Do We Really Know Who Is Winning in Ukraine? - The American Conservative (2022)

Foreign Affairs

We underestimated the Ukrainians and overestimated the Russians, but now we seem to be doing the reverse.

Do We Really Know Who Is Winning in Ukraine? - The American Conservative (1)

Who is winning the Russo-Ukraine war?

Ukraine is defeating Russia. With a little more Western assistance, Ukraine will defeat Russia. With increased and sustained aid, Ukraine will defeat Russia. Ukraine and Russia are locked in a potentially lengthy stalemate. Ukraine is giving way as Russia slowly achieves its objectives in the east. Ukraine is losing and Russia will eventually conquer the entire country.

The answer depends on who you listen to.

Yet the answer matters. Western preferences—for Kiev to defeat, even humiliate Moscow—might be coloring assessments of the state of the war and warping expectations for the future.

Russia’s attack was unjustified and criminal, causing needless death and destruction in Ukraine, and sacrificing Russian lives for no good reason. The U.S. and Europeans share the blame, having spent decades ignoring and dismissing security complaints from Moscow, a decision that turned out to be foolish, even reckless. However, that does not excuse Putin’s murderous aggression. Nor are Ukrainians his only victims; Vladimir Putin’s decision has sent shockwaves across nations and continents.

The greatest risk to the U.S. and European nations is an expansion of the war. Although Russia would lose any conventional contest with NATO, nuclear weapons could become the terrible equalizer. For that reason, the allies were initially cautious in supporting Kiev. President Joe Biden made clear that no American personnel would fight. And NATO members were reluctant to send highly visible or destructive weapons, like warplanes.

However, Ukraine’s early successes, which no amount of Kremlin propaganda could disguise, increased Kiev’s demands for aid and Western expectations of sending that aid. U.S. analysts estimated extravagant Russian personnel and materiel losses. Increasingly, Ukraine and its supporters imagined the possibility of victory.

Allied aid shipments burgeoned, with the U.S. Congress recently approving another $40 billion in assistance. Assessments of the fighting continued to offer glowing highlights of Ukrainian successes with little mention of any casualties. Ebullient U.S. officials spoke of killing Russian generals, sinking Russian ships, and weakening the Russian state.

This doubtless is what most Americans and Europeans desired. (The global South, including most of Latin America, Africa, and Asia, refused to join the West’s anti-Moscow bandwagon.) The rush to demonize any and all things Russian, including singers, conductors, and athletes, had the effect of shutting down diverse sources of information. The tech giants not only suppressed Russian propagandists, but Russian advocates. There is little objective discussion of the conflict’s course, even in mainstream sources. Ukrainian perspectives dominate, with think tanks acting as P.R. firms and leading journalists serving as P.R. flacks for Ukraine.

(Video) Can anyone win? Experts explain Russia Ukraine war latest

The appeal of supporting Ukraine is obvious: it is the victim of brutal aggression. But distorting reality does the country no favors. Dubious claims of success risk inflating expectations and causing future failures.

Of greatest concern for the people of Ukraine, the prospects for peace in the region appear increasingly remote. For instance, Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak declared: “The war must end with the complete restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” including areas seized in 2014, most notably the Crimea and much of the Donbass. Indeed, Mykhailo Podolyak, Kiev’s lead peace negotiator, appeared to foreclose talks entirely unless Moscow retreats first: “The forces must leave the country and after that the resumption of the peace process will be possible.”

If Kiev is winning, and likely to continue winning, such a demand might be reasonable. If not, however, then this position is a prescription for stalemate at best, or perhaps even defeat. Indeed, some mainstream voices are warning that all might not be well with Kiev’s planned victory march.

For instance, German Brigadier General Erich Vadrecently offered a far more pessimistic assessment than that which dominates Western airwaves:

[T]he Russians predominantly decide when, where, and with what forces, they strike. The Russians proceed slowly in Donbass in steps over a several kilometers broad front, and they also achieve gains in territory. It does not happen so fast here as during the initial operations in Kyiv, because they position themselves broader. And besides Mariupol, they control here also the other urban centers on the Sea of Azov, and the coast of the Black Sea. When one considers, it exists this option, which President Zelensky talks about, of a counterstrike for the reconquest of areas. But militarily-operationally this is far away from reality. The Russians are simply too strong in east Ukraine. They have on the ground and also in the air supremacy—that should not be misjudged. For counteroffensives, the Ukrainians do not have the materiel, and they would not succeed, if they had the materiel. [Translated by Karsten Riise, with Change News and Change Management.]

Vad dismissed claims that Western arms guarantee a Ukrainian breakthrough:

Ukraine’s logistical base is a thousand kilometers away, in Poland and Slovakia. That these weapons have to be relocated over thousands of kilometers through Ukraine to east Ukraine. And these supply lines are of course under fire from the Russians. By their cruise missiles, short range missiles, air force, by special forces, and reconnaissance. This way, a large part of these supplies is annihilated or captured on its way to east Ukraine. From a military-operational viewpoint, Ukraine only has a chance to win at the end of a long-lasting conflict if the costs for Russia are too high. That is, similar to Afghanistan for the West. Or Iraq for the USA. But the price would be enormously high [for Ukraine]. It would in the end be devastation of the country. That can, in my view, somehow never be the objective.

Independent journalistErnest Sipes expressed a similarly contrarian view:

Despite what the media is presenting, the army of the Russian Federation is not made up of rampaging Orcs who rape, murder, and pillage. And they have not, as we are told, [been] bested in every contest with the Ukrainian army. Additionally, Moscow’s army is not exhausted and out of fuel, equipment, and supplies. There have not been mass desertions from Russia’s army. What you are reading is the typical propaganda that always seems to show up in a war in this region. I saw the exact same thing and devices used in the 2008 South Ossetia War when I worked for the newspaper Georgia Today and that particular Russian invasion was occurring.

(Video) Why Putin’s military strategy in Ukraine has not gone according to plan

He criticized the invasion and dismissed Moscow’s justification. However, Sipes also cited Russian restraint: “If you accept that a decision has been made to only accomplish a relatively small set of specific goals as outlined above, it is easy to see that this is why there has been no out-and-out destruction of the infrastructure of Ukraine when it is well within the ability of Moscow to do so.”

Also providing a more balanced view isThomas Grahamarned, a former Russia director at the National Security Council: “We underestimated the Ukrainians and exaggerated the strength of the Russians. Now, I think we’re doing the reverse.” Assessing the state of the conflict, he added that “Russia still has significant resources that they can throw into this conflict today.”

No doubt, Kiev’s advocates will dismiss such claims. However, it is important to question the conventional wisdom of Russian doom. The campaign to silence dissenting voices gives credence to more pessimistic analyses.

It is essential for Ukraine’s leaders to base their policies on reality. Obviously, the best outcome for Ukraine would be a successful defense against invasion and counteroffensive to regain lost territory. However, continuing the war based on false assumptions could be disastrous. The World Bank estimated that Ukraine’s economy will be cutnearly in half this year. Almost13 million people, a third of the country’s population, have been displaced. More than five million of those people are refugees abroad. Ukrainian casualties certainly are in the thousands, though estimates vary widely. It would not be surprising if the number is substantially higher than claimed by Kiev. The destruction has been widespread and especially horrific in select cities.

Western policymakers, too, should act on facts rather than fantasies. Pouring money and arms into an extended conflict in Ukraine is dangerous as well as costly. Using Ukraine to fight a proxy war against Moscow risks Russian retaliation, especially when allied support is deadly and overt, even ostentatious. Moreover, expanding the war, which would highlight Russian military vulnerabilities, would increase pressure on Moscow to utilize nuclear weapons to forestall defeat. The U.S. and Soviet Union got through the entire Cold War without fighting a conventional conflict as both possessed nuclear weapons. The Cuban missile crisis was a near mass-death experience that should never be repeated.

The famed “fog of war” may be inevitable. However, confusion is made worse when propaganda supplants news. With media and tech giants, as well as government officials, committed to the Ukrainian cause, it becomes harder to learn what is really going on in the Russo-Ukraine war.

As it sets policy, Washington should seek the facts, even those beyond comfortable assumptions. So should Kiev, whose foreign minister admitted that battlefield success caused the government to enhance its aims: “the picture of victory is an evolving concept.” However, a Ukrainian victory is not certain. It probably isn’t likely. It might not even be possible. Given the uncertainty, the U.S. should push for negotiations, offering support to Kiev to make peace, and providing sanctions relief to Moscow if it does the same. People in Ukraine and Russia, and many beyond their borders, desperately need this war to end.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

(Video) What Ukraine needs to defeat Russia - Expert explains


Does the US support the Ukraine? ›

Since January 2021, the United States has invested more than $16.9 billion in security assistance to demonstrate our enduring and steadfast commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

How many troops has Russia lost in the Ukraine war? ›

U.S. officials have said that Russia has lost between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in its misguided war on Ukraine. A soldier watches Ukrainian artillerymen fire an M109 tracked self-propelled howitzer at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, May 12, 2022.

How many tanks does Russia have? ›

The Military Balance 2021 database says Russian storage facilities have around 10,200 tanks, including various T-72s, 3,000 T-80s, and 200 T-90s.

Is Ukraine a US friend? ›

History of relations

The United States enjoys cordially friendly and strategic relations with Ukraine and attaches great importance to the success of Ukraine's transition to a democracy with a flourishing market economy.

Why did Ukraine not join NATO? ›

Plans for NATO membership were shelved by Ukraine following the 2010 presidential election in which Viktor Yanukovych, who preferred to keep the country non-aligned, was elected President. Amid the unrest, caused by the Euromaidan protests, Yanukovych fled Ukraine in February 2014.

How is the United States helping Ukraine? ›

Since January 2021, the United States has committed more than $13.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine. The equipment the United States provides has changed as the Russian invasion has continued. Originally, the U.S. provided anti-armor and antiaircraft munitions, including the Javelin and Stinger systems.

How many Russian tanks has Ukraine captured? ›

Military analysts have suggested that Kyiv has taken some of Russia's most modern vehicles including the T-90. Open source investigators Oryx have calculated that more than 380 Russian tanks have fallen into Ukraine hands since the war began.

How many tanks has Ukraine destroyed? ›

Ukraine Reports has Destroyed 2,000 Russian Tanks, 254 Aircraft & 47,000 Soldiers - Warrior Maven: Center for Military Modernization.

How many Russians have left Russia? ›

In this third wave alone, nearly 300,000 Russian citizens have left Russia. Many have gone to Kazakhstan, Serbia, Georgia and Finland. Putin signed a decree introducing prison terms of up to 15 years for wartime acts, including voluntary surrender and desertion during mobilization or war.

Are Russian tanks better than American? ›

So basically the Abrams has an advantage of being proven and reliable design, that performs well during various military conflicts. Overall the new Russian tank is on par with the US Abrams tank. In some areas it is slightly superior than the Abrams, however it has got no cutting-edge superiority.

Who has the most powerful tank in the world? ›

Russia's T-14 is considered the most advanced tank in the world. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine. Russia has the largest stockpile of tanks in the world, and 1,200 of them are staged near the Ukrainian border. The most formidable Russian tank may be the T-14 Armata, but how does it match up against American armor?

How many tanks does NATO have? ›

There are roughly 200 tanks in service for each tank type, making a total of 800, plus there are roughly 1500 Leopard 2's in NATO service and roughly 2500 M1 Abrams the majority M1A2 and the rest M1A1.

Is Russia an ally of the US? ›

Russia and the United States maintain one of the most important, critical and strategic foreign relations in the world. Both nations have shared interests in nuclear safety and security, nonproliferation, counterterrorism, and space exploration. Embassy of Russia, Washington, D.C.

Why does the US want to help Ukraine? ›

The United States reaffirms its unwavering support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters. The U.S.-Ukraine relationship serves as a cornerstone for security, democracy, and human rights in Ukraine and the broader region.

Is NATO the strongest military alliance in the world? ›

NATO, which was formed in 1949, is the most powerful military alliance in the world. At its formation, NATO had 12 member countries, which has now increased to 29 member countries and four aspiring member countries.

Can a country at war join NATO? ›

Any decision to invite a country to join the Alliance is taken by the North Atlantic Council on the basis of consensus among all Allies. No third country has a say in such deliberations. NATO's ongoing enlargement process poses no threat to any country.

Who are the 29 countries in NATO? ›

The current member states of NATO are Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, ...

How much military aid has the US given Ukraine? ›

$2.8 Billion in Additional U.S. Military Assistance for Ukraine and Its Neighbors.

How much aid has America sent to Ukraine? ›

In total, the United States has now committed approximately $16.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since January 2021.

How much military aid goes to Ukraine? ›

On 5 May, President Macron announced $1.7 billion were donated to Ukraine so far in 2022.

How many Russian tanks have been destroyed? ›

Russia Has Lost Over 2,000 Tanks Since War Began—Ukraine.

How many tanks does USA have? ›

Military > Army > Main battle tanks: Countries Compared
3United States8,725
91 more rows

How many Russian tanks have been captured? ›

It is one of at least 380 Russian tanks seized since the war began, yet it is uniquely useful.

How many military vehicles has Russia lost? ›

Russia has seen as many as 80,000 casualties in Ukraine, according to a senior Pentagon official. Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters Russia has also lost as many as 4,000 armored vehicles.

How much do Russian tanks cost? ›

The Russian Army initially planned to acquire 2,300 T-14s between 2015 and 2020.
T-14 Armata
Unit cost$3.7–$4.6 million
Produced2014–2021 (prototypes), 2021–present (serial version)
28 more rows

How many fighter jets does Russia have? ›

Current Active Inventory: 3,829 Aircraft. The following represents an overview of the modern aerial fighting capabilities of the Russian Air Force (2022). The service currently counts 3,829 total units in its active aircraft inventory.

What is living in Russia like? ›

Life in Russia can be quite challenging. The climate is harsh and many cities have high levels of pollution. There is also a relatively high crime rate and a number of security issues to take into consideration.

How much is the population of Russia 2022? ›

The current population of the Russian Federation is 146,074,681 as of Saturday, October 1, 2022, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data.

Can Russian citizens travel to Australia? ›

Open. Australia is open for travel. Most visitors from Russia can travel to Australia without restrictions. No quarantine is required.

What is the USA's best tank? ›

In the M1A2 Abrams main battle tank, the U.S. military possesses one of the most capable tanks in the market. Manufactured by General Dynamics Land Systems, the M1A2 Abrams is one of the most advanced main battle tanks in the world.

Do Russian tanks have toilets? ›

Russia's latest battle tank has been upgraded in a way that will relieve its crew. The designers behind the Armata system that supports heavy armored vehicles such as the new T-14 tank have now added a toilet, allowing troops to tend to their bodily needs without exposing themselves during battle.

Can a Javelin missile destroy an M1 Abrams? ›

Its a 19lb warhead, which is roughly twice something like an RPG. A tank's roof is nowhere near as strong as the front where composite armour is placed. Javelins are top attack missiles and can certainly penetrate the tank from above. m1 isnt that strong.

Are there toilets in tanks? ›

Tanks do not have any bathroom facilities. First of all, there is no room for a toilet. Tank has to be concealed from the outside world, ideally, so tank's bathroom would have to have some sort of waste management system.

What is the fastest tank ever? ›

More than 3,000 were produced and used as a reconnaissance vehicle or a light tank. It holds the Guinness world record for the fastest production tank; recorded doing 82.23 km/h (51.10 mph) at the QinetiQ vehicle test track, Chertsey, Surrey, on 26 January 2002.
FV101 Scorpion
Maximum speed72.5 km/h (45.0 mph)
26 more rows

What is currently the best tank in the world? ›

The top ten tanks today are the German KF51 Panther, the American Abrams M1A2, the Russian T-14 Armata, the Korean K2 Black Panther, the Chinese T-99, the German Leopard 2, the French Leclerc XL, the British Challenger 2, the Israeli Merkava V, and the Japanese Type-90.

Who has the strongest army in Europe? ›

As a single nation Russia has the largest force of a European nation with 850,000 active personnel, or ready to deploy.

Who has the biggest army in the world? ›

The top 10 largest militaries based on active personnel:
  • United States - 1,390,000.
  • North Korea - 1,200,000.
  • Russia - 850,000.
  • Pakistan - 640,000.
  • Iran - 575,000.
  • South Korea - 555,000.
  • Vietnam - 470,000.
  • Egypt - 450,000.
27 Aug 2022

What is the best charity to donate to for Ukraine? ›

The best charities for supporting Ukraine are United24, Razom for Ukraine, and the Prytula Foundation. These charities work on the frontlines in Ukraine, delivering life-saving services to people affected by the ongoing conflict. They also raise funds to support local Ukrainian relief programs.

Can Americans host Ukrainian refugees? ›

"It is totally possible for any U.S. citizen or permanent resident or anyone here in lawful immigration status to sponsor a Ukrainian refugee," said Bucin.

Can you sponsor a Ukrainian refugee in the US? ›

The United States is among the countries that are welcoming Ukrainian refugees, and Americans can help by becoming refugee sponsors. There has been an increase in demand for sponsors since the Uniting for Ukraine program was launched in April.

What would happen if US and Russia went to nuclear war? ›

A full-scale nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia would see global food systems obliterated and over 5 billion people die of hunger. A global study led by Rutgers climate scientists estimates post-conflict crop production.

How strong is US military compared to Russia? ›

In short, Russia is ranked 2nd out of 140 in military strength while the US is ranked 1st. As per the army population, Russia has 142,320,790 soldiers while The US has 334,998,398 soldiers. The available manpower is 69,737,187 with Russia and 147,399,295 with the United States.

Is Russia 3 miles from the United States? ›

Separating the two islands is the International Date Line (IDL) which is also the border between Russia and the United States. A mere 2.4 miles (3.8 kilometers) separates the two islands.

What is the US doing to help Ukraine? ›

Since January 2021, the United States has committed more than $13.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine. The equipment the United States provides has changed as the Russian invasion has continued. Originally, the U.S. provided anti-armor and antiaircraft munitions, including the Javelin and Stinger systems.

How can we help Ukraine? ›

  • The Department has partnered with, an independent charity, to help address the humanitarian needs of the people affected by the Russian aggression against Ukraine. ...
  • Airlink.
  • All Hands and Hearts.
  • CARE.
  • Catholic Relief Services.
  • ChildFund.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.
  • Humanity & Inclusion.
14 Mar 2022

Which country is helping Ukraine in war? ›

The Republic of Georgia has sent over 400 tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine as of 1 April 2022. The first 100 tons that were sent on 27 February 2022, included 30 types of medicines, oxygen concentrators, additional transfusion equipment and blood.

What is US relationship with Ukraine? ›

U.S.-Ukraine Relations

The United States established diplomatic relations with Ukraine in 1991, following its independence from the Soviet Union. The United States attaches great importance to the success of Ukraine's transition to a modern democratic state with a flourishing market economy.

How much aid has America sent to Ukraine? ›

In total, the United States has now committed approximately $16.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since January 2021.

Did US deploy troops to Ukraine? ›

A total of 160 members of the Florida National Guard have been deployed to Ukraine since late November training and advising and mentoring Ukrainian armed forces. The troops, assigned to the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, are part of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine.

Does China support Russia on Ukraine? ›

[Statement] Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe asserts “on the Ukraine crisis, China has never provided any material support to Russia,” noting that “China-Russia relations is a partnership, not an alliance.

Has France sent weapons to Ukraine? ›

The most significant French contribution to Ukraine's defence consists of eighteen 155mm Caesar self-propelled guns (SPGs) delivered from April 2022 onwards, with the latest batch of six Caesars announced during a visit to Kyiv by President Macron on the 16th of June.

Is Canada helping Ukraine? ›

Canada's support will benefit over 1,900 farmers and over 4,800 people overall, including by providing employment for, and protecting the livelihoods of, internally displaced persons in Ukraine.

Does the U.S. buy wheat from Ukraine? ›

The United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is providing over $68 million in additional funding to the UN World Food Program (WFP) to purchase, move, and store up to 150,000 metric tons of Ukrainian wheat to help respond to the world's worst food crises.

Why does the U.S. want to help Ukraine? ›

The United States reaffirms its unwavering support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters. The U.S.-Ukraine relationship serves as a cornerstone for security, democracy, and human rights in Ukraine and the broader region.

Are U.S. and Japan allies? ›

From the late 20th century and onwards, the United States and Japan have had firm and active political, economic and military relationships. US government officials generally consider Japan to be one of its closest allies and partners.

What weapons did us give Ukraine? ›

Major weapons
  • High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and ammunition. ...
  • 1,500 Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles. ...
  • 155mm Howitzers. ...
  • 105mm Howitzers. ...
  • 120mm mortar systems. ...
  • National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS); ...
  • Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems.
26 Aug 2022

How much money does us give to other countries? ›

Allocation. In fiscal year 2020 (October 1, 2019 - September 30, 2020), the US government allocated $51.05 billion US dollars in economic and military assistance to foreign countries. Of this total, $39.41 billion dollars was spent on economic assistance, $25.64 billion of which was dispersed by USAID.

How much has the UK given to Ukraine? ›

The UK's military support for Ukraine is in addition to the £1.5billion of humanitarian and economic support provided to the country since February.

Where is the US in active combat? ›

In addition to Afghanistan, the U.S. has reduced its military presence in several other conflict zones in recent years. It has lowered troop levels in Iraq from 170,000 in 2007 to 2,500 in 2021, and in Syria from 1,700 in 2018 to around 900 today.

How many NATO troops are there? ›

In 2021, the United States had the largest number of military personnel out of all North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries, with 1.35 million troops.
Number of military personnel in NATO countries in 2021 (in 1,000s)
CharacteristicNumber of military personnel in thousands
12 more rows
5 Aug 2022

How many fighter jets does Ukraine have? ›

Russia Ukraine Fighter Jets

Ukraine operates only 69 fighter jets and Russia has 772 fighter aircraft, an imbalance of sizable proportions, according to Global Firepower.


1. The Truth About Russia and Ukraine: Narratives, Moralizing, and Humanitarian Crises, with Rod Dreher
(Megyn Kelly)
2. Ukrainian's Father In Russia Didn't Believe Him About Putin's War
3. Chris Hayes: Three Possible Ways The Russia-Ukraine Conflict Could End
4. How HIMARS Changed the War in Ukraine - Russian Invasion DOCUMENTARY
(Kings and Generals)
5. War And Lies: Trump Republicans Confronted With Past Putin Praise On TV
6. Why Putin Didn’t Invade Ukraine During Trump’s Presidency

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