The risk of ‘all losing’ when the Ukraine conflict drags on !!!
The United States is constantly increasing military aid to Ukraine, while Russia does not limit defense spending, making the conflict risk protracted, causing damage to all parties.
US President Joe Biden on December 21 told his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky at a joint press conference at the White House that Washington will stand with Kiev to the end. The US also announced a new security assistance package worth $ 1.85 billion to Ukraine, including the Patriot modern air defense missile system.
The Kremlin previously warned that US Patriot systems would be a legitimate target if they appeared in Ukraine. Russia also accused the US of increasing the risk of direct conflict by increasing arms aid to Ukraine.
During a meeting with top military generals yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that there are no limits on defense spending and will provide everything the country’s military asks for. This is seen as a sign that Russia will significantly increase military spending in the near future, in the context of the West’s perception that the Kremlin can prepare for a long and expensive campaign in Ukraine.
The risk of an arms race that would prolong the Russia-Ukraine conflict was raised by General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, in November. Mr. Milley then stated that Ukraine was not can win by military means, and at the same time recommends Kiev take advantage of the advantages they have to consider negotiating peace with Russia.
General Milley recalled the period of World War I, when the sides refused to negotiate, causing millions more deaths, to demonstrate that missed opportunities can cause further suffering for humanity.
Milley’s comments contrasted with the position of Kiev and many other allies such as Poland, the Baltic states, North America and Britain, which support Ukraine in its pursuit of total military victory.
“The only way to peace is to push Russia out of Ukraine,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said. The peace plan announced by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in November takes a similar approach.
However, experts say that a complete military victory could require a very long war, and that means its end will depend on political factors beyond the control of the West. For those who support the “fight to the end” option, the West just needs to continue to provide the weapons and resources needed for Ukraine to continue fighting and wait for Russia to lose, according to Vladislav Zubok, a history professor international studies at the London School of Economics.
But developments on the battlefield are often very complicated and fierce. Over the past few months, the war of attrition in eastern and southern Ukraine has taken its toll on Russia, but it has also taken a toll on Kiev and the West.
Some 7 million Ukrainians have been displaced abroad, their economy in free fall and energy infrastructure devastated, threatening a humanitarian catastrophe over the winter. Ukraine is maintaining the vitality of the country and the ability to resist through billions of dollars in aid from the US and Europe. But the support of the West is showing signs of fading, as the European economy faces the risk of recession due to the energy crisis.
Meanwhile, despite repeated defeats on the battlefield, Russian forces are strengthening their defenses in eastern and southern Ukraine. The counter-offensive momentum of the Ukrainian army since September has slowed down, due to the solid defenses of Russia, as well as obstacles from terrain and weather.
The most likely outcome for Ukraine would be the withdrawal of Russian forces from the four provinces it controls. But even if this happens, many Ukrainians fear Moscow will only withdraw to regroup before launching its next offensive.
Despite being subjected to an unprecedented series of sanctions from the West, Russia is still a strong country, with relatively stable military, economic and political potential, according to Zubok. Next winter will be an important test of the Russian military’s ability to withstand, but military experts do not think that this force will weaken.
The Russian economy also shows good resilience. Many people thought that Russia would find it difficult to withstand a series of strong Western sanctions and must quickly withdraw its troops from Ukraine. Zubok believes that economic pressure from the West is hurting Russia, but not strong enough to end the war.
Russia’s economy contracted in 2022, but by only 3%, significantly less than many predicted. The oil price ceiling imposed by the G7 could hurt Russian oil revenues, but even Western optimists aren’t sure how effective it will be.
“If Russia does not limit its defense budget and continues to meet all the needs of the military, despite pressure from the West, the conflict in Ukraine will come to a stalemate,” Professor Zubok warned.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu during a meeting on December 21 proposed to increase the size of the armed forces from 1.15 million troops to 1.5 million, including 695,000 professional soldiers. General Shoigu also proposed raising the age for compulsory military service to 21-30 years old, instead of 18-27 years old as at present. President Putin agreed to these proposals.
According to Zubok, the majority of Russians continue to support the government and are not ready to accept defeat. To them, President Putin remains the guarantor of Russia’s sovereignty and stability.
“With these dynamics, it is difficult for Ukraine to create a military victory large enough to make the Kremlin accept to sit at the peace table,” he said. He believes that the current approach of the West, continuing to pump weapons to Ukraine, has many potential risks.
“It exposes Ukrainians to constant terrible conflict. The death toll and financial costs will continue to rise,” Mr. Zubok said. “It also reinforces Putin’s view that Russia is at war with the West, encouraging Russian nationalists that they must win or die.”
In November 1918, US President Woodrow Wilson’s 14-point program convinced the German leadership that they would be treated fairly by accepting the armistice that would end World War I. Professor Zubok said that this is the approach the West should consider to the Ukraine conflict, in order to avoid the risk of a protracted war causing serious damage to all parties.
So far, the West has only used the “stick” strategy with Russia, through increasing sanctions and embargoes, and at the same time constantly providing financial and military support for Ukraine. But Zubok thinks the path to a peaceful solution should have “carrots”, such as the gradual lifting of sanctions or security guarantees for Russia.
However, observers said that convincing the parties to sit at the negotiating table would be quite difficult, not only for Russia but also for Ukraine. Kiev and many of its allies oppose any security guarantees to Moscow and only accept talks on peace terms when Russia concedes defeat.
“The United States and other Western powers must convince Kiev that such an absolute approach will prolong the war and suffer the consequences of the Ukrainian people themselves.