”This is what madness looks like” and other reactions to battles in Soledar. The worldʼs leading media about the war on January 11

Anton Semyzhenko


Dozens of foreign publications write about the battles in Soledar. At the same time, in the articles of the Associated Press, the CBC, Politico, Al Jazeera, and The Sydney Morning Herald, two things are repeated: the thesis that the probable capture of Soledar will be Russia’s first gain in the war since August, and a quote by Volodymyr Zelensky about the military battlefield covered with the Russian corpses: "This is what madness looks like." Thus, what Russia and, in particular, Wagnerʼs PMC, active near Bakhmut and in Soledar, Western journalists call meat waves: when the Ukrainian Armed Forces destroy one group of poorly armed occupiers ― often from among former prisoners, it quickly replaces another. Ukraine and the West have long called Soledar and Bakhmut insignificant points for the further course of hostilities, because their capture would not give Russia significant advantages in the war. According to the Al Jazeera article, Putinʼs fierce desire to seize these settlements is dictated by political goals. For example, this is how the Russian government can demonstrate at least some kind of victory to its population. Also, the fight for these cities became a personal matter of the ambitious Russian militant Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the "Wagnerites". And while the Russians spare no resources for capturing these relatively small settlements, the Ukrainians successfully fulfill a strategic role in exhausting the occupying forces.

"The keys to Russiaʼs victory in the war are inside of Russia, but itʼs unlikely to be able to do it," writes Jamie Dettmer, the head of the opinions department of the European edition of Politico. To explain his thesis, he recalls the time of the Second World War, in particular, the attack of Hitlerʼs Germany on the Soviet Union. In the first months of the campaign, the USSR troops, weakened by Stalinʼs purges, made a lot of mistakes. The Germans knew that the Soviet army was quite weak, so the soldiers of the Reich did not even have winter uniforms, but they believed that they would win before the onset of cold weather. However, in the following years, the Soviet army developed significantly, eliminating some of the mistakes, and this changed the course of the war. In the war with Ukraine, the Russian army was as self-confident as the Nazis once were: when they marched on Kyiv, the occupiers immediately took their parade uniform with them. The confrontation with reality has become painful, but the Russians can still win if they solve the structural problems of their armed forces. Also, Detmer writes, the occupiers have a poorly established interaction between the types of troops and the autonomy of small units of fighters. The Kremlin understands this problem and conducted training even before the war, but it did not yield results. Rearranging the army is a matter of at least months, it is unlikely that Russia now has the time and capabilities for this. Instead, the key to Ukraineʼs victory is not in Ukraine, the author of the column thinks. Both the interaction of different types of troops and the autonomy of small groups in the Ukrainian Armed Forces are well established, but the main unmet need is weapons and ammunition. Only the West can provide them in the right numbers ― and if it really wants the victory of Ukraine, it should provide Kyiv with tanks and heavy armored vehicles as soon as possible. Dettmer considers the provision of tanks from the Leopard family to Ukraine as more than 2,000 in the warehouses of NATO allies. The author hopes that a decision will be made to transfer these tanks at a meeting of Ukraineʼs allies in the Ramstein format. However, today, already after the publication of the column, Poland announced the transfer of the first company of these tanks to Ukraine.

In order for the provision of weapons to Ukraine to happen more logically and smoothly, the United States, as a key ally of Kyiv, should finally settle with its purpose in this war, writes attorney and former US military officer Frank Ledwidge in a column for The Guardian. In the most recent successful military campaigns of the West ― NATOʼs intervention in the war in the Balkans and in the Persian Gulf ― the goal was clearly known. In the first case, it was the withdrawal of Serbian troops from the territory of Kosovo, the introduction of peacekeepers and the return of refugees. The second is to expel Iraqi troops from the territory of Kuwait. In the following wars, in which the USA took part in particular ― in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria ― the goals were unclear and the results were dubious. In the case of Ukraine, Ledwidge writes, American top politicians at different times announced three different US goals in this war. Joe Biden said about the first ― the overthrow of the Putin regime ― back in March, perhaps unwittingly: "Such people [like Vladimir Putin] should not rule the country." However, Biden soon announced that it was an emotional excuse. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the second in the spring: "We want Russia to weaken so much that it can no longer do things like invade Ukraine." And in December 2022, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced the third goal: "Ukraine must have everything to repel Russian aggression and regain control over the territories it had before February 24." And if the US is now declaring the latter, they give clearly not enough weapons to achieve it. Ledwidge concludes that such uncertainty does not allow for the formation of a clear schedule and volumes of arms supplies to the West. If they were, Ukraine would have better understood what to count on, improved its tactics, and would have saved more lives of its soldiers.