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No one, not even Putin, knows how this war will end

Roland Oliphant By Roland Oliphant,
Since the war began a year ago, disingenuous people have repeatedly reflected that wars always end in negotiations.

They generally neglect to mention that the path to the negotiation table lies across the battlefield.

And in 2023, both sides believe they have roadmaps to it.

Russia hopes to get there by wading in blood through the valleys of the Donbas, bleeding Ukraine dry of soldiers and convincing the West to force Kyiv to terms.

The Ukrainians hope to blitzkrieg on tanks across the Pontic Steppe to Crimea, forcing the Kremlin to go home or risk unfathomable military and political humiliation.

If one or the other succeeds, the war could end this year. But it is unlikely to.

The Russian push is already under way. Simultaneous offensives around Vuhledar, Bakhmut and Kreminna are proving expensive in men and material, and have so far delivered negligible territorial gains.

The Ukrainians are trying to hold back the tide as long as possible, hoping to attrite Russia’s stocks of men, ammunition and equipment ahead of the counter-stroke.

Its commanders will wait until they have sufficient Western tanks, replenished ammunition stocks, and fresh brigades in place to guarantee success.

It’s a logical strategy. In fact, it is the only reasonable one. They cannot risk a loss.

In the meantime, the bloodbath will continue. The current job of the Ukrainian infantry is basically to sit in trenches and get shelled.

Those who survive the barrage must then engage in firefights with approaching infantry and tanks. The survivors of that encounter then wait for the next artillery barrage. And so on.

Their Russian enemies have it even worse. Accounts from prisoners of war, pro-Russian military bloggers and public quarrels between Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group’s chief, and the army command paint a picture of apocalyptic casualty rates, suicidal human wave assaults, and piteous shortages of ammo and kit.

Predicting the outcome of the coming battles is a fool’s errand. But breaking the stalemate and finishing the war this year is more important to Ukraine and the West than to Russia.

Putin does not care about dead and maimed soldiers. If his current offensive fails, he will just conscript more. That will buy him time, and time allows him to imagine the following paths out of the quagmire.

Maybe Western support for Ukraine will inexplicably collapse.

Maybe a populist Republican will win the 2024 US presidential election and strongarm Kyiv into an unfavourable peace.

Maybe his allies will come to the rescue. Last week, American officials warned that China may be preparing to break its self-imposed ban on lethal aid.

No one, not even Putin, knows how this war will end.

The only thing we can be sure of is that there is more bloodshed to come.

This is part of a series of predictions from our top correspondents and editors about what next for the war in Ukraine. Read the full article here.

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A joint effort of several authors who do find that nobody can keep standing at the side and that “Everyone" must care about what is going on in today’s world. We are a bunch of people who do not mind that somebody has a totally different idea but is willing to share the ideas with others and to be Active and willing to let others understand how "today’s decisions will influence the future”. Therefore we would love to see many others to "Act today".

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