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Ukraine is at stake as war with Russia could explode

Kiev — It’s a scary time here in Ukraine. It hasn’t been easy for the last eight years, so it’s saying something.

Since 2014, while covering this war, I have seen the most fierce battles I have experienced as US Air Force special operations pilots in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have also witnessed him as a journalist in both wars.

Heavy artillery, rocket attacks, trench warfare, and civilian airliners shot from the sky. In September 2014, I witnessed a tank battle outside the coastal city of Mariupol.

Today, Ukrainian troops continue to fight daily with a joint force of Russian regulars and local recruiters drawn from the Russian occupied territories of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Anxious stalemate has been going on for years. However, with two of Europe’s largest armies burning daily in Donbas, this limited trench war could always turn into a much larger and deadly disaster. Today we are on the verge of that nightmare scenario.

On January 18, 2022, a convoy of Russian armored vehicles will move along the highways of the Crimean Peninsula.

The news that Russian troops entered Belarus on January 17 is a terrifying sign of the possible scale and range of attacks that may be just a few weeks away. The Russian attack surrounding Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, now looks like a real possibility.

We are in the midst of Europe’s most dangerous moments in decades. In Kiev, the bomb shelter sign is up again. Citizens are united to protect their hometown. Ukrainian families are tackling tough choices that must be made immediately, such as fleeing home in the middle of winter or overcoming the possibility of a Russian siege.

The idea that the Russian army will carry out a swift and overwhelming strike intended to inflict massive and irreparable losses on the Ukrainian army, which spurs political surrender (and perhaps a change of power) in Kiev. I have.

In the worst-case scenario, a tactical group of about 100 Russian battalions could invade Ukraine from multiple vectors, preceded by waves of airstrikes and rocket attacks. In response to the threat, Ukraine has strengthened air defense in major locations across the country. And in Kiev, authorities are considering evacuation plans and preparing bomb shelters.

Most Ukrainians were initially skeptical of the possibility of a full-scale Russian invasion this winter. But the mood has changed, and many now believe that a wider war is really possible.

Pro-Russian rebels, Mariupol, Donetsk region, Ukrainian soldiers in trenches on the line of separation from Ukraine
On January 21, 2022, Ukrainian soldiers stand by in trenches on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels.
AP / Andriy Dubchak

According to recent polls, at least one-third of Ukrainians are ready to use force to resist the Russian invasion. And this is not flashy. After almost eight years of conflict, Ukrainians have no naive and romantic impression of what war is.

When Russia invaded Donbas in 2014, the normal Ukrainian army could only recruit thousands of ready-to-combat soldiers. As the country faces the threat of existence, Ukrainian civil society has begun a grassroots war effort and formed a coalition of civilian volunteer battalions. These units consist of men and women with little or no military experience, including native Russian and Ukrainian speakers from all parts of the country, young and old. Many of these volunteers learned how to become soldiers in combat. Baptism by fire, they call “natural selection” boot camps.

This grassroots effort has overturned Russia’s unconventional invasion of Donbas and fought a war against stalemate, which continues to this day. Now, in the threat of greater war, we revisit the spirit of resistance from Ukrainian society.

Soldiers are standing in the wreckage of what used to be the boarding hall at Donetsk Airport.
Ukrainian soldiers are standing in the wreckage of what used to be the boarding hall at Donetsk Airport.
Light Rocket / Joao Bolan via Getty Images
Ader soldiers take pictures in front of ACV
Ukrainian soldiers seen in 2014.
Corbis via Getty Images

But this time, while the national resistance movement is exciting, it may not be effective against traditional Russian blitzkrieg with air power and heavy armor. That said, the normal Ukrainian army is not a pushover. Their changes over the last eight years have been remarkable.

The Ukrainian Army is a professional, disciplined, combat-enhanced unit. The army has removed the Soviet chain of command model, where decision-making was at the top, and front-line troops have little flexibility to exercise control during an attack. Ukrainian frontline officers now have the autonomy to make their own decisions in combat. These changes make Ukrainian troops more adaptable to battlefield reality and less dependent on centralized orders from headquarters. This is a useful attribute for working in the fog of war created by Russian cyber attacks and the Air Force.

Western military aid has improved the viability of Ukrainian combat forces in Donbas. And the delivery of weapons, such as the Javelin anti-tank missiles in the United States and the airborne anti-tank weapons to Kiev in the United Kingdom on January 17, all greatly help boost the morale of Ukrainians.

But apart from its symbolic value, I am worried that it may already be too late for Western military assistance to improve Ukraine’s defenses against Russia’s major attacks. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union also need to consider preemptive provision of humanitarian aid to prepare for the potential for millions of refugees in the midst of winter.

Ukrainians are willing to fight. Western support, whether diplomatic gestures or weapons, shows Ukrainian soldiers and civilians that they are not forgotten, and that the dreams of democracy and freedom are worth fighting. It’s a message the world needs to hear.

Ukrainian soldiers walk abandoned houses on a separation line from pro-Russian rebels.
Ukrainian soldiers walk abandoned houses on a separation line from pro-Russian rebels.
AP / Andriy Dubchak

During World War II, during the lifetime of humans, Ukraine was one of the deadliest battlefields in human history. No one should think that such another war is impossible or that the events of our time are not affected by the endless war and peace cycle of history.

In “Who rings the bell,” Ernest Hemingway wrote, “If you win here, you will win everywhere.”

I can’t think of a better way to explain why Ukraine’s fate is important to NATO, the United States, and democracy around the world.

Nolan Peterson is the captain of the U.S. Air Force and said, “Why soldiers miss war.. From The Wall Street Journal.

Ukraine is at stake as war with Russia could explode

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