The second year of the Ukrainian conflict has just begun. We spoke with a number of military specialists to get their predictions for the year 2023.
Can the war be resolved in a year? Which comes first: the negotiation table or the battlefield? Or will it continue till 2024?
The spring offensive by Russia is crucial.
Michael Clarke, Deputy Director, Exeter, United Kingdom’s Institute for Strategic Studies
Invaders of the steppe nations of Eurasia would be forced to spend the winter there.
While Putin’s forces are retreating, he is building up more soldiers for the winter and preparing for a new offensive in the spring, just as Napoleon, Hitler, and Stalin had to keep their army operating in the face of steppe winter.
Both sides will require a break, but since the Ukrainians are more prepared and more driven to continue, it can be assumed that they will maintain pressure, at least in Donbas.
Ukraine came extremely close to making a significant breakthrough at Kreminna and Svatove, driving Russian forces back to the next natural line of defence 40 kilometres away, close to where the incursion started in February.
Kyiv will be hesitant to cease since there is so much at risk. However, with the retaking of Kherson, the Ukrainian onslaught could halt in the southwest.
It could be too challenging to push Russia’s flimsy rail and road connections across the eastern bank of the Dnipro river to Crimea. But it was always possible that Kiev would launch another attack.
The Russian spring attack will be the deciding element in the 2023 battle. The 250,000 newly mobilised forces are also being prepared for next year’s onslaught, according to Putin, who revealed that some 50,000 of the newly mobilised troops had reached the front lines.
There is no choice but to carry on fighting until the destiny of the new Russian army is decided on the front lines.
Another option is a brief, erratic ceasefire. Putin has stated unequivocally that he won’t quit. Additionally, Ukraine has made it obvious that it is currently in a survival struggle.
Washington, DC-based scientist and commentator Andrei Piontkovsky
By no later than the spring of 2023, Ukraine will have reclaimed its entire geographical integrity. This outcome is a result of two variables.
One is the unequalled in the history of modern warfare energy, tenacity, and bravery displayed by the Ukrainian army and the entire nation.
The second is that the West has finally matured and come to terms with the enormity of the historic task it faces after years of pleading with the Russian despot. Best is this
“Money is the price we pay. Blood is the price that Ukrainians must pay. We shall all pay a higher price if the authoritarian regime perceives that using force is rewarded. All people will live in a world that is increasingly perilous.
Depending on when NATO sends a revolutionary batch of military assault weaponry, Ukraine will eventually win (tanks, aircraft, long-range missiles).
In the upcoming months, I anticipate Mariupol (Melitopol) to be a crucial battleground (maybe weeks). Once Mariupol was taken again, the Ukrainians were free to push to the Azov Sea and essentially shut off the supply and communication routes to Crimea.
In technical negotiations, Russia will formally concede after Ukraine won significant military victories.
The new system of international security will be shaped by victorious nations like Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
No resolution is in sight.
Barbara Zanchetta, King’s College London’s Department of War Studies
Putin anticipates that Ukraine would acquiesce to Russia’s next moves and that other nations won’t significantly step in. This egregious error in judgement has sparked a dispute that appears to have no end in sight.
Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure will test the already fragile morale and stamina of the Ukrainian people, making this winter difficult. However, Ukraine’s tenacity has proven to be astounding.
The prospects for discussions are poor. A prospective peace deal would need at least one party to modify its fundamental demands. There is no proof that this has occurred or that it will any time soon.
How will the story conclude, then?
The financial and personal consequences of this conflict may cause Russia’s ruling elite to abandon their support. The solution is in Russia.
Miscalculation is a significant role in past wars. For instance, this is how both the Afghan War in the Soviet Union and the Vietnam War in the United States came to an end. Withdrawal will be the only choice if the domestic political climate in Russia, which misread the situation, changes, whether it is “decent” or not.
However, this may only occur if the West staunchly backs Ukraine, which is facing mounting domestic pressure due to the high cost of the conflict.
Regrettably, this will be a drawn-out conflict involving strong political, economic, and military will. Most certainly, the battle will still be going on by the end of 2023.
Former US Army commander in Europe, Ben Hodges
Although it is too soon to organise a victory celebration in Kiev, the momentum is with the Ukrainians. They will definitely prevail in this fight, most likely in 2023.
The Ukrainian army will be more armed than the Russian force throughout the winter since all of their winter gear is imported from the UK, Canada, and Germany. However, things will move more slowly during this time.
Ukraine may start the last stage of the liberation of Crimea by January of the next year.
War is a test of will and logistical support, according to history. I only see Russia faltering when I observe the tenacity of the Ukrainian people and army and the quick advancement of their logistics.
This judgement is somewhat influenced by the Russian pullout from Kherson. The Ukrainian people were psychologically irritated as a result, the Kremlin was severely embarrassed as a result, and the Ukrainian military gained a crucial operational edge because all entry to Crimea is now controlled by systems.
There could be some form of arrangement that would allow Russia to quit illegitimately annexing Crimea and eventually remove its naval bases in Sevastopol (circa 2025). However, I think that by the end of 2023, Ukrainian control and sovereignty over the Crimea will be entirely restored.
Along Ukraine’s Sea of Azov coast, including the important ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, infrastructure repair work is now underway. Additionally, the reopening of the Northern Crimea Canal, which transports water from the Dnipro River to Crimea, will be closely monitored.
“Prepare for the Status Quo to Continue”
David Gendelman, Tel Aviv-based military expert
Instead of focusing on “how the conflict will finish,” both sides are hoping to sustain the current situation in the coming phase.
The 300,000 troops that Russia has recruited have only entered the theatre to a degree of around half. The remainder of the army, along with those freed by the withdrawal from Helsen, provided the Russians with an opening for assault.
Although Ukrainian forces are surrounding the Donbass area from the south to Pavlograd, the Russian control of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions will certainly continue.
Russia is expected to maintain its existing strategy of steadily pushing in restricted directions while repressing Ukrainian forces, as seen, for instance, in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka districts of Svatov-Krime. The Svatove-Kreminna area may employ the same strategies.
This war of attrition tactic would be completed by continuing to strike Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as well as its rear.
Following the Russian withdrawal from Kherson, a sizable number of Ukrainian soldiers were also freed. Their preferred course of travel saw them heading south, toward Mariupol and Berdyansk, with the intention of blocking the Russian mainland’s access to the Crimea. Russia will defend Mariupol since this will be a significant triumph for Ukraine.
Svatove is another another choice for Ukraine. A victory there would put the Russian front’s whole northern flank in jeopardy.
What type of timetable General Zaluzhnyi has on his desk, which specifies how many reserve brigades and corps are being developed and will be in one or two years, and how many Ukrainian forces are presently free to go, are the two key questions. It will be equipped with heavy weaponry, armoured vehicles, and personnel within a month or three.
We will know the answer once the mud has frozen, at which point we may respond to the issue of how the conflict will conclude.
(The aforementioned experts were chosen for their military knowledge and capacity to give a variety of viewpoints.)