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Ukraine ups the ante

Ukrainian marines attend military drills in the Donetsk region.

Ukrainian marines attend military drills in the Donetsk region.

REUTERS/Sofiia Gatilova

On Wednesday, The New York Times’ Eric Schmitt reported that the “main thrust of Ukraine’s nearly two-month-old counteroffensive is now underway in the country’s southeast,” according to two Pentagon officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

These US sources said that thousands of reinforcements, until recently held in reserve, are now “pouring into the grinding battle” along a front in the country’s southeast. This description squares with Wednesday's reports from the battlefield from both Ukrainian and Russian sources.

Whether Ukrainian forces succeed or fail to post strategically important battlefield gains, this is potentially a crucial moment in the war.

In recent weeks, both public pronouncements and private grumbling, particularly in Europe and the United States, have expressed mounting Western frustration with the so-far slow pace of Ukraine’s attacks on entrenched Russian positions. That’s a signal that Ukraine is failing to achieve the prime objective of its counteroffensive: To persuade US and European backers that Ukrainian forces can use Western weapons and training to eventually win the war.

These first reports of a major Ukrainian push toward Russian defenses deeper into the country’s southeast may prove the counteroffensive’s first true test. Ukrainian officials have reportedly told Washington privately that this push should last “one to three weeks.”

The bottom line: By raising hopes and expectations again for major imminent progress on the battlefield, the counteroffensive’s near-term stakes now appear to have climbed much higher.


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