Bill Roggio is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of FDD’s Long war Journal. From 1991 to 1997, Roggio served as a signalman and infantryman in the U.S. Army and New Jersey National Guard
Wishful thinking has the upper hand in the battle to shape Western perceptions of the war in Ukraine. Sympathy for the outnumbered and outgunned defenders of Kyiv has led to the exaggeration of Russian setbacks, misunderstanding of Russian strategy, and even baseless claims from amateur psychoanalysts that Putin has lost his mind. A more sober analysis shows that Russia may have sought a knockout blow, but always had well-laid plans for follow-on assaults if its initial moves proved insufficient. The world has underestimated Putin before and those mistakes have led, in part, to this tragedy in Ukraine. We must be clear-eyed now that the war is underway. Yet even the professionals at the Pentagon are letting sympathy cloud their judgement. Just two days into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, U.S. Department of Defense briefers were quick to claim that failing to take Kyiv in the opening days of the war amounted to a serious setback. DoD briefers implied that Russia’s offensive was well behind schedule or had even failed because the capital had not fallen. But U.S. leaders should have learned to restrain their hopes after their catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan. Once again, U.S. and Western officials are falling into the trap of failing to understand the enemy and his objectives.