Ukrainian forces have recently scored some victories against Russian troops in the country. While Russian President Vladimir Putin is under pressure to deal with a Ukrainian counteroffensive, it is difficult to predict his next move.
Ukrainian forces have recaptured thousands of square kilometres of territory and several towns from Russian troops and appear to have the upper hand in the areas they are fighting. Some Ukrainian officials have already said they could win.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told French newspaper Le Monde on Monday that he was confident the recent results would “snowball”. “We will see the retreat of the second strongest (Russian) army in the world,” he said.
The Russian view of the situation
According to Russian experts, the Ukrainians attacked in a direction the Russians may have expected, but they lacked the troops and means to absorb the blow.
In the south, the Russian reserves arrived three hours after the strike, and in the Izyum-Balakley direction, they came much later.
The Ukrainians dispatched all they could, including forces from Kyiv and the south and battalions trained in Poland and the United Kingdom for many months with NATO equipment and weaponry.
Izyum win is only tactical
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Monday that Russian forces were bombing eastern territories recaptured by Ukraine and that Russia would continue to fight “until the objective is achieved.” Russia announced on the 13th that it had launched a “massive” offensive on the Ukrainian front. The Russian military would undoubtedly execute a significant manoeuvre.
Recent Ukrainian military accomplishments are significant but only tactical. The Ukrainian military’s attack could not continue forever, and the Ukrainian army must be strengthened, particularly near the Russian border.
Vladimir Putin, concerned with domestic public opinion, has “limited” alternatives. Putin has so far refrained from mobilising Russian conscripts, a move that would significantly raise expectations on the population and might further destabilise society. Conversely, the alternative of a total Russian army withdrawal is similarly tricky since both the military and the populace anticipate victory.
The Russian option and the onset of winter
However, it cannot be ruled out that the tactical military scenario in the Izyum might again shift in favour of Russia. Regardless of the outcome of the subsequent phase, the battle would persist for a long time.
Putin might be awaiting a wintertime deterioration of Ukraine’s “socioeconomic difficulties.” Russia might continue to strike the infrastructure of Ukraine, causing “great issues.”
Russia may be unable to handle enormous territory and extended fronts due to a shortage of military personnel, which may be the source of its most significant difficulties.
As the winter approaches, entire Europe might be affected by the lack of gas and electricity, leading to further deterioration of their economies. This will also affect both support to Ukraine and logistics. Russia says it is up against NATO, not Ukraine, who are merely sacrificial sheep.
Former Pentagon spokesperson and current head of strategic communications for the US National Security Council, Rear Admiral John Kirby, commented on recent events in Ukraine. He said that Russia faced “substantial challenges” in its Ukraine war. He talked highly of the Ukrainian military.
The Ukrainian progress has been “rapid” and “impressive,” according to Kirby, but there is still a great deal of ground to retake, especially in the south of the nation, where Kyiv’s soldiers are confronting stiffer Russian opposition near the city of Kherson.
He said that the conflict does not seem to be in a position where it can be resolved diplomatically.
He said President Putin has a vast array of military options available to him, and he may use these prospects in Ukraine and other places.
The New York Times recently published an article suggesting that neither a total triumph for Russia nor Ukraine would satisfy the United States and the rest of the West. It said that in the case of a Russian victory, the West would suffer reputational harm, which may be politically expensive, and that in the event of a “success on the Ukrainian side,” there are substantial economic and energy risks associated with Moscow’s potential responses.
Realities on the ground
Compared to the 116,000 square kilometres occupied by the Russians, who are still expanding, Ukraine has only seized roughly 6000 – 8,000 square kilometres of land so far.
This is consistent with what Putin said on February 24, that he thought Russia hadn’t lost anything and it won’t lose anything.
In a few years, Russia would have stitched up an alternative to the West dominated world order with China, Iran, specific CIS, South American and Asian countries.