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Why Ukraine is Losing the War

Updated: Mar 24

Ukraine has repelled the Russian invasion for nearly two years. With a failed counteroffensive this summer, it is unlikely that it will see a continuation in the immense amount of aid supplied by NATO. If this is the case, Russia needs only to bide its time. Ukraine has miraculously maintained a stalemate; however, this will likely change as Western aid erodes.

The war in Ukraine is the worst conflict in Europe since WWII. There have already been more than half a million casualties on the battlefield, and more than 6 million refugees have been displaced from their homes.

The conflict has evolved into a slow-moving stalemate. It has become a contest of endurance and attrition — a situation in which Russia has a significant advantage. This advantage stems from the massive size disparity between the Russian and Ukrainian militaries.

Despite Ukraine’s valiant defense in the face of overwhelming odds, it is still losing the war.

In the early months of the war, however, Ukraine defied all expectations. The Russians underestimated their opponents. Experts in the West held the same misconception that Ukraine would quickly collapse. The United States went as far as to offer Zelenskyy an escape from the supposedly doomed Kiev. The heads of state in Germany and France both insisted that Ukraine should be brought to the table with Russia immediately.

But Zelenskyy stayed in Kiev, bolstering his nation’s resolve to stay in the fight. He famously said in reply to the White House, “I need ammunition, not a ride,” implying that there would be no meaningful conversations at any table.

He got what he asked for. In the nineteen months since the invasion began, Ukraine has been given around $100 billion in aid by 45 NATO countries and allies. This aid has provided an opportunity for Ukraine to resist the invasion to a degree that would be otherwise impossible.

Still, one could argue that this aid has not provided Ukraine a chance to win, so much as it has extended its suffering. Despite the courageous defense, the nation’s odds of success decreased with every casualty on the battlefield.

This conflict is now a war of attrition. Modern technology has shifted the impact, application and effectiveness of armored vehicles and aircraft. Multi-million dollar equipment is now vulnerable to relatively cheap drone munitions or shoulder-launched guided missiles. Units use drones to correct artillery fire using live video feeds, which dramatically increases the accuracy of those weapons. Artillery has claimed nearly 70% of the war’s casualties.

To solve this costly modern problem, combatants prefer to use small infantry units to bear the main brunt of the combat. This form of fighting is extremely slow and tedious relative to mechanized warfare, and it is eerily similar to the trenches of the First World War.

While the aid given by NATO has certainly been useful in extending the timeline of Ukraine’s defense, it has not given its armed forces any meaningful advantage. Since November of 2022, there have been no significant territorial changes.

In that time, Ukraine also lost the war’s largest battle of Bakhmut and attempted a failed counteroffensive. These failures both occurred at the height of Ukraine’s military aid, exposing the deficiency in artillery shells and manpower that prevented its battlefield successes.

The continued support from NATO nations is now being exhausted by the prolonged state of the war. Poland, for example, has opted to halt all aid to Ukraine in order to revamp its own military. Furthermore, the funds allocated by the US for the war are running out.

The vital support from key Western nations that has allowed Ukraine to maintain the stalemate is eroding. Meanwhile, Russia has an enormous advantage in every relevant military metric, from manpower to GDP to equipment and reserves.

As the support fades, Russia will proceed with its slow advance and begin to face increasingly weakened resistance. Ukraine’s leverage will fade with each retreat. Russia may elect to press on until it controls the whole of Ukraine or settle for annexing the Donbas and erecting a puppet state. Only time will tell.

But it seems that, for Kiev, time is running out.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

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