Before Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the “partial mobilization” of troops in the Donbas region of Ukraine, former U.S. Lieutenant General (Ret.) Ben Hodges told the Kyiv Independent that Ukraine’s recent success has changed the way people view the war in Ukraine.
Reclaiming thousands of square kilometers in Kharkiv, Ukrainian showed that they could use U.S.-supplied HIMARS and other NATO-standard weapons and equipment supplied by the West effectively. And, according to Hodges, much of the rest of the world now believes that Ukraine is in with a shot of winning the war.
“Now people around the world, in Europe and U.S., starting thinking…wow, Ukraine can win,” he told the independent Ukrainian news outlet.
“Those Ukrainian soldiers are exhausted right now, but they’re not as tired as the Russians.”
While Hodges warned against celebrating a Ukrainian victory early – wise words given Russia’s historically aggressive and escalatory response to the victories – he did say that the war has now reached a point of “irreversible momentum.”
“Beginning of a Big Military Defeat” in Ukraine
Ukrainian political analyst Roman Rukomeda shared a similar view in an op-ed for Euractiv, describing how Ukraine’s counter-offensive was the beginning of a “big Russian military defeat” in the war.
Rukomeda described the Russian military as a “paper bear” that remains dangerous, given that the military does still have weapons and a sizeable number of troops, albeit ones that don’t want to fight. Nonetheless, Rukomeda said that the victory shows Russia can be defeated and that the only way to end the conflict is to beat Russia on the battlefield, return Ukrainian territory to the Ukrainian people, and keep hurting Russia until the Kremlin is finally “ready to hold negotiations on returning to the rules of the international relations with appropriate restitutions.”
The only way that won’t happen is if Russia’s “partial mobilization” of reserve troops proves effective.
Will Russian Troops Be Motivated to Succeed in Ukraine?
While Putin may have found a solution to his lack of troops, finding almost double the 147,000 additional troops he said he needed only a matter of weeks ago, the announcement made on Wednesday morning appears to have spooked many Russians.
Almost all flights from Moscow were fully booked as of Wednesday afternoon, and the prospect of a draft – even though Putin is only taking military reservists so far – could have young, fighting-age men running scared. Putin may have more soldiers on the battlefield, but only time will tell whether those soldiers will be motivated to win, and how many consider the risk of 10 years in prison for desertion worth it to save their own lives.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.