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The other battle in Ukraine

A Ukrainian military helicopter takes off to carry out a mission

A Ukrainian military helicopter takes off to carry out a mission


Ukrainian and Russian officials said on Thursday that Ukraine’s much-anticipated counteroffensive against Russian forces has begun.

There will be much talk this summer about where the fighting is concentrated, though Ukraine may well begin in one area and suddenly focus its firepower on another front to deceive Russian forces. There will be speculation about Kyiv’s territorial gains, much of it centered on arguments that Ukraine must break the so-called land bridge that connects Russian fighters in the eastern Donbas region with Russian forces in Crimea.

But the true significance of what’s about to happen is broader than that. In America and Europe, optimism has grown that Ukraine will soon post some big wins. Ukraine’s government and military know expectations are high.

That’s why, even if it doesn’t end the war, Ukraine’s counteroffensive will be a game-changer, whether it succeeds or fails.

To sustain the support which remains the lifeblood of its war effort and the foundation of its hopes for the future, Ukraine’s true strategic objective in coming weeks will be simply to prove to its US and European backers that its soldiers can use the advanced weapons, training, and money the West has provided to win the war on Ukrainian terms. Russia’s objective is to prove that it can’t.

If, after the counteroffensive has run its course in coming months, Kyiv can convince its allies that victory is achievable, Western support will likely remain strong. If the Russians prove they can absorb Ukrainian blows and blunt the force of this advance, there will be many more critics inside Europe and the United States who say support for Ukraine is prohibitively expensive and unsustainable, helping Russia outlast Ukraine and the West to win a war of attrition.

In short, we’ll all closely follow coverage of what’s happening on the ground in Ukraine in coming weeks. We’ll study maps to assess the breakthroughs or breakdowns of its advances. We’ll be watching to see how much pain and dread Russian fighters are willing and able to withstand, how much lasting damage they can inflict, and how much more dysfunction and infighting among their commanders they can tolerate.

But the other big battle will be for control of the narrative. Who’s winning? Who’s losing? What are we learning about how long the fight may last and what it might cost? That’s the other battle in Ukraine. And we should all question with care every bit of news we see and hear, because information remains among the war’s most powerful weapons.


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