War in Ukraine: five scenarios for the development of events in 2023
Can the war end in 2023 and how?
The war in Ukraine enters its second calendar year. Edition CNN asked several military analysts how they think events on the ground will play out in 2023. Will the war be able to end next year and how - on the battlefield or at the negotiating table? Or can it drag on until 2024?
The opinion of the author may not coincide with the opinion of the editors.
Russia's possible spring offensive will be key
- Michael Clarke, Deputy Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies.
Those who seek to invade another country anywhere on the great Eurasian steppes are ultimately doomed to winter there. Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin have all been forced to keep their armies moving in the face of the steppe winter, and now - with the invasion going backwards on the ground - Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin digs in his troops for the winter in anticipation of a new Russian offensive in the spring.
Both sides need a breather, but the Ukrainians are better equipped and motivated to continue, and we can expect them to keep pushing, at least in Donbas. In the area of Kremennaya and Svatovo, they are very close to a big breakthrough, which will push the Russian troops back 40 miles to the next natural defensive line, not far from where their invasion began in February. Kyiv will not want to stop when the next reward is so high. However, Ukrainian offensive operations may stop in the southwest after Kherson is completely recaptured.
Moving to the eastern side of the Dnieper to put pressure on vulnerable Russian road and rail links to Crimea may prove too difficult. But one can never rule out the possibility that Kyiv will launch an unexpected new offensive.
In 2023, the fate of Russia's spring offensive will be a key factor. Putin acknowledged that about 50 of the newly mobilized troops are already at the front; the remaining 000 of those newly mobilized are being trained for next year. Until the fate of these new Russian troops is decided on the battlefield, there is no way to continue the war. The only other prospect is a short and unstable ceasefire. Putin has made it clear that he will not stop. And Ukraine has made it clear that it is still fighting for its life.
Ukraine will return all its lands
- Andrey Piontkovsky, an analyst of Russian origin from Washington.
Ukraine will win by fully restoring its territorial integrity no later than the spring of 2023. Two factors shape this conclusion. First - this is unprecedented in modern military history motivation, determination and courage of the Ukrainian military and the Ukrainian people as a whole. Other - the fact that after years of pandering to the Russian dictator - the West has finally matured and realized the magnitude of the historical challenge it faces.
This is best illustrated by the recent statement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “The price we pay is money. While the price of Ukrainians is blood. If authoritarian regimes see that power is satisfying, we will all pay a much greater price. And the world will become more dangerous for all of us.”
The exact timing of Ukraine's inevitable victory will be determined by the speed with which NATO can deliver a new game-changing package of military assault weapons (tanks, aircraft, long-range missiles). I expect that Melitopol will become a key point of battle in the coming months (possibly weeks). By capturing Melitopol, the Ukrainians would easily advance to the Sea of Azov, effectively cutting off supply lines and communications with Crimea.
Russian capitulation will be formally agreed upon in technical negotiations after the crushing Ukrainian successes on the battlefield. The victorious powers - Ukraine, Great Britain, USA - form a new architecture of international security.
No end in sight
- Barbara Zanchetta, Faculty of War Studies, King's College London.
Vladimir Putin counted on Ukraine's passive acceptance of the actions of a more powerful neighbor, without significant participation of other countries. This serious miscalculation led to a protracted conflict with no end in sight. Winter will be hard as Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure will attempt to break the morale and resilience of an already weakened population. But Ukrainian resilience was amazing. They will stand firm. The war will drag on. And even further. The prospects for negotiations are grim. A potential peace deal requires that the basic demands of at least one of the parties change. There is no evidence that this has happened or will happen anytime soon.
What will be the end? The costs of war, both material and human, can break the level of commitment of the Russian political elite. The key will be inside Russia. Past wars in which miscalculation was a decisive element, such as Vietnam for USA or Afghanistan for the Soviet Unionended just like that. The internal political conditions in the country that miscalculated have changed, making exit - "honorably" or not - the only viable option.
However, this can only happen if the West stands firmly behind Ukraine in the face of mounting domestic pressures related to the cost of the war.
Unfortunately, this will be a long political, economic and military battle for resolve. And by the end of 2023, it is likely to still continue.
There is no other outcome than the defeat of Russia
- Ben Hodges, Former Commander-in-Chief, US Army Europe.
It's too early to plan victory parade in Kyiv, but all forces are now on the side of Ukraine, and I have no doubt that they will win this war, perhaps in 2023. Things will be slower in the winter, but there is no doubt that the Ukrainian forces will be better able to handle the situation than the Russians, thanks to all the winter equipment coming from the UK, Canada and Germany. By January, Ukraine will be able to start the final phase of the campaign - the liberation of Crimea. We know from history that war is a test of will and logistics. When I see the determination of the Ukrainian people and soldiers, and the rapidly improving logistical situation in Ukraine, I see no other outcome than the defeat of Russia.
Withdrawal of Russian troops from Kherson partly led me to this conclusion. Firstly, this is a psychological push for the Ukrainian people, secondly, a deep embarrassment for the Kremlin and, thirdly, providing the Ukrainian troops with a key operational advantage - all approaches to the Crimea are now within the reach of Ukrainian weapons systems. I think that by the end of 2023, Crimea will be fully returned to the control and sovereignty of Ukraine, although some kind of agreement may be concluded, which will allow Russia to wind down part of its naval presence in Sevastopol... perhaps even before the end of the treaty (until approximately 2025) that existed before Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea.
Efforts will be made to rebuild Ukrainian infrastructure along the coast of the Sea of Azov, including the important ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, and another important project that will receive attention will be resumption of work of the North Crimean Canal, diverting water from the Dnieper to the Crimea.
- David Gendelman, military expert from Israel.
And here is what each of the parties would like to achieve in the next stage instead of “how it all ends” Only about half of the 300 mobilized Russian troops are already in the combat zone. The rest, along with the forces released for action after the withdrawal of Kherson, give the Russians the opportunity to launch an offensive.
The occupation of Lugansk and Donetsk regions will continue, but a major Russian breakthrough, such as an advance from the south towards Pavlograd to encircle Ukrainian forces in the Donbas, is less likely. More likely is the continuation of the current tactics - slow grinding of Ukrainian forces in narrow directions and slow advance, as in the areas of Bakhmut and Avdeevka, with the same tactics possible in the area of Svatovo-Kremennaya.
Continued attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure and other attacks on Ukrainian rear lines will complete this strategy of war of attrition. After the retreat of Russian troops from Kherson, significant Ukrainian forces were also liberated. For them, the most strategically valuable direction is south, to Melitopol or Berdyansk, in order to cut the Russian mainland corridor to the Crimea. It would be a major victory for Ukraine, and that is why the Russians are fortifying Melitopol.
Another option for Ukraine is Svatovo - success there would endanger the entire northern flank of the entire Russian front line. The big question is how many Ukrainian forces are free and available for the offensive at the moment, and what schedule General Zaluzhny has on his desk showing how many new reserve brigades and corps that are being built will be ready in one, two or three months, including personnel, armored vehicles and heavy weapons.
After the mud freezes, we will get the answer to this question. And this answer will bring us a little closer to "how it all ends."
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