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Unwarranted Optimism

The Confederates after Chancellorsville forgot the structural odds against them. Is Ukraine making the same mistake?

(Photo by YURIY DYACHYSHYN/AFP via Getty Images)

Optimism has been surging that Ukraine will be able to win its war against Russia. At a minimum, the expectation is that Kiev can expel Russian troops from all Ukrainian territory captured since the start of the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. More optimistic types believe that it may be possible to retake Crimea and the Donbas lands that Russia seized in 2014. Whatever the specifics, the underlying goal of Ukraine’s NATO sponsors is to compel Russian president Vladimir Putin to accept a humiliating peace agreement that prevents him from achieving any of his original objectives. There is even growing speculation in Ukraine and the West that a bonus to an impending Ukrainian military victory might be Putin’s removal from power. 

The United States and NATO are doubling down on their strategy of military assistance to Kiev, believing that Ukraine can win the war. Both the level of optimism and the extent of aid have noticeably increased since the surprising success of Ukraine’s autumn military offensives in both northeastern and southern Ukraine that regained control of significant swaths of territory from Russian occupation forces.