After heavy losses, the Ukrainian army is suffering from low morale, which is impacting its ability to fight.
Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly asked that the United States and NATO provide it with more lethal weaponry to try and stem the casualties. In response to the losses, Ukraine has given up positions in the eastern part of the country, which may result in the loss of Sievierodonetsk, a strategic command center in the region.
President Joe Biden has previously declined to send the U.S.’s most advanced weapons platforms, such as long-range rockets, for fear of an escalation. If Ukraine were to start attacking targets within Russia itself, it could lead to a wider expansion of the war. Russian President Vladimir Putin could decide to attack NATO directly. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has already publicly threatened attacks of western supply lines transporting aid and weapons.
The amount of Ukraine losses seems to have changed the decision calculus of President Biden. The administration has just announced that it is reversing course and will provide Ukraine with advanced long-range missiles.
Zelensky has promised not to attack targets within Russia. This concession, coupled with how many casualties Ukraine is suffering, has eased some of the escalation concerns. Biden has repeatedly said that he does not want to engage in direct military conflict with Russia.
Even with the advanced weapons systems, Ukraine is losing up to 100 soldiers a day. With 43 million people, the country has the manpower to replace its losses. What is unclear is if it has the infrastructure to train the replacements fast enough.
What is also being lost with the casualties is experience. It is not just the lower-level ranks that are being killed in action. Lieutenants and generals alike are dying on the battlefield. Although men can be replaced, their hard-won experience cannot be.
The narrative is beginning to shift in response to Ukraine’s losses. French President Emmanuel Macron has said that Putin must not be humiliated when the fighting stops. This is an oblique reference to a land for peace deal that is being urged by elder statesman Henry Kissinger.
Whatever happens in the conflict, Ukraine will be feeling the losses of its fighting men for generations to come.