Battles then and now

I don’t know what’s going to happen in Ukraine. Like most people, I’ve been immensely inspired by their spirit and resistance to the Russian invaders. I think it’s pretty clear it’s not gone as Putin expected. Coupled with the scale of sanctions arraigned against Russia, Putin finds himself in a big hole.

It’s hard to predict the actions of an autocrat like Putin. This whole venture has a whiff of irrationality about it, but perhaps it just seems that way because Ukraine has been a lot harder to conquer than expected. A quick victory and he would have been making demands of the world. Instead, he’s mired in a war going nowhere while his reputation and the Russian economy tanks.

Given the desperate situation he finds himself in, how will he respond – and where will this end? He’s already mentioned nuclear weapons. He’s now bombing maternity hospitals. Are biological weapons a possibility? No matter how inspiring the Ukrainian resistance has been, it’s very likely to get a whole lot uglier.

I would like to see peace talks brokered by the UN, just to prove they’re good for something. A man like Putin has to be given a way out of the mess he’s in. Men like him rely on their reputation; ‘face’ is important to them, both personally and politically. I would like to see him destroyed, but more realistically, a way out needs to be negotiated in which some pride is retained.

Longer-term, I suspect Putin will become more vulnerable domestically, particularly as the sanctions bite the people, and the oligarchs. He’s been shown as fallible.

I’ve been watching it unfold very keenly. As a student of WW2, I’ve found it fascinating as the conflict ranges across great battlefields of the last world war. Kharkov, as it was called in the history books I read (as opposed to the Ukrainian Kharkiv), was the site of huge encounters between German and Russian troops – as the Germans advanced (and won big), and as they retreated (fighting a handy rearguard action).

Just over the Russian border is Belgorod. Nearby is Kursk. Together they were the site of the greatest tank battle in history.

What may be significant is that once the Germans occupied Ukraine an effective resistance went underground, tying up German forces and inflicting damage. The partisans were fierce and brave back then – I would expect nothing different now if it comes to that.

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