Strategy, Politics and Ethics of the Ukrainian Counteroffensive

Ukraine Soldier

The Ukrainian counteroffensive of the past three months or so, starting on 4 June, has been widely discussed. In one of the most well-documented and thoughtful reviews of this counteroffensive titled ‘Bound to Lose— Ukraine’s 2023 Counteroffensive’ Prof. John J.  Mearsheimer, who is R.Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, has raised several important issues.

As the title of this review (published on September 2) indicates, Prof. Mearsheimer has presented a lot of evidence to show that the counteroffensive has been a “colossal failure”. After 3 months the Ukrainian troops have made little progress while suffering enormous casualties. As the review states, “All nine of the vaunted brigades the NATO armed and trained for the counteroffensive have been badly chewed up on the battlefield.”

What is more, this review argues that this failure is not at all a surprise. Instead this review argues convincingly, on the basis of a lot of history of military strategy and the military balance of two sides, that “the Ukrainian counteroffensive was doomed to fail from the start.” The review states “there was virtually no chance of the Ukrainian forces’ ability to defeat Russia’s defending forces to achieve their political goal.”

Despite this some of the topmost former generals and most frequented cited ‘top military experts’ of the USA as well as media commentators have been steadily stating time and again before and during the counteroffensive that it will succeed and that it is doing well. This review mentions several of these statements. These were used to create a false sense of victory being round the corner. This review states that despite this several Ukrainian leaders were reluctant about the counteroffensive, being aware of the real situation and unwilling to be led up the path of slaughter. Hence they delayed the counteroffensive but the pressure was so built by aggressive elements from the west on them that finally they had no option but to launch the counteroffensive.

Hence this review makes four important points. Firstly, the counteroffensive has clearly failed. Secondly, the balance of forces was such that this failure was the most likely outcome from the start and only to be expected. Thirdly, despite this, all the time top experts including former generals in the USA were saying that the counteroffensive is very likely to do well and succeed. Fourthly, several high-ups among Ukrainian authorities were reluctant about the counteroffensive and the counteroffensive may not have happened but for the aggressive promotion from the US or other western ‘experts’.

These findings of this review raise very disturbing questions. Surely the top US experts or former generals could not have been unaware of the several military realities or the lessons from military history which indicated quite clearly that the counteroffensive is most likely to be a failure. Then why did they keep giving false assurances regarding the imagined success? Were they just plain stupid, or were they deliberately dishonest in presenting a false picture? The fact that several of them are known to get a lot of benefits from the military industrial complex would indicate that they are more likely to have been dishonest rather than stupid. It is due to the false notion of the success of the counteroffensive spread by them that the big arms companies could be assured of getting the big orders related to the massive arms supply to Ukraine for the counteroffensive.

While the arms companies made their billions, thousands of Ukrainian youth were doomed to die or get seriously injured in the counteroffensive as is confirmed now from the very heavy casualties suffered by the Ukrainian forces. Who is responsible for these deaths and serious injuries? Aren’t those who told lies to ensure that orders keep booming for arms companies responsible for these avoidable deaths? And what about the big US media which collaborated to an alarming extent in spreading these lies—doesn’t it share a significant part of this blame?

There are some indications now that with the counteroffensive failing, some US and western leaders may be finally more willing for a realistic negotiated settlement. This must start with an unconditional ceasefire as early as possible so that any further loss of lives can be avoided as much as possible. Will the peddlers of the arms industry, those who have no hesitation to earn millions by sacrificing the life of others, stay behind this time or will they again try to disrupt the path of early peace? For the sake of peace one hopes that they can be kept behind at least for some time so that the genuine peace-makers can be in the front at last.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, Earth without Borders, Man over Machine and A Day in 2071.


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