A Blog by Jonathan Low


Feb 27, 2024

Why Ukraine Is Continuing To Win the Strategic Military War

Putin's cruel, dictatorship - with a cynically thin overlay of support from the compliant Russian Orthodox church - appeals to a small but crucial segment of the US Republican party which has helped him withhold further US aid, at least for now. 

But Ukraine remains the far more creative combatant. Even as it withdraws from some positions - usually smoking heaps of rubble - to protect its soldiers' lives and preserve ammunition, it is waging a successful strategic battle. Having neutered Russia's Black Sea Fleet, the Ukrainians are now doing the same to its air force, systematically degrading both its air defense and attack planes' operataional capabilities. This is being accomplished even as Ukraine's own air force is growing in size and strike ability which, in the long run, will defend its territory as it prepares to retake that which Russia has not yet surrendered. The addition of Sweden and Finland to NATO and the increase in defense spending by NATO more broadly suggests that Russia has angered rather than cowed its European neighbors - and they, combined, have a far greater population and economy than Russia. JL

Phillips O'Brien reports in his substack:

As Ukraine fights, it needs to minimize Ukrainian casualties —it cant waste them stupidly like the Russians. If it cant protect them in forward positions, expect them to be withdrawn to better ones. This process will be unpleasant but manageable. So far there remains no sign of vehicle led Russian advances down roads. As long as advances remain at the speed of a human running/walking, they can be contained. Ukraine is making advances in the war of fixed wing-aircraft in the same way they have in the war at sea. They are causing major losses in important Russian capabilities, that will lead to increasing Russian losses going forward as the underlying elements of Russian air power are deconstructed.

I thought I would start this weekend update thousands of miles from the battlefields of Ukraine. Yesterday the Republican Party had a primary election contest in the US state of South Carolina. Ukraine, while not on the ballot, figured in the campaign. I will also discuss the story of more Ukrainian withdrawals, which will almost certainly occur until their ammunition supplies improve, and what looks to be the slow, steady deconstruction of Russian air power. We are left with a terrible conundrum in this war. Ukraine continues to show great ability to attack Russian power in the most advanced areas of warfare, but the Russians, through Putin’s power over Trump, are waging an effective campaign against Ukraine in the halls of the US Congress. This week showed this dichotomy in action.

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South Carolina—Haley loses but does better than expected.

For those who don’t know US politics, South Carolina is a solid Republican state, and one which has a huge reservoir of support for Donald Trump. Its southern, with a high percentage of evangelical Christian voters, and Trump beat Joe Biden in the state handily in 2020. To better understand the power of Trump in South Carolina, it might help to point out that its the state from which Senator Lindsey Graham hails. Graham was originally a John McCain Republican when it came to foreign policy, and detested Donald Trump. However he has basically become a Trumpite creature, willing to sacrifice any former scruples to stay in Trump’s good graces. Graham’s switch on Ukraine is a key example of this.

In May 2023, Graham paid a visit to Kyiv and spoke like John McCain. Ukraine needed to win the war, he exclaimed, the US needed to arm Ukraine with everything it could, and internationally it would be a disaster if the US was seen to weaken in its resolve to help Ukraine. Graham was even the subject of a Russian arrest warrant after the trip.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) and US Senator Lindsey Graham in Kyiv. Photo: 26 May 2023
Graham visits Kyiv in May 2023, Before Trump got to him on Ukraine.

Then Donald Trump intervened, and ordered Graham to oppose Ukraine aid—and the Senator folded like a cheap chair. Over the last month he has been a steadfast opponent of approving aid to Ukraine, using the ridiculous argument that the US border must be completely fixed before he could possibly help the Ukrainians in their fight. Its entirely specious (as he undoubtedly knows) and shows just how terrified he was of Trump’s strength in South Carolina. As another Senator said anonymously of Graham.

“He got sucked into the Trump orbit, and he is so zealously about his own self-preservation in South Carolina that he literally would push his mother in front of a train to get to where he needs to be,”

In other words, Trump in South Carolina was considered so strong that people like Graham lost all self-respect and accept his orders in the most humiliating fashion. Except, interestingly, Nicki Haley. Over the last month, Haley, who is also from South Carolina, has emerged as the only legitimate contender to Donald Trump in the Republican primaries. As she has done so, she has decided to attack Trump with great effect on both Trump’s declining mental state (which is very worrying) and on Ukraine. She has gone after Trump for his close relationship with Putin, his undermining of NATO and his opposition to aiding Ukraine. Indeed, in the last two weeks, she seemed to significantly increase her attacks on Trump being a Putin-slave.

And as she did so, it seemed to have a real impact on Republican voters. If you look at all the polls taken between February 1 and yesterday, in the run up to the Republican Primary, you will see a sharp contraction in Trump’s standing, from a lead of over 40% to a one of half that number. Here is a snapshot of all the polls taken in February.

And the actual results showed that this tightening was more than real, as Trump beat Haley by 20 points (I wont say only—because that’s still a large lead).

How does a clear Trump victory help Ukraine? Well, what this shows is that within the Republican Party there remains a sizable faction that is opposed to Trump and his foreign policies including Ukraine. As Haley attacked Trump more and more on these issues, she did better—even outperforming most polls on the day. Look, Trump is going to be the Republican nominee. However, the existence of stronger opposition to him, even in the Republican Party, helps Ukraine. In the short term all that matters is that the bill with Ukraine aid gets through the House of Representatives. If Trump is showing any weakness (or anti-Trump Republicans are showing strength) that helps.

This is particularly the case in state’s outside of the Republican heartland. If Trump can lose support in South Carolina, he can do worse in more competitive states. Again, if you are a Republican in New York state, for instance, you are going to see these results and have a little hesitation about simply doing everything Trump tells you. It will only take a handful of Republicans to get the bill through the House, this result might help that.

Finally, Haley’s results in South Carolina were good enough that she has announced that she is staying the race against Trump. Having seen the polls narrow after attacking him for his obedience to Russia, we can only imagine that she will increase such attacks. Its all for the good.


Expect More Withdrawals

You can’t fight a war without ammunition—its pretty simple. Ukraine, because of the unexpected and brutal cut-off of US aid since the end of 2023, is having issues sourcing ammunition. Supposedly this is a particular problem when it comes to supplies of artillery shells and some anti-air ammunition that would normally have been covered by the USA. Such shortages are starting to have take their toll on the battlefield. 10 days ago they resulted in the Ukrainian withdrawal from the town of Avdiivka. Yesterday there were stories that the Ukrainians had pulled out of parts of Robotyne.

Like Avdiivka, Robotyne is in an exposed, forward position. It was one of the points of Ukraine’s furthermost advances this summer, and like Avdiivka the Russians are can approach from a few sides, as this Deep State map shows (Robotyne is marked by a black circle).

As long as Ukraine is restricted in its ammunition supplies, people are going to have to get used to such withdrawals. Without enough artillery fire in support, forward Ukrainian forces are simply too difficult and potentially bloody to protect. Ukraine will have to pull its troops back to better defensible positions, and hopefully into prepared lines of some sort. It might be that the entire Robotyne pocket is eventually evacuated.

As Ukraine fights over the next few months, it will need to minimize Ukrainian casualties. It has no option. Ukraine must conserve its soldiers’ lives—it cant waste them stupidly like the Russians. Therefore if it cant protect them in forward positions, expect them to be withdrawn to better ones.

This process will be unpleasant but manageable. The thing that would signal a major problem is if Ukrainian fires are so limited that the Russians can advance down roads in vehicles. So far there remains no sign of such vehicle led Russian advances. For instance, the Ukrainian withdrawal from Avdiivka has not been followed up by some fast, Russian breakthrough. Here is a map from today. The front line in just a handful of kilometers to the west of the town.

As long as thats the case, and advances remain at the speed of a human running/walking, they can be contained. Of course if the Republicans in the House had actually done the smart and humane thing and helped Ukraine, they need not be happening at all.

Ukraine is Slowly Deconstructing Russian Air Power

Another week, another series of Russian losses in the air. Most notably, the Ukrainians claimed, and there is pretty strong photographic evidence to support, that they have downed another Russian A-50 aircraft. This comes on the heels of the Russians losing another A-50 in January.

An A-50 aircraft during a military parade in Moscow in 2019
A Russian A-50 in easier times. Russia is running out of these vital aircraft.

These are very valuable pieces of equipment. They help coordinate the actions of Russian warplanes, by monitoring the air space for threats, assisting in Russian command/control, etc. They are so valuable that Russia only had a small number at the start of the full-scale invasion (just over 10) and they are steadily losing them.

Its also worth noting that as Russia is losing its A-50s (and their very valuable, highly-trained crews), Russian aircraft losses overall seem to be accelerating. This week the Ukrainians have made regular claims of shooting down some of Russia’s best aircraft, including one SU-34 shot down on 21 February, and one SU-34 and one SU-35 on 19 February.


Its a sign of Ukraine making advances in the war of fixed wing-aircraft in much the same way that they have made advances in the war at sea. They are regularly causing major losses in important Russian capabilities, that will lead to increasing Russian losses going forward as the underlying elements of Russian air power are deconstructed.

Of course, Ukraine needs more anti-air ammunition to keep this up. Reports are circulating that stocks of anti-air missiles for Patriots (which seem to be doing most of the damage) are perilously low. Once again, it shows that Ukraine can win the war if armed properly—and just how devastating it is that Putin has such influence in the Republican Party.

What the Ukrainians are able to do on the field of battle, Putin/Trump is thwarting in the halls of Congress. Its been the story of the war over the last few months.


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