There are many observations about Ukraine. But on a recent road trip, one thing stands out – how vast the country is.
Three weeks of driving south-east in this sprawling country through frontline villages and towns, past ditches and along hedgerows, which are the strategic equivalent of high ground in this war, is training Russian President Vladimir Putin could use .
Almost half a year later, the devastating war he instigated is stagnating. Scenes reminiscent of World War I trench warfare and the associated increasing profits and death prevail.
The nearly 1,000-mile battlefront that Putin opened up has hardened, but the land beyond is deep and mostly intact.
Thirty miles from the front the city lawns are still being mowed, while hundreds of miles away in the capital, Kyiv, chic restaurants have reopened, serving fine wines and chilled champagne and freshly caught Mediterranean fish on the menu.
This is a fat land of fertile farms and bountiful harvests, bountiful in rain and sun. If strategic depth is what lies behind the front lines, Ukraine has untapped wealth.
Perhaps most striking is the number of military-age men across the country who have not yet committed to combat. Ukraine is at war, but not all-in yet, it seems. Only part of Ukraine’s potential armed forces is in bunkers buried in rows of trees overlooking Russian forces.
Cobblers, authors, artists, teachers, businessmen, journalists and even a former McDonald’s franchise CEO are holding back Putin’s push, but if the government needs him there are many more to call on.
The big lesson is that this is not a war that will be over quickly, nor is it even clear that the real decisive battle has begun.
Read the full analysis here.