Four Myths About Ukraine That Are Actually Wrong

Four Myths About Ukraine That Are Actually Wrong

Two years after Russia invaded, new myths have taken hold, writes Eric Edelman

Two years ago, Vladimir Putin launched his unprovoked, premeditated, full-scale invasion of Ukraine based on several myths, including that Ukraine was not a "real" country and was militarily weak, and that the West was in disarray and would do little to stop him.

Ukrainians quickly destroyed some of these myths, along with much of Russia's invading forces. Ukrainians preserved their capital, their leadership and regained much of the territory seized by Russian forces in the early days of 2022, albeit at terrible cost. And the West responded by imposing serious (if insufficient) economic sanctions on Russia and providing significant (if somewhat delayed) military assistance to Ukraine.

Other myths, however, linger to this day and new ones have popped up more recently, particularly in the debate in Congress over whether to continue U.S. aid to Ukraine. As Republicans who served in top national security positions, we’re particularly concerned when we hear some of these myths repeated by Republicans.

So here are four myths about Ukraine that you might have heard, and some of the reasons they are untrue.

Myth One: Ukraine Cannot Win

Let’s start with the big one, the myth that U.S. support will feed an endless war with no possibility of Ukrainian victory.

Ukraine has performed heroically and successfully. It has regained huge swaths of territory seized by Russia starting in February 2022. It should not surprise us that the remaining 18 percent or so is the hardest to regain. Had the West provided Ukraine the weapons the country’s leadership had requested early on—from missile defense systems and long-range missiles to fighter jets and tanks—this war might look a lot different.

The Ukrainian military has been creative under fire, coming up with ways to counterattack that have surprised the enemy. Russia’s vaunted Black Sea Fleet has essentially been forced out of Sevastopol as Ukraine claims it has disabled a third of Russia’s ships, enabling exports to resume through the Black Sea. Ukraine has also inflicted huge losses on Russia’s military, cutting its conventional capabilities in half, according to estimates from the U.K. chief of defense and the U.S. Director of Central Intelligence. According to Estonia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Russia has lost 8,300 armored fighting vehicles in Ukraine; this includes 2,600 tanks, 5,100 armored personnel carriers, and 600 self-propelled artillery units. That equipment takes time to replace. In addition, Ukraine has called Russia's nuclear bluff by launching deep strikes against key infrastructure targets inside Russia without incurring any nuclear response.

Russian personnel losses are approaching 400,000 dead and wounded. It is a mistake to assume that there is no breaking point for those Russians sent to the front lines who are essentially cannon fodder. Already there are signs that Russia will have trouble with a new round of mobilization.