The Ukrainian offensive could fizzle out

Good morning, dear reader,

it was long ago, it was far away: The war had already lasted a year and a half, and things were looking bad for the Chinese troops, who fought back against the Japanese invaders. With a few exceptions, the war had gone in only one direction, and for China’s soldiers, that was backwards. Poorly equipped and just as poorly trained, they were more of a motley crew than a disciplined army – made up of units that distrusted one another and even sometimes turned on each other instead of the enemy. Not much could be achieved with such a force. And as soon as you turned your attention to the flagging industry behind the front lines, it was clear that the balance of power between the opponents would not change any time soon. In the Winter 1938 At that time a brutal battle was raging in East Asia, in which the Japanese divisions, with their modern weapons and superior organisation, did not give up the reins. Even China-friendly observers did not believe that the tide would turn again.

On the other side of the globe, the inferno took its course only a short time later. In Europe, Hitler started the war; There, after a year and a half, the balance was as follows: from France to Norway, the German Wehrmacht had won the battles, large parts of Europe were occupied, Great Britain was isolated. A turning point was not in sight. There was nothing at this point to suggest that a few years later Nazi Germany would lie in ruins and the supposedly superior troops defeated – any more than in Asia, where imperialist Japan met a similar fate.

The circumstances of these two wars differed dramatically from one another, and even more so from later conflicts. In the 21st century, the states of the West initially had asymmetric wars like the one in Afghanistan fought: victorious against the Taliban in the early years, pulled off in a disaster at the bitter end. A similar story could be drawn from the Irak tell. Whether position or guerrilla warfare, the skirmishes and battles of the past have only one thing in common: How things are after a year or two says nothing about how the war will end.

Now is a good time to remember. The war of our own days in which Ukraine, is pushing back into the public consciousness with force. The destruction of dam near Cherson causes devastation downstream – the exact consequences are not yet foreseeable. At the same time, the long-awaited Ukrainian offensive apparently started. The news about this will soon pile up, combined with more and more details. You quickly can’t see the forest for the trees.

After the dam was blown up, large parts of Cherson are flooded. (Source: Source: Roman Hrytsyna/AP/dpa)

Expectations of what the war will bring are becoming increasingly narrow. Of course, no one knows how successful, mediocre, or unsuccessful Ukraine’s summer offensive will be. But it is generally assumed that the Russians will not be able to advance from the edges of Ukraine back into its center. Nobody believes that Putin’s soldiers will stand in front of Kiev again.

In fact, it doesn’t look like it at all at the moment. But it is wishful thinking that such turns could be ruled out in the coming years. You can pave the road with historical models: wars that drag on for a long time often end very differently than expected. Warring parties – even messed up ones like the Russians – are learning. The industrial base that produces the raw materials of war, from fighter jets to cartridges, is changing. The wind can turn. Or not. If history teaches us any lesson, it is that the future is open and our certainties are misplaced.

What conclusions do we draw from this? Is that an insight that deserves the name or just a saying for the poetry album? In any case, historical wisdom has its fans: one of them lives in the Kremlin. Wladimir Putin has shown time and again during the course of the war that he is playing a long-term game. And one has to certify that he is not just clinging to straws with his hope for a military turnaround.

The isolation of Russia failed: Oil exports are booming, sanctions are being circumvented, war material is still finding its way to Russia – for example via Turkey or the Caucasus. For many states in Africa, Asia and South America, including heavyweights like Brazil and Indonesia, Russia remains a close partner. Xi Jinping in Beijing Comrade Vladimir promises boundless friendship. The Kremlin criminal won’t run out of breath anytime soon. The part of Russia’s economic power that is expended on the war is still surprisingly limited. Putin can wait. For example, on the return of his buddy Donald Trump to the White House.

The West, on the other hand, seems to be less historical. Is the alliance in support of Kiev relying a little too much on the supposed certainty that Ukraine can’t be defeated again? In any case, the allegation stands. Defense experts are critical of Ukraine’s support for living from hand to mouth and swinging too much from campaign to campaign. Before the summer offensive, Kiev’s allies threw everything there was in the ring – but after? Too little long-term planning, too much on sight. say some.