Russia marks two years of war in Ukraine, looking confident amid gains

Russia marks two years of war in Ukraine, looking confident amid gains

A Ukrainian soldier in a shelter at his combat position towards Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, February 20, 2024.

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When Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago, strong resistance from the country’s armed forces and overwhelming Western support for Kiev – along with some apparent military overreach by Moscow – raised hopes that Ukraine’s outnumbered and outgunned army could repel the invading forces .

Two years later, hopes of a Ukrainian victory appear to have faded and become increasingly hollow, as have Western promises to support Ukraine “for as long as necessary.”

Currently, billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. military aid remains unapproved, and more fighting is likely to lie ahead as war and funding fatigue grow ahead of the U.S. presidential election – a vote that could install a government that will comply War in Ukraine is less sympathetic to needs.

Meanwhile, on the battlefield in Ukraine, fronts have been largely static for months, save for recent gains made by Russian forces in the east of the country.

Kiev continues to insist it is not being provided with the right tools to fight Russia as effectively as possible, and there are reports of a decline in morale among front-line troops struggling with ammunition and personnel shortages. Internal political tensions and the replacement of popular military chief Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi have also raised concerns about future military strategy.

“This year is the most difficult year yet for Ukraine in this war, partly because of unrest over the detachment from Zaluzhnyi and the withdrawal from Avdiivka, but above all because of massive uncertainty about the amount of Western aid and assistance,” James Nixey, head of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Chatham House think tank, said on Monday.

“I think for Ukraine there is really minimal difference between a president who cannot provide lethal assistance and a president who cannot provide lethal assistance. And for Ukrainians, it’s basically one and the same thing, and it’s an existential question. So.” Putin doesn’t really do everything he can [Republican presidential hopeful Donald] “Trump because he believes he can win regardless of the outcome of the US elections in November,” Nixey said.

“In other words, Putin senses weakness, as he has so many times in the past, and he is absolutely right. Whether his confidence is justified remains to be seen, but at least he knows more or less what is available to him at this moment in the summer, or this time next year, or even beyond, and Ukraine simply cannot say the same.

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens as then-U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, in 2019.

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While the West is likely to be dominated by domestic power struggles ahead of elections in the U.S., U.K. and European Parliament this year, “Russia faces none of these constraints,” Nixey said, noting that Moscow is “prepared to do great damage.” “. yourself in search of victory.”

Russia certainly appears exuberant as the war enters its third year, its confidence boosted by recent progress – last week’s capture of Avdiivka was its most significant victory in nine months, followed by smaller territorial gains this week – and the elimination of political opponents at home country ahead of a presidential election next month.

Needless to say, Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to easily win the vote, especially given that most of his critics are in self-imposed exile, barred from political participation, imprisoned or dead, most recently Alexei Navalny, who is in a remote prison in the Arctic colony died last week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles while visiting an aviation factory on February 21, 2024 in Kazan, Russia.

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While the fortunes of war are unpredictable, political analysts note that Russia, like the West, has many cards over what happens in war.

Kurt Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and special envoy to Ukraine, told CNBC that in his conversations with regional officials and military commanders in Ukraine, he found that there was “great concern about the West and the U.S. in particular.”

“Will we provide Ukraine with the same level of military and economic support that we have provided and that it continues to need? Because without that, they fear that Russia will have more resources, will continue to pressure on the front and will continue to buy.” “They use drones and missiles and fire them at Ukrainian cities, and so this war continues as it is is – not necessarily with great losses, but as it is – and they are not getting their territory back,” he said on Thursday.

Russia counts winnings

In the early months of the war in Ukraine in the spring of 2022, Russia’s military strategy and tactics were criticized and often ridiculed, especially when Russian forces were forced to make a hasty retreat on the northern front after a failed attempt to reach the capital Kiev.

At the time, Russian armed forces were widely viewed as ill-equipped, poorly trained and disorganized, but defense analysts noted that the Russian military had adapted and that a more structured, coordinated and responsive force had emerged over the past year.

No one is currently laughing at the military tactics of Russia, whose forces are either holed up in heavily fortified defensive positions that thwarted a Ukrainian counteroffensive last summer or are launching offensive operations, particularly in eastern Ukraine.

The military was emboldened by the capture of Avdiivka in Donetsk after months of intense fighting; Putin called it an “absolute success,” adding that “we need to build on it.”

Analysts say the victory came at an opportune time for Putin ahead of the March 15-17 election and that Russia sought to “create panic in the Ukrainian information space and weaken Ukrainian morale,” according to the Institute for the Study of War noted in this week’s analysis.

The fact that, according to Ukrainian estimates, up to 47,000 Russian soldiers may have died in the long battle for Avdiivka was neither confirmed nor denied by Russia. Although it is impossible to obtain accurate and current figures, the total number of soldiers killed and injured in the war on both sides is about 500,000, U.S. officials said last August.

US lawmakers reiterate support for Ukraine as President Zelensky calls for more aid

Analysts note that what matters to Moscow is what Avdiivka’s victory looks like to the Russian public before the election – and what signal it sends to the West; Namely, that Russia is in a long-term war and is determined to achieve its goals in Ukraine at all costs.


Currently, Russia occupies nearly a fifth of Ukraine’s territory and has shown that it can mobilize hundreds of thousands of men to fight at will. This highlights another advantage it has over Ukraine, which remains embarrassed by the need to mobilize more civilians to fight.

“I think as long as Putin is in power, the war will continue,” Volker said. “Because he doesn’t care how many Russians he kills, he will just keep pumping out wave after wave [of personnel] at the front and killing tens of thousands. And he doesn’t care. “As long as Putin is there, this war will continue,” he said. CNBC has reached out to the Kremlin for a response to the comments and is awaiting a response.

The Ukrainian army has called for the mobilization of 500,000 additional soldiers, but President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed caution, calling the matter a “sensitive” issue. David Kirichenko, an analyst at the Center for European Policy Analysis, said the mobilization was a “hot potato between the government and the military” that could no longer be avoided.

“It is clear that Ukraine has no choice but to mobilize more people. The men and women who have been fighting in intense battles for 23 months are suffering from great fatigue and heavy losses,” he noted.

“The dispute over mobilization comes at a time when most authorized U.S. military aid is nearly exhausted and Congress has yet to pass a new aid package.”

“Ukraine has had to suspend many of its military operations due to weapons shortages, and the situation on the front looks difficult. At least for now, the fighting is mostly grueling, which is to Russia’s advantage. However, there are no signs that Ukraine will end its resistance,” Kirichenko said.

Members of the “Paragon” military division, part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s “Tymur” military intelligence unit, prepare rifles during target practice at an unspecified location in Ukraine, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

That sentiment is echoed by Ukraine’s leadership, with Zelensky repeatedly saying Ukraine will fight to regain every inch of its territory, including Crimea, which was annexed in 2014.

Analysts say there is currently little chance of a political solution to the war as neither side is at a point on the battlefield where it would feel it has the upper hand in peace talks.

Despite the adverse conditions facing Ukraine and the political uncertainty this year, Kiev is certainly far from giving up. When asked what would happen if international military aid to Ukraine stopped, Volker said Ukraine would “go into guerrilla mode.”

“They would go underground, there would be resistance. It would be very different from the organized defense we see today, but they will continue to fight.”

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2024-02-23 06:11:48