It all depends on whether Russia succeeds in undermining Western support for Kyiv by fanning fears of a nuclear accident, energy and food crises
The war in Ukraine has reached its sixth month, but no one still has an answer to the question of when and how it would end. According to experts, in the last 3 months it has turned into a positional war of attrition. Here is the current picture of the hostilities according to the publication “New Eastern Europe”:
Russian military capacity is gradually declining. The command lacks precision weapons, modern machinery and trained personnel such as pilots, junior officers and mid-level officers. Nevertheless, Russia continues to fight with “cannon fodder” and old equipment from the warehouses. A big problem is logistics and control,
the fatigue and low motivation of the soldiers,
who increasingly refuse to participate in operations. The many agreements announced recently, such as the one with Iran, aim to overcome the shortage of weapons and drones. However, they are limited in scope and unlikely to seriously affect Russian combat capacity.
At the same time, Ukraine’s military capacity is improving, albeit slowly, thanks to arms supplies from Western allies and help in training the army. The effectiveness of these weapons unpleasantly surprised the Russian forces. Despite the exhaustion, the motivation of Ukrainians to defend their territory remains very high. Pogroms and violence against the civilian population in the occupied territories keep Ukrainians determined to get revenge, whatever the cost.
The mass mobilization of volunteers in Russia failed, and despite the Kremlin’s enormous propaganda efforts, the war failed to become a “patriotic” one. Mobilization is concentrated mainly in Russian regions, which increases the potential risk of mutiny in these regional battalions. Moscow failed to replenish its army with technical specialists and assault units, which suffered heavy losses.
Russia needs an operational pause so it can restructure its military forces and prepare for the next phase of the war. To secure this pause, the Kremlin will continue to blackmail the West by raising the specter of nuclear attack and by provoking energy and food crises. Such a strategic pause, or in other words, this “freezing” of the conflict can last for several years.
The Kremlin’s goal at this stage of the hostilities is to maintain the current status quo by controlling as much of the territory already captured as possible. To achieve their intentions, the Russian authorities have several options: to divert the attention of world leaders to other areas such as the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa, creating instability there; to annex in one way or another the occupied Ukrainian territories, including by organizing fake referendums; to drive the erosion of support for Ukraine through the energy crises and exorbitant gas prices that worry people in Western Europe; to interfere in the internal political processes of various countries especially during election periods in order to fan tension and instability.
Possible scenarios in the coming months depend on three main parameters:
– The success or failure of Russian efforts to divert Western attention from Ukraine, sow mistrust between partners and delay arms supplies.
– The success or failure of Russian and Ukrainian military operations in the southern part of the country.
– The stability and efficiency of the Russian power system, which is under pressure from the deepening economic problems due to the sanctions and from internal discontent, which is expressed in personal settling of scores among the elite.
On this basis, political observers outline 5 possible scenarios for the fall:
As a result of Western attention being diverted to other regions, or thanks to a successful Russian disinformation campaign that undermines allies’ confidence in Ukraine, the delivery of arms and equipment is slowing down. Russia gets the much-desired operational pause that allows it to increase its military capacity, economic and political pressure. The Ukrainian economy does not receive enough resources to support it and falls into recession and hyperinflation.
Successful Ukrainian pressure on Russian defensive lines in the south, well-directed strikes on logistics targets and command centers, disruption of supply lines lead to military losses and withdrawal from part of the occupied territories.
Russia managed to mobilize its forces and blocked the Ukrainian offensive in the south. The Ukrainians retreat and a pause follows.
Because of the many problems and defeats, the management system in Moscow begins to suffocate. It is possible that the authorities will be forced to focus on domestic political crises.
Russian troops retreat to positions that are easier to defend
All this depends on the actual positions on the front line and the level of Western support for Ukraine.
The Ukrainians have now concentrated their main forces in liberating southern Ukraine and unblocking the ports there to ensure the export of grain. This will prevent Russian intentions to cause a global food crisis. In this area is also the largest nuclear power plant – Zaporizhia, which is currently being actively used for nuclear blackmail against Europe. If the Ukrainians regain their positions in southern Ukraine by the end of the year, it will seriously undermine the Putin regime and facilitate its fall.
This scenario, metaphorically called a “black swan” as a symbol of nuclear war, is allowed by the analysts of the publication “Foreign Policies”. According to them, although Russia has not yet resorted to nuclear or chemical weapons, the Kremlin’s refusal to allow an international inspection at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant increases fears of a nuclear accident. A few days ago, it was reported that the occupiers had disconnected the plant from the electricity grid, which not only threatens to leave large parts of Ukraine without electricity, but also increases the risk of cooling system dysfunction. According to experts, the most dangerous stage of the war has not passed at all, because the poorly trained and poorly equipped, but nuclear-armed Russian army is fully capable of harming the entire world through a nuclear or chemical attack or by deliberately causing a nuclear accident. Putin is unlikely to hold back from such an escalation when he feels that his army’s positions on the ground are becoming untenable.