Some time ago, I noticed a change in my Twitter (now X) feed that apparently reflected an uptick in what other people were following. Namely, posts from the Ukrainian war front. As a journalist, I was fascinated that soldiers tweeting from the battlefield were essentially covering their own war, and it was different from what we see on the nightly news – more immediate and very personal.
My favorite is the young officer Roman Trokymets, talking as munitions exploded around him. He was on leave, sitting with friends in a pizza parlor during a Russian missile strike. He last posted in July after his unit took over a Russian trench, pointing out booby traps at his feet. “We keep taking back our land. Everything good,” he said. He stopped posting, his sister said, because he suffered multiple concussions.
On Twitter soldiers show us light moments – preparing “birthday cake” (candy bars duct-taped around a big candle), caring for found dogs and cats who become part of the unit, dancing if someone has a musical instrument. More often, it’s drone footage of strikes on tanks and trenches, transport through pulverized villages, dashes through moonscapes on foot, and missile launches. Through it all, their president addresses his nation nightly with purpose and gratitude.
Ukrainian citizens capture a few normal moments – their holidays and culture – along with the wreckage of their apartments, grocery stores and cafes. They drop to one knee when a hearse passes carrying a warrior to his (or her) final rest in a cemetery with rows of flags. A young girl with a prosthetic leg wins a gymnastics tournament.
The message from one and all: We love our country, and we will win.
Last week our president addressed the nation on the need to support both Israel and Ukraine because it bolsters U.S. security. Initially, Ukraine, attacked without provocation by its neighboring superpower, enjoyed broad sympathy. Later, Americans agreed that the enemy of our enemy is our friend. We see that weakening Russia suits both nations and Europe as well.
But everything gets political, and opposition to the president has extended to Ukraine – that and the reluctance to get involved in another lengthy foreign war. In May 2022 New Mexico’s then-Congresswoman Yvette Herrell and 57 other Republicans voted against a bipartisan, $40 billion aid package for Ukraine. Herrell said she didn’t know how the money would be spent, even though the bill was specific. One piece was allowing the administration to buy weapons from contractors for Ukraine’s use.
Which leads us to another riveting aspect of Ukrainian tweets: Some regulars and followers are knowledgeable about the tools of war. In Ukraine, they can see how the vaunted Bradley Fighting Vehicle, for example, performs in a conventional land war. Because dozens of countries have contributed weapons and supplies, there’s running commentary about the hardware being used. Ukraine has become a testbed.
The big dogs of defense have a presence in New Mexico: Lockheed Martin (Javelin anti-tank missiles and HIMARS mobile artillery rockets); RTX, formerly Raytheon, (Patriot, Sidewinder, Javelin, Stinger, and other missiles); Boeing (launchers); and Northrop Grumman (artillery munitions). Defense contractors constitute an industry here.
Each delivery of weaponry is posted and lifts morale across Ukraine. One expert wrote, “It is so telling how even the least developed variant of a western weapon systems… causes havoc among Russian equipment and throws them off balance.”
From the front: “Another attempt by the occupiers to take us in numbers! They throw all their strength into the assault. However, this is not the first day we have been fighting. We know where and how they will go. They only manage to fight like a fish on ice. We destroy everything that moves hostilely.”
Each day soldiers improve their usage of these tools and shorten the war.