The latest episode of The President’s Inbox is live! This week, Jim sat down with Max Boot, the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow in national security studies at the Council. They discussed Ukraine’s ongoing military counteroffensive and the likely future direction of the war.
Max Boot, the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow in national security studies at CFR and a columnist for the Washington Post, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the progress Ukraine is making in its ongoing effort to retake the territory Russia seized in its 2022 invasion.
Here are three highlights from the conversation:
1.) The Ukrainian counteroffensive is making progress—slowly. Both Ukrainians and Western observers had hoped that Ukraine’s counteroffensive would split Russian lines and hasten the war’s end. Ukraine, however, is making only slow progress with a few “minor breakthroughs,” including a breach of Russian lines in the Zaporizhzhia province. Max argued that this slow progress isn’t because of Ukrainian missteps but because Ukraine faces “entrenched Russian forces with very heavy minefields, artillery, and Russian attack helicopters and drones.” He pointed out that the Ukrainians don’t have the air power of the U.S. military and other western powers. The way Max put it, “The U.S. military would never advance in this kind of offensive against entrenched enemy positions without air cover.”
2.) The progress Ukraine makes in the next few weeks could set the groundwork for a more successful campaign next year. Max noted the “tendency” in the United States and elsewhere to think that “the Ukrainians have to win now or otherwise fold their tents and try to reach a negotiated solution with the Russians.” Instead, he argued that by wearing down Russian forces in the next six weeks or so before weather inevitably slows the fighting that “it is possible that the Ukrainians could be in a stronger position next year.” Not only would the Ukrainian military have more battlefield experience, it will likely receive more sophisticated weapons like the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) from the United States. “But again,” Max cautioned. “It remains to be seen what the outcome of the operation this year is going to be. It’s not over yet.”
3.) Neither Ukraine nor Russia is ready to negotiate an end to the war. Despite halting progress on the battlefield, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky insists that Ukraine will push Russian forces off Ukrainian territory. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has solidified his control in Moscow and is betting that Western support for Ukraine has peaked. In particular, he seems to be banking that American voters will elect a president next November who will end U.S. support for Kyiv. The result, Jim noted, is that “Putin has no incentive to negotiate before early 2025.”
If you’re looking to read more of Max’s analysis, check out his most recent piece for the Washington Post where he argues that mastery of military technology will determine who wins the war in Ukraine.
Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage argue in Foreign Affairs that the West may not provide support to Ukraine in the long-term so Kyiv should prepare for a shift in commitment accordingly.