Ukraine celebrates its Independence Day on August 24 – this is also the anniversary of the launch of its counteroffensive last year on Kherson and Kharkiv. The festivities would be an obvious target for the demonstration of success in its current counteroffensive but, despite considerable and intense fighting, its constant, courageous, if suicidal determination, to advance on the Eastern Dneiper, Robotyne, and Urozhaine, there is nothing much to show. There is evidence of some progress, especially south and east of Robotyne where Ukraine is subjecting many settlements, especially Verbove and other locations around the Bradley Square, to intense artillery fire and drone attack. Ukraine’s successful ouster of Russian forces from much of Staromaiorske and Urozhaine is giving it stronger purchase for artillery assaults on Russian-held settlements well to the south. Ukraine also appears to be getting ready for a counteroffensive in the Kreminna area.

None of these operations appears to me to be a hugely convincing augury of ultimate Ukrainian success. This is for five main reasons:

(1) While Ukraine shows evidence of at least partial success in some areas, Russia shows equal or more evidence of success in others. Right now, I would say this evidence lies in favor of:

  • Russia’s ability to push Ukrainians back across the Dnieper whenever they do cross, or to crush Ukrainian bridgeheads on the Russian side of the river soon after they have been established;
  • Russian success in pushing Ukraine well away from Klishchiivka, north and south, to the east of Bakhmut;
  • Successful Russian advances on the Kupyansk area which ultimately promise the possibility of Russia re-taking all territory to the east of, and beyond, the Oskil river, including significant regional settlements such as Izyum, Lyman and Kharkiv.

(2) Much of Ukraine’s current bellicose intensity may be impressive, superficially. It is actually a mark of desperation – the final flare of the candle before it is extinguished. Ukraine is delivering up its final burst of energy – along with the cream of western-gifted tanks of the 82nd Airborne Assault Brigade – for as it tries to wedge its way down to Tokmak and to the Surovikin line on the way to Azov, or down from Urozhaine on the way towards the Surovikin line and Mariupol, also on the way to Azov.

(3) Western leaders are finally showing signs of cooling on their Ukraine adventure. Civilian populations grow restive even while a few leaders, Biden amongst them, advocate further escalation in Ukraine – with which Biden is accused of improper personal financial entanglements – while conjuring up only lukewarm empathy for the US victims of the Lahaina fire on Maui to whose fate Biden seems grumpily indifferent. If Biden is hoping for a divine off-ramp from Ukraine comparable to the dispensation offered the Maria Lanakila Catholic Church, then he seems even incapable of the appropriate diplomatic moves necessary to achieve it.

(4) Ukraine is badly running out of 155mm shells. Every three or four days, it fires the number of shells that the US and the EU together are able to produce in a month, which in turn is a small fraction of Russian capability. Ukraine is running low on all equipment, and the West can, at most, help replace what Russia has already destroyed on the battlefield and which it will destroy again, and again. Provision of antiquated but nuclear capable F16s to Ukraine (which lacks the airfields from which they can take off) from Denmark and the Netherlands has been approved, but training of (six available!) pilots will extend into next year.

(5) A recent US intelligence community assessment predicts that Ukraine will not be able to reach Malitopol nor even Tokmak, which is only 30 kilometers from Russian fortifications of the so-called Surovikin line. Mark that: the entire intelligence apparatus of the USA agrees that Biden’s war policy is deranged. The majority of Americans are opposed to spending more money on Ukraine. But neither sanity nor popularity count in America’s wildly overhyped excuse for “democracy.” The only people who “benefit” from this war are the myopic, incestuous elites of the MICIMATT (Military-Industrial-Congressional-Media-Academic-Think-Tank), first amongst them the armaments industries for whom every burning Bradley, Stryker, Leopard, Challenger, or whatever, is a guarantee of more profit. Oh, and Zelenskiy, the tool of the MI6 and CIA, the corrupt celebrity of Pandora Paper fame, and his neo-Nazi, Banderite mates. The beds are made at their Mediterranean villas, but will they ever get to sleep there?

Washington mainstream orthodoxy remains divided between two factions:

(1) Neocon “realists” who think Washington must pull back from a senseless and brutal war in order to fight an equally senseless and brutal war with China (which sane analysts note the USA cannot possibly win). They call for negotiations in Ukraine not because they want peace, but because they want an unstable “frozen conflict” that will sail Biden-the-War-President- through to November 2024. They hope for a ruble collapse in Russia that will bring Russia to the negotiating table. Foolish: the ruble has fallen because most of its trade is now in rubles and the need for western currencies has collapsed in a further display of the unanticipated, counterproductive consequences (especially for Europe) of US and European sanctions.

(2) Neocons of a more fanatical persuasion, on the other hand, argue that Ukraine – which to all intents and purposes has lost the war, is actually winning it or would win it if only Washington would cast aside whatever crumbs of restraint it has ever mustered and hurl itself with Hollywood fury towards nuclear annihilation of the human species. This outcome seems less fanciful and more likely by the day. The analysis offered us by fanatical neocon ideologues is not so much the product of magical thinking as it is of Satanic idiocy. It is, first of all, reckless, and, secondly, it betrays little grasp of the logistical manacles that enchain de-industrialized Washington and the collective West. A decades-long process of de-industrialization and out-sourcing, and a capitalist philosophy of “just in time” profit maximization, has fatally punctured their capacity to win anything anywhere, whether it be Afghanistan, Taiwan, Ukraine, or Niger.

What a choice!

(Featured Image: “220420-D-BN624-0392” by U.S. Secretary of Defense is licensed under CC BY 2.0.)


  • Oliver Boyd-Barrett

    Oliver Boyd-Barrett is Professor Emeritus (Journalism and Public Relations) from Bowling Green State University, Ohio and (Communication) from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. His first book, The International News Agencies, was published by Constable/Sage in 1980, and its French sister, Le Traffic des Nouvelles (with Michael Palmer) by Alain Moreau, in 1981. Since 2000 he has focused on issues of war and propaganda. Recent titles include Hollywood and the CIA (Routledge), Media Imperialism (Sage), Western Mainstream Media and the Ukraine Crisis (Routledge), Russiagate and Propaganda (Routledge), Media Imperialism: Continuity and Change (Rowman and Littlefield)(with Tanner Mirrlees), Conflict Propaganda in Syria (Routledge). Two current projects deal with Russiagate: Aftermath of a Hoax (Palgrave), and Afghanistan: Aftermath of Imperial Occupation (provisional).