Putin’s show of strength in Ukraine’s skies distracts from signs of weakness on the ground

The barrage of Russian strikes that rained down across Ukraine on Monday made the country’s cities all feel so much closer to the war than they had for months.

At least 19 people died and dozens were injured in the missile strikes, which were backed up by Iranian-made attack drones. Infrastructure was damaged, and homes ahead of winter plunged into blackout. Yet Ukrainian officials said about half the 84 missiles had been intercepted. Russian commentators even suggested 150 had been launched, indicating that the damage could have been worse.

It was a different level of force from Moscow, but perhaps not a sea change in their strategy, for two reasons.

Firstly, it is unlikely they can sustain this sort of barrage over time. They have been firing missiles intermittently at targets week after week across Ukraine, which will have had an impact on stocks. It is unclear how many drones they have received from Iran, but that too is limited and a reflection of depleted stocks, not an excess. Monday may have been more an expression of military might than a change of tactics in the long-term.

It is important to remember that Moscow has had absolutely no reservations about hitting civilian targets or infrastructure since the start of the war. In the week before Monday’s attacks, the city of Zaporizhzhia was hit repeatedly by missiles, that slammed into apartment blocks, killing and injuring dozens. Earlier in the war, a maternity hospital and theater-turned-shelter marked with the words “CHILDREN” in Mariupol were hit. Monday was not a sudden change in Russia’s moral compass. They just did the same thing they’ve been doing throughout the war on a larger, wider scale.

Secondly, it didn’t really work. For the volume of cruise missiles expended, the damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure was far from catastrophic. Kyiv endured appalling scenes of crowded rush hour streets being hit — along with playgrounds and parks — and a terror it had not seen for months. The net effect of the day of Ukrainians hiding in bomb shelters was some damage to energy infrastructure and a loss of civilian life, but also a promise from the White House to supply the advanced air defenses Kyiv has been begging for over months.

Originally posted on October 12, 2022 @ 10:02 am

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: