Ukraine—The August Counter-Offensive

Eamon Dyas— a Letter

I find it quite astonishing the way in which the regular Ukrainian military defeats are counter-posed against Ukraine’s “initial military successes”. It is a constant mantra among western politicians and the media. But where were these “military successes”? Beyond a few battlefield skirmishes in the east and south anywhere that Ukraine regained significant ground was not because of success on the battlefield but because of Russian withdrawals notably from around Kiev.

It was Ukrainian propaganda that understandably spun the Russian withdrawal from the outskirts of Kiev and the surrounding area as a military success. At the time even the BBC reported the Ukrainian “advance” in the context of an earlier Russian withdrawal. But it’s since been described as Russian forces “been pushed back”. I assume that the way the alliance of Ukrainian propaganda, NATO, and western politicians subsequently chose to concoct the myth of Ukrainian “military successes” was to justify the opening of the arms supply tap to Ukraine. Depicting the recipient as a military force of sufficient capability of defeating Russia was critical to the justification for sending such volumes of weapons and it has continued to be the justification. After all, sending these weapons to a military force that was known to be incapable of ultimately resisting the Russian advance would be difficult to justify. As it is, despite constant references to Ukrainian “military successes” the simple fact is that there have been none. 

However, the myth, once constructed, needs to be sustained and although the “normal” everyday western narrative is now built around “helping Ukraine strengthen its position in the eventual negotiations” the myth of past Ukrainian “military successes” helps set the idea of such negotiations in the context of the promise of more military successes in the lead up to such negotiations. 

Unfortunately for the suffering people of Ukraine, just as the idea of past Ukrainian “military successes” is a myth the idea of future military successes in the lead-in to negotiations is unlikely in the absence of any change to existing circumstances. The problem for the Ukrainians is that while the myth of past “military successes” can be safely packed away from the current reality through the use of retrospective propaganda its more difficult to sustain belief in the myth of future military successes in the face of the current reality if that reality is a series of actual military defeats.

This also applies to Ukraine’s western arms suppliers. The pressure has been on them for some time to justify their open-ended supply of arms to a military force that has not been able to point to a single significant military success. Every surge of western arms supplies has not resulted in a single tangible success. 

Insofar as the word “success” can be attached to the Ukrainian predicament it has been along the lines “if it hadn’t been for the western arms supplies the situation would have been worse”. Western  arms have enabled Ukraine to mount a stiffer resistance than would otherwise have been the case. This is undoubtedly true and the Ukrainian armed forces have shown some real ability in slowing the Russian advance. But the ability to slow down the enemy means little in the absence of a strategy that involves using that delay to gain time to organise a counter attack. 

This idea has been part of Ukraine’s propaganda since Mariupol. The heroic hold out of the Azov-led resistance at the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works was depicted as part of just such a strategy. The fact that the fanatical Azov battalion defied for a week an order from the Ukrainian Military Command to cease the resistance would indicate a fractured and chaotic military structure rather than the disciplined one demanded by a strategy of “delay and regroup” that is part of any counter-offensive.

The same depiction was used to explain the Severodonetsk resistance. And so it goes on. Every last-stand that involves the use of civilian cover in small pockets of urban areas is justified by the claim that it’s all part of a strategy that will result in a later counter-offensive. Although it’s never been stated when that counter-offensive would take place the impression has always been given that it will be sooner rather than later.

But since the fall of Severodonetsk we’ve been hearing more of the upcoming August counter-offensive. Will this turn out to be just another military myth? It might but I’m inclined to think that it’s probably real. The Kiev regime knows that it is approaching the end of its credibility credit when it comes to western support. 

Although the US would go on with its support to the point of the complete obliteration of Ukraine it’s not the US economy that will bear the brunt of the results of that determination but the Europeans. For that reason Europe has always been the weak link in the American’s plans to use Ukraine to fatally weaken Russia. The stresses which that weak link is now under requires some change in the battlefield situation and there is probably some plan to ensure that will happen before Europe comes up against the awful prospect of approaching winter. Hence the August counter-offensive. 

Although that counter-offensive may not take place in August it will probably happen at some point before or early after the beginning of autumn. It may also achieve some measure of success but even some measure of success may be enough to enable European states to justify their continuing sacrifices in defence of the cause of democracy and Ukraine. 

There is also the prospect that a testing of Russia’s borders by NATO will be part of that Ukrainian counter-offensive. The problem for Russia is that, as a result of NATO expansion it now has a much longer border to protect than it has ever had. The vulnerability of that is no doubt not lost on NATO planners and forcing Russia to defend that long border would be part of NATO military planning. 

Whether the Ukrainian August counter-offensive will be the occasion when they embark in a “dry-run” for that planning remains to be seen but I won’t be surprised if some threatening moves are made by NATO along Russia’s border to coincide with a Ukrainian counter-offensive. Even if it doesn’t involve any crossing of Russia’s border the mere threat would be enough to compel Russia to divert significant forces to defend against such a threat and thereby improve the prospects for a success of the counter-offensive.

Such a success could then be the occasion for the Ukrainians negotiating “from the position of strength” that Biden and Boris constantly go on about. 

None of this may actually come to pass but in its absence there’s no other prospect looming than a serious Ukrainian defeat and would that be allowed to happen. Would the US permit it to happen without at least making it as difficult for Russia as possible?


From Eamon Dyas, further discussion of Ukraine can be found here

Further reading, as previously:

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