Predict war in Ukraine- As the war in Ukraine approaches its sixth month, many analysts predict a bloody stalemate in the winter. However, in this brutal war of extermination, there were a number of unpredictable militaries and political and diplomatic factors.
Wars are shaped by the most fundamental variables: weapon systems and their capabilities; leadership and its impact on national unity; alliances that can provide economic and diplomatic support to combatants. All of this has implications for Russia’s war in Ukraine, and recent weeks have seen subtle but important changes in each that could help determine the outcome.
One of the new factors is the success on the battlefield of the US missile system known as HIMARS, which has attacked Russian staging and command posts in Ukraine for the past few weeks. After weeks of retreat in Donbas, Ukrainian forces are again entrenched. Ukrainian generals complain that HIMARS is so effective that it should have been delivered a few months ago, according to one European official.
General Valery Zaluzhnyj, commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, said in an internet post that “we managed to stabilize the situation”, thanks in part to HIMARS. The US missiles, he said, were used “in targeted attacks against enemy checkpoints and ammunition and fuel depots.”
The Pentagon, which was afraid to provide HiMARS until it had “proof of concept” that the Ukrainians could use them effectively, seems convinced. “I think it has had a significant impact on what’s happening on the front lines,” a Pentagon official said last week.
Over the summer and fall, NATO’s priority will be to supply Ukraine with more of these missiles to build on its recent successes. US and European officials are mobilizing defense companies to speed up weapons production, a European official said. And there is a race to expand the training of Ukrainian forces. Britain plans to train 10,000 soldiers every 120 days – a figure that will be multiplied by other countries.
Ukrainian forces may be confident enough to expand attacks south near Kherson this summer, officials say. But the real impact of the new weapons and training could come next spring, after the expected winter lull in combat. Ukraine will be better prepared to repel new Russian attacks and possibly regain some territory, European officials said.
Dawid Ignacy on the war in Ukraine
Human leadership is the X factor in any conflict. In this situation, Ukraine and Russia benefit from the strong and united leadership of their presidents Volodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin. Predictions that these leaders would give in to the internal opposition were wrong.
Both presidents polled well above where they stood before the war. In Ukraine, a poll published by the International Republican Institute in May recorded 94 percent of support for Zelensky. A poll by the Ratings Sociological Group shows that support for Zelensky nearly tripled from December to February, from 31 percent. up to 91 percent In Russia, a poll in June by the Levada Center – whose figures are considered very accurate – showed 83 percent of Putin’s approval, 14 points more than in January, before the Russian invasion.
Zelensky rules over a still divided country where corrupt oligarchs wield considerable power. He resisted encouraging the Americans before the war to achieve a unity government but so far avoided major internal accessions and witch hunts.
Then on Sunday Iryna Venediktova and Ivan Bakanov, respectively the country’s general prosecutor and head of the internal security service, were suddenly removed. Zelensky said they were not aggressive enough in prosecuting pro-Russian sympathizers and suggested there were many more Ukrainians who were also disloyal. These movements were a terrible reminder of fundamental tensions. But sources close to Ukrainian politicians say that so far Zelenskiy has managed to keep the mass of the country with him – and thus tame the oligarchs.
If Zelensky makes more impulsive changes to his administration, he could jeopardize the unity that is his most valuable asset. Rick Atkinson, the author of the famous World War II Europe trilogy, warns all wartime leaders: “Turnover in a country’s senior management positions during wartime usually indicates a stress crack at the top, perhaps because of ego clash or the need to.
In terms of alliances, Putin’s dreams of rebuilding the world order have been dashed by the failure of his plan to quickly decapitalize the Zelensky regime. Instead of breaking up NATO, Putin revived it by drawing Sweden and Finland into the pact and putting new pressure on Russia’s northern flank. But the always smart Putin tried this week to strengthen his diplomatic position at the southern level by traveling to Iran to meet with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Putin’s trip to Tehran is a creative attempt to gain political leverage from a leader who knows that Russia’s brutal armed force alone can drag Russia into a conflict it cannot escape for years. It’s also a reminder of diplomatic and military wild cards that could change the current bleak prognosis that both sides will end — and that the final outcome of this terrible war remains uncertain.