Op-ed: The New Russian Offensive Is Intended to Project Power It Cannot Sustain


By Frederick W. Kagan

The fight for Severodonetsk is a Russian information operation in the form of a battle. One of its main purposes for Moscow is to create the impression that Russia has regained its strength and will now overwhelm Ukraine. That impression is false. The Russian military in Ukraine is increasingly a spent force that cannot achieve a decisive victory if Ukrainians hold on.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is therefore trying to turn his invasion of Ukraine into a brutal contest of wills. He’s betting his army on breaking Ukrainians’ collective will to fight on in their country. His own won’t likely break. Fortunately, Ukraine doesn’t need it to. If Ukrainians can weather the current Russian storm and then counterattack the exhausted Russian forces they still have every chance to free their people and all their land.

Putin amassed the wreckage of Russian combat forces into a lethal amalgam around the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk Oblast. That amalgam is crawling forward using massive artillery barrages to obliterate everything in its path allowing Russia’s demoralized and frightened soldiers to walk into the rubble.

Click here to read the full op-ed on TIME's website.