How the international media covered the Russo-Ukrainian war, May 31

Anton Semyzhenko, Sasha Sverdlova

David Johnson, a Ph.D., and a retired US Army colonel, wrote an op-ed on War on the Rocks where he discusses the reasons for Russian failures in Ukraine. According to Johnson, most western experts analyze the lessons from Ukraine based on information provided by Ukrainian officials (which is not unbiased) and through lenses of their arrogance. The Western media do not cover Ukrainian failures and successful Russian operations. For example, Russians did manage to successfully cross Siversky Donets river, which enabled them to launch an offensive against Izyum. Such an approach is due to a successful Ukrainian information campaign that focuses on positive stories to ensure continued international support. At the same time, Western military doctrine is very similar to Russian, and the critical challenge might be not in problematic military approach but practical lack of experience in fighting against a decently prepared rival. Johnson warns western critics that their armies might also not be ready to fight against a functional army with experience in combat. The critical difference between the American and Russian armies is not the doctrine. Still, apparent deficiencies in leadership and people in the latter, so the experts blame people and leaders for failures. However, Johnson believes that Russian losses in Ukraine are worth deeper analysis and can provide lessons to learn. The same sober approach should be taken when assessing the Ukrainian military. The dominant narrative is that the Ukrainian army evolved into a modern Western military, trained for over a decade in Western methods. Johnson questions this assumption stating that Soviet-style bureaucracy is deeply rooted in the Ukrainian army, and its’ transformation into a fundamentally bottom-to-top institution will take time. For example, there is little evidence that Ukrainians are executing joint and combined arms offensive operations, which would be crucial for transitioning from defensive to offensive operations to restore territory lost to Russia. Additionally, the western analytics are assessing this war through the lens of force protection – in simple words, they believe that keeping soldiers alive is crucial. Apparently, it is not the case for the Russian army, and thus, could the analytics be wrong and Stalins’ approach betting on quantity over quality might work? Johnson summarizes that in this case, the Ukrainians may need much greater assistance if they are to survive a Russian-style grinding war of attrition.

It is unclear whether Joe Biden really wants Ukraine to win, or he just wants Kyiv to agree to a truce with Putin, who will bite off another piece of Ukrainian territory. This question is asked by the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, noting in the column the ambivalence of the behavior of the American president. On the one hand, he is ready to supply weapons to Ukraine ― but only of medium strength. These weapons may be able to slow down the advance of Russian troops, but it is not a fact that they will be repulsed to the official Ukrainian border. Bidenʼs help in unblocking Ukrainian seaports is also not visible. Several US warships in the Black Sea raid could have prevented the global famine, but this is not what can be observed. The publication warns that Putin has not given up plans to overthrow the Ukrainian government and seize Kyiv, so Washingtonʼs excessive softness could play into his hands.

France 24 tells the story of Ukrainians who decided to abandon the Russian language after the start of a large-scale war. Many of these people attend Ukrainian courses ― the media cites examples in the Vyshhorod City Council, which are attended by people from adolescence to old age. The participants of the courses talk about the motives of their action: they say that it is the language of the enemy and the fact that they still speak Russian is the result of the colonization of Ukraine by Russia. The number of Ukrainians who considered Russian their mother tongue was gradually decreasing, according to France 24. Thus, if in 2012 there were 40%, in 2022 ― already 16%. Given the events of recent months, the publication predicts that the Russian language in Ukraine will become even less widespread ― and not because of state pressure, but because of the aspirations of Ukrainians themselves.