As Russia closes in on full control of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, the debate about the war’s future course is intensifying. Optimists believe that a fully equipped Ukrainian army could halt Russia’s advance and drive its army back to the pre-Feb. 24 line of demarcation. Kori Schake, director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, says that Ukraine can win the war if the U.S. accelerates its efforts to get them what they need. “We just need to slam the gas pedal on the floor and help them succeed as fast as possible.” Pessimists believe that even if the Ukrainians get everything they’ve requested, they won’t be able to dislodge the Russians from the territory they have won. This debate is largely irrelevant, because no one really knows how much more success Ukraine would have if it had all the weapons it wanted.
In the first stage of the war, Ukraine’s ability to thwart Russia’s strike on Kyiv and Kharkiv surprised many experts. In the second stage, Russia’s ability to regroup and execute a more focused offense defied the predictions of observers who thought that its early losses of men, materiel and morale had dealt the invasion a fatal blow. Recent Russian successes, capped by the surrender of Lysychansk, are tempting policy analysts and political leaders to lurch from the premature exuberance of the war’s early weeks to exaggerated gloom today.