The narrative that Ukraine’s military is headed toward certain victory against Russia has recently taken quite the hit.
Two weeks ago, NPR’s FRANK LANGFITT reported that both Ukraine and Russia have torn through their best-trained and most-experienced troops. After a year of fighting, both forces now rely heavily on conscripts — a development that favors Russia since Moscow has more people it can call up than Kyiv.
Then Monday evening, the Washington Post’s ISABELLE KHURSHUDYAN, PAUL SONNE and KAREN DeYOUNG dug even deeper, reporting that pessimism and fear is sweeping through Ukrainian ranks.
KUPOL, a lieutenant colonel, told the Post that his battalion is “unrecognizable” from the group he started out with. “Of about 500 soldiers, roughly 100 were killed in action and another 400 wounded, leading to complete turnover. Kupol said he was the sole military professional in the battalion, and he described the struggle of leading a unit composed entirely of inexperienced troops.”
“We don’t have the people or weapons,” a senior Ukrainian official also told them. “And you know the ratio: When you’re on the offensive, you lose twice or three times as many people. We can’t afford to lose that many people.”
CNA’s MICHAEL KOFMAN, who recently traveled to Ukraine, said the reporting accurately depicts the situation on the ground. “I think some of the prevailing narratives on this war lack nuance, depicting something akin to ‘Lord of the Rings’ and saying it’s a documentary. Hence the reality can be sobering and jarring,” he said, noting that there’s been realism within Ukrainian ranks for a while now. He’s also unsure these stories say much about Ukraine’s ability to pull off an offensive, and remains cautiously optimistic.
Ask other Ukrainian and U.S. officials and they’ll push back on the general narrative. Russia is on the backfoot and its offensive hasn’t produced results. Morale is higher than the media portrays, and the West’s military and economic backing will persist for — say it with us — “as long as it takes.”
“The Russians may have a bigger population and more flesh to throw into the fight, but they are suffering casualties at a rate much higher than the Ukrainians are,” NSC spokesperson JOHN KIRBY told reporters Tuesday in response to a question from NatSec Daily. The Ukrainians are “handling their level of manpower needs with a level of dexterity that is not fully appreciated,” noting that Kyiv can withdraw full battalions from the battlefield for training in places like the U.S.
EUGENE CHAUSOVSKY, a senior director at the New Lines Institute think tank, said Ukraine’s military does have challenges mounting a counteroffensive against Russia and has suffered high casualty rates. “On the other hand, Ukraine also has an interest in playing up such challenges to secure greater military support from the U.S. and NATO, and perhaps even using it as an information tactic to throw off the Russians,” he continued.
Russia, meanwhile, is starving for artillery shells, the Wall Street Journal’s MATTHEW LUXMOORE and EVAN GERSHKOVICH report. “Analysts estimate that Russia is firing some 10,000 shells a day, down from 20,000 to 30,000 last summer — but still well above Ukraine’s 3,000 or so,” they write.
“On the other hand, Ukraine also has an interest in playing up such challenges to secure greater military support from the U.S. and NATO, and perhaps even using it as an information tactic to throw off the Russians,”
The first victim of war is the truth … or, the AFU is a master of deception.
So who is lying?
Who is lying? Who knows? The mafiosi, for sure.
Michael Kofman is an American of Ukrainian extraction and is a frequent guest on Brian Whitmore’s podcast.
So, what he says is usually reliable.
I didn’t mean him with the saying about truth being the first victim.