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How will the war between Russia and Ukraine end? A question with more unknowns than certainties

Russia wanted a lightning victory when launching its invasion of Ukraine, but twelve months later the war stalled without either side achieving military advances nor be open to a solution based on the ‘status quo’.

Analysts fear that the conflict sparked by the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022 don’t finish soon and that its intensity increases in its second year.

“It certainly shows no signs of being near the end,” says Jon Alterman of the US think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Each party feels that time is on their side and that reaching an agreement now is a mistake,” he adds.

A helicopter crew member from the Army’s 18th Aviation Brigade carries boxes of ammunition in eastern Ukraine. AFP photo

The stages

After some recent successes in the eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, the Russian side may be preparing a spring offensive, experts believe.

Meanwhile, Ukraine seems determined to regain lost territoryaided by the United States and European governments, whose support for kyiv appears to be growing.

He even made his intention clear. recapture the Crimean peninsulain the Black Sea, which Russia annexed in 2014, an ambition that aroused suspicion in the West.

Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron told his Ukrainian counterpart Volodimir Zelensky that he was “determined to help Ukraine achieve victory.”

But that does not mean that the war ends with a clear Russian defeat, according to Liana Fix, from the US think tank Council on Foreign Relations.

“The most likely scenario is that Ukrainian advances lead to a ‘good enough’ victory,” followed by “continued fighting in some territories” as Russia tries to hold Crimea, it added.

The Russian army could mobilize a large number of new soldiers, but they would have to be trained, fed and equipped, tasks that it has performed “very poorly so far,” he says.

The type of weapons Ukraine gets from its Western allies will be decisive, according to Dimitri Minic of the French Institute for International Relations (Ifri).

People take shelter inside a metro station during massive Russian missile attacks in kyiv, Ukraine.  Photo Reuters

People take shelter inside a metro station during massive Russian missile attacks in kyiv, Ukraine. Reuters Photo

Long-range artillery could allow him to “break the attack-counter-defense cycle, weaken Russia’s ability to recover and win a decisive victory”, he estimates.

For the expert, a “strategic” victory for kyiv could consist of “dividing in two the deployment of the Russian army in Ukraine through Zaporizhia” (southeast).

But even when Ukraine inflicted a heavy defeat on the Russian army by recapturing Kherson (south), Moscow did not give uphe warns.


“The Russians will do anything, even mobilize without limit and impoverish your entire country if necessary, to keep the territories occupied and continue their conquests,” according to Minic.

Though he says “it’s too soon,” Alterman envisions various scenarios: from Moscow “consolidating some gains” to “a leadership transition in Russia that ends the war” to “some kind of truce.”

but neither side seems to really want to negotiate for now.

Zelensky presented a 10-point peace plan that includes Russia’s recognition of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the withdrawal of its troops.

For the Ifri expert, Russia could “temporarily” accept the independence of Ukraine and even a pro-European Union and pro-NATO power in kyiv, but “in exchange for a recognition of the Russian conquests in the Ukraine”.

However, this is a red line that kyiv will never cross, according to experts.

Another uncertainty concerns nuclear weapons and their possible role in the next phase of the war.

Russia launched a thinly disguised threat on the use of atomic weapons at the beginning of the conflict.

Although it was a “bluff”, according to Fix, this scenario could become a “very serious possibility” if Ukraine manages to recover Crimea, Minic says.

If it gets to that point, internal dissent in Russia it could erupt due to fear of nuclear war and because the use of nuclear weapons could be perceived as revealing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s weakness, according to the expert.

In addition, Putin is seen as facing pressure inside Russia, but from a more hardline faction led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner militia.

The upcoming elections could have a huge influence on the future of the war, including legislative elections in Ukraine in October and the US presidential election in 2024.

For this year, US support is assured, but congressional approval of a new aid program for Ukraine is not certain, according to Fix.

Some Allied governments in Europe could face exhaustion of the voters and the political opposition against the war, if it is prolonged.

“It will be more difficult to explain why this war continues,” according to the expert from the Council on Foreign Relations, for whom Ukraine is forced to record “important progress.”

AFP Agency


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