On Sunday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said “nobody knows” how long the Russian war in Ukraine might last, but, he added, “we need to be prepared for it to last years.” Retired Army General Jack Keane told a Fox & Friends audience on Monday that Ukraine had the ability, will, and troops to win the war. All they lacked, he claimed, “is the weapons to do it.”
The historical record and a growing mountain of evidence, however, suggest that such claims are unrealistically optimistic, as there is a growing possibility that the Ukrainian Army may be months away from losing the ability to defend the country.
If the two sides do not end the war through negotiations in the coming months, it is likely – not just possible – that Ukraine will lose the war.
It is time to strip off the rose-colored glasses much of the West has worn when looking at Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and acknowledge the cold, hard truth: the Russians are on course to win. The longer we traffic in the fiction that Ukraine still has a chance, the more Ukrainian civilians will be killed, the more cities will be destroyed, and the higher the probability that Russia seizes yet more territory before a negotiated settlement can end the fighting – potentially including Kyiv. You’d never know that, however, listening to high-ranking current and former officials in the West.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, hosting a 50-nation Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels, told his fellow defense secretaries last week that the West “can’t afford to let up,” in supplying Ukraine with heavy weapons in its war against Russia. Implied was the expectation that supplying heavy weapons to Ukraine will turn the tide of war and allow Kyiv to win. A study of military history, my own combat experience, and an honest assessment of the current state of play in the Russia-Ukraine War all point to the likelihood that Secretary Austin is wrong.
One of the biggest reasons the Allies defeated Nazi Germany in both North Africa in 1943 and in Normandy after the D-Day landings were because the Allies had a clear advantage in air power. Field In July 1944, German Marshal Guenther A. F. von Kluge complained to Hitler that “in the face of the total enemy air superiority, we can adopt no tactics to compensate for the annihilating power of air except to retire from the battlefield.” Germany still had considerable numbers of infantry and panzer divisions, but virtually nothing could move on the ground that wasn’t destroyed from the air. Once the Allies had air superiority, it was only a matter of time before Germany lost.
I was part of the U.S. VII Corps armored force that drove north from Saudi Arabia in early 1991 to attack Iraqi Republican Guard armored divisions. Prior to starting our ground attack, the Allied force conducted 38 straight days of a massive air attack. The U.S. Air Force took out the majority of Baghdad’s air defense capacity in the first hours, and subsequently made it nearly impossible for their ground forces to maneuver without getting bombed from the air.
When my unit attacked the Republican Guard forces in the north of Kuwait, we were free of any concern of enemy air strikes and obliterated our enemy. The advantages U.S. Forces had in the air against the Germans in 1944 and against Iraq in 1991 are similar to the advantages Russia currently possesses over Ukraine. After recovering from their opening phase disasters, Russian air forces operate with near-impunity in the air and constrain any movement from Ukrainian troops on the ground. The UAF’s troubles, however, are far from limited to the air.
In just the last few weeks, a number of Ukrainian officials have begun conceding publicly that the casualties to its troops are far greater than had previously been admitted. They are also unsustainably high. Ukrainian Presidential Advisor David Arakhamia said that the UAF was suffering up to 1,000 casualties per day, sometimes losing as many as 500 killed in a 24 hour period. Adding to Kyiv’s woes, the losses in military kit are even more dire.
Ukrainian Brig. Gen. Volodymyr Karpenko, the Land Forces Logistics Commander of the UAF, publicly acknowledged that through nearly four months of fighting, his troops had lost “approximately 50%” of their pre-war stocks of heavy weapons, claiming that “1,300 infantry fighting vehicles have been lost, 400 tanks, 700 artillery systems.”
Those numbers of personnel and equipment losses are not surprising in light of the fact that Russia has a 20-1 advantage over Ukraine in artillery, 40-1 advantage in artillery and rocket ammunition, and a daily air sortie rate of approximately 300 to five. If every heavy weapon committed to Ukraine by the West were delivered immediately, it would not represent one tenth of the UAF losses – and that they continue to lose on a daily basis, including the 155mm howitzers provided by the United States.
In every measurable metric that has historically determined the winner and loser on the battlefield, Ukraine is at a major deficit. As should be painfully obvious, there is no rational basis to hope that Ukraine will stop its bleeding of personnel and equipment and win the war against Russia. To continue giving emotional support to Ukrainian leaders and people, encouraging them to keep fighting, is to set them up for bitter – and potentially catastrophic – failure.
The truth is, all objective evidence leads to the conclusion that Ukraine is likely to lose the war. Given the scale of their losses since 24 February, it is unclear whether the UAF will be able to sustain even defensive operations in another four months. There is nothing to suggest that Russia will not be able to continue saturating Ukrainian positions, especially in the Donbas, with upwards of 70,000 artillery shells and rockets per day. No force can endure such withering bombardment for months on end without eventually buckling.
It is absolutely understandable how Ukrainian people detest what Putin’s forces have done to their country and entirely reasonable they would want to drive every last Russian soldier from their soil. But for the West to keep alive the hopes that eventually enough weapons will come to save the Ukrainians – when help of that magnitude is clearly not coming – is to cruelly keep alive a hope that is highly unlikely to ever materialize.
If Kyiv refuses to acknowledge its perilous state and continues fighting, its not out of the question that Russia’s advantages in rockets, artillery, and air strikes could eventually result in the outright defeat of the UAF. Whether Zelensky and his people choose that path is entirely up to them. But the West should be honest about their prospects – and acknowledge thousands of modern Western tanks and artillery pieces are not coming.
Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis.
June 22, 2022 at 9:29 am
Daniel Davis has been beating this drum for a long time now but we should look at the facts. While it is certainly possible that he is right, there is plenty of evidence that he is not. Russia continues to have trouble breaking through in the Donbas, despite the new concentration of troops there and as more long range western weapons arrive those demoralized concentrations of troops will come under their own version of what Ukranians have been suffering through. I would also point out that British and American and other intelligence services certainly have better access to information than Mr. Davis does. That isn’t to say that they’re right in their assessments but it does provide some reason to doubt Mr. Davis’s unrelenting pessimism which he continues to make clear on a weekly basis.
June 22, 2022 at 8:19 pm
Ukraine is losing 1k troops a day. They are not fighting a coordinated defense and thanks to Joetato Russia has the best performing currency in the world. The bubble that is the readers of this site have no idea what is happening, but it’s too late to trade land for peace.
June 23, 2022 at 9:23 pm
Ukraine just had a mass retreat (or abandonment maybe) in Luhansk. Russia took about 8 towns in two days. By the end of the weekend, Lysychank will be surrounded. The pace doesn’t look good if that continues.
July 8, 2022 at 2:17 pm
I’m interested in hearing his opinion on the game-changer HIMARS and other artillery Ukraine is getting. Sure, Russia will change tactics to reduce its effectiveness, but Russia also appears to be ramping up the war at home by changing laws to get more control of productive output to support a much longer war.
June 22, 2022 at 10:11 am
Daniel Davis is a foot-soldier in Russia’s hybrid war against the West.
June 22, 2022 at 10:32 am
A key question is how ‘sustainable’ Ukraine’s personnel losses are. Russia has 100 million people than Ukraine. Russia, if it has the will, can slowly bleed the Ukrainians until they have no effective fighting force left.
While airpower is certainly an important element, but boots on the ground cannot be ignored. Nor can the numerical superiority of the Russians.
I hope it ends soon and both sides resume peaceable relations.
June 23, 2022 at 12:16 pm
The Pentagon and West will defend the Ukraine to the last man, woman, child and infant. We will bleed the Russians dry.
Sadly, the war will likely be settled on with a predictable division of land based on who speak Russian versus Ukrainian…We just had to kill a lot of people to get there.
June 22, 2022 at 10:44 am
I’m following Gen. Mark Hertling’s Twitter and a few days ago gave reasons why he was optimistic for Ukraine.
June 22, 2022 at 11:08 am
Putin’s way of waging this war is actually making it impossible for Ukrainians to give in to his demands. His brutality is actually mobilizing Ukrainian society and ensures that this cannot end any time soon.
June 24, 2022 at 12:07 pm
If the US were waging this war, there would be 500k dead civilians already. Russia is fighting softly. In what used to be eastern Ukraine, most people are eager to see the Ukrainian army gone. Ukraine has done a wonderful job of convincing 1/2 of the country who are Russian speakers or ethnic Russians, that the Russian Army is doing a wonderful job.
June 22, 2022 at 12:17 pm
The author talks about WW2 and The Gulf War but those are not apt comparisons. In both of those cases the aggressor’s will and morale were high. A better comparison is Vietnam.
In Vietnam, the US had an even bigger Artillery advantage and that did not result in victory. IS troops were fighting with low morale (in large part due to incompetent political leaders back home as well as a national media that was sapping national will to fight). The Vietnamese were highly motivated to endure a long war to kick the foreigners out. This is similar to how the Ukranians feel today.
Finally, there is Putin’s health. Reports are he has advanced late stage cancer and is not long for this world. It ‘s not Russia’s war. This is Putin’s war and when he dies it will give Russia the face-saving excuse it needs to pull out and blmae the whole thing on Putin.
June 22, 2022 at 12:31 pm
“Daniel Davis has been beating this drum for a long time now but we should look at the facts. While it is certainly possible that he is right, there is plenty of evidence that he is not.’
As you note this is not the first ‘defeatist’ article by Davis.
There is no denying that Ukraine is getting hammered badly right now. The substantiated losses I have read differ greatly from Davis’s though, 100 up to 200 Ukrainian soldiers KIA daily, which is admittedly not likely to be sustainable for Ukraine. However, UK and American intelligence tells us that Russia is also incurring heavy unsustainable manpower and equipment losses. Russia is dredging T-62 tanks out of questionable storage conditions to replace its tank losses. Also without a formal declaration of war, Russia supposedly cannot open a broader draft. Which frankly is a surprise to me that Putin/Russia is restricted by any legal restraint.
Furthermore, the last tally of Ukrainian losses (in June) show them to have more tanks and APC’s than they started with, due to captured Russian equipment, sometimes undamaged, more often requiring minor repair.
Davis’s defeatism aside, the real and only questions are can the U.S. and Europe provide enough advanced weapons in time, and if so will it actually make a difference?
The countries of the former Soviet Bloc are adamant that Russia has to be defeated… their memory of living under the boot of Russia’s “Soviet Union” is too painful to consider as an option for the future.
June 22, 2022 at 1:01 pm
For Russia to really win this, they need to be able to mass armor, artillery, infantry, and air support to break out, move quickly, and encircle masses of Ukrainians in a war of maneuver. On paper, the Russians should have been able to do this. Up to now, they have not. There are no indications that they are about to get their act together and change things. Blasting a narrow front to rubble, so they can advance a few meters per day, is about as far removed from those combined arms breakout maneuvers as you can get.
I suppose that the Russians might be able to sustain their efforts long enough to take all of the Donbas while holding on to their gains in the south. I don’t see their tanks rolling into Lviv anytime soon.
June 22, 2022 at 1:07 pm
As a Vietnam vet who arrived shortly after the 68 TET offensive, I question the idea that US troops had low morale. I guess it’s based on which troops/unit, and which year.
The TET offensive saw the destruction of the Viet Cong as a fighting force. They all died. The NVA had to take over.
Troops I knew saw the war as winnable, especially after Abrams took over command and changed how it was fought. The media after TET though misinterpreted events and thought we’d lost. They convinced the American public and those with controlling the money going to South Vietnam. It was all over then.
That’s why I maintain the Russians can win in Ukraine if they have the will. Since after WWII the US has lacked the will to stay in long-term conflicts and lacked the necessary will to win. Why? Because there is/was no perception that the US is/was really at risk, existentially. We get into conflicts for small reasons and the public and politicians tire of them.
Moral of this history? Only get into a conflict if the US populace feel totally threatened and totally have the will to win at all costs as a result. “At all costs” is the most important part. That’s what it takes to win.
Another important part is how the media can misunderstand and misconstrue events and as a result mis-inform the American public. Sometimes it’s innocent and sometimes it’s deliberate.
June 22, 2022 at 7:05 pm
US forces in Vietnam performed their mission very well. Unfortunately, it was the wrong mission. That wasn’t the fault of the guys on the ground, but rather the “best and the brightest” dingbats back in Washington who thought they were oh, so clever. Growing up, I remember hearing the accepted wisdom after the Korean War repeated over and over again: “Never get in to another land war in Asia”. Supplying the ARVN with all manner of weapons, supplies, money, etc. would have been fine. Whether they could or would do what it took to preserve their country would have been up to them. In the end, it was anyway. The damned shame is that over 50K American lives were sacrificed in the wrongheaded notion that we could and should fight their war for them.
June 23, 2022 at 4:37 pm
there is literally no way to read the history of US operations in Vietnam and come to the conclusion US forces performed their ‘mission’ well unless you’re in wild, delusional fantasyland.
the reality is this: the war should never have happened. when it did and it predictably failed, it was the fault of not just Washington DC but every general and officer that lied about their progress and refused to admit the war was unwinnable.
same with afghanistan.
time to cope.
Neil Ross Hutchings
June 22, 2022 at 2:02 pm
I know little about battlefield strategy, so I appreciate Mr. Davis’ experience and analyses. His articles are a good factual counterpoint to the often vague and hope-filled reporting in the western mainstream media.
All that is clear to me is that the U.S. seems committed to supporting Ukraine as long as the Ukranians can muster any kind of defense. Look at how Zelensky’s public statements changed just prior to the visit by Blinken, any negotiation with Russia was suddenly off the table. Ukraine (Zelensky) had been bought off with the promise of billions of dollars of support from the West, as long as he maintained this new hard line stance.
I think the U.S. sees Ukraine as another potential Mujahedeen type moment against the Russian government, which could have benefits down the road for Washington. Just as Kissinger saw U.S. support for China as an effective counterpoint to Russia expansion in the 70s, I think Washington strategists now have some vision of doing the same with Russia in their efforts to contain China into the next decades. I don’t pretend to understand all the facets of the strategy but know that this war won’t be over until Washington wants it to end, no matter the cost to the people and infrastructure of Ukraine. And it could potentially cost Ukraine the eastern half of their country in the very near term and lead to a decade of counter-insurgency against Russian occupation. Maybe that’s what Washington strategists are really hoping for in the long term. But even if this far-fetched idea did come to fruition it would still be unlikely that Russia would relinguish the territory that it had annexed before the beginning of this conflict. And if it works, and Russia becomes a more democratic, less corrupt friend to the West, then it will all have been worth it in the eyes of Washington.
June 22, 2022 at 2:22 pm
not a chance, there is not one instance in history where an invasion that bogged down at the beginning ever succeeded
June 23, 2022 at 11:59 am
When the United States (USA) invaded the Confederate States of America (CSA), events did not go well for the USA for almost two years.
The first battle of that war occurred when the USA invaded the Confederate State of Virginia. The 1st Battle of Bull Run was a fiasco for the Federal forces, who were routed by the Confederate troops and fled back to Washington DC.
But the valor and tenacity of the CSA soldiers, who were defending their home ground, was no match for the superior resources of the USA. The North had a much larger population and a far larger industrial plant. More troops, more muskets, more field guns, more robust logistics (especially railroads), and on it went. In the end the South was crushed.
Ukraine is at a severe disadvantage. Many others besides Mr. Davis are beginning to bring some badly needed realism to bear on this war. The path forward will be determined by hard facts on the ground, not by magical thinking.
June 23, 2022 at 4:39 pm
this would probably be a good point except that wasn’t an invasion. by definition, the Union Army could not invade itself as the slave-state army of the Confederates was not the legitimate government of the territory it claimed.
So, not a good example.
June 22, 2022 at 2:36 pm
The most ridiculous part is even if Russia manages to prevail, what will they have won? A moonscape of obliterated buildings and wrecked infrastructure. There isn’t much value that Russian society will see from this catastrophe for many years….and at the cost of tens of thousands of dead Russians.
June 22, 2022 at 2:39 pm
At this time, this is a war of attrition. Within the first few weeks the UAF set up fortified cities. The two best know ones are Severodonesk/Lysychansk and Miriupol. One has fallen and the other is in the process of falling into Russian hands. To this date, Ukraine has lost 20% of their territory, and their personnel losses are about 8 to every 1 the Russian’s loose. Depending on the weapon system, the Russians have between a 10 to 40 advantage. There is also a major difference between experience of soldiers on the field of battle, again in Russian’s favor with most of the UAF personnel prior to war already KIA, MIA, POW, or wounded. Even worst for Ukraine, there are reports of some Ukrainian units deserting and failing to follow orders higher headquarters.
The author is right, militarily, the UAF is loosing the war, and unless something is done, either more western intervention of 5-10 times what was currently provided to day of military technology with western boots on the ground, or some sort of political solution, the question is not who will be the victor, but how big the Russian victory will be.
June 22, 2022 at 4:22 pm
Daniel here while always writing about the demise of Ukraine, forgets to go into details that russian military has suffered huge losses in the weapons which cannot be rebuilt due to sanctions – estimates that 20-40% of all russian tanks and armored vehicles been lost, 2/3 of missiles and they have to dig into their soviet weapon stockpile which would leave them vulnerable.
June 23, 2022 at 1:22 am
By hat451;” Ukraine has lost 20% of their territory, and their personnel losses are about 8 to every 1 the Russian’s loose.”
From the ISW; “Members of the Russian military community continue to comment on the shortcomings of Russian force generation capabilities, which are having tangible impacts on the morale and discipline of Russians fighting in Ukraine. Russian milblogger Yuri Kotyenok claimed that Russian troops lack the numbers and strength for success in combat in Ukraine. Kotyenok accused Russian leadership of deploying new and under-trained recruits and called for replenishment of forces with well-trained recruits with ground infantry experience—though the Russian military is unlikely to be able to quickly generate such a force, as ISW has previously assessed. Despite growing calls for increased recruitment from nationalist figures, Russian leadership continues to carry out coercive partial mobilization efforts that are only producing limited numbers of replacements while negatively impacting the morale and discipline of forcibly mobilized personnel.”
The ISW is well respected for their war analysis. Looking at the map of Ukraine, it appears more like 8% of Ukraine is under Russian control, regardless it is far from 20% cited by hat451 above.
June 22, 2022 at 5:14 pm
I wonder if Davis will eat his words in a year or two. I suspect he will.
June 22, 2022 at 7:20 pm
Russia has no other option but to win this terrible fight against the fascists.
Fascists don’t accept or tolerate or understand reasoning. They only understand the language of force.
If need be, russia must use nukes against the fascists!
WIPE THEM OUT!
June 23, 2022 at 1:31 am
You do know if you look up the word ‘Fascist’, it literally describes Russia/Putin and not Ukraine.
Though I do have to admit you picked your name wisely. However Russian troll is probably even more accurate.
June 23, 2022 at 1:11 am
Any person posting comments here that things Ukraine has a chance against Russia has no clue.
Russia reacted on Feb 24th to 8 years of slow war against the Russians of the Donbas, who rejected the American installed a coup government using the neo-Nazis Banderites (read about what that demon did especially to the Poles) in early 2014. Watch Oliver Stone’s documentary Ukraine in Flames.
If you are open minded and not brainwashed by all the MSM propaganda and want to understand what this conflict is about, check out Eva Bartlett’s “Russian Military expert Andrei Martyanov on Russia’s denazification operation in the Ukraine” interview on YT. Then go on Andrei’s blog at smoothiex12 dot blogspot dot com
Also check out Larry Johnson (ex-CIA analyst) website at sonar21 dot com
Further, another Andrei, former Swiss intelligence analyst, thesaker dot is
If you think Ukraine has a chance of winning against Russia you need help. You are going to be in for a lot of butt hurt.
The Russians castrated the French and Germans. The Anglo powers who have been disturbing the manure for over 200 years are next. When all is done, your stones will auto retract everytime you pass a Russian. Ask the French and Germans.
Neil Ross Hutchings
June 23, 2022 at 12:44 pm
I agree generally with what you wrote, but maybe less so with how you wrote it. Can you ever foresee the day when Russia and the West (Europe more so than the U.S) could become allies again as they were for such a short period during the second european war?
June 23, 2022 at 1:53 am
Russia obviously will win, and they’re not going to stop with Ukraine – they are going to castrate the manure disturbing Anglo vermin down as well.
You better believe it.
RUSSIAN SUCCESS IN THE DONBAS ACCELERATES
June 23, 2022 at 3:43 am
As somebody said me long time ago: “it is easier to stab an ox than an ant”.
Sometimes quality is better than quantity (thing about allmost twice the range of artillery and much greater accuracy and a Western intelligence marking targets).
Russia relay (as allways) on numbers, but this kind of numbers are dificult to maintain at the actual attrition rate. They are forced to replenish its forces with reinforcements of lesser quality, be these men or material. T-62? 🙂
June 23, 2022 at 6:37 pm
The Russian force that is fighting the Ukrainians is smaller than the Ukrainian army, so as a quality versus quantity proposition, the Russians (and their Donbas allies) are doing more with less.
June 23, 2022 at 3:45 am
“After recovering from their opening phase disasters, ”
What opening phase disasters? What happened in the opening phase was so totally alien to many western military experts that they still don’t understand it or if it was explained to them, they couldn’t cope.
I don’t claim to understand it and the only people who do understand it, the Russian officers who planned it and executed aren’t going to explain it because they might need to use it again so why give away your trade secrets.
To all those who believe that Ukraine will win, ask yourself who or what is the source for all the information you see in the western MSM? The Ukrainian MoD, government and SBU. That’s like asking the Nazi government in Germany how the Battle of Stalingrad was progressing on February 7th, 1943. They’d still be claiming victory was in sight.
As a Russian commander said “”The military and political leadership of Nazi Germany sought not to relieve them, but to get them to fight on for as long possible so as to tie up the Soviet forces.” Sounds like what Washington is doing now with Ukraine.
June 23, 2022 at 4:42 pm
lmao cope dude Russia lost like over 2000 tanks
June 23, 2022 at 7:23 am
I share Daniel’s opinion word by word, and I am surprised about some reactions. I cannot understand why most people keeps thinking Ukraine can still win, or may be better why they are being convinced by the media.
Russia infrastructure remains untouched when Ukraine has lost the access to Azov and black sees, has lost the most industrialized regions and has also lost many infrastructure critical objectives. That clearly means Ukraine cannot resist a long war. Sanctions are not effective when countries as China or India are not supporting them.
It is true Russia did huge mistakes in the first weeks, and that is probably one of the reasons of the excessive optimism we see now. But those mistakes have been corrected, and now Russia is systemaically destroying UAF. Most media focus in their slow progress, thinking only in land, but russia’s strategy is now destroying the best UAF units, the most experienced ones. That has always a cost for Russia, of course, but that they are willing to pay.
Foreign help is at so small scale that cannot change anything in the medium or long term, only impacts in the very short term. For example we see in the medía Germany has delivered long range artillery, but only seven howitzers! Same for France and their Caesars. And what is even worse, how much time we think West will keep supporting Ukraine? After the infamous withdrawal from Agfanistan, decission taken for saving money, lets be clear about that, who can think West will keep paying such huge amounts for many more months.
The sooner Ukraine accepts the situation the better for saving many lifes. Keeping pushing Ukraine for fighting, justifying it in lies, is a crime.
June 23, 2022 at 4:28 pm
nobody cares about your experience in iraq dude lmao pounding sand dunes aint exactly hard
June 24, 2022 at 12:07 pm
Thank you all for your comments/opinions/views. I remain cautiously optimistic. Not that Ukraine can win the war, rather Ukraine ceding power to Russia or a collective move by several NATO countries to send troops. Watching people die for no reason and watching cities get devastated is beyond demoralizing.
If the US and other countries keep sending money and weapons and humanitarian aid, it will prolong the war killing more and more unnecessarily while losing schools, museums, archives of all kinds etc.
Keep sending the humanitarian aid but stop all else. Russia, being the ones annexing would eventually have to foot the bill for the rebuilding of the country. However, you cannot buy back lost lives. There is a way out of this that no one has seen or heard yet. I promise, there is a way out. God speed to all. CHEERS! 🙂
July 8, 2022 at 7:32 am
The generals active and retired are not giving bad information they are selling weapons for the companies that have and do OWN them
September 11, 2022 at 6:36 pm
I guess Davis will eat these words after months and not years.