The scenes out of Ukraine as Russia continues to invade its sovereign neighbor have painted a picture of chaos. We've seen street fighting, apartment buildings being hit with rockets, and tanks rolling down highways. But, what we haven't seen is a decisive victory for Vladimir Putin.
Part of the invasion strategy was to quickly take the major airports in order to fly in men and materials to overwhelm Ukraine's defenses. Surprisingly fierce opposition has prevented that, though. As of Thursday afternoon, Ukrainian military forces had actually recaptured one of the airports initially lost. That apparently happened with the help of a Ukrainian MiG-29 pilot, who shot down multiple planes and helicopters taking part in the airborne assault.
⚡️⚡️⚡️BREAKING:— Illia Ponomarenko (@IAPonomarenko) February 24, 2022
Ukrainian troops in full control of the Hostomel Airport, Russian airborne force eliminated.
I'm seeing reports (but can't confirm) that a Ukrainian Mig 29 pilot has become an ace today.— Mike Nelson (@mikenelson586) February 24, 2022
First, how incredible in this day and age.
Second, holy shit the balls on that guy.
Now, reports of heavy losses on the Russian side are coming in, with some estimates being that up to 350 Russian soldiers and airmen had been killed. That would be a significant price to pay over just the first day of large-scale fighting.
NEW: Ukraine reports 350 Russian troops were killed in the first day of the invasion.— Election Wizard 🇺🇸 (@ElectionWiz) February 24, 2022
For comparison, the United States lost only 154 servicemembers killed in action over the entire Gulf War. Over the first year of fighting the second Iraq War, 486 US service members were killed in the theater. That's a testament to the technological and training superiority of the U.S. military, compared to the Russians, who have always been less formidable than they present. It also puts into perspective how much blood has already been extracted from Putin in an invasion that has barely gotten started.
That begs the question of how much resolve Russia truly has. Are they in this for the long haul, and possibly thousands killed in battle and via an insurgency? Or is Putin looking to tag the bag at Kyiv, claim victory, and then back off with his ego still intact? It's hard to say because even though Russia is a dictatorship, the dynamics are not the same as other authoritarian regimes. While the Taliban had unlimited stamina when it came to absorbing losses and setbacks, I do not get the feeling Putin has that luxury. If things start to get really bloody, the protests already happening in his country are going to escalate, and that could cause major problems at home.
Further, it looks like the Ukrainians are in this for the long haul. They have already barred the exit of able-bodied men aged 18-60, meaning they are expected to stay and fight. Guns and Javelins are being handed out to militia forces in an effort to bolster defenses.
Still, I don't want to give the impression that Ukraine is going to win this fight. Russia has a massive amount of forces ready to go in reserve along the border. If Putin is willing to accept the costs of blood and treasure, he will eventually reach his goal of decapitating the current government. I'm not so sure that'll work out well for him in the end, though. If an insurgency takes hold, it's going to be a nightmare for the Russian occupiers. Meanwhile, the Russian stock market is down over 40 percent today, a massive drop. Pain is coming for Putin, and we are going to find out how committed he actually is to this misadventure.