1. There’s little hard information about the state of the frontlines in the Ukraine-Russian war. In particular, the much-anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive remains opaque. It seems Ukrainian forces are making slow progress in fighting through mined and entrenched positions. Encounters so far appear relatively limited but nonetheless bloody, with both Ukrainian and Russian soldiers paying an appalling price for Putin’s reckless & cruel decision to invade.
2. Kyiv appears to be holding its main offensive forces in reserve while it tests and stretches Russian defences. It’s unclear to what extent events are moving according to plan. The apparent lack of progress is causing frustration and concern in opinion pages and, perhaps, Western capitals.
3. When this war is done, some commentators will look back at the counter-offensive and claim that what happened was, for the gifted like them, easily foreseeable or even inevitable. Mostly, these prophets will have a high self-regard, selective memories and a simplistic grasp of events, including a tendency to read history backwards.
4. Meanwhile, away from the opinion pieces and social media, the Ukrainian and Russian high commands know better. At the business end, they see history as in play—for them, the future is open. From where they sit, the war will be decided by the unpredictable interplay of shifting politics, grit, and the application of large-scale extreme violence. There’s an unguaranteed & random element to this interplay. With every major strategic choice, both sets of war leaders roll the dice. Their job is to load these dice as much as they can.