As evidence grows concerning Russian troops digging in north of Kiev, I do not understand the knee-jerk reaction by Western media outlets in declaring this a Ukrainian victory. Earlier this week it started becoming clear Russia was shifting to a strategy of attrition and Western newspapers, TV new channels and internet outlets openly reported this. The meaning of this was also discussed by pundits and for the most part they were correct. A strategy of attrition means a halt to advances by Russian forces for the time being and a reliance on indirect and direct-fire weapons to degrade Ukrainian defenses. With this in mind, the digging in and preparation of defensive positions by Russian troops should come as no surprise at the very least, nor should it be regarded as a Ukrainian victory. I understand the media and get why they do many of the things they do. But I do not like it, and sometimes I simply have to vent. This is one of those times 😊
When the meeting of NATO leaders starts in Brussels on Thursday, President Biden will face increasing pressure from US allies to spearhead alliance efforts to play a more active role in the Russia-Ukraine war. Aside from the ever-present desire by some NATO leaders to implements a no-fly zone over Ukraine or parts of it, there are other methods for assisting Ukraine that nations such as Poland and Slovakia would like to implement. None of these methods will move forward without at least tacit US approval and the Biden administration has been careful not to undertake or agree to any moves that could allow Russia to label the US or a NATO country as a co-combatant. Avoiding escalation has been at the forefront of US policy since hostilities began. On the other side of the coin, the less than stellar performance of the Russian military in the war so far has made some NATO members want to push the envelope so to speak. Right now wouldn’t be an ideal time to risk possible escalation, however. Vladimir Putin’s back is against the wall and if he feels trapped, the Russian leader will lash out. Then escalation becomes almost certain, and so does the prospect of a larger war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed the US Senate and House of Representatives this morning by way of a video link. He came before the US Legislative Branch to plead his nation’s case for more weapons, aircraft and the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine. In effect, Zelenskiy’s speech was an end run of sorts around the Executive Branch. The White House has stated over and over that a no-fly zone is not going to happen and the US serve as the middleman to deliver Polish MiGs to the Ukrainian Air Force. The US position has been mirrored by many of its NATO allies. Ukraine will be provided with as much assistance as possible, short of taking action that could classify the US or any other NATO nation as a co-combatant.
Zelenskiy understood this coming into the morning’s address and worked it into his plea. He invoked US history and asked lawmakers to remember Pearl Harbor, September 11th and Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. Zelenskiy’s remarks were filled with dozens of potential sound bites and digital headlines. The Ukrainian leader came across more like a overindulged toddler rather than the leader of an embattled nation at war.
“Is this a lot to ask for – to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people? Is this too much?” Zelenskiy asked.
Answer: Yes, it is. Especially since a no-fly zone will inevitably lead to clashes between US and Russian forces and serve as the spark for a larger, regional conflict between NATO and Russia. NATO is not going to risk war to save Ukraine. Javelins and Stingers are one thing, but a no-fly zone is another matter altogether.
Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin added to the no-fly zone discussion going back and forth over recent days. He stated that Russia will interpret any attempt by nations outside of the conflict to establish a no-fly zone as active “participation in the armed conflict.” With Russia’s position now staked out with certainty, serious talk about whether NATO or the EU should establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine is going to evaporate. Quite honestly, social media furor and politicians and retired general officers looking to create soundbites for the media were the main forces pushing a no-fly narrative forward. It was never a good idea in the first place.
The brief humanitarian ceasefires to allow civilian evacuations around Mariupol and Volnovakha have come to an end. Offensive operations by Russian forces in these areas have resumed.
Israeli Prime Minister Bennett traveled discreetly to Moscow and met with Vladimir Putin earlier today. After a meeting that lasted less than an hour, Bennett is now on his way to Germany where he will meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Despite rumors that the Russian government would be moving to impose martial law across the country soon, this does not appear to be in the cards, at least for now. The Kremlin claims there are no plans to impose martial law in response to ‘external aggression.’ Internal disorder is another matter entirely, it would seem.
The situation on the ground at Zaporizhzhia Power Plant in Ukraine seems to have improved considerably in the past ten hours. The fire caused during the Russian attack has been extinguished, there has been no radiation leakage and the reactor units have been shut down. The bad news is that the plant is now under Russian control. World leaders have condemned Russia for the attack and admittedly, it was not a prudent move. The International Atomic Energy Agency is attempting to set up a meeting with the aim of laying down a plan to prohibit attacks against nuclear power plants in the future.
NATO will not move to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, in spite of considerable pressure from Ukrainian politicians and others. Secretary Jens Stoltenberg called it a “painful decision,” but reiterated that NATO cannot risk escalating the conflict by engaging Russian aircraft flying over Ukraine. “We understand the desperation, but we also believe that if we did that, would end up with something that could end in a full-fledged war in Europe involving many more countries and causing much more human suffering,” he said. The United States has also ruled out a no-fly zone over Ukraine for similar reasons.
Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko repeated today that his nation’s armed forces are not taking part in the Ukrainian invasion and this will not change in the future. There’ve been conflicting reports about the status of Belarussian forces since the conflict erupted, but for now at least, Belarus will not be committing troops to the fighting.
Fighting in the town of Irpin (or Irbin) has intensified over the last twenty four hours. Ukrainian forces pushed back an assault by Russian paratroopers and supporting BMD light infantry vehicles yesterday. Today, Russian shelling has been heavy, falling in residential areas. These artillery and rocket attacks do not appear indiscriminate though. Instead it seems to be a Russian effort to soften up built up areas Ukrainian defenders can dig in and slow down the Russian advance when it begins…which will likely be soon.