When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the launch his military operation and his forces invaded Ukraine in late February of last year, he thought that his soldiers would enter the capital, Kiev, and have a quick victory celebration within a few days, but things did not go as he imagined.
Now, the Ukrainian forces are carrying out their first major counter-attack on the areas captured by the Russian forces at the beginning of the battle, while the Russians are clinging to their positions to counter the Ukrainian attack.
There’s one thing is almost certain, which is that there will be no victor or loser in this war in the coming weeks, months, or perhaps years, according to writer Tobin Harshaw, specializes in military affairs and national security.
In his analysis published by Bloomberg, Harshaw says that no one yet knows the form of victory that can be achieved by any side, noting that Max Hastings, a veteran military correspondent and columnist for Bloomberg, wrote about a year ago, “At one time, the insistence on ending the war was Victory is considered evidence of courage and determination, and this word resonated strongly with political and military leaders throughout history.
However, reaching this result in the conflicts of the twenty-first century seems far-fetched.
In his analysis, Harshaw published an interview with Samuel Sharp, a distinguished political scientist at the American Rand Corporation and co-author of the book “Everybody Loses: The Ukraine Crisis and the Destructive Race in Post-Soviet Eurasia,” who worked in the Department of Political Planning at the US State Department under former President Barack Obama.
He published a well-known article in the latest issue of the Foreign Affairs entitled “A War without a Winner” about the conflict in Ukraine.
In response to Harshaw’s question whether he imagined 15 months ago that Ukraine would be able to withstand this strength and that the West would support it in this way, Sharp said: Of course not.
No one could have predicted the current situation, and everyone within the US administration and independent regional analysts agreed that Russia would be able to exploit its overwhelming military superiority and resolve the conflict in a short time, pointing out that the weapons provided by the West to Ukraine at the beginning of the conflict were weapons of popular resistance and not of the regular armies, such as Stinger and Javelin missiles mounted on the shoulder.
The assumption was that Russia would quickly overthrow the elected Ukrainian government, but the Ukrainians’ military performance exceeded all expectations, and the Russians, on the other hand, committed a series of disastrous mistakes that made them lose all their points of superiority and strength.
In response to a question whether he was worried that the current Ukrainian counterattack would achieve great success, raise the ambitions of the Ukrainians to try to regain all the lands of the Donbas region and perhaps the Crimean peninsula that Russia seized in 2014, strategic expert Sharp said, “I think that the possibility of what is called a catastrophic success”.
For Ukrainians, it’s insignificant, but its occurrence cannot be completely ruled out.
In other words, Ukraine’s restoration of its internationally recognized borders is an unlikely consequence of the current offensive.
Harshaw says that the history of wars says that any war that lasted more than a year lasts for a full decade.
So does prolonging the war serve Russia in light of its huge area and relatively strong industrial base, and can it simply turn into a new conflict of frozen conflicts for Putin such as the conflict with Moldova and with South Ossetia-Abkhazia?
According to Samuel Sharpe, the question of which aspect time plays in his favor is very important and at the same time very difficult, because everything depends on the intended period of time.
The period from 12 to 18 months may serve a party to the conflict, but when it extends to between 18 and 24 months, it becomes against that party.
At the same time, it’s important to say that if the West still has the political will to continue supporting Ukraine, Russia will find itself fighting against Ukraine with the military and economic resources of the West.
As for the frozen conflict, its definition is important.
He defines a frozen conflict as a situation in which the shooting stops without a political settlement between the two warring parties.
So in Moldova, no shot has been fired for 30 years, but there has been no political settlement.
The same applies to the Korean Peninsula for 70 years.
As for the current conflict, if we reach the end of the hot phase, when the Russian attack on Ukraine stops, this will be more of an achievement than a negative outcome.
Sharp continues his speech by saying that the situation involves two very important factors.
The first is that neither Russia nor Ukraine is in a position to allow either of them to occupy the capital of the other country and overthrow its regime or destroy it militarily.
Therefore, both sides will emerge from the war, and each of them has military capabilities that could represent a threat to the other side in the future.
The second element is that it’s unlikely that either side will be able to achieve its territorial objectives.
No party will recognize the dividing line that exists when the guns fall silent as a legitimate border.
Therefore, the two countries will remain in a state of prolonged confrontation after the end of the hot war phase.
Therefore, these two factors will be more important than the exact front line, in determining the nature of the war.
Finally, in response to a question about what could force Putin to sit at the negotiating table, Samuel Sharp said that he had heard this question in many capitals of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during the recent period, and the short answer is that no one knows the answer, and he must We are humbled, however, about our ability to predict autocratic personal decisions.
This challenge is added to the fact that until the present moment there is no negotiating table before him, just as neither the West nor Ukraine have tried since May 2022 to test the willingness of Putin or his representatives to sit at the negotiating table if it was offered to him.
At this moment, the Western position believes that it is necessary to give the war a chance in order for Ukraine to improve its position, before talking about a negotiating table.
In my opinion, channels of communication must be opened now so that we know whether or when he is ready for talks.