At a certain point, Ukraine and Russia will have to decide on a solution to the conflict that has lasted a year and a half.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine entered a new phase this summer as Kiev launched its long-awaited counter-offensive. However, Ukrainian forces are facing a frontline stretching more than 1,000km and fortified, dense defensive fortifications that Russia built last winter when Ukraine was still waiting for its allies to provide more weapons. heavyweight.
Military experts warn that the war is likely to drag on, putting great pressure on Ukraine and forcing it to fight for the next few years. That means Kiev’s international allies could have to spend billions of dollars more to support the country’s military, humanitarian, and financial resources.
“Ukraine has to show that it can make progress, but everyone knows that given the size of its forces, Ukraine is unlikely to push back the Russians in 2023,” said Richard Barrons, former commander of Forces Command. UK commented to CNBC.
According to Barrons, Ukraine’s counter-offensive will probably make some progress for the rest of the year, but not enough to end the conflict. The war is likely to last into 2024, even 2025.
“To some extent, we have to accept that there is evidence that Ukraine can win on the battlefield. However, the problem is that they will need larger aid, about 100 billion USD/year from all allies, at least in 2024 and 2025,” he predicted.
Since launching a counter-offensive in early June, Kiev has regained control of only a handful of villages.
Although Ukraine’s Defense Ministry says its forces have made progress near Bakhmut in the east and recaptured more than 200 square kilometers of territory in the south, they still face a major challenge trying to break through the defense line. Russian defense to the port cities of Berdyansk and Melitopol on the Sea of Azov.
It is not surprising that the Ukrainian counter-offensive is as difficult as it is today, said Nick Reynolds, a research fellow on land warfare at the Royal United Services Institute, a defense and security research organization based in London, reviews.
“Russia had a huge opportunity in the first months of this year to dig deep. If you look at the scale of the defenses they have built, this has always been a formidable challenge for Ukraine, especially for Ukraine. when the country’s air force cannot operate on Russian lines,” Reynolds said.
One of Ukraine’s main goals is to cut off Russia’s land corridor bridge from eastern Ukraine to the Crimean peninsula. However, this is one of the areas where the Russian fortifications are the thickest and most fortified.
“Ukrainian forces are entering the first line of defense, but it is a belt with a width of 30km of minefields, trenches, and counter-attacks. From their current position to the sea about 100km, so far. they have only advanced 10km. So this is really a big question, “said Mr. Barrons.
Meanwhile, Russia’s strategy is to stick to and hold the part of the land it controls.
The end scenario
Defense experts say Ukraine’s counter-offensive will hardly produce any breakthroughs this year. They note, however, that it is important for Ukraine to make at least some progress in maintaining Western support through 2024, or even beyond.
“Obviously, from Ukraine’s point of view, they have to at least have some significant success to be able to tell the US and NATO that the counterattack is not as expected, but with the weapons that the West is providing, Ukraine has done its best to divide Russian forces and now needs to invest in another goal,” commented Jamie Shea, a former senior NATO official.
The expert added: “I think the risk for the Ukrainians is that when they are really at a stalemate, that is, they gain back very, very little territory, but at the expense of a lot of equipment due to the means of transport. Western suppliers and Ukrainians suffered heavy casualties.”
That scenario could increase public discontent with continued funding for Ukraine, while also posing problems with the production and supply of weapons to the West.
At present, Ukraine’s allies are still firmly supporting Ukraine, affirming that they will continue to support Kiev as long as necessary. Russia also stated that it will not give up its military operation in Ukraine until all its goals have been achieved.
Meanwhile, the prospects for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine are slim despite recent efforts to bring the two sides to the negotiating table.
At some point, Ukraine will have to decide whether to offer a military solution to the conflict with Russia or to seek another way out without suffering any form of defeat, Mr. Barrons said. One way to do that is an armistice, a temporary agreement to end military operations, but not to end hostilities definitively.
Barrons commented: “One scenario is that this war ends because Ukraine gets help to do so. Another scenario is Ukraine decides to freeze the war, but at the moment we see no sign of it. that mark”.
“Also, there’s a more dangling scenario, which happens with a lot of wars, where they come to a reluctant stalemate and then they stay on guard for the next generation,” he said, citing the war on the Korean peninsula.