Right around this time of the year, late August and early September, Nazi forces turned south to invade the Ukraine in 1941. Hailed initially as liberators, the Nazis soon found the Ukrainians to be creditable and deadly partisans, killing hundreds of thousands of troops and causing untold damage to material and supplies of war. It is now the Russians who will face such warfare in the Ukraine.
Today, some 73 years later, the Ukraine is once again facing an invasion, this time from the East, and this time from a more tentative foe, for now, but one whom patriotic Ukrainians will not hail as a hero, but ethnic and separatist Russian citizens of the Ukraine will hail as heroes. Once again the Ukrainians have little hope of putting a total stop to their enemy and once again, all throughout the East, pro-Ukrainian partisans are preparing for enemy occupation.
In the coastal town of Mariopol some of the residents are pro-Russian, although they were defeated during battles in April, most just want the fighting to end, and a good number are Ukrainian “patriots”, nationalists to the core who have come to hate all things, and now all people, Russian. Citizens are out in performing the time-honored and oft repeated 20th century tradition of digging anti-tank trenches, which may or may not work at all. They are forming various rag-tag “defense batallions”, training in small groups to maintain security and steer clear of unfriendly locals, in the full expectation that 100 some Russian tanks that have entered the Ukraine and that are now only 40km away from town, will likely break through and occupy their land.
This is it, full on, albeit still tentative, land war. In the immediate vicinity the Russians may have the advantage, there are many complaints of a lack of heavy weapons and tanks among the Ukrainian military. Indeed, some are wanting the current President (Poreshenko) who has only been in office for 3 months to resign over this failure to get the heavy kit to the front. And the Ukrainians have more of that heavy kit than you might know about sitting in and around Kiev. You would not know this by watching the news in either the US or Europe.
If anyone thinks the Russians can waltz into the Ukraine and not face a full-on bloody war, the Ukrainian destruction of an entire Russian armored column should have put paid to such notions. It seems that the Ukrainians will fight, whether or not they think they can win, and they’ll fight for their eastern lands, regardless of what the separatists think or want. In fact, right now, the Ukrainians are still pressing the combined Russo-separatist forces with extreme and dangerous vigor, and casualties are mounting on both sides.
Putin’s hoardes have not come in droves, but rather, in drivels. Perhaps he thought that would suffice, make it all look like it was internal, just like the Sudetendland was for the Germans. But unlike the Czechs in 1938 who traded away their border defenses for a fauxe peace, thanks to their own feckless allies, the Ukrainians are not willing to trade. They have not accepted the coup de main by the Russians in the Crimea and given half the chance they’ll march right in and there will be bloody hell to pay. And so Putin stands on a precipace- at some point he must either go all in and invade outright, in which case he will have to march straight to Kiev, or pull back.
No doubt Poland, which has hundreds of surplus ex-Soviet tanks and armored vehicles and hundreds and thousands of tons of munitions is secretly shipping supplies across the border: the Poles are sincerely alarmed and they believe that unless Russia is stopped in the Ukraine, they are next. This has not been in any news media, but were this not to be true that would be unbelievable. Put simply, the Ukrainians are preparing a bigger army, and they have many ex-Soviet military members who can quickly get it up to speed to fight their old colonizer and overlord.
This may not be enough. The Russians could strike swiftly and catch the Ukrainians unawares. But however it ends, if it becomes a large scale outright war it will be bloody for both sides and if the Russians prevail, the partisan warfare they perfected against the Nazis will be used against them.