There are many observations to be made about Ukraine. But on a recent road trip, one stands out – just how vast the country is.
Three weeks of driving from south to east in this sprawling country through frontline villages, towns, past trenches and along hedgerows that are the strategic equivalent of the heights of this war, is an education, and one that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use.
Nearly six months later, the disastrous war he launched has stalled. Scenes reminiscent of World War I trench warfare and its associated extra gains and death set in.
The nearly 1,000-mile battlefront that Putin opened up has hardened, but the country behind is deep and mostly unscathed.
Thirty miles from the front, the town lawns are still being mowed, while hundreds of kilometers further in the capital Kyiv, chic restaurants have reopened, where fine wines and chilled champagnes are available, and freshly caught Mediterranean fish is on the menu.
It is loamy land, with fertile farms and proud harvests rich in rain and sun. If strategic depth is what lies behind the front lines, Ukraine has untapped wealth.
Perhaps most striking is the number of serving-age men across the country who are not yet engaged in the fight. Ukraine is at war, but not yet it seems. Only part of Ukraine’s potential combat strength is in bunkers buried in rows of trees overlooking Russian forces.
Shoemakers, authors, artists, teachers, businessmen, journalists, and even a former CEO of the McDonald’s franchise are dampening Putin’s momentum, but when the government needs it, there is. many more that can be called.
The big takeaway is that this isn’t a war that’s going to end quickly, it’s not even clear yet if the real defining fight has begun.
Read the full analysis here.