Giorgio Spagnol
Date de publication: 

How long can Ukraine keep up the fight?

Ukraine is now losing at least 100 soldiers each day in combat. By way of comparison, just short of 50 American soldiers died per day on average in 1968 during the Vietnam War's deadliest year for US Forces.

The Ukrainian battlefield is much more lethal than what we all became accustomed to over the 20 years of Iraq and Afghanistan, where we didn’t have numbers like this.

Americans have ribbons on their uniforms, color ribbons from fighting Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, and so on. And suddenly they saw Europeans with real weapons. They were used to finding people without weapons or else people who were 10-to-one superiority, and they actually thought that was war.

Ukraine had about 250,000 men and women in uniform before the war and was in the process of adding another 100,000. With a population of 43 million, the problem is recruiting, training and getting them on the front line,

In order to reduce losses, does Ukraine need more powerful weapons that match or even surpass Russian weaponry? Could this enable Ukraine to respond in kind and  win the war with Russia?

A possible way ahead

Ukrainians may well be able to reconquer the Kherson Oblast. They won't be able to reconquer the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. And at that point, Putin might be tempted to accept stop fighting if Ukraine is going to do the same.

Zelensky says he doesn't want to give away two big regions of Ukraine. Donetsk and Luhansk, together, are the size of an average European country. So the only way out of this moment would be for Zelensky, who refuses giving away anything of Ukraine, to agree to a plebiscite.

While the sanctions are pressing on Putin,  what's pressing on Zelensky is that the Russian Army is getting better every day. Because it's the usual Russian military history: Russians start with top-down imposed concepts and ideas, and then the generals get demoted, the colonels get promoted, and they fight better. And that's what's happening.

What if Ukraine wants to retake the lost territories?

For Ukraine, the cost of regaining the lost territory depends on if they're willing to accept a very high price in human lives.

The Russian improvement is an improvement from changing the command structure. Russia has not mobilized for war,  therefore there is no general conscription. The people who are fighting are contract soldiers: mainly Siberians, Ossetians, Buryatians,  Daghestans and Avars who are getting killed in this war.  The Russians are 150 million people, around 110 million are of Russian ethnicity, but the casualties are disproportionately from the smaller populations.

Ukrainians don't have expendable people. In the case of Ukraine, the casualties are felt throughout the social, cultural and political system and therefore they are different in terms of the impact.

Henry Kissinger's advice to Ukraine at the Davos forum

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger basically suggested to Ukraine to cede land to get a cease-fire. There were two great voices that spoke from Davos: George Soros, who told Ukrainians to continue until final victory (which would be a great idea if somebody disinvented nuclear weapons). Soros said “continue till victory”. And Kissinger said, “Surrender and give up Donetsk and Luhansk unilaterally.”

The fact is that Russian Federation is a great power which control the territory that has access to the Middle East, to the Far East; it is a vast area and it is self-sufficient.

As for Crimea, there is no possibility of a plebiscite, or no use for a second plebiscite, because  there is a very small Ukrainian population and they're very unlikely to vote. Putin will not accept a plebiscite over Crimea because  Crimea is historically Russian.

US and NATO role in trying to bring down Putin

While nothing can excuse Russia’s invasion, the Kremlin has effectively fallen into a trap laid by the US and NATO  to bring down Putin’s regime.

On March 26, 2022 President Biden, speaking in Warsaw, said: “For God’s sake, Putin cannot remain in power.” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken later tried to remedy by saying that there is no US strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else. Blinken had apparently forgotten Vietnam, Chile, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and so on.

Biden' statement reflects long-standing US strategy for regime change in Moscow, with Ukraine as the pivot. On one hand, send sufficient military and other equipment to Ukraine to sink the Russian military in a quagmire. On the other hand, impose severe, far-reaching sanctions on Russia so as to cause major disruption to the Russian elite and a major contraction of living conditions for the Russian middle-class.

The combination should last long enough for Russians to rise up to overthrow Putin and install a Yeltsin-like President more sympathetic to the West.

But this weapons-plus-sanctions strategy needed a cause. Putin’s invasion was the required casus belli. From the US standpoint, the longer the Ukrainians can sustain the insurgency and keep the Russian military bogged down the more likely is the end of the Putin regime.

US is waging a Proxy War in Ukraine

Also according to “The Washington Post” (May 10, 2022)  US is waging a Proxy War in Ukraine: the war in Ukraine isn’t just a conflict between Moscow and Kyiv,

Proxy wars are longstanding tools of great-power rivalry because they allow one side to bleed the other without a direct clash of arms.

The key to the strategy is to find a committed local partner  and then load it up with the arms, money and intelligence needed to inflict shattering blows on a vulnerable rival. That’s just what Washington and its allies are doing to Russia today.

For NATO, the payoff has been damaging some of the most important parts of the Russian military: its ground and mechanized forces, its airborne units, its special operations forces.  America’s goal is to “weaken” Russia, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has acknowledged.

Consequences of the conflict

As the quagmire drags on, the effects of the economic rupture with Russia are beginning to be felt acutely in Europe in the form of rising prices, energy shortages, lost jobs, the absorption of  millions of Ukrainian refugees, and soon approaching the absorption of still more refugees from food-starved countries that previously relied on Ukrainian and Russian grain and fertilizer. The costs are significant even in the US, where inflation is already high and President Biden’s approval ratings are low.

Nevertheless, the share prices of the major US arms manufactures zoomed skywards as the Russian invasion took place.

Meanwhile China is watching the Ukraine crisis and the US and NATO strategy, and probably recalculating its confidence in the decline of the West. That recalculation may prompt Beijing to forge closer ties with Moscow so that  Russia can help China to dominate the Eurasian landmass, which is well underway in the form of the infrastructure alliances created by the giant Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.


Meanwhile the war continues, with no end in sight. Among diplomats, however, things have begun to stir, kicked off by the Jovian warning from  Henry Kissinger that the war could widen if negotiations between Ukraine and Russia do not begin in the next two months.

French President Emmanuel Macron said “we must not humiliate Russia.” While U.S. President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders have repeatedly stressed they will not impose negotiating terms on Ukraine, still Biden felt the need to insist on a “negotiated end to the conflict”.

But what happens when and if Ukraine and the US differ on what constitutes an acceptable outcome to the war? If Ukraine demands total Russian withdrawal and the US is willing to accept a partial withdrawal?

If, as current polls suggest,  the Republicans win control of Congress in November, America’s leadership of the global response to Russian aggression in Ukraine would be challenged at home and surely weakened. Putin is banking on just such an outcome to the November elections.

In the US, the war is already being squeezed off the front page by domestic issues such as gun control and abortion. Continuing support for Ukraine may soon erode, if it hasn't already.

Furthermore, Putin has hinted that he will use any weapons, including nuclear weapons, if necessary, to prevail in the war, certainly to avoid defeat. Were the US to up the ante and give the Ukrainians longer-range missile systems with ranges beyond 50 miles, Putin has cautioned,  “we will draw appropriate conclusions from this and use our weapons, of which we have enough, to strike at those targets that we are not striking yet.”

As for the impact of the war and of Western sanctions on the Russian people , history gives scant cause for optimism. Economic sanctions have rarely, if ever, caused nations to abandon what they regarded as vital national security objectives.

Also, Russian public opinion about the war can be read in different ways. Recent polling by the Levada Center in Moscow suggests almost half of the Russian people “unconditionally” support Putin’s war, an additional 30% also support it but with “reservations,” and 19% oppose it.


Over more than a half century of national security debates, President Biden made unmistakably clear his desire to reduce both the possibility of a nuclear weapons being used and the proliferation of those weapons.

In his New York Times essay “What America Will and Will Not Do in Ukraine” on May 31, 2022 President Biden noted that “Any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict on any scale would be completely unacceptable to us as well as the rest of the world and would entail severe consequences.”

In any case, should  Putin use a tactical nuclear weapon in the context of his aggression against Ukraine, the American response would almost certainly be non-nuclear:  a likely  combination of sanctions, diplomatic efforts and, if a military response is needed, conventional strikes.

As a matter of fact, while Biden is trying to deter Putin from using nukes, his staff isn't helping by sending messages of weakness and irresolution.

In fact many members of Biden’s national security team promoted a “no first use” policy when they served in the Obama administration.  They now risk encouraging Putin to break the post-1945 nuclear taboo.