Ukraine Advances, Despite Washington's Carping

Robert McConnell
August 28, 2023

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As I have noted in my comments in a few recent FOUN blasts, a number of recent articles have been building a narrative that Ukraine’s counteroffensive is not succeeding, that Ukraine is not listening to American advice, and with the way things are going, the only way to end the war is through negotiations and Ukrainian concessions.

Of course, these articles are built primarily upon unnamed senior governmental sources. (If I were one of these sources peddling this rubbish, I would not want to be named, either.) When someone does lend their name to the ongoing propaganda campaign, they are almost always members of the “Wrong but Always Available ‘Experts’” (WAAE).

WAAE is a cadre of people who should be targets of public ridicule and barbed jokes. But they are, despite being consistently wrong, like catnip to the likes of the Washington Post, New York Times (one example, Sam Charap), and on-air propagandists like Tucker Carlson (think Colonel Douglas Macgregor in Carlson’s case) who are always available to share their pathetic views.

Happily emerging recently are the articles calling such articles and the WAAE out. The piece by Eric Edelman and Franklyn Miller, “Anonymous comments by Biden administration officials criticizing the Ukrainian armed forces don’t help anyone,” is one such example.

Below is a Wall Street Journal editorial from Saturday’s published edition. The editorial board not only calls out the Biden Administration’s leaking propaganda campaign but also includes, as any responsible reporting on the war must, Washington’s consistent delays and refusals to provide Ukraine weapons needed — weapons Washington would never send American troops into battle without.

As in the past, I do not include the photo that the Wall Street Journal had accompanying the online editorial, but instead I insert Michael Rameriz’s cartoon making a relevant point.


As Ukraine Advances, Biden Faults

Kyiv’s Troops Make a Modest Breakthrough in the

War Against Russia, Despite U.S. Carping

By the Editorial Board

Aug. 25, 2023 6:37 pm ET

The Biden Administration is leaking to the press that Ukraine is pursuing its counteroffensive against Russia all wrong. This looks like an unseemly attempt to shift blame from the White House if the war continues into a U.S. election year. But the pessimism is premature, and the criticism obscures some of Kyiv’s modest but notable recent gains on the battlefield.

Ukraine this week managed to break through Russian defenses in the country’s southeast in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Ukraine said this week it retook the village of Robotyne. This is on the road to the Melitopol axis that is a major Ukrainian target for its strategic benefit of breaking Russian supply lines. The Institute for the Study of War reported Thursday that Ukrainian forces are creeping closer to the second line of Russian defenses and widening the breach.

The Ukrainians have been trying for weeks to bust through ferocious Russian defenses—mines, trenches, concrete—and the fight has certainly been slower than the U.S. and Europe hoped. U.S. officials unloaded to reporters this week that the Ukrainians are spreading forces too thin across the front lines, instead of concentrating units to punch through Russian defenses in one spot.

Yet there are downsides to consolidating one line of attack, such as making itself vulnerable to a Russian counter elsewhere. The Ukrainians are also trying to make life difficult for Russian defenders. “A Ukrainian offensive focused exclusively on a single axis,” as ISW put it, “would allow Russian forces to laterally redeploy forces from elsewhere in Ukraine without worrying about the consequences of weakening other sectors of the front.”

There is more than a little irony in the U.S. lecturing Ukraine about underperforming. The U.S. military’s strategy for prevailing against such fortified defenses includes air dominance. In Operation Desert Storm, as Fred Kagan and David Petraeus pointed out recently, the U.S. spent weeks on a bombing campaign to weaken Saddam Hussein’s defenses before committing ground troops.

Those Iraqis were not the Russians, who remain a formidable force despite their poor leadership and eroded morale. The Pentagon said Thursday that the U.S. would train some Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets, but it admits this is “long-term support” that will take months and “not about the counteroffensive that they’re conducting right now.”

The Ukrainians are still waiting on the Abrams tanks the U.S. promised, which are supposed to arrive on the battlefield this fall. They also lack sufficient mine-clearing equipment. The Brits and French have supplied Ukraine with some longer-range missiles, which the U.S. has withheld, something to remember next time a Republican running for President claims Europe isn’t doing its part in Ukraine.

But Ukraine could well use more and better weapons to crack open Russian defenses. That includes the long-range Army tactical missile system, more tanks and drones—within weeks, not months.

President Biden’s political fortunes are tied to Ukraine’s success, much as he likes to avoid the subject. Ukraine’s critics have been quick to declare the counteroffensive a failure, but Mr. Biden can still increase the odds of success, which is a better strategic and political outcome for America and Ukraine than stalemate.