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Prepare Ukraine for Victory in a Long War
Ukrainian artillerymen check their weapons and special equipment before going to the frontline in Kherson, Ukraine, on July 15, 2022. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Prepare Ukraine for Victory in a Long War

Luke Coffey

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On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine for the second time in eight years. While many assumed that the war would be short, a stiff Ukrainian defense halted and then successfully counter-attacked against the Russian advances on Kyiv, Sumy, and Kharkiv. After capturing Kherson, Russia’s main advance from occupied Crimea in the south toward Mykolaiv also stalled. At the time of writing, Ukrainian forces are beginning a counterattack in that region and are located approximately 12 miles outside Kherson city center.

Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov coastline, fell to the Russians on May 22 after Ukrainian forces made a heroic last stand in the Azovstal iron and steel works. This capture allowed Russia to create a land bridge from the Russian Federation to occupied Crimea. Mariupol’s capture also turned the Sea of Azov into a Russian lake.”1 In the Donbas, which is arguably Russia’s main effort at this stage of the war, Russian troops have made limited advances at a very high cost in equipment and manpower. In late June, Russian forces captured Sievierodonetsk after weeks of heavy fighting, leaving Russia in control of Ukraine’s Luhansk Oblast.

Ukrainians are currently defending a front line that is approximately 1,250 miles long—this is equal to the straight- line distance from Washington, DC, to Houston, Texas. Russian public opinion still supports the war.”2 While Russia’s advancements in the Donbas have been slow and costly, there is no indication that Moscow will stop its offensive anytime soon. President Vladimir Putin knows that his legacy rides on Russia’s victory or defeat in Ukraine.

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1 Russia’s desire to maximize influence in Eurasia can also help explain, at least in part, its determination to occupy Crimea and fully control the Sea of Azov. One of the two canals connecting the Caspian Sea to the outside world is the Volga–Don Canal, which links the Caspian Sea with the Sea of Azov. Russia has used the Volga–Don Canal to move warships between the Caspian Sea and the Sea of Azov. The ability to move warships from the Caspian region, which includes Central Asia, to the Black Sea (and vice versa) allows Russia to project power in an important area of the world while giving Russian policymakers flexibility and options when a crisis arises in the region.
2 Peter Dickson, “More than Three-Quarters of Russians Still Support Putin’s Ukraine War,” The Atlantic Council, June 6, 2022, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/more-thanthree-quarters-of-russians-still-support-putins-ukraine-war/.

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