Video Above: The War in Donbas
When Russian convoys, armored vehicles and fighter jets began entering Ukraine months ago, much of the world might have expected a quick Russian victory with some resistance. Russia may have even assumed a quick victory as a kind of “fait accompli” before the invasion even started.
How in the world could they have been so oblivious to the reality of what has now been happening on the ground? The largely unanticipated yet extremely intense Ukrainian response has riveted the world and inspired a global outpouring of support.
Even still, despite the surprising Russian setbacks, combat losses, logistical and supply problems and widely recognized morale crisis, many likely figured that the sheer footprint and firepower of the Russian military would ultimately prevail.
However, months have not gone by and Kyiv fought off the Russians, Kharkiv is largely in Ukrainian hands, Ukrainian fighters have pushed Russians out of occupied territories all the way back to the Russian border and Russian fighter jets still cannot achieve air superiority.
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On top of this, while the Russian reportedly learned from their logistical and tactical mistakes North of Kyiv and were thought to be intelligently repositioning for a more successful attack, their Eastern campaign in Donbas is now faltering as well. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has said the Russians are making some gains in the area, yet they are uneven, challenged, often temporary and offset by sizable Ukrainian gains as well. Essentially, Russia is not quickly prevailing in its Eastern Donbas campaign, and there are widespread reports that US and allied provided weapons such as artillery are making an enormous difference.
The tenacity, courage and sheer will to fight among the Ukrainian defenders has captured the imagination of the world and inspired a massive collective international effort to support Ukraine. The arrival of drones, radar, air defenses and artillery has continued to massively reshape the fight for Ukrainians, who have successfully employed anti-armor weapons and hit-and-run asymmetrical combat tactics.
What all of this amounts to is a simple reality that, as shocking as it may have seemed months ago. Ukraine might win. What would that look like for Ukraine? A reporter asked Kirby, citing the head of Ukrainian intelligence saying that victory for Ukraine would be pushing the Russians back to their pre-2014 borders.
“Ukraine should determine for itself what it means to win this war. What we're focused on is making sure that we give them the tools and capabilities to better defend themselves and to be successful on the battlefield,” Kirby said.
Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.