Ground Softening For Big Russian Offensive

It is still too early to say whether the direction of the Ukraine war has changed, but there is increasing evidence that Ukraine’s inability to penetrate Russian defenses along the southern line, and challenges in the directions of Kupyansk, Lyman and Bakhmut suggests the entire war could be reaching a decisive conclusion.

It is, for that reason, that the Biden administration is asking Congress for $20 billion for Ukraine. The idea seems to be to provide psychological support to both President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian army.

This time, however, Congress may not rubber stamp this outlandish money request. It is not clear why US$20 billion is needed, and sentiment in the US and Europe is starting to shift toward finding a solution to this costly and difficult war.

Concerns range from depleting US strategic reserves to prolonging a conflict that increasingly looks like it will end up badly in a Ukrainian defeat. While opposition is well short of a majority, further battlefield setbacks could lead Congress to change its mind on financial requests that break the bank.

One thing is certain: It is unlikely that any Washington politician can mobilize public support for the war.

Information about Russian operations, particularly in the Kupyansk direction, is hard to find. The Russians are not calling their operations an offensive, although unconfirmed reports say that Russia has mustered 100,000 or more troops for their operation in this area, and have moved in a lot of heavy equipment.

Most revealing was a convoy of BM-21 multiple rocket launchers, seen heading to the area. There also have been reports of Ukrainian units refusing to fight, and while information on such mutinies has been suppressed, it seems to have happened in the past few days.

Zelensky is hoping to retake Bakhmut, his key objective before he lost the city to Wagner forces. At the moment Bakhmut city is not threatened. Instead, the Ukrainians have been trying to take back settlements to the north and south of the city.

The latest information is that early Ukrainian advances in both directions have been repulsed, and that any hope Zelensky may have of creating a victory on the ashes of Bakhmut seems to have failed to materialize.

The Bakhmut venture, once it is finally sorted out, could create a huge internal problem for Zelensky. He is about to fire his defense minister, the man who fronted for him in getting arms from Europe and the United States. Anticipated replacement candidates are, for the most part, inexperienced and unconnected to the war.

Oleksiy Reznikov, the sitting defense minister, may be tipped to be sent to the UK as the Ukrainian ambassador. No one can say for sure whether Ukraine’s military still supports Zelensky, but as more and more cracks appear in Kiev, it is a good bet that they may take matters into their own hands. Should that happen, Zelensky will likely be deposed.

Read more.

Originally published by Asia Times


Stephen Bryen

Senior Fellow

EDITORS NOTE: This Center for Security Policy column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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