Public focus on the Russo-Ukrainian war remains fixated on the conflict’s ground operations. This is reasonable, considering the frightening images of Russian airstrikes throughout Ukraine, Russian brutality in Bucha, Mariupol and elsewhere, and the developing battle for the Donbas region.
However, the long-term strategic situation suggests that the naval balance will decide the war, and in turn, Russia’s future position in Eastern Europe. As it provides military assistance to Ukraine, the U.S. and its allies must ensure that Kyiv wins the war at sea.
Russia’s initial offensive failed in a fundamental respect: Its attempt to psychologically terrify Ukraine’s military and political system did not work. Ukrainian resistance did not collapse; Ukrainian units retreated into urban areas and bloodied Russia when it attempted to take those, while Russia’s unjustifiably bold air assault against Hostomel did not open a road to Kyiv. Most critically, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, his cabinet and Ukraine’s parliament did not flee. After several weeks of continuous combat, Ukraine counterattacked decisively, forcing Russia to abandon its Kyiv assault or risk encirclement of its forces.
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