On being ... obscene

 By Ingrid Sapona 

Call me naïve, but I was shocked when I read recent news to the effect that the current Ukrainian counteroffensive is being waged – in part – to demonstrate to western governments that the arms and support they’ve provided Ukraine is paying off. According to the New York Times, “There is little doubt the new military drive will influence discussions of future support for Ukraine as well as debates about how to guarantee its future.” That certainly explains why there’s been so much talk about the timing of the counteroffensive – to heck with the element of surprise. (Maybe there is no such thing as surprise in an era of satellite and drones, I don’t know…) 

Obviously, how Ukraine fares in the counteroffensive matters. If, for example, Ukraine retakes land or inflicts heavy damage to Russian military forces and equipment, Russian morale may suffer, which could impact Putin’s calculus. The more Russian weaponry and equipment is lost in battles, the more countries like Poland may feel it’s less likely that Russia might decide to roll into their territory. Of course, if Russia is severely depleted of personnel or equipment, there’s also the obvious concern it might turn to nuclear weapons. Ultimately, Ukraine’s and Russia’s view of their respective successes/failures – counteroffensive or not – will impact their willingness to negotiate an end to the war and the terms they might accept. 

That same New York Times article also talked about what might happen if the Ukrainian counteroffensive fails. “If battle lines stay relatively unchanged or Ukraine is unable to recapture a significant city, some officials in allied capitals or Congress will likely raise doubts about the war, especially if Ukrainians lose too many troops and a lot of equipment is destroyed.” 

What does it mean to have “doubts about the war”? What is to doubt? Ukraine was invaded and for nearly 16 months Ukrainians have been sacrificing their lives, livelihoods, and homes to fight off a force with imperial designs. They have shown themselves to be brave, resourceful, and resilient. And yet, per the New York Times, “… according to European diplomats, failure would look like a Ukrainian army that has not learned to fight, has lost equipment given to them in recent months and gained no territory to show for that…” How dare anyone imply that Ukraine has not “learned to fight” – they certainly haven’t been sitting by baking cakes. True, they have needed training in some of the advanced systems the allies have provided, but from most accounts, they have been quick studies.  

The NY Times article goes on to say that Biden and UK Prime Minister Sunak have indicated they will continue supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes. I hope that’s the case because the notion that continued support for Ukraine might hinge on the success of the counteroffensive is obscene. The allies can certainly take credit for having provided greatly needed support to Ukraine, including billions of dollars of equipment. But, anyone who thinks such aid is for the sole benefit of Ukraine is truly naïve. Countries aiding Ukraine are doing so in hopes that the battle doesn’t escalate into a full-out world war, as that would cost us all a hell of a lot more than just weapons. 

© 2023 Ingrid Sapona


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