Four ways Ukraine could defeat Russia

Russian invasion displaces 10 million Ukrainians

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, discussed with ‘America’s Newsroom’ his time in Germany and Poland meeting Ukrainian refugees.

Few anticipated the Ukraine war would last this long much less that Kyiv would push the massive Russian army back on its heels. However, that’s exactly what has happened, a modern example of the biblical story of the young David with a sling shot and a stone standing up against the armor-clad Philistine giant Goliath egging for a take-all fight.

Could David defeat Goliath? Yes, it’s possible because Goliath was much too cocky and he underestimated the shepherd boy.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin (Goliath) massed nearly 200,000 troops on Ukraine’s border calling for that nation’s capitulation, a winner takes all outcome.  Ukraine ignored the giant’s arrogant challenges, stepped forward and proved itself far more capable than the Russians ever anticipated. 

Even Putin’s top Chechen ally, Ramzan Kadyrov, has criticized the Russian effort, shouting the assault was “too slow” and was “fiddling” with Ukraine. Russian soldiers, said the brutal Chechen, “… are not effective,” and then he called on Putin to give “harsher orders.”

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    Firefighters douse the fire in the Retroville shopping mall after a Russian attack on the northwest of the capital Kyiv on March 21, 2022. – At least six people were killed in the overnight bombing of a shopping centre in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, an AFP journalist said, with rescuers combing the wreckage for other victims. The 10-storey building was hit by a powerful blast that pulverised vehicles in its car park and left a crater several metres (yards) wide.  (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

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    A view of destroyed buildings and vehicles after Russian attacks on a shopping mall, in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 21, 2022. It is reported that, 8 people were killed in the Russian attack on shopping mall.  (Photo by Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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    An aerial view of the completely destroyed shopping mall after a Russian shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 21, 2022.  (Photo by Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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      (Maryna Sokolovska)

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    Destroyed shopping center after it was hit in a military strike in the Podilskyi residential district of Kyiv, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 21, 2022  (Photo by Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

It is true that Putin’s war machine is unimpressive, starting with his flawed Ukraine campaign plan.  His intelligence assumptions totally underestimated the Ukrainians, and his army wasn’t prepared.  

He fielded a force of poorly trained soldiers, virtually no air-to-ground capability, inadequate logistics and his equipment was not up to a fight with a determined, capable enemy. Those flaws virtually guaranteed a long, bloody quagmire.

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Facebook, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday, March 11, 2022.
((Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

These failures, on top of significant human and equipment losses, have forced Putin into reverting to what he did in Chechnya and Syria: a total destruction strategy.  After all, taking Ukrainian cities like Kyiv, which he now surrounds, would require far more Russian soldiers because in city fighting, the defender has at least a five-fold advantage. 

Thus, the tyrant is turning to his vast arsenal of long-range weapons to depopulate Ukrainian cities.  That war of attrition ends only when either Putin no longer has the means or will to fight, or the Ukrainians can’t survive more destruction and killing.

The David-like Ukraine brought to this fight more than bravery and a sling shot.  Ukrainians are determined and quite capable – fighting for their survival with a home-field advantage.  They caught Putin’s army off-guard, and now they are extracting a heavy price on Moscow.

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    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the U.S. Congress by video to plead for support as his country is besieged by Russian forces, at the Capitol in Washington (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool)

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    Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., introduces Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to speak to the U.S. Congress by video at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool)

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    In this March 8, 2022, image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Instagram, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine.  (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

“We go out to hunt and destroy” Russians, said a Ukrainian special forces leader.  The Russians “… certainly didn’t come here expecting that, expecting that we know how to fight.”  Taking the fight to the Russians is effective, such as destroying Russian armor, a reported 93% kill rate. 

At every corner Ukrainians meet Russians and refuse to give ground. “We’re in shock at how dumb their behavior is,” a Ukrainian soldier said of his enemy.  “Now, we mostly focus on hitting their rear, their supply convoys, because if they don’t get fuel, they can’t do anything.”  These attacks are Putin’s Achilles heel because at some point his army’s morale will vaporize and desertions will skyrocket.

It is possible the Ukraine war could last years like the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan, a long costly affair that bleeds Moscow dry or Putin might recklessly expand the war to the rest of Europe.  However, it’s more likely that a variety of factors will weigh on Putin’s decision to sue for a face-saving outcome.

Those indicators include: unsustainable battlefield losses, home front protests, economic collapse, the departure of western businesses and lack of expected Chinese support.  Hopefully, Putin seeks peace before he reverts to the total destruction of all Ukrainian cities or dares expand the war to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, both unlikely and unsustainable alternatives.

There are at least four possible scenarios that bring an end to the fighting in Ukraine.

First, Ukraine fights Russia to a draw and negotiates the withdrawal of Russian forces, possibly giving up much of eastern Ukraine and all claims to Crimea. Ukraine is forced to renounce ever joining NATO and the European Union.  Also, Moscow will almost certainly require a new election and constitution that mandates Ukraine embrace a permanent neutral status.

Second, Russia wins and dismembers Ukraine and installs a puppet government. However, Moscow would likely face years of insurgency and be considered a global pariah, weighed down by crippling sanctions, sputtering forward thanks only to China’s economic support.  Meanwhile, the annihilation of Ukraine sparks a new cold war with NATO that finds barriers separating the new east from west and forward deployed combat forces face off on both sides of a new “Iron Curtain.”

Third, there is the real possibility that the West intervenes in the fight and convinces Moscow to withdraw to avoid escalation to nuclear war while the West removes all sanctions and provides guarantees that Ukraine will never become a member of NATO or the EU. At that point the West launches a Marshall Plan-like program to help rebuild Ukraine and returns to the status quo Antebellum.

Fourth, a real “David”-like best outcome for the West and Ukraine is the withdrawal of Russian forces and the restoration of the state.  The Scowcroft Center says this is the “rosiest” possible scenario which allows that Ukraine’s resistance overcomes “the odds and grind Moscow’s advance to a halt.”  Then the wounded Putin seeks an escape as his country turns on him.

Each of these scenarios bring an end to hostilities but leaves open the possibility of a future east, west war. 

Yes, underdog “David” can “win” Putin’s war albeit at the cost of thousands of lives, much of Ukraine’s infrastructure, and the advent of European tensions not seen since the end of the old Cold War. 

Sadly, the price of this conflict even with the “rosiest” scenario leads to a heavy peace in which Ukraine unlikely ever again really enjoys the freedom and prosperity it experienced since the demise of the former Soviet Union. 

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