Saturday, June, 22,2024

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IS UKRAINE CRUMBLING

On Tuesday, 7th of May Putin tightened his grip and unchecked powers over Kremlin stating that ‘Together we will win’ and that the Russia will emerge stronger and victorious through the present difficulties. With 88% votes in favour of Putin, Russians displayed that they adore their leader and the policies on Ukraine war. Neither the revolt by prigozhin Yevgeny nor the sanctions by the US and its allies could substantially affect the Russian mindset on the war at hand.

In my personal opinion as a military thinker, Putin 5.0 becomes remarkable when we consider that since Vladimir Putin first came to power, America has lived through five presidents and Britain has shuffled seven prime ministers. Obviously, while policy and mandate on the thinking of Moscow remains a constant, western allies witnessed many naysayers and dream stealers on support to Ukraine.

General Sir Richard, the erstwhile commander of the UK’s Joint Forces warned that Ukraine could face defeat by Russia in 2024 as there is a serious risk of losing the war due to sever crunch on human resource and war equipment. The reason I gather is that Ukraine may realise it just can’t sustain or win. And when this happens, why would Ukrainians fight and die any longer, just to sacrifice for the indefensible?

How early could Ukraine reach that point is the speculation. For last six months, its forces are running alarmingly and hazardously low on ammunition, troops and air defences. Its much-publicised counteroffensive of 2023 failed to recapture the ground Russian Army had seized and now Putin is gearing up for a fresh battle season.

So, what will that look like and what could be its likely strategic objectives? I foresee the shape of offensive to be clear as Zelensky has a very long front line to defend and he need to defend all of it. The Russians being the superior side in the battle can now choose where and when they commit their five-toone advantage in artillery, ammunition, and a surplus of people reinforced using newish weapons. Kharkiv, Donbas or Zaporizhzhia, all fronts expose vulnerability of Ukraine.

Was Ukraine taken for a pole vault by the US? Yes, it appeared so. Zelensky was made to believe that US has its back and that the country is at liberty to choose the alliances it dreamt of in its own interest. But when the war entered its most crucial phase, Washington, under some or the other pretext started delays in supporting the warring nation with wherewithal. After stalling for months, the US Congress finally approved USD 61 billion military assistance to Ukraine in April 24. However, of the funds cleared most are allowing US to procure new weapon systems directly from their own defence contractors which would only benefit their own economy.

The doubt is whether this will make a difference and for how long?

While the Biden administration struggled to re-grant assistance to Ukraine, its European allies failed to hold the hand in the interim period. With US presidential elections scheduled at the end of the year and both contestants having differing views on assisting Ukraine, future assistance is uncertain. Zelensky’s desperation is evident in its troops shortfalls as he passed a new controversial conscription law which reduces mobilization age by two years. Deficiency and lack of support from the west and war weariness have resulted in Ukrainian youth eluding imposed conscriptions. The joys of fighting for the nation are currently at a low ebb in Ukraine. Youth, is observed either moving out of the country or, dodge conscription by bribing officials.

On the other hand, it is also perceptible that sanctions on Russia have had little impact. Military equipment continues to flow in from North Korea and Iran while China relentlessly shares dual use technology. The Moscow-PyongyangTehran-Beijing axis is becoming stronger. Even Moscow’s old ally India stood by them in the times of need in purchasing crude to support Russian economy.

Russia soon is likely to renew the offensive this summer and is in a position to choose where pressure must be applied as it possesses the resources and initiative. Kiev at this stage can only react to Russian actions and just manage damage control measures. While Russian manpower resources can recoup its human losses, Ukraine does not enjoy this luxury. Therefore, while Kiev is approaching India & other nations for peace talks sticking to its original demand of total withdrawal, Russia sits quietly, aware it holds the aces for a final show down.

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

Col Anupam Jaitly (R) The writer is defence expert, motivational speaker and corporate trainer

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