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After a little over one year of war, Russia controls 125 thousand square kilometers of Ukrainian territory. Yes, one fifth of Ukraine is under Russia’s control. With Donbas almost entirely destroyed, Zelenskyy confirmed in an interview that 20% of our territory is under the control of the occupiers.

With the help of Wagner Group, Russia has come closer to surrounding the city of Bakhmut, considered to be strongest fortress in Donbas Region. In my analysis, the only option for Ukraine now is to make a planned and fighting withdrawal and select another line for battle in depth areas.

The only thing lying in the favour of Ukraine is the nature of urban warfare where the defender holds the capability to fight for prolonged years with minimal resources compared to the wherewithal of the attacker.

During the first half of the last year into this war, questions of timelines and successes were often put aside under intense pressure to arm Ukraine to fight. All most all NATO states, in unison, shared the common concern of enabling Ukraine to defend itself against the Russian onslaught.

However, today, thoughts are turning towards the longterm prospects of the battle, and a gradual realisation is seeping into many EU partners. Unfortunately, divergent interests among the western coalition will become more pronounced with the passage of time. While eastern Europe may be willing to sustain the war for several more years, Western European states may be wary of extending the conflict for economic costs and a second winter.

So, in my opinion, the possible resolutions that may settle the warring factions could be just four as any negotiated peace looks a long way off with countries selling weapons wish the pot to continue boiling in their own interest.

If Russia pulls off a massive breakthrough in the East before Ukraine re - stabilizes with western support in a few weeks, or if counteroffensive by the defender fails against unmatched superiority of Russia, a ceasefire may be promulgated to retain what has been occupied and captured. However, seeing the speed of operations, it may not be feasible unless fresh mobilisation is ordered and may be China decides to move in to support its ally.

Should Ukraine manage to assemble adequate numbers of western tanks and combat vehicles it hopes to use after the spring season eases, to smash through Russia’s defensive lines and recapture important cities of Donbask and may be, cut through the land linkage of Crimea from Russian mainland, it shall force the aggressor to come to negotiating table to avoid a prolonged war and strengthen its economy. The worry is that this option is purely optimistic and may take many more months of conflict before Moscow allows a dramatic change in its war strategy.

Putin anticipates he can involve NATO in a long drawn conflict that will wear them out militarily and economically. The cracks are visible in EU unity over Sanctions against Russia within one year. Can the Europe witness another winter without energy is the major question. To top it all, what if Biden looses election in 2024? Support to Ukraine may just take a back seat in US policy. As it is, continued European war, in my thinking, is not a favourable issue in presidential elections.

Wars are unpredictable. It is often seen that failure to achieve pre meditated victory often asks for change in leadership. Ukraine may soon reach there if west’s support in supplying war equipment dilutes or fails, or the country under Zelenskyy does not achieve a break through against the attacker.

As for Russia, the same may not be true. Though, Putin is probably in the weakest position he has ever faced, but still his grip on the Kremlin and the countrymen remains rather strong. Suppose, as a wild thought, if Putin were to be ousted, it is hard to believe that his successor would change the policy on Ukraine.

It is visible that disappointment against NATO policies on Ukraine is growing in Europe as the war drags on. Many EU leaders are advocating shunning ties with US & Britain and moving closer to Moscow because of geographical contiguity. Even US appears concerned about the growing costs and the risks to its economy posed by prolonged conflict which are now outweighing the benefits. Sooner than later, the war is likely to end in the favour of the Russians.


COL ANUPAM JAITLY (R) The writer is defence expert, motivational speaker and corporate trainer

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