100 days of war test European unity and patience: How long can Ukraine hold out?
There are signs of European countries getting tired of the war. Wary of the war spilling over into the rest of Europe and their own energy security, Ukraine is being advised to sue for peace
The theatre of the absurd that Europe has been putting on received a jarring but forceful pushback this past week when organisers of the Cannes Film Festival invited President Zelensky of Ukraine to address the gathering virtually.
What followed were standing ovations, bouts of self-congratulation and an illusion of grandeur until Jean-Luc Godard decided to puncture the balloon. The celebrated filmmaker described Cannes as a “propaganda tool” and Zelensky as a “bad actor”. Considering Godard knows a thing or two about actors, this was a damning verdict.
However, he is not alone. The fatigue, particularly in Europe, has started to set in. Earlier this month, Warsaw Municipality Government quietly dropped the order to fix Ukrainian flags on government buildings and public transport. Some other cities withdrew the provision for Ukrainian refugees to use public transportation for free. Then this week Poland announced that it is no more giving free oil to Ukraine and that if it wants more, it shall have to buy it.
Elsewhere, while the 6th package of sanctions against Russia was passed by the EU, it could only do so after several weeks of toxic haggling. And even when it finally managed to pass an oil-import ban, it immediately became clear that it was just for appearances, and that Russian oil will continue to flow through pipelines.
It appears that Germany and France have started to wake up to the Anglosphere’s designs. This US and UK imposed war is hollowing out Germany and France, Europe’s economic power houses, by destroying their economies. The UK is particularly chuffed about breaking the European Union and forming an informal union of Russophobe countries from the Baltics and Central Europe.
Germany now believes that one of the objectives of the Anglosphere through this war was to kill the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany which was crucial for keeping German industry competitive in the world market. German industrial leaders are crying hoarse over this but European capitals, including and particularly Berlin, are too timid to stand up for their own interests. The same goes for France.
However, sources say, lately, both Germany and France are taking some steps in tandem to sabotage the Anglosphere’s designs in Ukraine. Both Germany and France have either stopped supplying critical weapons to Ukraine or are delaying it to the point where they shall have little or no role to play in the war. They are also wary about the possible wheat shortage across the world and have established back-channels with Moscow to look at possible ways Ukrainian wheat can be exported via the Black Sea.
The West’s allegation that the grain shortage is because of Russia does not appear to be factual. This year, the wheat sowing was down. Some crops got destroyed in the war too. Therefore, Ukraine’s total harvest is 21.5 million tons, 35% less than last year. Both the yield and sown area decreased by 18% and 21% respectively from the previous year. And this is not all.
As many as 75 foreign vessels that were to carry wheat are stuck at different ports in Ukraine that are still under Ukrainian control. These ships are not leaving because it is Ukraine that has mined the shallow waters leading to the port. If nothing can come in, it also means that nothing can go out.
Militarily too, the western press has started to prepare its audience for the inevitable after months of unadulterated propaganda that Ukraine is somehow winning this war militarily. A slew of articles has appeared in the NYT, the WP, BBC and the likes admitting to serious military setbacks in the Donbas region.
Militarily speaking, the change in tactic is visible on the part of the Russians. Rather than making sharp forays bypassing the population centres and consequently exposing its rear to sabotage and partisan actions, the Russians are now deploying the World War II tactics.
The tactic now is to make pincer movements and form smaller cauldrons. Then, these cauldrons where Ukrainian Military has created fortified positions and trenches for the last eight years are given a sustained volley of fire from artillery and mortar. Only when the fortified position is destroyed and most of the soldiers killed in the trenches that Russian Infantry is moving in for the mopping-up operations.
At the time of writing this report, Russians and allies had captured some seriously fortified towns including, but not limited to, Popasnaya and Severodonetsk. They have also occupied the villages of Dibrova and Stariy Karavan and have started assaulting the settlement of Raigorodok. The next big prize shall be the town of Slavyansk which is merely 16 kilometres from Raigorodok. The Donbas front is collapsing so fast that it is entirely possible that the assault on Slavyansk would already be in progress by the time you get this broadsheet in your hands.
However, there appears to be some change in tactic on the side of Ukrainians as well. Following the surrender of Azov Neo-Nazis at Mariupol, other units have realised that it is better to retreat and live to die for another day than to get destroyed by the Russian Artillery. This is the reason why this front has collapsed. However, the decision to not get destroyed and withdraw to the next line of fortified defence means it will become increasingly difficult for the Russians to break the subsequent line of defence.
This is not to say that the Russians are not capable of doing it. It only means that the going shall get tougher progressively. For example, units that withdrew from Popasnaya and Severodonetsk have already reinforced the Slavyansk-KramatorskArtemovsk triangle, making it more difficult for Russia to conquer than Popasnaya and Severodonetsk.
The despair that has set-in in the Russophobe capitals and the rupture in the famed European unity has been achieved because of the successes on the battlefields. It is only going to intensify in the weeks and months to come.
(The writer is an independent commentator. Views are personal)
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)