Kyiv is winning the information war, but questions remain
In contemplating the unfolding of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Lawrence Freedman’s substack was invaluable. His latest assessment of Russia’s failures on the battlefield is blunt: “The second phase of the war has been going on for a month now, and the Russians have made few gains… The Russians have amassed all the forces they need for this latest push can muster, with few reserves, and it doesn’t seem to be enough.” This is consistent with other experts’ assessments of the Russian military. Moscow’s offensive ability seems to be dwindling by the day.
Reedman said something else remarkable about Vladimir Putin’s Victory Day speech – that by putting forward such a muted set of war goals, Putin was “offering a definition of victory that might be within reach. As long as Donbass is spared punitive measures, Crimea is defended, and Ukraine gives up the idea of nuclear weapons, Russia will be successful. Putin described an imaginary threat for which he might accept an imaginary solution.”
Russia has paid a heavy price for its ambitions in Ukraine. However, it is worth remembering that if the war ended tomorrow with the battle lines frozen, the Russian Federation would control most of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. The parallels to Stalin’s invasion of Finland in 1939 spring to mind. The Soviet Union suffered terrible losses in the first phase, but gained control of more than 10 percent of Finland – an area it still controls to this day.
One of the arenas in which Ukraine is routing Russia is information warfare.
A lot of attention was paid to the Russian victims and very little was said about the Ukrainian ones. There are plenty of recordings demonstrating the abysmal Russian morale, but we’ve heard little about Ukrainian fatigue.
None of this is to say that the information environment has distorted the state of the conflict beyond recognition. Compared to pre-war expectations, Russia underperformed and Ukraine overperformed.
Polls in Ukraine support narrative of country united in resistance to Russia; Then again, I can’t count the number of times Russia has claimed to capture all of Mariupol without actually happening. What I’m saying is that because Ukraine has been so effective at information, Kyiv has covered up some known unknowns that need to be resolved.
Can Ukraine go on the offensive beyond the north? Ukraine had great success counterattacking to gain territory near Kyiv, but as security experts Margarita Konaev and Polina Beliakova note, other regions will need a different strategy: “To win in Donbass, they will probably have to go to a more conventional one Fight over open ground where they might be more vulnerable… In open ground… the Ukrainians will need serious reinforcements.”
Then there’s the south. The Russians continue to control Cherson and threaten to annex it through a sham referendum. The humanitarian situation in this region is getting worse every day.
And finally, what happens to Ukraine after the war ends, or at least after the battle lines have stabilized? Ukraine has shown exceptional resilience in this war, but questions remain about its future.
Russia’s decision to invade its sovereign neighbor has proved unfortunate.
My question is, compared to 2014, will Russia still end up with territorial gains and Ukraine recover from that?
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/kyiv-is-winning-the-info-war-but-questions-remain-41653197.html Kyiv is winning the information war, but questions remain