Nearly two months after Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s armed forces won the Battle of Kyiv and are in the process of carrying out counter-offensive and cleanup operations in the suburbs outside of the nation’s capital.
Such military prowess was not conceived of either before or when the war began. Moscow assumed the war would be short and the Ukrainian military would be easily routed, with the takeover of Kyiv coming a mere three days after the Russian Federation’s forces had crossed the border. This was to be immediately followed by the establishment of a pro-Kremlin puppet government.
However, the Ukrainian military fought ferociously and held the line. Much to the surprise of the international community, it is now counterattacking on multiple fronts, while awaiting the next phase of the war – the Battle of the Donbas – in the country’s east.
At the time of writing, Ukraine’s forces are still fighting and winning hard-fought battles against a hungry, undersupplied, logistically challenged, and increasing demoralized and depleted Russian army, which has suffered unit losses as high as 20%.
Even if conservative estimates are to be believed, in nearly two months of fighting, Russia has suffered, according to NATO estimates, up to 20,000 dead, and up to 40,000 soldiers that have been either wounded, taken as prisoners, or have gone missing.
The apparent success of Ukraine’s military was not conceived of because of the grotesque intelligence failures regarding the quality and morale of the defenders. The failure to gather such intelligence and adequately analyze might just yet produce an astonishing result – Russia losing to Ukraine on the field of battle.
Russia’s intelligence failures have made its invasion of Ukraine a military travesty. Simply said, they should have known better. Assuming the success of their attempted blitzkrieg, the planned “decapitation” of the Ukrainian government and the installation of a sympathetic replacement meant the planners in the Kremlin simply failed in their understanding of Ukraine’s armed forces.
Putin assumed that Ukrainians would submit to his will. He was, of course, wrong.
Since the Maidan uprising eight years ago, which politically formed and hardened Ukrainian resolve against the values of Vladimir Putin’s Russky Mir (“the Russian World”), he failed to understand the depth of the transformation occurring in Ukrainian society. More specifically, he misjudged the depth to which the Maidan generation had committed philosophically, psychologically, and spiritually to building a dignity-based democratic society.
This generation, which is shouldering the military effort against Russia’s armed forces, was determined to exercise its individual freedoms and conceive of a life where they could pursue their economic ambitions within a free market, slowly creating a society based on the rule of law and a sense of fairness and justice.
These were not some wishes, but they were actually doing it. Ukraine was in the process of building a middle class, becoming entrepreneurs, business people, and the creators of art. They were transitioning to successfully do business throughout the world, rejecting the corruption and oligarchic forms of economic and social life that had dominated the country in the post-Soviet 1990s and early 2000s.
One thing that Putin did clearly understand was that Ukraine was well on the road to establishing a free and democratic society. Though he possesses a rather perverted sense of history, he is conscious of the fact that Ukraine has always been the religious, political and cultural leader in the region. For example, Eastern Orthodox Christianity came to the region on the banks of the Dnipro river in 988. Kyiv, as the capital of the medieval Kyivan Rus federation, was an intellectual and trading center centuries before Muscovy even came into existence.
Overcome with a sense of Russian imperialistic chauvinism, the Kremlin needs to control Kyiv in order to co-opt the recorded historical legacy of Kyivan Rus. Ukrainians, categorically, will not allow this to happen.
Putin’s goal is to destroy Ukraine’s quest for freedom and democracy. Put in the most simple of terms, Ukraine’s quest and resistance existentially challenges the governing assumptions of Putin’s dictatorship and the so-called spiritual and philosophical underpinnings of the Russky Mir.
Ukrainians are resisting because they believe that they themselves must be the sole arbiters of the future of their lives. They demand, and have earned the right, to make decisions for themselves within the context of the world’s democratic nations. Thinking of Ukraine’s new modern narrative, the keywords of its new narrative are: ‘independence’ and ‘sovereignty’. The citizens of the world’s democracies understand this and that is why they support Ukraine in its fight against Russia.
Putin’s intellectual framework and psyche cannot conceive of an independent Ukrainian state. In many ways, Putin remains an old Soviet man, caught in a historic imperialistic nostalgia for past Soviet relevance continually haunted by its demise and irrelevance. Putin is simply angry that he cannot have his way and have people do what he says.
Post-Maidan, he has continually attempted to undermine and sabotage the resolve of the Ukrainian nation to move towards their European future. Realizing the failure of his efforts, his psyche – long captured and obsessed with the idea of establishing a post-Soviet Russian Empire – seeks to destroy Ukraine.
For Ukrainians, this was never a secret, but many tried to bury this truth because admitting it would have led them to a reality that they now see. Nonetheless, they warned their Western partners. At the same time, the West also failed to conceive of what is now a hellish reality as no one wants to read, let alone contemplate or actually see the real manifestation of Dante’s Inferno.
The war on Ukraine is a result of Putin’s inability to halt, let alone slow, Ukrainians’ political, economic, and national life away from Russia’s sphere. Ukraine’s resistance is a sign that they are willing to die for their freedom, their sovereignty, and their independence. These are the essential foundations of their emergence as a modern and democratic nation.
The Western mind has long failed to understand the depths of the cynicism and barbarity of the Russian soul. It cannot understand, nor does it want to conceive of, the evil fruit of Russia’s behavior. If it did, then why did it not arm Ukraine earlier? In this part of the world, any sign of weakness is exploited, and perhaps most intriguing is the prevailing attitude in these parts, “If I can’t have something, especially if its good, you can’t have it either”.
Putin doesn’t respect human life. Never once has he recognized Ukrainians as a distinct people in possession of a unique culture and history, nor its right to a sovereign state and independence of choosing its national course. This sort of dehumanization only leads to atrocity, destruction, and genocide. The invasion of Ukraine is an expression of Russia’s chauvinist racism towards Ukraine.
In short, the barbarians are at Europe’s gate.
The biggest miscalculation made by Putin was his inability to grasp the resolve of Ukraine’s military and the determination of individual soldiers to resist Russia’s best troops in open battle. Their courage greatly changed the calculus and tenure of the war. This reality was also missed by Western intelligence forces. Nonetheless, history will record that it was Ukraine’s fighting men that took on Russia on the field of battle.
The men who are fighting against Russia will not accept any interference in their right to decide their own future. They are unwilling to compromise with any continued Russian influence on Ukrainian civic society.
They see Russia, and the values it expounds, as an existential threat to Ukraine’s military but also to its democratic political order, in addition to its culture and indeed its very existence. They see this war as part of a larger historic narrative of Ukraine – if it is to flourish, it must be rid of the oppressive hand of Moscow.
And finally, Ukraine’s greatest generation believes that they must destroy the Russian army in order to establish a precedent for future centuries; that being, “If you set foot on our land again, we will kill you”.
These men and women are the present and future leaders of Ukraine. From the poor intelligence that he received before his invasion began, Putin simply didn’t know this about Ukraine’s military. He does now.