Austin Bay

Ukraine’s heroic resistance to Russia’s invasion has created several facts on the ground that affect immediate combat operations and shape nascent ceasefire/peace negotiations.

The facts also affect the next five decades of world history, for they indicate we are witnessing the birth of a new warrior state of the type that knows defending democratic sovereignty is worth the blood, sweat, tears, fighting and dying.

First, the facts on the ground.

Ukraine has denied Russia a blitzkrieg “regime change” victory. Russian President Vladimir Putin expected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to either flee or be assassinated, Kyiv to fall quickly and Ukraine to surrender.

Zelenskyy is still on the planet, leading Ukraine, motivating NATO and amazing the world. Live or die, he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for defending democratic sovereignty against imperialist tyranny.

After a month of combat, Ukraine still has more than what military historians call an “army in being” (an army still present on the battlefield); it has an armed nation in being.


Since Feb. 24, Ukrainian defense forces have destroyed some 20% of Russia’s armor-heavy invading ground forces. Credible sources indicate Russian casualties are higher, citing the number of Russian units withdrawn to receive replacements and new equipment.

In the last two weeks Ukrainian forces have launched successful counterattacks in the north. This indicates they have local freedom of maneuver.

Credit steel-nerved Ukrainian infantry and local defense fighters who have honed their ambush and anti-armor tactics in eight years of slow combat in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. Yes, Ukraine’s forces learned a lot in the slow war Putin waged while the rest of the world bought Russian oil and gas.

Also credit superior anti-tank weapons like the U.S.-made Javelin and Ukraine’s indigenous Stugna-P anti-tank missile — but understand Ukrainian soldiers are employing them.

Fascinating fact: Ukrainian ground forces managed to thwart Putin’s grandiose plans despite Russian air superiority. This has surprised the pseudo-military analysts who merely count tanks and bullets and jet fighters and the number of generals they know, but Ukraine has succeeded in denying Russia air supremacy.

Credit the guts and adaptability of Ukraine’s tiny air force and the technical excellence of man-packed surface-to-air missiles, the U.S.-made Stinger in particular.


Huge moral, morale and political fact: the Ukrainian people who have resisted the genocidal missile and artillery attacks on their cities.

All told, the Ukrainians’ collective bravery and the tactical actions of their fighting forces have exposed major tactical, operational and logistical deficiencies in Russia’s army and air force and — big deal — grievous strategic miscalculations by Putin and his Kremlin cronies.

The current conditions suggest an extended war. Russia has thousands of rocket and tube artillery pieces, but the sanctions-damaged Kremlin cannot afford to fight an extended war, much less a frozen war, like Korea.

Flickering negotiations have occurred, the first semi-serious meeting this week. The Kremlin now indicates it only wants to incorporate the Donbas region into Russia and for Ukraine to give up all claims to Crimea.

Thorny and unbridgeable disagreements? Yes. The kind that lead to frozen ceasefires and frozen wars.

Perhaps Ukraine will lose territory. But whatever constitutes Ukraine will be a 21st century warrior state perpetually confronting Russia.


In 1940 Finland fought Russia to a bloody draw in the Winter War, most of the blood spilled by Stalin’s hapless troops. Yes, the Finns got beat in 1944 and conceded territory, but Finlandization wasn’t really neutral. Finland became an armed-to-the-teeth nation prepared to fight Russia for every centimeter of territory. The tiny Finnish regular army becomes an 800,000-soldier force in around 48 hours.

South Korea and Israel rank as warrior states. Israel lacked a terrain advantage, so it developed technical advantages and created tactical and operational expertise. I’ve two other 21st century warrior state candidates: Taiwan and Vietnam. Both are in close proximity to China; enmity closely entwines with proximity to an aggressive imperial power.

Switzerland? Sure, it still arms its citizens for extended resistance, and maintains Alpine bastions.

South Korea’s capital, Seoul, remains vulnerable, like Kyiv, but economically, politically and culturally South Korea has won the Korean War. Ukraine might just do the same to Russia, to Putin’s eternal damnation.

Austin Bay is a syndicated columnist and author.

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