May 24, 2022

As I returned from Ukraine a few days ago after my first post-COVID reporting trip and after a couple days of letting my aging bones resume their proper position after the trauma of 10 hours in an economy-class airline seat, I do believe I have gained some insight into the logistics of this conflict after all.

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Which I have to say I initially doubted.

During those three weeks in Ukraine, I was present for missile attacks in two cities, sat wide-eyed through dozens of artillery barrages, spent hours discussing the war with a wounded Ukrainian soldier on a 17 hour train ride from Lviv to Dnipro in a small train cabin, visited with serving members of the Ukrainian army, photographed many wrecked buildings in the eastern part of the country and ate borscht so many times that I believe I can now identify the recipe differences between Dnipro and Lviv.

Photos by the author

Before I begin, let me establish a couple of things as a reference point for my views.

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First, of course Putin was wrong to invade Ukraine, that is a given.

The loss of life is horrific.

I fully support the Ukrainian people in their efforts to expel what are called there the “Russian Occupiers.” (Tellingly, Russian soldiers are now being referred to as “Orcs” by younger Ukrainians.)

But the relationship between Russia and Ukraine is a long one, and it is much more complex than we as outsiders can ever imagine. I had a three-hour conversation with a Polish computer technician named Vasily who sat next to me on the plane out of Warsaw about this exact issue. And while he admitted he was surprised the invasion occurred, he was not as dismissive of Russian methods and goals as you might think. More than once, the concept of being Russian as not just a nationality, but instead an ethno/spiritual state of being, was expressed by him to me.

So, with that being said, I would rather comment on just a few specifics and throw in a little speculation that I will state to some extent as fact, simply because to do otherwise would become tedious for the reader.

It appears to me Moscow (and I am choosing to use Moscow to refer to the Russian Federation as to me it’s a bit simplistic to refer to one man as the leader of a nation with a representational body as is the Duma) has a fixed series of goals in the war. Now we could argue all day over whether the Duma truly represents the people of the nation, but that would be pointless given the reason for writing this piece.