The War in Ukraine - What's Next? - Seeker's Thoughts

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The War in Ukraine - What's Next?



The War in Ukraine - What's Next?


Since Russia launched a full-scale military invasion on February 24, 2022, civilian deaths in Ukraine have reached nine thousand. CFR has been tracking this conflict using commercial satellite imagery, social media posts and published intelligence.


Ukraine's armed forces have recently liberated eight settlements in southern Ukraine as their counteroffensive has continued, although progress may be hindered by extensive Russian defenses.


What’s Next?


Analysts generally predict that Russia's war against Ukraine will persist; others, however, believe the Kremlin will eventually run out of ammunition and be unable to sustain its current level of aggression. Others such as Volodymyr Zelensky's new Ukrainian government see 2023 as being when Ukraine wins the conflict.


Ukraine must alter its approach to war in order to succeed and adopt institutional adaptations tailored to match its capabilities and strengths. Furthermore, Kyiv must ensure its forces receive any Western weapons quickly enough in order to counter attritional warfare that could see them defeated through attritional fighting tactics.


Additionally, the West must ensure Russia does not acquire more ammunition and weapons by imposing stringent sanctions on Russian officials, companies and individuals. They should also make sure NATO allies provide Ukraine with essential support for defensive operations such as Stinger/IRIS-T low-altitude anti-air missiles and HIMARS rocket artillery for defensive use against an increasingly powerful Russia force. It is crucial that Ukrainian arms from Western sources be of high-quality to inflict maximum damage upon it.


Russia's war against Ukraine has cost it much blood and money. It has dislocated 13 million Ukrainians both inside and outside their homeland, destroyed homes and factories worth billions, and dispossessed billions more through deportations. Russia's leaders will likely come under severe domestic and international recriminations for such costly miscalculation.


Peace will only come about when both parties feel confident about how to exit their conflict, which may take some time and require Ukraine cessioning territory for security guarantees from Russia. But any such settlement may not bring lasting peace and could even leave Ukraine worse off later on.


Some in America and Europe have bought into the Kremlin's claim that NATO expansion caused the war, yet this view doesn't hold water. Ukraine still desires joining NATO but needs the approval of at least a majority of alliance members before this can occur; Kyiv understands this fact, which explains why Kyiv does not settle for any peace agreement that does not favor their nation.


Russia’s New Strategy


Sun Tzu famously taught us the value of understanding one's adversary when developing strategy, yet it can be easy to misread Russia's overall approach in Ukraine by viewing it through a narrow military lens. Such an interpretation misses the larger point: that Russia seeks to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty so as to impose their vision of world onto Ukraine and this political objective must be attacked from within by focusing on challenging Russia's broad strategy against this political objective. Ukraine and its Western allies should focus their attacks against it directly in pursuit of this political objective.


Putin may be sending a signal that the conflict has entered its second stage by declaring his partial mobilization, hoping that once Western governments tire of supporting Ukraine and bearing sanctions they might become more willing to accept Russia's terms. Additionally, he may hope that allies publics and parliaments tire of war as it drags on and demand negotiated peace deals from both parties involved.


Whilst fighting in Ukraine may escalate further, it is unlikely to reach a point at which Russian leadership feels it necessary to launch an all-out invasion. Their ability to carry on depends heavily on obtaining substantial Western aid - something the Kremlin is unlikely to ignore as an imperative to continue the conflict.


The newly issued Russian foreign-policy document emphasizes the necessity of strengthening relations and coordination with sovereign global centers of power and development--another euphemism for creating an alliance against the United States or any country with neocolonialist or hegemonistic ambitions. Furthermore, Russia should enhance ties with China and India.


Ukraine should remain its goal, yet its current allies have expressed concerns over whether Ukraine can effectively deter or counter future Russian aggression. As an alternative solution, allies could commit to providing Ukraine with capabilities, training, intelligence and equipment necessary for fighting off possible future attacks from Russian forces.


Ukraine’s New Strategy


Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine one year ago, hoping that Kyiv would fall quickly under Russian control and install pro-Russian puppet regime. Instead, his "special military operation" has resulted in remarkable Ukrainian defiance against all odds, horrendous Russian atrocities, and an ongoing bloody conflict that neither side appears ready to end in short of victory.


Russia is now employing an attritional strategy, employing military, economic and diplomatic activities to exhaust Ukraine and its Western supporters to accept their new reality of occupied territory. This may take months or even years; once both parties reach exhaustion levels they could negotiate more productively.


Ukraine must also take measures to become less reliant on foreign aid and thus better equipped to defend against Moscow's strategy. It could, for example, look to protect valuable industrial assets or exploit untapped agricultural potential; activate special forces with deep penetration capabilities so as to carry out combined arms operations even behind Russian lines in Crimea; or activate another special forces battalion that allows special operations deep behind enemy lines in Crimea itself.


While Russia must understand that its actions are dangerous and unacceptable, the West must continue making its position known that Ukraine needs defensive weapons as well as technical support to enhance its military capabilities in order to deter further escalation and encourage Moscow to seek diplomatic solutions to end this complex struggle. Policymakers should remain open-minded regarding potential scenarios which might bring resolution sooner rather than later if such circumstances present themselves.


The Future of the U.S.-Ukraine Relationship


Ukraine's forces have made steady progress during this war, finally beginning to see some tangible successes after an initially dismal start. Kyiv's military will need to capitalize on this momentum in order to realize their Euro-Atlantic ambitions; however, Western allies are providing significant weaponry supplies: in coming months alone they will provide at least two battalions of German Leopard 2 tanks along with other Western main battle tanks as part of NATO alliance supplies; additionally the United States pledged Abrams tanks as well as ammunition supplies - from both sources!


As Ukrainian commanders take advantage of Russia's diminished forces with new hardware arriving, they will strive to maximize its advantages. They will focus on amplifying attacks while targeting key bridges and infrastructure such as pipelines to cut Russia off from essential supplies - which may allow Ukraine to push back towards Azov Sea or even recapture Crimea, both highly supported by their population.


The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, has advised Ukrainian troops that instead of relying solely on one large operation to resolve this conflict, they must launch multiple counteroffensives instead. According to an assessment released this week by this think tank, each counteroffensive will aim "at persuading President Putin of accepting an acceptable compromise and at creating military realities favoring Ukraine so they can effectively end this conflict on their own," an evaluation revealed this week by Institute said.


An extended war will not benefit Ukraine and may prove hard to sustain against Russian propaganda. Instead, Kyiv should aim to retake occupied territory and impose major costs upon Moscow before being willing to negotiate peace deals; any phony agreement would only serve to benefit Vladimir Putin who wants nothing more than to erase Ukraine from history altogether.


An Ukrainian victory would not only reassure its future security, but would also send a clear signal that Western powers won't tolerate Russia's violations of international law and norms. Therefore, the US must continue its support of Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders.

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