So Many Dead, Not Much Hope

It’s too bad we’re not dealing with soccer, where it’s enjoyable when both sides play to win. This opening play is usually the first stage in war, when it is still not clear which way the pendulum will swing and when neither party has lost the conviction that, in the end, it will win. It is also the worst phase, when the most people are killed.

Vladimir Putin has no reason to declare a cease-fire. He is the aggressor, the one with ambitions and plans to carry out and a military so big you need binoculars to see the extent of it. To be fair, the troops are a sensitive subject as this enormous force is underperforming at the moment. Even Viktor Zolotov, Putin’s former bodyguard and the current director of the 340,000-member National Guard of Russia, felt compelled to say at a church service that he believed so-called far-right Ukrainian forces were using civilians as shields. Those damned fascists, Zolotov said, hide behind civilians, and that’s why heroic peacemakers have to demolish cities along with their people and their hospitals.

Rumor has it that Putin is in a rage and looking for someone to blame. The future is not looking necessarily bright for Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu or the many generals who have been planning war for about eight years. The longer the war continues, the better so they can keep their jobs. In the meantime, Russian intelligence agency leaders at the Federal Security Service, successor to the KGB, have wasted a few billion rubles, something which would not be the end of the world, but they failed to warn the Russian president that Ukrainians don’t long for Mother Russia. They wouldn’t have dared, and it’s just as bad as if they had, were too afraid to do so and now the consequences are the same as if they had, except they can’t look in the mirror.

However, the biggest problem is still the fact that Putin has to win; otherwise his own people will go for the jugular. If he had a soul, he would be troubled by the thousands of fallen soldiers and the fate of a country plunged into a huge and hopeless situation. The modernization of the Russian military took precedence over everything but it is becoming obvious that Putin failed. He has been unable to conquer the far smaller Ukrainian army for three weeks, and he can’t even begin to think about testing any members of NATO.

Of course, this is not the only issue. Ukrainians have determined they can actually win, so there is no urgent need to negotiate. Ukrainian troops are experienced and committed; modern Western weapons are in good hands. Still, at a bloody cost, they repelled the front line of cavalier Russian troops with growing confidence and spirit. It is increasingly more difficult for the U.S. and NATO to deny declaring a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which is understandable given that it could drag half the world into the war.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy is frighteningly convincing playing the role of a president who is destined for death. As long as he is breathing and remains in Kyiv, the resistance will persevere. Regardless of the number of victims, the destruction and the refugees, Ukraine is increasingly more hopeful. Only a couple of more weeks, maybe a couple of months, and Putin will send his soldiers home.

Objectively speaking, of course, there is little hope that this will happen. For a Ukrainian victory, Russia would have to defeat itself. Hope, as the American saying goes, is not a strategy.

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