WASHINGTON, DC, Mar 16 – Ukraine had an advantage over their Russian invaders; they knew the Russians were coming. But what the Russians didn’t know was that they were going to have hell to pay for Mr. Putin’s hubris. It would appear that Vlad thought that if they invaded Ukraine early enough on February 24, he would be sitting down for a victory celebration that evening. After all, the Russians are fierce, unforgiving fighters armed with the most modern of weaponry. Did Mr. Putin forget that the people of Ukraine are just as fierce and unforgiving as he and his forces are? They have “been there, done that,” as the saying goes.
Dr. Marci Shore, an associate professor of history at Yale University, author of the best-seller, “The Ukrainian Night: An Intimate History of Revolution,” memorialized the lengths to which they are willing and able to go in defense of their freedom in an analysis she published in the Wall Street Journal on February 25, the day after the invasion of their homeland. She concluded her assessment this way: “At present, every third Ukrainian is prepared to resist a Russian invasion with armed force. An additional 21% are prepared to organize civil resistance. In any case, Russia has been engaging in a war with Ukraine for the past eight years. My journalist friends, too, are readers of Chekhov and know that it is axiomatic that once a gun appears on the stage, the director must see that it is fired before the end of the last act. Mr. Putin has arranged very many guns on the stage. What choice is there but to be ‘ready to work, whatever comes’?”
The video of a Ukrainian woman fearlessly confronting a heavily armed Russian invader, offering him a handful of seeds, and telling him what he could do with them went viral on social media, garnering some eight-and-a-half-million views to date. In it, she tells the soldier: “Take these seeds and put them in your pockets so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here.” She instantly became the embodiment of the courage and determination that, as Ann Treneman of The Times put it, “revealed the magnificent ‘shock and awe’ spirit of Ukraine whose people are fighting, using ingenuity and bravery, with the likes of sunflower seeds, bottles that once contained beer and hand-made spiky ‘hedgehog’ anti-tank weapons.”
What’s a hedgehog, you ask? It’s a piece of homemade resistance weaponry that can be pretty effective on the battlefield. Its purpose is to slow down and stop medium tanks, and it is easily constructed using five to six feet long metal bars that fit together in the shape of the pieces used in the children’s game called “Jacks.” When a tank encounters a hedgehog it is likely to be damaged and get stuck in place. It was a Czech invention used successfully by resistance forces during World War II. A young man in the Ukrainian town of Lviv is said to have found the instructions for the construction of hedgehogs on the internet. He and his brother wasted little time to begin building them with the intention of sending them throughout the country for use by freedom fighters.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that days before the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian government was broadcasting instructions for making another classic homemade weapon appropriately named the Molotov Cocktail. It’s simple enough to make using a bottle, a flammable liquid, and a piece of cloth for use as a wick. It also can be quite effective, even against armored vehicles.
On Friday, Newsweek reported that Russian losses since the invasion began to include 353 tanks, 60 tanker trucks, 1,165 armored vehicles, and some 12,000 military personnel killed in action. Certainly, many of these casualties were the work of Ukrainian armed forces. But you can bet that some of it – perhaps a large some of it – was the handiwork of citizens and volunteers and their effective homemade armed intervention.
It’s further proof that guerrilla warfare can be quite effective. But the Russians well know how effective homegrown insurgents can be when their homeland is threatened. Back in the day, in 1979, when they were known as the Soviets, Russian forces invaded the nation of Afghanistan in aid of the Afghan communist government. It took a while, but the Afghan resistance forces, known as the mujahideen, defeated them, and the Russians left with their tails between their legs. The people of Afghanistan suffered greatly, but just like the people of Ukraine today they remained doggedly determined to defeat the Russian occupiers.
Britannica historians describe the events of the time, noting that, “Soviet troops tried to crush the insurgency by various tactics, but the guerrillas generally eluded their attacks. The Soviets then attempted to eliminate the mujahideen’s civilian support by bombing and depopulating the rural areas. These tactics sparked a massive flight from the countryside; by 1982 some 2.8 million Afghans had sought asylum in Pakistan, and another 1.5 million had fled to Iran. The mujahideen were eventually able to neutralize Soviet air power through the use of shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles supplied by the Soviet Union’s Cold War adversary, the United States.”
It is obvious that Ukrainians have the resolve to mount an effective challenge against their Russian invaders. They also have the moral support of the free world. And Ukraine’s defiance in the face of overwhelming odds has attracted and will continue to attract, volunteer freedom fighters from all over the free world. One report figures that, thus far, as many as 16,000 men and women from various countries around the world are already on the ground there. If the brave Ukrainian armed forces can persevere – and so far they show that they can – it is likely that more and more volunteer citizen-soldiers from the four corners of the earth will continue to join the fray. It is not known how many of them will come from the U.S. But, as of March 3, the Military Times reported that another 3,000 volunteers have applied to join the fight at the Ukraine Embassy in Washington D.C.
If this is to be a World War, it appears it will be a World War of a different kind.