Home World After six months of conflict, the uncertainties surrounding the war in Ukraine

After six months of conflict, the uncertainties surrounding the war in Ukraine

After six months of conflict, the uncertainties surrounding the war in Ukraine

Mariupol, Odessa, Kramatorsk, and even kyiv, are bombarded in the night. At the same time, Vladimir Putin announces on Russian television the launch of a “special military operation in the Donbass” whose objective is the “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine. It was six months ago. On February 24, war was declared on Ukraine by Russia, led by Vladimir Putin. Six months after the start of the fighting, the end of this “military operation”, which was to last only 48 hours according to the Kremlin, is long overdue.

However, both sides prefer a short war to a conflict that drags on for years. If it is very complicated to predict and impossible to predict the future, the current situation can direct us to the next few months. “Militarily, we are seeing an increasingly clear slowdown in operations,” notes Michel Goya, former colonel in the navy, historian and strategist, interviewed by 20 minutes. It is more difficult to organize attacks because that requires means to neutralize defenses which are rather solid. Contrary to the first months of the conflict, when we were more in “a war of movements with a front which was formed”, he continues, today, we observe a front which freezes, even if it advance a few kilometres.

Fight freeze or quick win?

So how to envisage the future weeks? “Everything is possible and neither of the two staffs is satisfied with the status quo, everything depends on what will happen in the fall and what Ukraine will be able to do militarily”, explains Cédric Mas, military historian, observer of the conflict and president of the Action Résilience institute, contacted by 20 minutes. Several hypotheses, which are not predictions, can nevertheless be apprehended.

For Michel Goya, there is a possibility of an informal fighting freeze, or even of going through negotiations for a ceasefire, of course provisional. An unlikely hypothesis for Cédric Mas according to whom “neither side, for the moment, is playing the game of a frozen conflict because each is still aiming for a quick victory”. He recalls that in Russian military history, wars that lasted more than a year – with the exception of World War II – were all lost. And on the other hand, Kyiv is “dependent on international support”.

“Autumn is going to be warm,” he predicts. It can even be decisive. Will the Russians relaunch their efforts on phase three (the first being the invasion and the second the offensive on the Donbass)? And if so, will Ukraine launch a counter-offensive? Will she be victorious? asks the observer of the conflict. “Anything is possible,” he sums up.

A “corsair war”

Another form of war is likely to continue, that which Michel Goya calls “the privateer’s war”, that is to say, “attacks from the rear”, specifies the former officer, as on the depots of ammunition, in the Crimea, or even the Zaporozhye power plant, at the heart of many concerns today. It can continue while “all the armies prepare for a prolonged war, that they form new brigades”, which would take between six and eight months, estimates Michel Goya.

For Ukraine, this strategy depends on unfailing and massive support from the West, but it could enable it to regain ground. Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy, has also assured that the European Union plans to increase its support for kyiv with an army training mission which would take place in neighboring countries of Ukraine. The UK has already started train soldiers sent by kyiv since June.

The same strategy is underway in Moscow because “if the Russians want to relaunch operations, this also involves new methods”, points out Michel Goya. On both sides, the armies then keep reserves while continuing to launch attacks, the time to “set up a strategic surprise effect, because to win, you have to surprise the enemy”, explains Cédric Mas. He takes the example of the “strategy of the extinct volcano”, which consists of “multiplying the alerts and thus drowning the real threat”. And according to him, “we see this strategy being put in place on the Ukrainian side, as the Russians did before the war, without them being taken seriously”.

Clash between two blocks

The tiny movements of the front are compensated by other targets, which are just as important for the rest of the fighting. For Russia, it is Western support that must be dried up. “They are counting on a weakening of the support, costly, of the West in kyiv, and hope that it crumbles”, analyzes Michel Goya. To do this, Moscow risks playing a policy of influencing public opinion, dividing the Western camp and in the end, influencing the aid provided. Because there are two levels in these fights: “the war Russia against Ukraine and the confrontation between Russia and the West”, summarizes the expert. And this confrontation, which consists in putting pressure on the enemy, should still last for years.

As the saying goes, history repeats itself, and once will not hurt. For our two experts, the world is thus again divided into two blocks, as in the days of the Cold War. “We have an iron curtain, two closed blocks, and it looks a lot like the three-way game of the 1960s, 1970s with the Soviet, Chinese blocks and the “free world””, illustrates the former officer.

In this block logic, Russia has its own allies. Can we imagine that countries that are friends of Moscow take up arms in turn? Michel Goya excludes China, Kazakhstan has already dissociated itself from the Russian bloc, Chechnya and Syria have already made some efforts by sending fighters… There remains Belarus. But his active participation, although possible, remains unlikely given the fragility of Alexander Lukashenko’s power. And even if the country gave its support, it probably wouldn’t turn the tables. “If we cannot exclude a more active participation of countries allied with Russia, for the moment, there are not so many volunteers”, underlines Michel Goya. This war can still hold surprises.

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