Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

The Case for Cautious Optimism in Ukraine

By Raphael S. Cohen and Gian Gentile

09 Aug 2022 · 5 min read

Editor's Note

It’s been hard to discern of late which direction the war in Ukraine is going, with a bloody equilibrium setting in. But this Foreign Policy analysis argues that things are turning in Ukraine’s favor.

A half year into the Russo-Ukrainian war, two dueling interpretations of what’s happening on the ground increasingly shape Western views of the conflict. The first narrative—and seemingly the more dominant one—is that the Russians are slowly but surely grinding away at Ukrainian defensive lines in Donetsk and Luhansk, pummeling the defenders with their vast stores of artillery, and slowly but systematically gaining ground. This view also claims that Ukraine now finds itself close to exhaustion, having suffered significant casualties and equipment losses. The only prudent action, therefore, would be to pursue some sort of negotiated settlement—in essence, trading land for a temporary peace—before a bad situation gets even worse.

A second, more optimistic view turns this take on its head and sees a Ukrainian victory unfolding over the coming months. This interpretation notes that Russian advances have stalled all along the 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front; that Ukraine has used Western-supplied long-range precision artillery, such as the U.S. High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, to neutralize Russia’s principal military advantage by striking Russian artillery ammunition depots far behind the front line; and that Ukrainian forces seem to be gearing up for a major offensive, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has announced will take place around the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson. The best policy for the West, therefore, is to double down on supplying Ukraine and allow it to hand Russia a defeat.

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content