Will the war in Ukraine end this year? | Russia-Ukraine war
It’s been almost a year since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, spreading death and destruction across the country. The cost of the war was grim: thousands of Ukrainian civilians were killed, tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides were killed, millions were displaced, entire Ukrainian towns and villages were razed.
As we enter our second year, both sides are preparing large-scale attacks, with tens of thousands of new recruits and sophisticated hardware sent to the front lines. A range of possible scenarios to a varying degree could play out this year. The only thing we can predict with great confidence is that we will see a bloodbath on a larger scale than last year.
In public rhetoric, both Russia and Ukraine appear confident in their victory, but they seem to define it in different terms.
The government in Kiev has made it clear that its goal is to liberate all Ukrainian territory that Russia currently occupies, including the Crimean Peninsula. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy himself said in a November interview for a Czech television channel that once the Ukrainian army won, he would go on vacation to Crimea.
Some Ukrainian officials went even further, stating their goal of disrupting the Russian Federation. Earlier this month, the head of Ukraine’s National Security Council, Oleksiy Danilov, wrote in an op-ed published in the Ukrainian newspaper Ukrainska Pravda that Russia should be “decolonized”, the country’s statehood in its current form was abolished and the independence movements of various peoples within its borders were abolished. this country is encouraged.
The Ukrainian military has liberated some areas, but most of the territory occupied in the past 12 months is still under Russian control. Mobilization is taking place across the country and the Ukrainian army is being trained by the West and equipped with new weapons.
The original Russian President Vladimir Putin goal statement was to “liberate” the Donbas region of Ukraine and to “de-fascist” and “demilitarize” the country.
The Russian army failed to fully occupy the two regions of Donbas, Donetsk and Luhansk, but they captured most of the other two regions of Ukraine to the south, Zaporizhia and Kherson, thus securing a bridge over walk to Crimea. In October, Putin signed the law officially annex those regions to Russia.
In the fall, Russian authorities launched a nationwide mobilization campaign, adding about 300,000 troops to the country’s regular forces. Some of them have been deployed on the front lines, as part of the new Russian offensive, but most appear to remain in reserve.
With this mixture of military success and failure, the Kremlin has deliberately left the definition of “victory” in Ukraine rather vague. Thus, it allows me to have many acceptable results on the battlefield.
Meanwhile, the West, while united in moral support for Ukraine, is also ambivalent about how to end the war. The official statement from Washington, Kyiv’s biggest backer, is that it will support the Ukrainian government and military “as long as necessary” to secure a decisive victory over Russia. In Europe, some have been more cautious. For example, French President Emmanuel Macron has said that Russia should be defeated, but not crushed.
Ukraine received nearly $40 billion in military aid from the West, about $30 billion of that from the United States alone. Last month, NATO countries crossed one of their self-imposed “red lines” by allowing the supply of modern German and American tanks to Ukraine, albeit in limited quantities.
However, informally, as a Washington Post’s recent article suggests, the Ukrainian government is being warned that this year it may have its last chance to change reality with full Western support ahead of the inevitable peace talks.
A recent poll of European Union policymakers, proceed of the Council of Europe on Foreign Relations, shows that European capitals differ greatly in the outcome of the Ukraine war they see as fact. Only a small number of respondents seem to see the “complete liberation” of Kyiv as a possible outcome. Many expect that Russia will retain control of some Ukrainian territory.
There are too many unknowns to make any solid predictions as to where Ukraine and Russia will find themselves after another year of carnage. But there are some scenarios that appear more likely.
An overwhelming Ukrainian victory, as envisaged in Kyiv, would be a victory of justice. But it is also a Russian roulette scenario, because Putin’s failure, especially the liberation of Crimea, could very well prompt him to use nuclear weapons. The fate of humanity, in this case, will lie in the hands of a troubled man who has done the unthinkable by waging a large-scale war in Europe.
On the other hand, a Russian victory would mean a decisive defeat for the West and for the world order caused by an aggressive autocracy. However, Russia is unlikely to achieve that due to its less impressive battlefield record to date.
Between these two extremes lies a series of more realistic scenarios, based on a new equilibrium that will emerge after this year’s season of Russian offensives and Ukrainian counterattacks.
Russia has the ability to retain some of Ukraine’s territory, but future battles will determine the extent and extent of perpetuity – in other words, how much it will cost Russia in human and economic terms to keep it. can keep them.
An important factor is the large difference in social expectations in Russia and Ukraine regarding the outcome of the war. Russian society is indifferent to Putin’s military adventurism and territorial expansion. It will accept a range of results that are not obviously humiliating or costly.
On the other hand, Ukrainian expectations are overblown. Almost any form of compromise could threaten Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government, which took a deadly gamble by refusing to implement the shameful Minsk agreements and determined to fight instead of yield. before Putin’s ultimatums.
For now, almost any de facto deal seems to be worse for Ukraine than the terms of the scrapped Minsk agreements, which raises the question: All the sacrifices What is this big for? For this reason, Zelenskyy has a very strong incentive to keep fighting.
Otherwise, he is facing the risk of a domestic backlash, leading to an armed coup by military radicals and far-right fighters. However, these fears stem largely from the wartime rhetoric of radical lobbyists and opinion polls conducted at a time when people, especially People who tend to be more compromising, have a strong incentive to be dishonest about their preferences.
Unless their subject is a total surrender of Russia, any possible peace talks will involve Ukraine ceding territory. Depending on the country’s battlefield performance, this could be Crimea alone; Crimea and parts of the Donbas that Russia effectively controlled before the start of a full-scale invasion last year; or these territories together with those that Russia has occupied in the past 12 months or may occupy in the future. Only in the first scenario can Ukraine claim that it has achieved victory, such as improving its position relative to what was expected in the Minsk agreements.
What lies ahead this year feels very dark. Even setting aside the very real nuclear threat, it is hard to avoid the nagging feeling that tens of thousands of people will die to prove that this is a stalemate best resolved at the negotiating table. .
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.