Ukraine launched its long-planned offensive against Russian-occupied territory, throwing armored columns including NATO-supplied main battle tanks, against entrenched Russian positions.
According to information provided by Russian officials, which has not been contradicted by the Ukrainian government, the initial offensive has resulted in a series of military debacles for the Ukrainian armed forces.
The Russian Ministry of Defense released footage of columns of Ukrainian armor, apparently advancing without air cover in open fields, with disastrous results. The footage also depicted the destruction of a German Leopard 2 battle tank, according to the Russian government.
On Thursday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Ukrainian forces attempted to launch an attack near Zaporizhzhia but were repelled, losing 30 tanks, 11 armored fighting vehicles and 350 soldiers. He said Ukraine had lost over 1,000 troops over the course of 24 hours.
Later in the day, the New York Times wrote that US officials “confirmed that advancing Ukrainian troops had suffered casualties in the early fighting,” effectively conceding the truth of the Russian claims.
For months, the coming offensive had been hailed in the US media as a turning point in the war. Bret Stephens of the Times hoped it would bring “A crushing and unmistakable defeat” to Russia, while David Ignatius in the Washington Post said it would “turn the tide” in the war, proclaiming, “D-Day dawns for Ukraine.”
Given the belief of the US-NATO powers that the offensive would produce a staggering defeat for the Russian government, one purpose was to set the stage for the upcoming July 11-12 NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.
The meeting in Vilnius was conceived as a summit of victors, in which the battlefield successes of Ukraine were to serve as the basis of a whole series of ultimatums to Russia, including a full withdrawal from not only portions of Ukraine seized during the 2022 invasion, but also the Crimean peninsula.
These demands, made by the mobilized NATO forces, bristling with pre-positioned weapons along a massively extended border with Russia (following the accession of Finland to NATO), would have been backed up with the threat of force from a position of strength, aiming to impose a victor’s peace.
However, should the Vilnius summit take place under conditions of major setbacks and even a breakdown of the offensive, as at this points appears more likely, it will become the occasion for a massive further escalation of US-NATO involvement in the war.
What was conceived as a summit of victors may prove to be a summit of desperate governments prepared to take the most reckless actions to reverse the outcome of the war.