Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy remains completely focused on the war, but reminders of Ukraine’s engrained corruption have also bubbled up, just as Russian President Vladimir Putin has prepared a new giant offensive for the upcoming one-year anniversary of his failed takeover of Ukraine.
I hate using the term “phase” to describe an ongoing war. There’s no real “phases” in the sense that Vladimir Putin’s Russia will do whatever works for them, and exploit any weakness or opportunity as they arise. Meanwhile, Zelenskyy’s plan is to survive, period, by convincing western powers to sell, loan, or give any weapons that can prove effective against Russia’s overwhelming advantage in manpower.
In detail, this means appealing to the European Union’s focus on having a proper democracy, and a strong stance against corruption. Zelenskyy ran on an anti-corruption platform, and in his first week in office he faced then-President Trump’s “perfect call” attempting to strong-arm him into launching an investigation of Hunter Biden’s connections to Ukrainian oligarchs in exchange for Trump’s not withholding congressionally-approved aid.
Now, to stroke the EU, Zelenskyy launched an anti-corruption purge, including a raid on billionaire Ihor Kolomoiskiy’s home, Reuters reported.
The SBU said it had uncovered the embezzlement of more than $1 billion at Ukraine’s biggest oil company, Ukrnafta, and its biggest refiner, Ukrtatnafta. Kolomoiskiy, who has long denied wrongdoing, once held stakes in both firms, which Zelenskiy ordered seized by the state in November under martial law.
This push happened just as Ukraine is to host a summit with EU members, who have shown tepid support for accepting Ukrainian membership in the short term, but encouragement to keep pushing for reforms. Putin responded by firing missiles, destroying an apartment building in Kramatorsk, a city in eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and NATO members have pledged more advanced weapons, reversing President Joe Biden’s caution about sending long-range missiles to Ukraine, capable of striking Russian home territory. The Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative allows the U.S. government to purchase weapons directly from manufacturers versus drawing from existing military stocks. This includes the Boeing-produced Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) “glide bomb,” capable of GPS-guided precision strikes of over 100km if air-launched. The U.S. is still denying the longest-range ATACMS missile, which has a strike range of nearly 300 kilometers.
And of course, the tanks are coming. In late January, President Biden announced that 31 M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks will ship to Ukraine using USAI funds, which is enough to equip a battalion. But the tanks, along with German Leopard and British Challenger armor, won’t arrive for a while. Putin’s 340,000-man buildup is already forming. This includes private Wagner Group formations recruited from prisons and other thug-infested wallows.
There’s no way to know how many Russians have actually been killed in the war so far. We can know that the Russians lie about it, claiming just under 6,000 dead last September. U.S. officials speculated the real number of killed and wounded exceeds 100,000. Then again, Ukraine has probably lost around the same number, with as many as 40,000 civilians killed, according to VOA.
The Russians have not run out of soldiers to throw into the meat grinder, and they still possess thousands and thousands of artillery rounds. However, U.S.-supplied HIMARS, Turkish drones and other gear supplied by NATO and western powers have managed to cut Russia’s rate of fire to about a third of what it was at the start of the war. At the rate things are going, Russia won’t be able to sustain its rate of consumption, long-term, while the arsenals of the west will keep Ukraine armed for years.
Time had been on Russia’s side, but now that balance is shifting. Putin likely understands this, and will use this year to push hardest to gain even the most symbolic of victories. Any cessation of hostilities while Russia occupies part of the Donbas, and keeps Crimea, would tie down hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian troops for a long time, and hinder the nation’s recovery, while Putin could use his oil profits to rebuild his military.
It will take time for Ukraine’s military to learn to operate U.S. and other western tanks, after years of using old Soviet gear. One thing that President Biden will avoid is bringing U.S. advisors in uniform into the country, and into the conflict. That’s the path to a new Vietnam, as America could be “sucked” into the war.
Putin’s current push demonstrates his devotion to cruelty and devastation of a nation he can’t have, so he will satisfy his failure with complete and utter destruction of the areas he is forced to leave.
All of this goes on in front of the backdrop where Ukraine eventually needs to clean up its domestic act, and play by EU rules. Plus, the relevance and power dynamics in NATO will likely shift, as Turkey flexes its status to keep Sweden out. We should, as Americans, and voters here, ask our candidates how exactly they see America’s role in the Ukraine fight. It’s Putin’s dream to put someone like Trump (or, Trump!) back in the White House, to force a return to isolation, anti-NATO cohesion, and suspicion of Zelenskyy.
The biggest risk that Ukraine has isn’t in its own military or tactics. It’s who will occupy the White House after 2024.
And another thing…
Remember in the middle of the whole sad affair of Donald Trump’s middle-finger to the U.S. government, where he stored classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, daring the government to “come and take them,” there was a raid on an ABC News producer’s home in Virginia? Everyone thought the raid was related to classified documents, or that James Gordon Meek was working on some big story related to the whole nasty affair.
Rolling Stone wrote that “sources familiar with the matter” said that federal agents found classified information on Meek’s laptop computer.
Well, it wasn’t that. It was far, far worse.
Meek, it turns out, was a child abuser, a sexual pedophile, in possession of some of the worst material imaginable, and chatting about it with people whose depravity matched his own.
If you have the stomach for it, read the DOJ affidavit. (Seriously, don’t read it if don’t want details or strong language.) I warned you. Here’s the link.
While we discuss how some police officers cross the line into brutality and abuse of citizens, and how the College Board smuggles radical indoctrination into Black Studies AP course curricula, and how classified documents find their way likely into every ex-President’s garages and closets and beach houses, remember this.
If not for the local police, and the FBI, along with many others in law enforcement, people who prey on children, who rape women, and who kill for pleasure would be on the street. In many other nations, they are, or they can bribe their way out of jail. America is a great nation because most of our police and politicians don’t take, or demand, bribes. Most of our law enforcement and justice officials want what regular citizens want: to lock up people who do what Meeks is accused of doing.
Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.
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