The uncertain Ukraine war grinds on

February brought the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the start of the third year of war. Despite brutal efforts by the much larger invader, including massed missile attacks, the defenders are holding on and at times have gained ground.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine remains as energetic and committed as ever, including travel to the U.S. and elsewhere to generate support. Time magazine named him “Person of the Year.”

The war in Ukraine proceeds with devastating, perhaps irreparable damage to the influence and reputation of President Vladimir Putin of Russia and also the military of his nation. The strength of the Red Army of the Soviet Union was greatly respected and greatly feared by the nations occupied by that enormous force.

After all, this was the military that fought and ultimately destroyed the bulk of the enormous war machine of Nazi Germany. The vast majority of the mechanized units of the Wehrmacht were deployed on the Eastern Front, a theater where the war was literally a fight to the collective death, without the restraints present in combat involving American, British and others in the West.

Yet in this fight, Putin and associates clearly miscalculated how easily Russia’s military would be able to occupy Ukraine and take control in Cold War fashion. As in armed conflict throughout history, the people and armed forces of Ukraine have shown that determination and courage are a vital factor.

But Russian forces have also proven extraordinarily deficient. Mechanized weapons and equipment have broken down to a striking degree, many units proved ineffective and general disorganization has accompanied the large but clumsy invasion. Clear by now is that the end of the Soviet Union also has opened the door to corruption and decay, undeniably and extraordinarily widespread.

In a particularly shocking development, dead Russian soldiers have simply been left where they lie on the battlefield by retreating comrades. Refusing to abandon comrades, alive or dead, is a traditional tenet of military culture.

The Biden administration’s provision of Patriot missile defense and other systems to Ukraine has been important. The Patriot is part of a great revolution in military technologies over the 20th and 21st centuries.

In World War II, various changes created a much more fluid battle environment. The tank and other motorized vehicles, long-range heavily armed aircraft, modern electronic communications and other innovations drastically altered the characteristics of fighting.

One important invention is the Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided missile, or TOW, a lethal and relatively portable anti-tank weapon. The German V-1 rocket of World War II was an early example of employing a guidance system within a missile. Related technologies have evolved to an extraordinary degree since that time.

In the spring of 1972, North Vietnam launched a massive armored invasion of South Vietnam. In response, TOW missiles, usually launched from helicopters, completely devastated large numbers of Soviet-supplied tanks along with other targets. This offensive was decisively defeated.

Other Precision-Guided Munitions include the Stinger anti-aircraft missile. This weapon proved important in defeating the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, over a decade starting in 1979.

From 1973, the Pentagon began a satellite network for earth navigation. The Global Positioning System solved the fundamental problem in war of accurately locating the enemy along with your own position.

Precision munitions along with advanced weaponry in general, massive logistical and supply capabilities and skilled professionals were vital to the remarkable Allied liberation of Kuwait from Iraq occupation in 1991.

But Ukraine remains at war, and U.S. support is now uncertain.

• Arthur I. Cyr,, of Northbrook, is a former vice president of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, and teaches political science at Carthage College in Kenosha. He is author of “After the Cold War.”

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