The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Good-Bye, Severodonetsk!

Posted on | June 26, 2022 | Comments Off on Good-Bye, Severodonetsk!

Was this Ukrainian defeat unavoidable?

Weeks of intense fighting has finally led to a full Russian occupation of the Eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, according to the local mayor on Saturday. Russian forces have gained control and forced Ukrainian defenders to retreat the city that’s pretty much completely destroyed.
“The Russians have fully occupied Severodonetsk, our military has retreated to more prepared positions,” Severodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said Saturday in a TV interview.
Ukrainian forces have moved south to the city of Lysychansk, which is a few miles away and south of the Siverskyi Donets River. Russian forces are expected to continue fighting in Lysychansk to gain further ground in the Luhansk region. Russian forces and pro-Russian rebels have already begun trekking into Lysychansk, according to the BBC.

As I have been saying since mid-May, the key to defending Severodonetsk was Ukraine’s position at Lyman, 35 miles to the west. Because it was also on the northern (or eastern) bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, if Ukraine “could reinforce Lyman and launch a counterattack toward Zarichne and Kreminna, this would force the Russians to retreat from the river at Yampil and would also relieve pressure against Sievierodonetsk.” What happened instead was that Lyman fell to the Russians about two weeks later, allowing Russia then to concentrate their attack on Severodonetsk. So Ukraine went from victory at Kharkiv to defeat at Severodonetsk in the span of about six weeks. And while Ukraine still holds Lysychansk, they’re at risk of being cut off by the Russians advancing from Popasna, so that the whole Donbas region would be lost.

These reversals have happened at a time when the American public (and most of the media) had lost interest in the war. Back in March and April, when the Ukrainians were fighting to defend Kyiv, it dominated the news, but once Russia retreated from Kyiv, a lot of people seemed to conclude that this meant Ukrainian victory was guaranteed, and stopped paying attention. Some American pundits (e.g., Max Boot) apparently believe Ukraine’s main problem is a shortage of weapons, particularly long-range artillery. But it seems to me that a manpower shortage may have more to do with Ukraine’s recent reversals. After Russia invaded in February, it was announced that Ukraine had enlisted some 200,000 volunteers. A force of such size, properly trained, organized and equipped, should have been more than sufficient to prevent Ukraine’s recent defeats.

Something has gone awry, and I don’t think a lack of artillery adequately explains it. At any rate, Ukraine has reached a low ebb in its fortunes, and all those people with Ukraine flags in their Twitter profiles ought to be aware of how desperate the situation has become. “Hashtag jingoism,” as we might call it, is not really helpful in war, and some of those people need to start asking the Biden administration exactly what they plan to do about this disaster, which they have failed to avert.



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