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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg recently praised Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces that invaded its territory last year.

“The Ukrainians are gradually gaining ground,” Stoltenberg told lawmakers of the European Parliament, according to Reuters. “They have been able to breach the defensive lines of the Russian forces, and they are moving forward.”

Stoltenberg’s comments came after Ukrainian soldiers broke through the Russian lines along the southern front near the city of Zaporizhzhia, Deutsche Welle explained. This success stood in stark contrast to the situation on the ground earlier this summer when Ukraine’s campaign appeared stuck in the mud.

While visiting the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv to announce a new $1 billion aid package to the country, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken similarly told NBC News that the Ukrainians were making “tangible progress.” This was even though, as the New York Times reported, American military experts were worried that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was misallocating his forces and suffering heavy losses to retake territory with too little strategic value.

Despite the setbacks, the consensus is that Ukrainian soldiers have meted out more punishment than they have received.

The chief of the British defense staff, Adm. Sir Tony Radakin, said Ukraine has regained around half of the land that Russia had occupied since the fighting started in February 2022, wrote the US Naval Institute, an independent, non-profit forum. The combat effectiveness of Russia’s land forces, meanwhile, has fallen by half, too, said Radakin.

Remarkably, these advances come as the Ukrainian defense establishment has been highly unstable. Zelenskyy recently sacked his defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, due to corruption allegations, replacing him with Rustem Umerov, the Hindu reported.

Many observers are now asking whether Ukraine can ever truly vanquish Russia, a much larger foe that is determined to persist in fighting despite its failures and setbacks.

If the West keeps supporting Ukraine with funding and weaponry with an eye toward total victory – the exit of all Russian forces from occupied Ukraine – then the country has a chance to overcome its enemies, argued Jonathan Sweet, a retired military intelligence officer, and economist and entrepreneur Mark Toth in the Hill. The West should probably develop a strategy to expedite that conclusion, however, added Foreign Affairs.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has friends, too, of course. He’s seeking to purchase weapons and ammunition from North Korea, for example, though Robert Kelly, a professor of international relations at Pusan National University, quipped in CNA (formerly Channel NewsAsia) that Putin had problems if he needed help from the Hermit Kingdom.

The beginning of the end of the war in Ukraine could be unfolding. But the verdict is still out.

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