Max Boot

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A large disturbance in the sea, believed to be caused by a leak in an underwater Nord Stream gas pipeline, is observed off the Denmark coast on Tuesday. (Danish Defence Command/AP)

On Monday, Danish and Swedish authorities detected underwater explosions in the Baltic Sea that breached the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines designed to carry gas from Russia to Germany. “All available information indicates leaks are the result of a deliberate act”, said European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. So, as they say in murder mysteries, who done it?

The Kremlin, predictably, denied any responsibility and blamed the U.S. government — as it has previously done for everything from the spread of AIDS during the 1980s to the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine in 2014 by a Russian missile battery.…  Seguir leyendo »

Police detain demonstrators at an unauthorized protest against Russia's partial military mobilization on Saturday in St. Petersburg. (Anatoly Maltsev/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

It turns out there’s a good reason Russian dictator Vladimir Putin waited so long — nearly seven months — after launching his failing war of aggression against Ukraine before beginning even a partial mobilization of military manpower. The mobilization, announced last week, was intended to showcase Russian strength. Instead, it is revealing the hidden weakness of Putin’s kleptocratic rule.

Like many dictators, Putin is good at staying in power and looting the treasury — but little else. He might strut like a strongman, but when push comes to shove, he is revealed as a miserable coward presiding over the empty husk of a petro-state.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s truculent speech on Wednesday was his latest gambit to change the course of a conflict that is trending inevitably toward his country’s defeat. He announced a limited military mobilization and the imminent annexation of four partially occupied Ukrainian provinces (Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Luhansk) through sham referendums. To cap it all off, he issued veiled nuclear threats: “If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff”.

This was a version of the address Putin was widely expected to deliver on May 9, the Russian holiday commemorating victory in World War II, minus a declaration of war or general mobilization.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ukrainian soldiers ride a tank in Novoselivka on Sept. 17. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin keeps going from bad to worse in his invasion of Ukraine. From his perspective, the last week has been an unmitigated catastrophe.

Ukraine’s stunning, surprisingly successful Kharkiv offensive has continued rolling on, having already liberated an estimated 3,500 square miles from Russian rule — i.e., more than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Ukrainian troops are now nearing Luhansk province, which they had lost in July. That makes it increasingly unlikely that Putin will ever achieve even his scaled-down objective of conquering the Donbas region (Luhansk is one of two provinces that make up Donbas).

The Russian forces keep trying and, so far failing, to reestablish a new defensive line.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last week, I wrote that Ukrainian forces had the initiative and Vladimir Putin was losing his “war of choice”. Little did I know how true that was. When I wrote that column, attention was focused on Ukraine’s offensive in the south toward Kherson. That attack is making only incremental gains, but in the past week, Ukraine has launched a surprise offensive in Kharkiv province that has achieved lightning progress in the northeast.

The internet is full of images of jubilant Ukrainian civilians being freed from the yoke of Russian occupation. In all, Ukrainian forces claim to have liberated more than 1,000 square miles of territory (more than the land area of Los Angeles and New York combined), and the offensive is not over yet.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Ukrainian soldier takes a selfie as an artillery system fires in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, on Sept. 3. (Kostiantyn Liberov/AP)

At the end of August, Ukrainian forces launched a slow-motion offensive to push the Russian invaders out of Kherson, one of the biggest cities they have occupied since the start of the war more than six months ago. The Institute for the Study of War reports that “the Ukrainian counteroffensive is making verifiable progress”, although it remains far from clear when, or even if, the Ukrainians can liberate Kherson.

But, while the fate of Kherson remains to be determined, the larger trend is not in dispute: Ukraine is winning its war of independence. The major issue now is how much of its territory it can claw back.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Ukrainian serviceman is seen near an anti-tank grenade launcher at a position in a front line in Mykolaiv region, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, on Aug. 10. (Anna Kudriavtseva/Reuters)

If you want to understand the Ukrainian way of war, you could do worse than to pick up, as I recently did, a 1954 book called “Strategy” by the influential British military thinker Basil Liddell Hart. Having been gassed during the 1916 Battle of the Somme, where much of his battalion was wiped out, Captain Liddell Hart had developed a burning hatred of brutish generals who led their men to slaughter in frontal and futile attacks on the enemy. He called this the “direct approach”, and he attributed it to the great nineteenth-century Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz, who held that “only a great battle can produce a major decision”.…  Seguir leyendo »

The aftermath of a strike on a detention center in eastern Ukraine that killed more than 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war on July 29. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

The moral relativism of self-consciously neutral journalism — “Jack says the moon is made of green cheese, Jill disagrees” — is bad enough when it comes to political reporting. It’s far more noxious in the case of war crimes. Yet many publications are reporting the sickening massacre of 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war on Friday with headlines like this one from The Post: “Ukraine and Russia trade blame for attack killing Mariupol prisoners”.

This might make sense for the Iran-Iraq war, but there is no moral equivalency between Ukraine and Russia. The Ukrainians are innocent victims of unprovoked aggression. They are not known to deliberately target civilians, much less their own captured soldiers.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Ukrainian serviceman as seen by a HIMARS vehicle in eastern Ukraine on July 1. (Anastasia Vlasova for The Washington Post)

The war in Ukraine has now entered its third phase.

Phase one, beginning on Feb. 24, was Russia’s pell-mell attempt to take Kyiv. That resulted in failure thanks to terrible Russian logistics (remember the 40-mile convoy?) and a skillful Ukrainian defense making use of handheld weapons such as Stingers and Javelins supplied by the West.

Phase two began in mid-April, when Russian dictator Vladimir Putin concentrated his forces on Luhansk province in the eastern Donbas region. That phase, characterized by relentless Russian artillery bombardment, ended in early July with the retreat of Ukrainian forces from Luhansk.

In the third phase of the war, Ukrainian troops are holding a strong defensive position in neighboring Donetsk province (also part of Donbas) and effectively hitting back with High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and other longer-range weapons supplied by the West.…  Seguir leyendo »

A launch truck fires a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) during combat training at the Yakima Training Center in Washington on May 23, 2011. (Tony Overman/AP)

It has become commonplace to observe that Ukraine is mired in a “long war” — one that could last for years, according to NATO’s secretary general. That could well be correct. The war, after all, has already lasted nearly five months and continues to grind on. But I fear that by so readily accepting that there is no end in sight, we might be giving in to fatalism and defeatism. Instead of becoming resigned to a never-ending war, the West should be focusing on how to shorten the conflict by enabling Ukraine to win.

A long war, after all, probably favors Russia.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman cries near flowers left at the destroyed Amstor shopping mall in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, on June 28. (Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Western leaders have been gathering in Europe this week for the Group of Seven meeting and the NATO summit, with Ukraine at the top of the agenda. The G-7 leaders reemphasized their “condemnation of Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable war of aggression against Ukraine” and promised to “stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes”.

The Kremlin sent its rejoinder in the form of missile strikes on civilian targets in Kyiv and Kremenchuk. The Kremenchuk strike was particularly deadly: A Russian bomber apparently fired at least one Kh-22 cruise missile at a crowded shopping mall, killing at least 18 civilians and injuring many more.…  Seguir leyendo »

U.S. soldiers fire a howitzer in Afghanistan in 2011. (David Goldman/AP)

U.S. military assistance to Ukraine has been good — but not good enough. In part, that’s because of a conceptual error we keep making. We keep thinking it’s their war. We should understand that this is our war — and act accordingly.

Russia didn’t just attack one country. It attacked the very foundation of the rules-based international order the United States and its allies have been building since 1945. If Russia gets away with its aggression, that will send a signal to dictators around the world that they can do what they want and that the West is too weak to stop them.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ukrainian service members fire toward Russian positions, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on June 8. (Stringer/Reuters)

The battle of Donbas — with momentous implications for the future of Ukraine and the entire postwar world — is poised on a knife edge.

The Ukrainians are resisting bravely, but they are suffering terrible casualties and slowly losing ground. They are able to fire only 5,000 to 6,000 artillery rounds a day, compared with 50,000 rounds a day from the Russians. The Ukrainians are running out of ammunition for their old Soviet artillery, and they don’t have enough Western artillery tubes to make up for the shortfall.

I am reminded of the old poem about how “for want of a nail a shoe was lost”, then a horse, then a rider, then a battle, then a kingdom.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Ukrainian soldier peers through binoculars on the front line in Krasnohorivka, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, on June 3. (Anna Kudriavtseva/Reuters)

History is littered with nations that launched wars in the expectation of a quick and painless victory, only to bog down in a conflict far more protracted and far less successful than anticipated. Think of Napoleon in Spain and Russia, Germany in World War I and II, North Korea in the Korean War, Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War, the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. Once the initial spasm of optimism faded, these conflicts all turned into wars of attrition in which the side that could endure and inflict the most punishment prevailed.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, now more than 100 days old, has followed this pattern.…  Seguir leyendo »

A bulk carrier moored on May 7 in Constanta, Romania, where Russia’s Black Sea blockade is forcing trade to reroute. (Andrei Pungovschi/Bloomberg)

Mars, the god of war, is a fickle master. Until now, the big story out of Ukraine has been the failure of the Russian onslaught. But the “orcs” — as the Ukrainians call Russian troops — have finally learned some lessons from the shellacking they took during the battles of Kyiv and Kharkiv. Rather than trying to advance on multiple axes across the whole country, the Russian army has now focused its attack on a small portion of Donbas, where it has achieved local superiority in manpower and firepower.

With merciless artillery fire (“They’re just raining down metal on us”, one Ukrainian soldier told The Post), the Russians have made slow but steady advances.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cars pass by destroyed Russian tanks in the village of Dmytrivka, close to Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

It’s been more than a month since Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, having failed to take Kyiv, launched an offensive in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine to salvage some glimmer of victory from his unprovoked war of aggression.

How’s that going? Well, Russia did finally take the southern city of Mariupol after the last defenders surrendered — not that there is much left of the city after the Russian bombardment. But Ukrainian troops have pushed the invaders out of artillery range of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, located only about 20 miles from the Russian border. The Russian offensive is now focused on Severodonetsk, one of the last remaining Ukrainian strongholds in the Luhansk region, which the Russians are trying to turn into the “new Mariupol”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Reservists of the Karelia Brigade shoot with live rounds during the Etela-Karjala 22 local defense exercise in Taipalsaari, Finland, on March 9. (Lehtikuva/Via Reuters)

Less than three years ago, while President Donald Trump was threatening not to defend allies who didn’t pay enough for the privilege, French President Emmanuel Macron was lamenting the “brain death of NATO”. Things hardly seemed to improve when President Biden pulled U.S. troops out of Afghanistan (a NATO mission) after scant consultation with allies. As Kabul was falling, the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial headlined, “How Biden broke NATO”.

It turns out NATO is neither brain dead nor broken. The unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine has given the alliance a new lease on life, making it more politically united and militarily formidable than at any time since the end of the Cold War.…  Seguir leyendo »

People look at self-propelled artillery vehicles during the Victory Day military parade in St. Petersburg on May 9. (Dmitri Lovetsky/AP)

Always grandiose and fascistic, the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow were more restrained than usual on Monday, with the normal aerial display canceled on account of the “weather”, even though the skies were clear. Some experts had worried that Russian President Vladimir Putin would declare war on Ukraine and a total mobilization of Russian society while threatening the West with nuclear weapons. There was even speculation that he might parade Ukrainian prisoners through Red Square as in a Roman triumph. None of that came to pass. Putin was defiant but subdued, trying to portray Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine as a preemptive response to a looming Ukrainian invasion of Russia.…  Seguir leyendo »

A member of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces holds an antitank weapon in the outskirts of Kyiv on March 9. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

Most analysts have been shocked by the setbacks the Russian military has suffered in Ukraine. They might have been less surprised if they had read an article published Oct. 14 by T.X. Hammes, a retired Marine colonel and iconoclastic military strategist, in an obscure publication called Joint Force Quarterly. In light of how the Ukraine war has unfolded, the article’s title — “The Tactical Defense Becomes Dominant Again” — now looks prescient.

Hammes began by pointing out that shifts in military technology have sometimes led to defensive dominance on the battlefield, sometimes to offensive dominance. Defenders had the upper hand between the American Civil War and World War I, which is why attacks along the Western Front were so bloody and futile.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives to deliver a speech at the Kremlin in Moscow on April 26. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

Having lost the Battle of Kyiv, Russian war criminal Vladimir Putin is trying to salvage military success in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. His army’s progress has been “slow and uneven”, and that’s even before all of the heavy weaponry committed by the West reaches the defenders. Once the Ukrainian armed forces incorporate all of their new equipment, they should be poised to launch a counteroffensive that could regain lost territory.

What will Putin do then? There is a widespread concern that he can’t afford to lose and therefore will double down. He could escalate either with more conventional military power or with chemical or nuclear weapons.…  Seguir leyendo »