Analysis & Opinions - The Cipher Brief

The Ukraine Diaries: Is Ukraine a Vital U.S. National Security Interest?

| Sep. 26, 2023

THE UKRAINE DIARIES — When I first visited Ukraine with The Cipher Brief in May, just ahead of the much-anticipated third Ukrainian counteroffensive, western commentators and media had raised expectations for dramatic Ukrainian breakthroughs. By contrast, Ukrainian military and civilian leaders were confident of success, but more muted in expectations. They did not predict or expect a Russian rout. Rather, knowing what they faced and that the going would be tough, they saw this as one phase of a long campaign.

Reflecting on that realization of a long war to come, it is clear now that Ukraine is in the midst of a physical and mental adjustment from the adrenaline-fueled sprint that followed the onset of the Russian invasion to the marathon of what promises to be an extended struggle.

Perhaps a race is a poor analogy, but I’ll run with it anyway. A marathoner has the luxury of deliberate and extended preparation, gradually building up miles and stamina before race day. But Ukraine has had to transition without pause from a desperate sprint to the ultra-marathon needed to win the war.  The nation is steeling itself for a long fight.

To push a much larger and more heavily-armed Russian army out of Ukrainian territory, Ukraine must fight with greater smarts, speed, and precision than its Soviet model adversary. Amazingly, it is doing just that, despite terrible losses.

The costs of war for Ukrainian families and society are horrific. Casualty, strain, and fatigue are the inevitable results of fighting the largest European land war since Hitler was defeated in 1945. Nevertheless, I heard from all levels, a steady determination to fight until the invaders are defeated. There is no diminution of will or goals – to retake all sovereign UKR territory and end the war on terms which ensures it will not be repeated.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kolbe, Paul.“The Ukraine Diaries: Is Ukraine a Vital U.S. National Security Interest?.” The Cipher Brief, September 26, 2023.