Almost three months ago, Russia shocked the world by invading Ukraine. Now its military faces a bogged-down war, the prospect of a bigger NATO, and an adversary encouraged yesterday by wins both on and off the battlefield.
Top diplomats from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) met in Berlin and declared that the war “is not going as Moscow had planned.”
“Ukraine can win this war,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says, adding that the alliance must continue to offer military support to Kyiv.
Meanwhile, both Finland and Sweden took steps bringing them closer to NATO membership—despite Russian objections. If the two nations become part of the alliance, it would be an insult to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin believes NATO’s post-Cold War growth in Eastern Europe is a threat to Russia.
While Moscow lost ground on the diplomatic front, Russian forces also failed to make gains in eastern Ukraine.
“Step by step, we are forcing the occupiers to leave the Ukrainian land,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says.
Even with its setbacks, Russia continues to inflict death and destruction across Ukraine. Over the weekend, its forces hit a chemical plant and 11 high-rise buildings in Sievierodonetsk in the eastern region called the Donbas.
Russian troops also were preparing for another attempt to cross the strategic Siverskyi Donets River. The military continued striking railways, factories, and other important targets across Ukraine. Russian missiles destroyed facilities in western Ukraine, near the border with Poland.
The Ukrainian military says it held off renewed Russian attacks in the Donetsk area of the Donbas. Russian troops also tried to advance near the eastern city of Izium, but Ukrainian forces stopped them.
Western officials paint a somber picture for Russia.
Britain’s Defense Ministry claims the Russian army has lost up to one-third of the military strength it sent to Ukraine and is not gaining any significant territory. “Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days,” the ministry says.
Assessments of Russia’s war performance came as Russian troops retreated from around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
After failing to capture Kyiv, Putin shifted the invasion’s focus to the Donbas, aiming to seize territory not already occupied by the Moscow-backed separatists.
In the southern Donbas, the Azov Sea port of Mariupol is now largely under Russian control, except for a few hundred Ukrainian troops who have refused to surrender and remain holed up in a steel factory. Yesterday, many of their wives called on world leaders to secure the release of “the entire garrison,” during an online news conference.
The invasion of Ukraine has other countries along Russia’s border worried. They believe they could be next, including Finland. (See Finland Wants NATO Inclusion.) Putin told Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in a Saturday phone call that joining NATO would be an “error.”
During a surprise Saturday visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and a delegation of GOP senators showed their support for Zelenskyy and the Ukrainians.
The group visited Sweden yesterday. McConnell says Finland and Sweden would be “important additions” to NATO and that the United States should swiftly ratify their membership.
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. . . . In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” — John 14:27, 16:33
(People pass by an anti-war poster in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, May 14, 2022. AP/Efrem Lukatsky)