Ukraine Actually Win This War?

AP Photo/Andrew Marienko

Count me as a skeptic on the question of whether Ukraine can win this war, but I’m less skeptical than I was just two weeks ago.

Before we get started, a quick note: “Win” does not mean “Come up smiling.” Win, lose, or some muddled inconclusive mess, that country is ruined for a generation.


But there are signs this war could end with the Russian Army back where it started or at least something close to it.

Russia’s Big Guns

The first indicator comes from a juxtaposition of two news items, one quite fresh and the other a few weeks old.

The Wall Street Journal reported early Thursday that Russia is “is intensifying strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure, seeking to disrupt deliveries of Western weapons as Moscow’s offensives in the east appear to have stalled.”

(However, according to ISW, even with Russia’s intensified infrastructure attacks, they remain “unable to interdict Western aid shipments.”)

But wiping out infrastructure isn’t just about preventing or delaying the movement of Ukraine Army (UA) troops or Western aid. The ferocity of these new attacks was predicted by PJ Media’s own David Goldman over a month ago:

Putin isn’t defeated or baffled or confused. He’s turning the crank on the meatgrinder. One doesn’t have to read too far into these lines to conclude that Putin hoped that Zelensky would cut a deal on his terms once Russia invaded, but when Zelensky refused to cut a deal, Putin moved to Option B, which is to erase most of Ukraine from the face of the earth. That’s not as difficult as it sounds. Putin will keep the bits he wants in the Southeast (Donetsk and Luhansk), leave the West to factory farming, and pound the rest to rubble with artillery and air power.


This is exactly what we’ve been seeing with increasing intensity since it became apparent that Russia’s ground offensive wasn’t going anywhere quickly.

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Ukraine’s Big Guns

The second indicator is that the UA is finally getting some heavy artillery from the West. This is a much bigger deal than the man-portable antitank and antiaircraft missiles we’ve been sending. Artillery has range and firepower that Stingers and Javelins just can’t match.

We’re sending them in big numbers, too.

The United States is slated to send 90 M777 towed howitzers, the current towed artillery piece in use by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps; Australia is sending six M777s, and Canada is sending four. The Netherlands has promised six Pz2000 155-millimeter self-propelled howitzers, while France will send between 10 and 12 CAESAR truck-mounted 155s.

Those 155mm guns are bigger and newer than the UA’s current arsenal, and that has “powerful implications” for the UA’s hitting power, according to Popular Mechanics.

The UA claims to have destroyed nearly 500 Russian artillery pieces, and even if we take that number with an entire salt lick, it’s clear that Russian artillery has taken a pounding.

Just as importantly, the UA is receiving American counter-battery radar systems. Those detect incoming artillery shells from the other guy, plot the trajectory back to the guns that fired them, and allow friendly artillery to quickly return the favor. Whatever pounding Russian artillery has already taken, things are about to get worse.


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The results are already showing.

ISW also reported this week that a “significant Ukrainian counteroffensive pushed Russian forces roughly 40 km east of Kharkiv,” Ukraine’s second-largest city and very near the Russian border.

Before the “That’s just Ukrainian propaganda!” crowd chimes in, Russian sources have confirmed the reports. Whether or not the UA has the ability to sustain such an operation is another unknown, but typically, Russian troops give ground very grudgingly or when caught by surprise.

So Can They Win?

It’s still too soon to tell.

If Russia continues to feed fresh units and unrested (and battered) veteran units piecemeal into the Donbas, they’ll just continue squandering their combat power — and soldiers’ lives. But we really won’t know until the mud dries. Only then can we ascertain whether or not the Russian high command has learned the lessons of the Kyiv debacle.

The wildcard is what Vladimir Putin might do on May 9, Russia’s annual celebration and remembrance of their victory against Nazi Germany.

Some analysts believe Putin might announce some kind of victory. Putin could “officially” annex the occupied areas of Ukraine, and wind down the war to something much quieter and more like the low-intensity fighting that’s been going on since 2014.


Others argue that Putin will declare an official war. Under Russian law, that’s far more serious than the current “special military operation.” The difference is that a declaration gives Putin the authority to call up the reserves and mobilize the economy.

If it’s the first option, Ukraine has little choice but to continue the fight.

If it’s the second option, Ukraine might just feel ballsy enough (and well-armed and experienced enough) to attempt a counteroffensive to drive the Russians back to the Feb. 23 lines — or even farther.

How that might play out is anyone’s guess.


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