IT seems that the Russian attack on Ukraine is widespread, targeting the not inconsiderable Ukrainian military throughout the country. That’s ruthlessly logical. Indeed, President Putin has cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war. If the Russian Army can quickly overwhelm the Ukrainian armed forces he will avoid casualties and can then impose his new order from a position of strength. He can also negotiate with the West from a position of already having what he wants.
By (seemingly) attacking on multiple fronts he has made the Ukrainians’ tactical problem much harder – they’ll struggle to concentrate decisive force and their response may lack co-ordination. However that does not completely remove their ability to inflict casualties, possibly substantial ones. Moreover any delay they cause will create tension between Mr Putin and his army commanders. The Russian imperative is a quick occupation, a rapid destruction of the Ukrainian armed forces and the acceptance by the Ukrainian population that they have been defeated. If any of these interlinked objectives is not achieved Vlad the Invader has a problem, and one that will grow increasingly serious as casualties mount. He knows this too, which I think is largely behind his extraordinarily threatening statement.
Nato is rightly doing nothing directly in Ukraine, largely because there is little that it can do unless its members can agree to run the appalling risks associated with launching missiles into Russian and Belarussian sovereign territory.
Whether the United States shares that view I don’t know, and according to flight radar it’s had a B52 (possibly armed with cruise missiles) over Poland most of the past week, including today. If the Ukrainians aren’t overrun (or don’t capitulate) the options of supporting their fight open up. That support could range from sending weaponry to providing air support, the former being much simpler than the latter.
In his broadcast today Mr Johnson said: ‘Our mission is clear: diplomatically, politically, economically and eventually militarily this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure.’ No doubt he’ll expand on what he means by ‘eventually militarily’ when he addresses Parliament later today, but bridging the chasm between his rhetoric and our current military capability will take more than a few months.
The harsh truth today is that Ukraine stands alone.