Putin’s Plan B
“The goon called in by Putin to flatten cities…He is the worse of the worst.”
Putin’s Plan A called for the quick capture of Kyiv and the decapitation of the Ukrainian government. Ukraine’s heroic defenders combined with Volodymyr Zelensky’s inspired leadership to thwart the Russian war machine. Russia has now turned to Plan B, with troops focused on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. As the war enters a new phase, what does this mean for both sides?
The Advantage of Fighting at Home
Ukraine has thus far made the most of its home-field advantage. “People are motivated to defend their territory when it’s their home turf, more than people are motivated to attack it,” said Gideon Rose the author of How Wars End. “You can see that the soldiers and mercenaries on the Russian side are not particularly motivated, whereas the Ukrainians defending their homes are.” Kori Schake at the American Enterprise Institute points out, “The Ukrainians know where all the streets go. Everybody knows who lives where, whereas the Russians are fumbling their way around a foreign country.”
General Aleksandr Dvornikov, “The Butcher of Syria”
Russia had no single commander when it launched its invasion on February 24th. But that has now changed. President Putin has placed General Aleksandr Dvornikov in overall command of the Russian forces in Ukraine. Dvornikov, 60, previously served as the commander of the Russian forces in Syria. His brutal tactics of bombing hospitals and schools earned him the nickname, “The Butcher of Syria.” Retired Admiral James Stavridis bluntly described Dvornikova as, “The goon called in by Putin to flatten cities…He is the worse of the worst.” President Putin rewarded Dvornikova’s brutal attacks on civilians by granting him the “Hero of the Russian Federation” award.
In the first phase of the war, the Ukrainians successfully used small mobile weapons like Javelin and Stinger missiles to ambush and destroy Russian tanks and low-flying planes. But now the Ukrainians are pleading for tanks and big artillery guns that could be critical in the next phase of the war. They are getting some of what they want – but so far in small numbers. “They just need everything,” said Lawrence Freedman professor of war studies at King’s College London. “You know, wars are very greedy in using up material.”
Freedman said the fighting in the east could feature entrenched battles more suited to Russia’s large, hulking weapons. “The Ukrainians talk about it being like a World War II battle,” he said. “The two sides could be hammering away at each other with artillery.”
A Test of Endurance
There are no signs the war will end quickly. Many military analysts are forecasting months of fighting. So how much endurance can each side muster? On the Ukrainian side, about a quarter of the population has been driven from their homes. Many cities and towns have been badly battered, and the economy is in ruins. But the war has united Ukrainians who have shown a strong will to fight and no willingness to compromise.
Time for US Steel
The time for academic debates about the differences between “offensive” and “defensive” weapons has passed. Every day that President Biden delays is a day that the ruler he correctly brands a “murderous dictator” and a “pure thug” will continue to bomb hospitals, schools, and train stations while callously slaughtering innocent mothers and their children.
President Biden should heed Vladimir Lenin’s advice when he wrote, “You probe with bayonets: if you find mush, you push. If you find steel, you withdraw.” The time has come for Putin to find American steel. The renowned Lithuanian writer
Kristina Sabaliauskaite has warned the West that if Putin does not face determined resistance he will continue to view “the world as just a cake to be sliced by those who happen to have a knife.”
FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION AND WRITING
- As the Ukraine War enters a new phase what is one Ukrainian advantage?
What is one Russian advantage? Who do you think will have the upper hand?
- Write a letter to President Biden offering advice on what policy he should follow in the next phase of the Ukraine War.
- “If you find mush, you push. If you find steel, you withdraw.” – Do you think Putin has thus far encountered mush or steel?
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Today’s Commentary drew upon information from ABC News with David Muir, NBC News with Lester Holt, and CBS News with Norah O’Donnell.
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