April 13, 2024

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The countdown has begun in Ukraine

The countdown has begun in Ukraine

The ruins of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Zaporizhzhya region practically herald a Russian victory, the extent and form of which we cannot predict at the present time. There is no doubt that the situation on the front has implications at the political level. The atmosphere at this year's Munich Security Conference was very different from last year.

Despite Biden's rhetoric that the United States will do everything in its power to support Ukraine, it is clear that the West is increasingly reconsidering its role in this war. The climate for full engagement with Kiev has cracked. Congress's refusal to approve $60 billion in aid is precisely a result of the turn the war has taken. But the European Union's $50 billion in aid is not part of any political strategy. Ultimately, it is not enough not to change the course of the war, but also to meet Ukraine's current needs.

Fatigue in the West has nothing to do with the length of the war or with Gaza. This comes from the hitherto unacknowledged, but now widespread, fear that Russia will be the winner. Since Zelensky's regime cannot make black and white, he attributes the apparent weakness of the Ukrainian army to the West's supposed reluctance to arm it with all modern weapons systems.

However, the West has abandoned so many modern weapons systems that its stockpiles have been almost exhausted. The United States gave Kiev aid worth $113 billion, of which $46 billion was economic and humanitarian aid and the rest was military aid. The West did not provide long-range missiles with which the Ukrainians could bomb major Russian cities. He does not concede so as not to push Russia into escalation, which could lead to uncontrollable situations.

Public opinion and governments

As a rule, Western public opinion has embraced extreme anti-Russian rhetoric from governments. But because the war is dragging on, because Western predictions that sanctions would bring the Russian economy to its knees and destabilize Putin's regime have been resoundingly refuted, because the war is also taking a heavy toll on Western economies, and because the clock is ticking down, the mood is different in Western public opinion.

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This is despite the fact that the picture presented by the Western mainstream media of the course of the war is largely misleading. It is noteworthy that – according to opinion polls – in March 2022, 74% of Americans supported providing assistance to Ukraine, while 7% considered it exaggerated. In December 2023, the percentage decreased by 74% to 47% and increased by 7% to 31%. Of course, the vast majority supports negotiations to end the war.

Western governments were desperate for some Ukrainian military success to sell to public opinion, thus justifying the unprecedented military economic aid they were sending to Kiev, but also the hardship caused by rising energy and food prices in the West. Shipwreck From the Ukrainian counterattack Indeed, the countdown has begun.

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But for most Western governments, there is no way out because they are too committed to this war. Therefore, they are forced to resort to more silence and lies. While two years ago they asserted that the collapse of the Russian economy would only take a few weeks and that the Russian army was a “paper tiger,” today they claim that after Ukraine, the Russians will invade the Baltic states and Poland, putting them in an awkward position. Even Germany is in the frame! They risk not giving citizens a reason for their failed choices. It is clear that the Russian army is not a “paper tiger”, but it is also incapable of occupying the Baltic states and Poland, that is, clashing with NATO.

Ukraine is about to run out…

A growing number of Western experts warn that the war is approaching the point where it will transform from a static war of attrition into a war of rapid maneuvers for Russian forces. Cluster bombs, missiles, and F-16s are no longer able to change their course. The Ukrainian army is rapidly depleting both manpower, weapons systems and ammunition.

While the victims are usually young and experienced warriors, those who partially replace them are usually men over 40-45 years of age who are essentially untrained. The average age of Ukrainian soldiers when conscription was announced after the Russian invasion was just over 30 years old, while in October 2023 it was 43 years old, according to Zelensky's statement. Western observers believe the number is much higher.

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This happened because the youngest and most trained soldiers were killed or wounded. It is clear, then, that by throwing middle-aged and even insufficiently trained people into battle, Kiev increases the casualty rate. Often, even the families of the dead are not informed so as not to negatively affect people's morale.

The number of casualties on both sides is a state secret. Zelensky recently reported that 31 thousand Ukrainians were killed! But in the West they count a six-digit number. The Prosecutor General of Ukraine spoke of the death of 500,000 Ukrainian soldiers and serious injuries. Russian losses are also high, but even Western military experts admit that they are much lower.

Russia's goals

After its first three failures (Kiev, Kharkiv and Kherson), the Russian army changed its strategy under the command of General Surovikin. The goal was to wear down the attacking Ukrainian forces, not to maintain control of the villages. After all, the Ukrainian forces launched a counterattack, suffering from an overwhelming air disadvantage, missing anti-aircraft means and possessing less artillery compared to the Russians. The fact that they were under heavy combined fire was bound to cause widespread casualties.

Russian military doctrine traditionally expects that when enemy forces are sufficiently exhausted, a general counterattack will be launched against weak and undefended Ukrainian units. If things take this turn, the Russian counterattack will take the form of a war of maneuver, with the aim of encircling and destroying large Ukrainian units. Immediately thereafter, when conditions on the ground permit, Russian forces will attempt from a very advantageous position to achieve their objectives. Moscow did not say who they were. According to estimates:

  • The Russians' first goal (not in terms of time) is to occupy the Kharkiv region, where they will put suffocating pressure on Kubyansk.
  • The second goal is to complete the occupation of Donbass, as evidenced by the occupation of Antievka and offensive movements on this front.
  • Their third goal is to counterattack Zaporizhia to increase the strategic depth of the Crimea.
  • Their fourth possible goal is to cross the Dnieper towards Dismas, with the aim of occupying Kherson, Mykolaiv, then Odessa, and reaching Transnistria. They would thus isolate the rest of Ukraine from the Black Sea, turning it into a mainland state.
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Who has the advantage?

It remains to be seen whether the Russians will succeed in achieving these goals in practice. They now appear to have gained an advantage, even if this has so far translated into limited territorial gains. They seem to feel that they have not yet exhausted the Ukrainian army as much as they would like, or that the terrain is not yet suitable for maneuver warfare. According to one Western interpretation, the Russians could now seize large areas of eastern Ukraine, but they are holding back for now so as not to push the Biden administration into a more radical intervention, which would threaten a direct clash between the major powers.

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However, everything shows that we are on the verge of a strategic defeat of the Ukrainians. Although many in the West insisted on reproducing the original propaganda, the message was received and it was “bitter.” As is always the case, political moves are dictated by the development of military operations. Interestingly, there are growing voices in the West pushing Kiev to negotiate with Moscow now, because the longer it delays its position it will become increasingly disadvantaged and perhaps at risk of complete defeat.

It is not clear whether the Kremlin will accept negotiations at this stage. But if he agrees, it is clear that he will not only give up the territory, but will also set very difficult conditions in Kiev. There is no doubt that the looming strategic defeat for the Ukrainians will also constitute a strategic political defeat for the West, which has deliberately pushed matters to the extreme in order to cause economic and military bleeding in Russia.