Where is Russia’s war ( excuse me, “special operation”) in Ukraine headed? For the past
several weeks, Ukraine has been engaged in counter-offensive operations in the northeast and south that have recaptured a large area of previously Russian occupied Ukraine territory. Russia is now firing missiles at a large number of civilian and infrastructure targets in Ukraine cities in retaliation for the truck bombing of a bridge between Crimea and Russia. My view is that as destructive as these missile strikes are, they may be more intended for the domestic Russian audience than for the progress of the war.
After two days, about 30 Ukraine civilians have been killed and two-thirds of Lviv’s
electricity has been put out of commission. In Kyiv people are sheltering in subway tunnels, as they have done since the war started in February. But repairs have already started. If Ukraine has not been intimidated after eight months of the war, it is unlikely that missile strikes will change this.
Meanwhile the ground war is stalled, with Ukraine making more progress than Russia. I
see a parallel with the US bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong in the Vietnam War. In 1966, the US was making no progress against the National Liberation Front, and bombed oil depots in Hanoi and Haiphong harbor in an effort to slow supplies to the NLF in South Vietnam. It did not work. The war continued for another nine years, with nearly 60,000 Americans killed and perhaps two million Vietnamese killed. But it made the US military feel better, and gave President Johnson something to crow about as the war otherwise ground on.
It seems from news reports that Russian hardliners are applauding these strikes. But if
there are no immediate signs of Ukraine caving, or even pulling back from its counter-offensives, then how patient will these hardliners be with Putin?
Maybe Russia has unlimited missiles. Maybe Ukraine’s morale is at a breaking point.
Maybe Putin is completely immune from international condemnation and economic sanctions that will increase if Russia goes on an extended terror missile campaign against Ukraine civilians. But if as often is true, the past is prologue, then Putin’s latest missile campaign against Ukraine will likely fail.