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What Would A Ukraine Victory Over Russia Look Like?

What would it take for Ukraine to defeat Russia, and what would victory actually look like? We asked a former member of the U.S. Special Forces for some answers.

TOS-1 Russia
TOS-1. Image Credit: Russian State Media.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is now grinding on into its seventh month. While many analysts believed that the country would fall within weeks, the Ukrainians proved that they were much better prepared than in 2014.

Russia hoped to blitzkrieg Kyiv and Kharkiv in the war’s earliest days. They were repulsed by horrendous losses of troops and equipment. They took Kherson in the south thanks to some Ukrainian officials that were sympathetic to Russia. 

However, the war then turned into a protracted stalemate. Russian troop advances would be measured in yards per day as they would blast small areas with concentrated artillery and missile strikes. Back about a month ago, I wrote in these digital pages that with the massive artillery strikes the Russians are conducting, it was fair to question how long their artillery barrels would last. Keep in mind that their manufacturing is decidedly inferior to Western arms makers.

There are still splits on whether Russia or Ukraine can actually “win” the war. So, what would a Ukrainian victory look like? 

No “Peace in Our Time” Concessions

Other than in Western Europe and the US, Russia has been winning the information (disinformation) war, especially in Africa. They have been pushing a steady stream of justifications on why “Nazis” in Ukraine were threatening Russia and that they had no choice but to save the proxy “independent republics” from attacks.

Then there are the food and energy factors. Russian and Ukrainian grain are sorely needed in the famine-stricken areas of Africa. Moscow has painted the picture to Africans that the West and NATO, mainly the US are the causes of the stoppage of grain making its way to African ports.

And with Western Europe being large consumers of Russian gas, there are shortages everywhere which are causing inflation to rise. This is why some Europeans and many Africans urging Ukraine to agree to cede the territory lost to buy peace by appeasing Putin. That is precisely what Putin is waiting for. A cold winter with fuel shortages and rising prices will cause Western Europeans to tire of the war and force Kyiv to accept a favorable settlement to Moscow. 

Europe should know that appeasement doesn’t work with authoritarian rulers with dreams of imperial conquest. England and France negotiated a concession of part of Czechoslovakia without their consent in 1938 against Hitler. When returning from Munich, UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain promised his people “peace in our time” while waving the paper with the agreement. Less than a year later, Britain and France were at war with Germany.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier this week that Kyiv would not agree to any proposal to freeze the current frontlines to appease Moscow. Because even if Putin and Zelensky agree to a stop of conflict where the lines now lay, there is no reason to believe he won’t continue his imperialistic actions in the future. He needs to be stopped and pushed back. 

Ukraine Needs the Weapons To Win, Not Just Hold Russia

While the US has supplied Ukraine with nearly $14 billion in military aid, our allies in Western Europe, namely France, Germany, and Italy, haven’t given as much as tiny Latvia. A common complaint from Kyiv is that the West is giving enough weapons to hold Russia, but not enough to win.

A case in point is the US-made HIMARS missile systems. By all accounts, they have made an enormous difference in the fighting, yet Ukraine has just 16 of them, as well as three M270 missile launchers from the UK that fire the same missiles as the HIMARS. The UK government has promised to send three more. If Ukraine had 100, some Ukrainian defense officials say they need 200; what a game-changer that would be. This would allow Kyiv to conduct offensives to retake Kherson in the south and the Donbas in the east with much more firepower. 

This speaks to the policy of Western Europe and the Biden administration of “not wanting to humiliate Putin,” which is in itself appeasement like those listed above. This policy is to fear that Putin will escalate the war and possibly use nuclear weapons, which Moscow has threatened since Day 1.  This strategy also contradicts what Putin said, that Moscow’s ambitions lay beyond Ukraine

Biden has re-instituted the Lend-Lease Program from World War II. But with massive amounts of equipment sitting in Germany waiting for forces that are…right now lacking, Washington could unleash a lot of older M1 tanks and M109 mobile artillery pieces that would be needed to conduct a counter-offensive that would allow Kyiv to re-take its territory lost since late February.

Putin’s “special military operation” is springing leaks at the seams. Moscow has lost, by many reliable assessments, about 20-25 percent of its combat power in the invasion. Morale is very low, with some entire units refusing to fight. He’s kept casualty figures hidden, but with the recent announcement that he wants the Defense Ministry to add another 137,000 troops will no doubt spark internal questions. Worries about starting World War III seem remote as long as the US and the West don’t supply troops in the active fighting. 

The Russian military has tried to entice more Russians to join the armed forces without resorting to mass mobilization. They’ve tried large cash bonuses, hiring convicts for early release, and cash for fighting in Ukraine. This was reportedly done by the Wagner Group, the Russian PMC with a deserved reputation for human rights abuses.

Ukraine Russia

Russian President Putin. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Putin is not suicidal, nor is he the irrational leader that was the previous line of thought. He’s pragmatic, and all of his actions are carefully thought out. With the added weaponry that Ukraine’s armed forces needs, it is entirely possible that they can throw the Russians back to at least the starting point of the war. 

Crimea, however, a goal that President Zelensky has reiterated several times as a goal in retaking, is, for now, probably going to have to wait. “The war began in Crimea — and it will also end there,” he said. Kherson is, however, a different story. 

With the Ukrainians rendering the bridges connecting Kherson to Russia’s supply lines in Crimea unusable, Moscow has been reduced to re-supplying its forces via pontoon bridges. Those are highly vulnerable to artillery or missile strikes. Russian forces could become stranded in the city, making them vulnerable to a counter-attack. Two weeks ago, there were reports that Russian commanders of troops in Kherson withdrew their headquarters to the eastern shore of the Dnieper River.

The Ukrainians can win the war, but they will need far more help to do so. War is ultimately about will, logistics, and strategy. “The line between disorder and order lies in logistics…” – Sun Tzu. They have the will. But they have enough logistics? Time will tell.

Expert Biography: Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. A proven military analyst, he served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer in the 7th Special Forces Group. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.

Written By

Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 1945, he covers the NFL for PatsFans.com and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. aldol11

    August 27, 2022 at 8:09 pm

    Combined Arms Offensive require a strong logistic infrastructure.
    Russia’s offensive failed last winter because they do not have logistic organizations at the divisional or tactical group level.
    It is doubtful that Ukraine can mount a successful Combined Arms Offensive, unless there is a collapse of the Russian will to fight altogether

  2. Marvin McConoughey

    August 27, 2022 at 9:49 pm

    “Europe should know that appeasement doesn’t work with authoritarian rulers with dreams of imperial conquest.” It often doesn’t, but like many maxims it is not infallible. There is a possibility that a durable peace can be arranged between Russia and Ukraine. That would certainly be better and more affordable than perpetual war over a part of Ukraine. Nice? No. Desirable? Perhaps more desirable than other doable alternatives. Ukraine has a long and convoluted history. I don’t see a clear solution that will satisfy everyone.

  3. TheDon

    August 27, 2022 at 9:54 pm

    Stalling the bear is a win, to the world. It is clear the world is unconcerned with Russian threats and openly are sending weapons despite Russian threats.
    Everyone in the world knows this is not in the interest of the Russian people and puts all in danger.
    Putins action has reduced Chinas worry of the Russian military. China is in need of disputed land and natural resources.
    Hopefully the Russian people recognize this lake of vision to make a better Russia before they need help from friends they attack.

  4. Goran

    August 27, 2022 at 9:59 pm

    1.Outright military victory is not the ideal option; the carnage would be too intense as the majority in many areas such as the city of Donetsk largely support Putin’s agenda. Even if the Ukrainian military had the capacity to enter the city of Donetsk, it should not attempt to do so, as the civilian casualties would be unacceptably high.

    2.Negotiated peace agreement; some sort of a deal that would keep Ukraine intact, but would also grant a high level of autonomy to Russian speaking areas in the east of the country. In those areas, Russian would be one of two official languages and Russian history could be taught in public schools. This scenario is the best one of all, but not probable.

    3.Negotiated armistice; no political agreement is reached, but a cessation of fighting is announced. Both sides fortify while building offensive capabilities to be ready for a fourth quarter to be played a few years from now. This scenario is likely.

    4.Continuation of a low intensity conflict; both sides are fortifying and preparing for a large offensive while maintaining combat posture with minimal engagement. This is the most likely one of them all.

    Considering that Russia was considered to be a superpower, all four of these scenarios can be considered as Ukrainian victories, even those without a political endgame.

    A scenario with Russian military success being followed by a political settlement, at this point is no longer a feasible option.

  5. DS

    August 27, 2022 at 10:09 pm

    What Ukrainian victory looks like is this: the long cold winter is coming, and Ukrainian forces will have local people bringing them blankets and warm soup, while the Russian forces will be freezing to death like Napoleon’s and Hitler’s long before. Invaders do don’t do well with long supply lines in cold winters.

  6. Mike

    August 27, 2022 at 10:26 pm

    If your buddy Trump was still in office, we’d be sending Himars to Putin. So sod off.

  7. lil abner

    August 28, 2022 at 2:29 am

    Clown. you make a lot of statements of fact that you can’t possibly know to be true, but you do a good recital of the narrative. Aren’t you a good little doggy.

  8. Brad Barrows

    August 28, 2022 at 4:34 am

    Please do not confuse England and the United Kingdom as was done in this article. England ceased to be an independent country in 1707 when it joined Scotland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Therefore “England and France negotiated a concession for Czechoslovakia in 1948…” is incorrect and insulting to the rest of the United Kingdom that is not England. Thank you.

  9. 403Forbidden

    August 28, 2022 at 5:46 am

    Ukro victory over russia would be exactly same as luftwaffe victory over RAF in 1940 during battle of britain.

    But Ukro victory is like pie in the sky for the people of donbass. And the people of russia as well. They’ll never allow it to happen. Russia will soon have no choice but to flatten kyiv due to biden now personally directing the armong & fighting in ukroland.

  10. TrustbutVerify

    August 28, 2022 at 7:56 am

    If Ukraine doesn’t have the equipment and manpower, trained on the new equipment, to form a mobile mechanized striking force of at least 10 Divisions – in addition to their current forces – there can be no counteroffensive. They would also want a reserve armored division or two to counteract Russian counteroffensives, reinforce breakthroughs and provide flank security.

    Unless we are going to provide old M-1s, Abrams, parts and logistics and train 100K or so Ukrainians to use them, ain’t going to happen.

    Oh, and throw in MORE organic indirect fire support and sufficient new jets for fighter cover/counter air.

  11. Yrral

    August 28, 2022 at 8:20 am

    Ukrainain victory will look like one,when they stand on their own two feets,and stop depending on the world and make the decision,they should of made ,before the war with Russia,the US is defacto waging the war against Russia,with satellite and Intel giving to Ukraine,targeting Russian position , Ukraine has little historical ties too the US ,but with Russia,a friend in need,is a friend indeed

  12. Fluffy Dog

    August 28, 2022 at 11:08 am

    @author
    ” Crimea, however, a goal that President Zelensky has reiterated several times as a goal in retaking, is, for now, probably going to have to wait. “The war began in Crimea – and it will also end there” ”
    You are misinterpreting his quote. He said that taking Crimea was the start of the war and that the liberation of Crimea will end the war.

    Ukrainians lack, so far, the offensive capabilities. However, their approach of not rushing into the offensive makes perfect sense. One can build up the force, or one can degrade the defensive capabilities of the enemy. They chose the latter. With the tools they are now getting, HIMARS and AGM-88 HARMs, they are now hitting as deep as Crimea. As for Kherson, it was a trap from the moment Ukraine got HIMARS. Let’s see what it looks like in 3 weeks.

  13. Jim

    August 28, 2022 at 11:12 am

    The author presents a scenario for Ukrainian victory.

    Fair enough.

    Everything has to go just right.

    Military plans tend to get knocked off course upon first contact with the enemy (as the Russians found out).

    Given what we’ve seen so far from the Ukrainian military, what is the probability they can effectuate what the author laid out?

    The author’s scenario depends on the U. S. and Europe (NATO) throwing in the kitchen sink… How likely is that?

    Comeback to me after a successful substantive Ukrainian counter-offensive… Just one…

    However, let it be said, “Stalemate is defeat for Russia.”

  14. mawent

    August 28, 2022 at 11:19 am

    Well…. the author leaves a bit to be desired, and repeats many common talking points without adding any support to those positions…

    Victory is Russia *voluntarily* withdrawing, *voluntarily* repudiating claims to Ukrainian territories, and *voluntarily* removing the Putin political machine. The decisions have got to be internal, or the Russians will take up with like nature a decade or two from now, with the opinion that it was the West that forced them. Not good for the psyche. They got to believe they did it themselves.

    Over arming Ukraine is the risk. Russia is slowly losing, and moving towards the voluntary Ukrainian win. If you create a well-armed state that has shown no maturity on Russia’s border, you create a monster that would be another local power exerting influence over neighbors with the threat of military action.

    No. Arm Ukraine “just enough” – whatever that is – and let nature take it’s course. Nature being soldiers and civilians of an aggressive occupier gradually internally turning against participation in a wrongful way.

    Let the winter come. If Ukrainian’s make it, then what does Russia have to look forward to? Another year of it’s troops and equipment in the grind, with more military embarrassments, economic failure, and risk of other satellites breaking free.

    So bring it.

  15. Wharfplank

    August 28, 2022 at 3:14 pm

    You’re lookin’ at it ….

  16. from Russia with love

    August 28, 2022 at 5:57 pm

    Zelensky called the only way for Ukraine to win in his speech on the Independence Day of Ukraine (apparently they celebrate the day when at least something no longer depends on Ukraine😂). they said “Western countries should recognize Ukraine as the winner in this conflict.” yes, this will not affect reality in any way and Russia will take the entire territory of Ukraine anyway, but this way Ukraine will be able to win at least in the virtual world. what will the West get? another president without a country, the same as Tikhanovskaya and Guaidó. there will be three with Zelensky. By the way, has anyone heard what’s going on with Guaidó? the last thing I heard about him was that Biden sent him back to Venezuela to increase oil supplies, but Guaido was beaten with benches there. is he still alive?
    PS
    I’ll dispel a few more myths.
    1) there is no economic crisis in Russia, unlike the US and the EU.
    2) Putin has almost complete support of the population. there are no prospects for a change of power. at the same time, the EU is seriously preparing for unrest due to falling living standards and rising prices.
    3) The Russian army is fully provided with winter uniforms. do not forget that Russia has a permanent military presence in the northern regions and a rich experience in conducting successful winter military campaigns. don’t believe? ask the Germans😉 at the same time, it remains a big question who will give food not only to the Ukrainian army, but also to the Ukrainian population. The EU is making every effort to export food from Ukraine and I think that the EU will be able to leave Ukrainians without grain by autumn. I am not very worried about the Ukrainian army. they have already proven that they have weapons and they will take whatever they need.
    4) Ukraine will never be able to go on the offensive because it cannot concentrate troops. if more than 50 Ukrainian soldiers gather in one place, then Russian missiles fly there. you may not know, but ukraine regularly tries to counterattack, but it always ends the same way for them – big losses without advancing.
    5) stories about “HIMARS who defeat everyone” only cause laughter. 🤣 Today, a column of Russian troops passed along the Antonovsky bridge, the very bridge that HIMARs cannot destroy for more than a month.

  17. Bertram

    August 28, 2022 at 6:01 pm

    Humiliate Putin.

  18. WesleyBruce

    August 28, 2022 at 10:59 pm

    I doubt the Ukrainians will launch a larger combined arms attack anywhere. That is not how defensive insurgencies win. That’s arguably obsolete. Ukraine has fought with ambush and deep defensive lines coupled with long range pinpoint artillery. If you are using conventional military analysis on a war that is in most part a guerilla war your making a mistake. Any large concentrated offensive is an easy nuclear target. Zelenskyy is correct in thinking this is the next world war but not WW3 because that means nuclear extinction of at least half the northern hemisphere. We really do need a new term.
    Putin will fall internally to Russian foes eventually. Ukraine will win the same way Afghanistan won against the Russians and Biden.
    Make the cost so great that Russian forces retreat in spite of Putin’s orders and form defensive lines in the rear facing any enforcer Putin sends! Or simply surrendering to Ukrainians because that’s the only way for Russian soldiers to survive. New weapons are on the way to Ukraine or are being invented there. 5 Russians are dying for every Ukrainian and Ukrainian casualty numbers may be falling.

  19. MortenHJ

    August 29, 2022 at 2:03 am

    We might see an “Afgan” ending to the war in Ukraine. The Sovjets got tired of the Afgan war and went home. We might see this happen again.

  20. Yrral

    August 29, 2022 at 8:59 am

    Every Ukrainain willing to fight to the death,if not they already know what like too live under Russian control,that Ukrainain only option

  21. from Russia with love

    August 29, 2022 at 9:07 am

    @WesleyBruce
    do you have a backup plan? you voiced your forecasts based on the fact that the data provided by Ukraine is true, but what if Ukraine is lying (as it has happened many times) in order to extract as much money from Western countries as possible? what if the Russian Ministry of Defense provides reliable data on losses? What if for every Russian killed, there are 21 Ukrainian soldiers killed?

  22. landouzy

    August 29, 2022 at 9:41 am

    russia must be crushed . the west hesitation helps russia to buy time .dont forget early or late russia will turn against west!!!! now it is the time to solve the problem. russia betrays itself by exposing all ts weakness by attacking ukraine . now which power Russia is !!!!

  23. Smerch

    August 29, 2022 at 12:19 pm

    What does Ukrainian victory look like: the Balkanization of Russia.

  24. michael savell

    August 29, 2022 at 12:19 pm

    I think that Russia will go nuclear shortly and it’s sights are on the UK in the form of London,there will not be many options for it now.
    Sure,they could defeat Ukraine overnight but Putin so far has been very careful not to overplay his hand.However London has been warned that
    it is conceived by the russians as a primary target.It is entirely doubtful that the EU/NATO will actually attack Russia so where does that leave the UK?

  25. Vlad the (would be) Great

    August 29, 2022 at 5:45 pm

    from russia with wet panties,

    Just wondering what is the current minimum wage at the St. Petersburg troll farm…is potato?

  26. Jacksonian Libertarian

    August 29, 2022 at 7:40 pm

    A return to the post-soviet borders.

    Ukraine regained Independence from Russia/Soviet Union in 1991. It’s borders were established then. When Ukraine rejected “Puppet of Putin” status in 2014, Putin invaded Ukrainian territory, directly and with proxies to reestablish Russian rule.

    There is no reason the Free World should let the Authoritarian remnant of the Soviet Union throw its puny weight around. The Russian military is clearly lame, and it’s chicken feed to logistically support Ukraine. What’s more no citizen of the free world needs to die, as the Ukrainians are willing to fight for their freedom.

  27. from Russia with love

    August 31, 2022 at 10:07 am

    @Vlad the (would be) Great
    in your wild, totalitarian country, you need to work in some special organization so that you are allowed to go to foreign resources and leave comments there?😲 you have a fu**ing hard life! ha ha ha🤣
    it’s very funny that you can’t imagine that someone can express their own opinion for free🤣

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