The next six months are critical for Ukraine, and all bets are off as to its outcome. Even so, the US mainstream press has turned negative about Ukraine’s prospects. This is mostly due to what I call “worm-hole reportage” – news reports that are subjective, incomplete, selective, and often influenced by Kremlin narratives.

For example, The New York Times’ headline on May 18 was “Russians Poured Over Ukraine’s Border” into the Kharkiv Region and that this was a “stunning incursion”, boding badly for Kyiv.

Another gloomy headline followed: “Under Relentless Russian Assault, Ukraine Adopts a Defensive Crouch”. This coverage resulted in military historian Phillips O’Brien weighing in and on May 19 he wrote that “much of the portrayed Russian success is based on prediction”. The facts are that Russian ground troops have scored tiny successes in Kharkiv and crawled to a halt along the main front in Donbas, he wrote. “What we have seen [of Russian forces] in both theaters would be classified as being a failure,” concluded O’Brien. “Their losses are piling up. And indeed, there are signs that Ukraine might finally be getting its hands on more ammo.”


The facts are that there is no “breakthrough” by Russia in Kharkiv or Donbas or anywhere else. And it’s also true that Ukraine’s armed forces are impressive. After all, “David” has prevented “Goliath” from fully occupying the country for two years while also causing grievous damage to Putin’s military and reputation. Kyiv’s mobilization is working (700,000 have just signed up for possible conscription under new criteria) and Kyiv’s war strategy to take the war to Russians is working.

Presumed Ukrainian Air Base Targeted by Russian Combined Missile and Drone Attack
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Presumed Ukrainian Air Base Targeted by Russian Combined Missile and Drone Attack

The primary target of the strike was Starokonstyantyniv in the Khmelnytsky region, which is widely thought to be home to a vast Ukrainian air base.

Attacks inside Russia have forced Moscow to divert forces and guns away from the frontlines to protect its pipelines, rails, refineries, and ports. And experts say that Ukrainian bombing campaigns have reduced Russia’s refining capacity by 7 percent or 370,500 barrels per day and its attacks on Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet has worked and Ukrainian grain again flows to world markets at pre-war levels.


The Black Sea wins are especially remarkable, given that Ukraine had virtually no navy at the outset of hostilities. But the technological superiority of Ukrainians resulted in the creation of a fleet of unmanned sea drones that have driven most of Russia’s ships out of Crimea or to the bottom of the sea. Its drones, special ops, and intelligence have reduced Russia’s fleet there by one-third.

Ukraine’s unique drone army, manned remotely by thousands of pilots, has also overcome shortages of artillery, jet fighters, and manpower. Drones have disabled tanks and battalions, causing Russian casualties to soar. This is increasing as ammo reaches Ukrainian frontlines. In 2022, Russia lost 400 soldiers per day; in 2023, 658 per day, and so far in 2024, the tally is 899 per day. Such carnage also reduces the quality of Russia’s remaining armed forces because fallen soldiers are being replaced by poorly trained, young recruits.


But the next six months are critical. There will be European and American elections and Ukraine needs ongoing assistance as Putin doubles down. The outcome of the U.S. election is especially critical, but, whether or not Trump wins, Europe must step up more than it has in the past. In an interview with The New York Times, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky also challenged the West over its hesitations and urged NATO to shoot down Russian missiles in flight over Ukraine. He argued that this would be a defensive tactic, not a direct attack on Russia.

“So my question is, what’s the problem? Why can’t we shoot them down? Is it defense? Yes. Is it an attack on Russia? No. Are you shooting down Russian planes and killing Russian pilots? No. So what’s the issue with involving NATO countries in the war? There is no such issue.”

Zelensky correctly contrasted NATO’s reluctance to protect Ukraine’s skies with the effort by the U.S. and Britain in helping Israel shoot down drones and missiles from Iran last month. “This is what we saw in Israel,” Mr. Zelensky said. “Not even on such a large scale…Shoot down what’s in the sky over Ukraine. And give us the weapons to use against Russian forces on the borders.” He added that it was irrational for European nations with hundreds of Patriot air defense systems to have denied Ukraine’s request for just seven Patriots.


Fortunately, a recent pledge made by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to provide Ukraine with $50 billion is a Godsend. “We’re not about to fold,” she said and is working on a lending initiative for the G7 using Russian frozen assets as collateral. Moscow has threatened retribution, but Yellen brushed this off. “I think we see considerable interest among all of our partners in a loan structure that would bring forward the stream of windfall profits.”

Ukrainians remain resilient and there’s no reason to raise a white flag or for media “doom-sayers” to propagate instead of experts. A case in point is General Christopher Cavoli, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, who set the record straight about Kharkiv last week and said: “The Russians don't have the numbers necessary to do a strategic breakthrough in Kharkiv. More to the point, they don't have the skill and the capability to do it, to operate at the scale necessary to exploit any breakthrough to strategic advantage.”

Russia’s military is mediocre and Putin’s most effective weapons of war have been Donald Trump, Victor Orban, and Western leaders in rich countries who have withheld aid to Ukraine because they were timid or compromised. “Russia cannot defeat Ukraine or the West - and will likely lose - if the West mobilizes its resources to resist the Kremlin,” wrote the esteemed military journal ISW, or Institute for the Study of War.


“Existing and latent capability dwarfs that of Russia. The combined gross domestic product (GDP) of NATO countries, non-NATO European Union states, and our Asian allies is over $63 trillion. The Russian GDP is on the close order of $1.9 trillion. Iran and North Korea add little in terms of materiel support. China is enabling Russia, but it is not mobilized on behalf of Russia and is unlikely to do so. If we lean in and surge, Russia loses.”

Zelensky added that Western hesitation is due to fear of nuclear escalation but is “overblown”. Putin wouldn’t use nukes, he said. “He may be irrational, but he loves his own life.” He also pointed out that some countries pull their punches because they cling to trade and diplomatic ties with Russia. “Everyone keeps the door slightly ajar,” he said.

The next six months is critical for the world too, posted exiled Russian oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky: “We just have to use ALL immobilised Russian [financial] assets NOW for Ukraine or it loses the war. It is that simple/stark. If Putin succeeds in Ukraine, NATO borders will no longer be an obstacle.”


The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

Reprinted from [email protected] – Diane Francis on America and the World

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