The Russia-Ukraine War Could Have An Even More Dire Road Ahead

for Russia, one year Bold charges and artillery fire, humiliating retreats and harsh siege. Ukraine has responded with fierce resistance, surprising counterattacks and unexpected hit-and-run attacks.

now russian aggression day With tens of thousands dead and cities devastated, both sides are preparing for what could be even more dire in the future.

Russia has recently stepped up its efforts to occupy all of Donbass, an industrial area in eastern Ukraine. Kiev and its Western allies also say Moscow may seek to launch wider and more ambitious attacks elsewhere along her more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) of frontline. increase.

Ukraine awaits tanks and other new weapons that the West has promised to retake occupied territories.

It is a settlement that is nowhere to be seen.

The Kremlin argues that recognition of Crimea, which it illegally annexed in 2014, and acceptance of other territorial gains must be included. Ukraine categorically rejects these demands and rules out any negotiations until Russia withdraws all its troops.

Putin is determined to achieve his goals, but Ukraine and its allies are adamant about stopping Russia from taking possession of the land.

Experts warn Europe’s largest conflict since World War II could drag on for years, leading to a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO. Some people are concerned.

New Attack, New Target

In recent months, Russian forces have besieged the Ukrainian fortress of Bakhmut and are trying to push deeper into the Donetsk region. Along with achieving its goal of capturing the entire Donbass, Moscow aims to weaken Ukrainian forces and prevent them from launching offensives elsewhere.

Bakhmut is a key symbol of Ukrainian tenacity and a method of detaining and destroying the most capable Russian forces. Both sides have run out of ammunition at a rate not seen in decades.

Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said Russia had sent more troops and weapons into Donbass and attacked other areas to distract Ukrainian forces.

“Russia now has the initiative and the advantage on the battlefield,” he said, referring to Kiev’s severe ammunition shortage.

Russia relies on its vast arsenal to increase its production of arms and munitions, giving it a significant advantage. Ukrainian and Western intelligence observe that Moscow is running out of precision missiles, but has a lot of outdated weapons.

But Ukraine and its allies expect a broader Russian strike beyond Donbass, which could be a gamble for Russia.

When fighting erupted in Donbass in 2014, former Russian security officer and separatist leader Igor Strelkov warned that any large-scale attack could be disastrous for Russia. He also said the attack would pose logistical challenges, such as thwarting Russia’s attempt to capture Kiev at the start of the war.

“A large-scale attack will quickly and inevitably lead to very high losses, depleting the resources accumulated during mobilization,” warned Strelkov.

Justin Bronk, a senior research fellow at RUSI in London, predicted that the Russian offensive would fail, but that it could deplete Ukraine’s resources and prevent it from preparing its own large-scale counteroffensive. Stated.

“The big question is how much damage the Russian offensive will do before it loses momentum, because that will determine Ukraine’s position,” he said, adding that the aim was to increase Kiev’s ability to deliver a counterattack. He pointed out that it could be confusing.

Bronk said Ukraine spearheaded an autumn counteroffensive in the Kharkov and Kherson regions and spent the winter building up mechanized brigades that had suffered losses.

He said Ukraine has six to eight months of opportunity to take back more land, and Russia could launch another mobilization to prepare for battle after at least six months of training. It said it could recruit as many as 500,000 more soldiers.

Zhdanov said Ukraine could launch a new counteroffensive in late April or early May after receiving new Western weapons, including tanks. He predicted that Ukrainian forces would likely strike from the Zaporizhia region to recapture the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk and cut off the Russian corridor to Crimea.

“If Ukraine reaches the coast of the Sea of ​​​​Azov, all the gains made by Russia will be destroyed,” Zhdanov said, “shattering” Putin’s victory.

Ukrainian stalemate or Russian chaos?

Observers see little prospect of a meeting. Bronk said the two sides “cannot reconcile in their current position.”

Ukraine’s success on a major battlefield this summer “could fuel significant political turmoil in Russia.

At the same time, if Ukraine fails to regain more territory before Russia builds up its forces, it could lead to “a long stalemate and a kind of endless war of attrition,” Bronk added. Participated in Moscow’s plan to “prolong the war and just wait for the West to wear out.”

Fiona Hill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has served in the last three US administrations, also sees little chance of a settlement.

“The Russians are digging in for the long haul. They’re not going to lose,” she said. “Putin has made it very clear that he is willing to sacrifice whatever it takes. His message there is basically, I am willing to do anything and , I have more manpower, and you are saying that you cannot compete with me.”

Hill said Putin wants Western support for Kiev to dissolve.

Carnegie Endowment’s Tatiana Stanovaya said Putin continues to believe that pushing the campaign will help him achieve his goals.

“For him, I admit that the only way it can end is the surrender of Kiev,” she said.

nuclear alternative

Putin has repeatedly said Russia can use “all available means” to defend its territory, a clear reference to its nuclear arsenal.

Moscow’s nuclear theory, which states that these weapons can be used in response to a nuclear attack or a conventional attack that threatens “the very existence of the Russian state,” is open to interpretation and rapid escalation.

Some Russian hawks prompted nuclear strikes on bridges and other key infrastructure in Ukraine, forcing Kiev and its allies to accept Moscow’s terms.

Bronk said he did not expect Russia to rely on it, arguing it would backfire.

“Actually using them provides almost no practical benefit, and nothing compensates for all the costs. ) and pushing the rest of the world away,” he said.

It is sure to anger China, which is unwilling to break its nuclear taboo, he added.

Hill also noted that Russia has faced backlash from China and India, which were concerned about Putin’s nuclear threats. She added that Putin sees the nuclear threat as a powerful political tool and will continue to issue it in hopes of getting the West to withdraw its support for Ukraine.

“Putin just wants everyone to blink,” she said.

However, Hill added:

Stanovaya, who has long followed the Kremlin’s decision-making, said Putin’s nuclear threat was not a bluff.

If he saw that Ukraine could threaten Russian territory and attack in a way that would lead to the defeat of Moscow, “he could I think we are ready to use nuclear weapons.


Danica Kirka from London, Andrew Katell from New York and Yuras Karmanau from Tallinn, Estonia contributed to this report.


Follow the AP’s coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine.