The Russian assault on Ukraine is now three days old with sharp fighting seen in the capital city of Kyiv overnight. Yet, Kyiv stands.
America offered to evacuate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Zelenskyy replied, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”
Zelenskyy’s reply was reminiscent of past heroes in times of war: Gen. Anthony McAuliffe who replied in “NUTS” in response to the German demand for surrender at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944; and the Texans striving for independence from dictator Santa Anna’s Mexico with their “Come and Take it Flag,” which was itself appropriated from Spartan King Leonidas and his response the Persian surrender demand at the Battle of Thermopylae.
This bravery, in a day when modern communications allow all Ukrainians and the world to see it, has rallied Ukrainians to defend their nation. And now that the fighting has gone on for three days, what might that mean?
Russian President Putin is said to have assembled 200,000 troops for the invasion. It is estimated that half of them have been committed so far. Further, Putin has called on 10,000 battle-hardened Chechen mercenaries. More than half of Russian forces are likely committed to the battle of Kyiv.
Ukraine has 245,000 active-duty members, but most are in the east, facing the Russian-led and equipped militia in the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Ukraine also has another 220,000 reservists. Many of these are spread across the nation slightly larger than the state of Texas.
The strategic target is Kyiv and its independent government. To move the reservists to the fight, they must contend with Russian air superiority, slowing their march. More importantly, given this struggle for national survival, 7,000,000 men of military age and fit for military service are taking up arms. Every day, many more older men — and many Ukrainian women — are also being issued weapons, making Molotov cocktails, and joining the fight.
The ongoing Ukrainian mobilization means that the Russian military will soon be outnumbered most everywhere on the battlefield. The Ukrainians may not have the same level of modern equipment — missiles, jets, helicopter — but they have numbers and will power. And, the Russians need to eat, they need fuel, and ammunition — their resupply trucks must get through. They won’t, not in large enough numbers; everyday Ukrainians will see to that.
Kyivians need to eat as well. Perhaps Putin’s operational plans are to surround the city of three million and starve it into submission, forcing Zelenskyy to surrender to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. Of note, images of fighting overnight show streetlights still working in the capital city meaning refrigeration is still working, stretching out food supplies by a few days.
But as Putin’s offensive falters and his strength back home is questioned, there’s another, more sinister possibility: He’ll unleash thermobaric bombs on Kyiv. These massive conventional weapons would destroy entire city blocks, killing 10,000 civilians and soldiers at a time. But terror bombing rarely cows the target into submission. Rather, the use of these superweapons will further spur Ukraine and the world against Putin.
Putin would fall shortly after his use of the thermobaric weapons, or he’ll try to take the rest of the world with him.
The war in Ukraine is likely to expand beyond Ukraine. War rarely unfolds as intended.