Thursday, November 17, 2022

War in Ukraine: latest developments

 Ukrainian forces have ‘recaptured’ Kherson. This, however, is the result not of a battle for the city but of a decision by the new Russian commander to withdraw from areas west of the River Dnieper. Russian supply lines had become too extended and were too vulnerable to attack. Although the withdrawal was in response to real military achievement on the part of Ukrainian forces, talk of Ukraine ‘winning the war’ bears no relation to reality. On the contrary, Ukraine now faces a sharp deterioration in its position.

During the first stage of the war, now drawing to a close, Ukraine’s impressive performance has been facilitated by the combination of two factors. On the one hand, the old Russian command complacently overestimated Russian superiority, undermined as it was by poor force management, corruption, and low morale, and adopted an overambitious war plan. On the other hand, Ukraine derived enormous benefit from a generous supply of advanced Western weaponry, including ‘game changers’ like  the ‘iconic’ shoulder-fired precision-guided Javelin antitank missile, the 155-millimeter long-range (up to 40 km) M777 howitzer, and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). 

This supply is now running down. US stocks have fallen to levels that the Pentagon is determined to reserve for other contingencies, such as war with China or in Korea. New production on the scale needed to support a long conventional proxy war with Russia would take up to four years to develop and require the US economy to be put on a wartime footing. For the time being at least, Ukraine will have to make do with smaller quantities of less powerful weapons – for instance, the 105-millimeter howitzer, with smaller payload and shorter range (11 km).[1]

It no longer seems realistic, if it ever was, for Ukraine to aim at the reconquest of the Donbass, Crimea, or the land bridge connecting the two – areas where powerful Russian forces are concentrated and deeply entrenched. It is these areas that Russia will surely insist on keeping in the ‘realistic’ negotiations for which foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is calling. 

The explosion in Poland – a NATO member state — on November 15 reminds us of the ever-present risk of the war in Ukraine escalating to nuclear Armageddon by accident or mistake. The restrained response of Western leaders is reassuring (NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has acknowledged that the blast is likely to have been triggered by Ukrainianair defense systems). But the risk cannot be eliminated altogether.[2] Alternatively, prolongation of the war into 2023 may lead to Armageddon by stages, with pressure building up for a ‘no fly zone,’ the open and direct deployment of NATO ground troops (initially, no doubt, as trainers and advisers), and the battlefield use of tactical nuclear weapons.     

Winter is approaching. The weather will impose a pause in hostilities. Let us hope that good sense prevails and the pause will be used to end the war.                


[1] Natasha Turak, 9/28/22.

[2] The growing risk of nuclear Armageddon cannot be ignored. Ali Abunimah with Rania Khalek, 10/26/22.

Stephen Shenfield

War in Ukraine: latest developments - World Socialist Party US (

No comments: