The Tide Turns Against Russia – Again

“And thus the bad news/good news cycle about Ukraine enters another optimistic phase.” – Cathy Young, The Bulwark

The “optimistic phase” above is a reference to the news the Russia’s latest offensive has gone … about as well as all the others.

It now seems clear that Russia’s Kharkiv offensive, which caused a near-panic (or, in some circles, celebration) about an imminent collapse of the Ukrainian front and Russia’s imminent, major territorial gains, is a bust. After initial rapid advancement in border areas, the forward movement of Russian troops is stalled—and Ukrainians, with their new supplies of arms and munitions, are not only repelling Russian attacks but, in some cases, reclaiming lost ground. What’s more, while the Russian offensive in the Kharkiv region has been widely seen as a maneuver to force the Armed Forces of Ukraine to divert some of their troops from the Donetsk region and facilitate Russian gains there, no such gains have materialized. Overall, the Kharkiv offensive probably backfired by galvanizing Western material support for Ukraine. While the pessimistic narratives were no doubt demoralizing for many Ukrainians, they also sent a “Do something before it’s too late” message to NATO countries.

Meanwhile, NATO is making it clear the message was received (WaPo).

Biden and Zelensky signed a 10-year security agreement hours after leaders of the Group of Seven major democracies announced a plan to tap frozen Russian assets and provide Ukraine with $50 billion in additional funds. It all came a day after the United States also announced new sanctions on individuals and companies helping Russia’s war effort.

The $50B comes on top of $60B that Congress approved for Ukraine last spring (hence the “new supplies of arms and munitions” Cathy Young mentioned). On land, it’s leading to Ukraine taking back parts of Kharkiv province that Russia recently took with so much “celebration.” At sea, Ukraine continues to win the naval war despite not having a navy worthy of the name. In the air, at least one Russian Su-57 (“regarded as one of Russia’s most advanced fighter planes”) has bit the dust.

Then there are those new sanctions (also WaPo).

A tough new raft of U.S. sanctions sent jitters rippling through the Russian financial system Thursday and forced Moscow’s main financial trading platform to halt dollar and euro transactions, further raising the cost of President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine.

All in all, June 2024 has not been the best month for the Kremlin. They’ve even resorted to a new “peace deal”- in which Putin demanded not only to keep what he seized from Ukraine but additional land he has not seized. It went over about as well as expected.

Still, Putin has one card he can play – if he can get it in his hand: Donald Trump back in the White House.

We’ll see if the American people are really willing to deal him that card.

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