As this is being written, the world is witness to day 36 of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
This horrific incursion has left us with significantly more questions than answers.
Questions about the motives for such an outright war, questions over its strategic trajectory, and an overarching sense of bewilderment about its logical underpinnings, if they can indeed be called logical.
What is Russian President Vladimir Putin's endgame?
This writer has spent three weeks traveling across Ukraine.
Yes, the fog of war is as thick here on the ground as it is back in the newsrooms of New York and Washington; concurrently, one thing has become abundantly clear: that is the unbending fortitude and determination of the Ukrainian people to defend their nation's independence, and do so at all costs.
After speaking with over 100 Ukrainian soldiers, refugees, and civilians — nothing is more striking more than the very fact that not a single person interviewed exhibited something even remotely close to despair.
Anguish, anger, fear, a deep and utter sense of betrayal — yes.
And yet every single Ukrainian encountered along the way seems inherently incapable of losing hope. Thus, a glimmer of such hope, is repeatedly conveyed in a refugee's simple desire to one day return to her abandoned home, or in a soldier's boastful claim that in a few weeks' time he and his battalion will be routing the Russians, hoisting a blue-and-yellow flag over a liberated Crimea.
Such moral fortitude becomes infinitely more impressive when you process just how different this war is from every single conflict fought globally to date.
For reference, Ukraine is more than triple the size of Syria, and has more than double the population. The Ukrainian army has a dependable arsenal of late-Soviet military hardware, enhanced with cutting-edge American technology and tactical training.
The warfare we now witness in Ukraine embodies the worst elements of history's most devastating wars. The Donbas resembles a World War I battlefield, with armies relying on weaving networks of trenches and the use of semi-abandoned villages as makeshift fortresses.
Mariupol, practically leveled to the ground by Russian carpet-bombing, is slowly morphing into another Aleppo or Raqqa. The defenders of Kharkiv appear to be headed for a protracted siege, where food and medicine are becoming more valuable than gold.
Odesa, meanwhile, prepares for a D-Day style naval assault, with Ukraine's southern jewel sitting atop mined and fortified beaches, and Ukrainian artillery firing at Russian ships just off the horizon.
Western Ukraine is in a crisis of its own, serving as the transit hub for millions of refugees fleeing west and volunteers and supplies moving east, all while fending off strategic Russian strikes on key supply chain and military targets.
The Kremlin now appears to have realized, at least in part, the futility of their original "special operation" — all the shock, without any of the awe.
Now, Putin's military is awkwardly and hastily repositioning forces for a protracted town-by-town grind to secure the southern and eastern territories they can still hope to seize from Ukraine. And a grind it will most certainly be, because the Ukrainian soldiers encountered by this writer feel there is nothing left to lose; this, after experiencing utter betrayal by Russia and abandonment by NATO after years of enticements and empty promises.
Over a month into a war many assumed would last several weeks at most, there is no end in sight. Russia's nihilistic nostalgia and Ukraine's stubborn spirit are a recipe for a drawn out catastrophe.
Seeing first-hand this surreal clash of wills, I very much fear the worst is yet to come.
Michael Grimm is currently in Ukraine as a Newsmax correspondent. He is a former U.S. congressman who represented New York's Staten Island, and a former FBI agent.
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