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Russia sinks into a long war – POLITICO

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Expressed by artificial intelligence.

Jamie Dettmer is Opinion Writer at POLITICO Europe.

Visiting newly liberated Kherson in November, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced, “This is the beginning of the end of the war.”

However, only in hindsight will it become clear whether the Russian retreat indeed marked the beginning of the end, or whether it will be seen as a false dawn in a much longer war – especially since all signs point to Russia preparing for a long fight. .

Over the past month, neither Ukrainian nor Russian forces have had much to show in terms of territorial gains made in the fierce fighting on the Donetsk and Lugansk front lines – only a high death toll. and casualties and the exhaustion of weapons, especially artillery shells and rockets.

Despite modern additions of drones and electronic warfare, much of the combat is reminiscent of World War I. Owen had portrayed the harsh realities of trench warfare. And the soldiers of Donbass live these words today.

Once the ground is frozen, Ukraine will apparently have two tactical options: launch an offensive in the south, aimed at cutting Russia’s land bridge with Crimea, or focus on Luhansk in the northeast. However, to be able to do either will require a massive resupply from Western powers.

During a visit to Washington this week – Zelensky’s first trip outside Ukraine since the invasion of Russia – he pushed for more and better. Supplies are also dwindling in Western arsenals, but the urgency for Ukraine is increasing: ammunition and materiel will be needed not only for Ukraine to launch offensives, but probably also for defence.

Meanwhile, there are growing concerns that Russian forces in Ukraine under the command of General Sergei Surovikin – a commander who, as POLITICO predicted, proved to be more tactically astute than his predecessors – are preparing a counter-offensive which will be reinforced by more than 200,000 newly mobilized recruits. .

In recent months, Russia has lacked the manpower to secure any breakthrough. And while the new conscripts may not be the best trained or motivated, throwing such numbers into battle could nonetheless have a significant impact – especially since Russian President Vladimir Putin is just as insensitive as Stalin in terms of neglect of the number of casualties among his forces. This is the Russian mode of warfare – seek to overwhelm by numbers, regardless of the human cost.

By contrast, Ukraine will provide only 30,000 newly trained soldiers this winter, and the gap worries military officials in Kyiv. “The enemy must not be ignored. They are not weak. . . and they have great potential,” General Oleksandr Syrsky, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, said this week.

Russia is also in the throes of what Andrew Monaghan, an associate fellow at the NATO Defense College, called a “rethink” of strategy, as calls for “all for the front, all for victory” multiply in Moscow. In comments to his military chiefs midweek, Putin apparently heeded those pleas, vowing not only to continue the so-called special military operation until 2023, but also to step it up, saying he would not There was no limit to the amount of money Russia was willing to spend.

In other words, having already ordered its industry to re-equip to increase military supplies, the Kremlin is embarking on a long war. Yet how Russia will step up, what tactical goals it will pursue with its new troops, and what lessons it has learned from the conflict so far remain unclear. It is also unclear how he will amass the ammo he needs.

A complex used by the Russian army as barracks and local headquarters in Kupiansk, Kharkiv | Carl Court/Getty Images

Rumors of an upheaval in the upper echelons of the Russian armed forces had been swarming in Moscow for weeks, with speculation that Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov was likely to be replaced. Will Putin turn to younger men again to get the results he wants, as he did when he broke the seniority model in October and appointed Colonel Oleg Gorshenin, 44 years old, at the head of the powerful National Defense Management Center?

If a reshuffle takes place, it “may shed some light on how Moscow understands the scale of the war in 2023 and what any further escalation, including an escalation of the campaign – or even a major offensive – might look like. later in the winter or spring,” according to Monaghan.

But no one in Kyiv doubts that a new Russian offensive is in preparation. Although Putin avoided predicting imminent successes or goals in his remarks this week, he made it clear that he expected results. “The country and the government give everything the military asks for – everything. I hope there will be an appropriate response and results will be achieved,” he said.

And the results Putin will likely want to see are in the areas he formally annexed earlier this year, only to see pieces of them liberated by Ukraine later. But Western military analysts don’t expect Russia to mount a push across the snaking, elongated front – more likely a multi-pronged assault focusing on some key villages and towns around Donetsk, on towns between Kharkiv and Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia, where there have been reports of increased movement of troops and materiel across the border into Russia.

Russia could also launch a wildcard – such as another attack from Belarus towards Kyiv and also west of the capital towards Vinnytsia, jeopardizing railway lines running from the west and the E40 highway linking Lviv to Kyiv.

There has been a steady buildup of Russian forces in Belarus in recent weeks, with Ukrainian sources telling POLITICO that Russian warplanes had apparently tested Ukrainian air defenses along the border. And the Institute for the Study of Warfare said it continued to observe signs consistent with “a new Russian invasion of northern Ukraine from Belarus”.

He also said independent Belarusian sources continue to report growing Russian mechanized forces in the country, with around 30 Russian T-80 tanks reportedly deployed around December 20. However, no strike groups appear to be forming yet, suggesting an attack from Belarus “is most likely not imminent.”

Imminent or not, however, US military strategist Edward Luttwak warned of “a scythe maneuver from Belarus to Vinnytsia to cut off Kyiv from its supply lines to the west”. And as Ukrainian General Valerii Zaluzhnyi said this week, he has “no doubt [Russia] will have another try in Kyiv.

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