A major security guaranty for Ukraine on this stage of war is sufficient timely military assistance from the U.S. and West.

Over the past eight years, Moscow has seized 20 % portions of Ukrainian territory and tried to overthrow the government. Since 2014, Russia has illegally annexed salami slices of Ukrainian territory, first in Crimea, then in eastern Ukraine, and finally in some areas of southern and eastern Ukraine. There is little probability that Vladimir Putin will stop now.

The war in Ukraine is likely to be protracted. For the Kremlin, the status quo is likely to be unacceptable. Not only has the Russian military failed to achieve most of its objectives,

But russia has a recent history of attempting to grind out military victories. Following Russia’s failures during the First Chechen War (1994–1996), for example, Putin paused to revamp Russian strategy, operations, and tactics. In 1999, Russia restarted offensive operations and was much more successful in defeating insurgents during the Second Chechen War (1999–2009).

The status quo is also unacceptable for Ukrainian leaders, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, who indicated Ukraine is unwilling to allow any part of its territory to be annexed. In a May 2022 opinion poll, 82 percent of Ukrainians responded that Ukraine should not hand over any of its territory to Russia as part of a peace deal. Ukraine continues to move closer militarily, economically, and politically to the West. Even worse for Moscow, NATO is likely to expand to Finland and Sweden.

But winning back territory will be difficult for Ukraine. As Figures 1, 2, and 3 highlight at Kherson Air Base near Crimea, Russian forces have become entrenched in Ukraine with main battle tanks, self-propelled artillery, electronic warfare systems, multiple rocket launchers, armored fighting vehicles, sophisticated air defense systems, and other systems. Russia has also constructed defensive fighting positions to make it difficult for Ukraine to counterattack.

Figure 1: Main Battle Tanks and Self-Propelled Artillery, Kherson Air Base, Ukraine

Figure 2: Multiple Rocket Launchers, Kherson Air Base, Ukraine

Figure 3: Defensive Fighting Positions, Kherson Air Base, Ukraine

So a major security guaranty for Ukraine on this stage of war is sufficient timely military assistance from the U.S. and Western to help Ukraine retake territory in the east and south. If the United States and the West want to shift the balance of power in Ukraine’s favor, they will need to provide Ukraine with more weapons and platforms that allow the Ukrainian military to conduct offensive operations and more effective counterattacks against dug-in Russian forces over a sustained period. Examples include UAVs with a longer range and higher payload than the Bayraktar TB2 or AeroVironment Switchblade loitering munition, such as the MQ-1C Gray Eagle; main battle tanks, such as the Leopard 2 heavy battle tank; medium- and long-range missile systems, such as the HIMARS multiple-launch rocket system; and fighter aircraft, such as Su-25s.

Most of these systems will require additional training and a steady supply of munitions and spare parts, which should be feasible with a protracted war. More advanced weapons and platforms will be critical to overrun entrenched Russian forces.

The worst outcome for Ukraine and the West would be allowing Russia to de facto annex more Ukrainian territory.

As Winston Churchill remarked on the eve of World War II, appeasement only increases a dictator’s appetite: “And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.

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