Putin prepares for a long war in Ukraine and a new offensive
Russia wants to regain the initiative in war and, according to Bloomberg, Putin is planning a new offensive while preparing his country for a conflict with the United States and its allies that he expects to last for years.
The Kremlin is keen to demonstrate that its troops can regain the initiative after months of losing positions. There is also increasing pressure on the Ukrainian government and its supporters to agree to a certain truce that would leave the occupied territory under Russian control.
However, Putin cannot deny the weakness of the army he has been building for decades. Especially after she lost more than half of her initial successes in Ukraine. The constant setbacks have led many in the Kremlin to become more realistic about their immediate ambitions, recognizing that even holding the current front line would be an achievement.
The head of the Kremlin is still convinced that the increased army of the Russian Federation and the willingness to accept new losses will allow him to win. According to people close to the Kremlin, a new offensive could begin as early as February or March. Their comments back up the warning from Ukraine and its allies that a new Russian offensive is imminent, and suggest that it could begin even before Kyiv receives promised deliveries of US and European battle tanks.
Putin's resolve portends yet another escalation in the war , while Kyiv is preparing a new counter-offensive to drive out its troops, rejecting any ceasefire that provides for the Russian occupation of Ukrainian territories.
The head of the Kremlin believes that he has no other alternative than to win what he sees as an existential conflict with the United States and its allies. A new wave of mobilization in the Russian Federation is possible this spring, sources say, as the country's economy and society become more subservient to the needs of the war.
“Putin is disappointed with the way things are going, but he is not ready to give up his goals . It just means that the path will be longer, bloodier and worse for everyone,” said Tatyana Stanova, founder of the R.Politik analytical center.
U.S. and European intelligence officials doubt Russia has the resources for a massive new offensive, even after mobilizing 300,000 men last fall. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s allies are ramping up arms shipments, preparing for the first time to deliver armored vehicles and main battle tanks that could help Ukrainian forces break through Russian defense.
But Russia's brutal and debilitating attacks near towns such as Bakhmut – eastern city of limited strategic value has depleted Ukrainian forces, diverting them and undermining Kyiv's ability to conduct offensive operations in other directions, US officials say.
After lightning attacks by Ukrainian forces in the summer and fall, having broken through Russian defense lines, the Russians have stepped up defenses using trenches, traps and mines to slow down any potential UAF advance. Publicly, the Kremlin says there are no plans for further mobilization yet.
In the long term, Putin has approved plans to expand the army by nearly 50% over the next few years, deploying new forces near Finland, which is in the process of joining NATO, and in the temporarily occupied regions of Ukraine. Schools and universities in the Russian Federation are restoring military training courses, which were last widely held during the Soviet era, as preparations for war permeate Russian society.
However, some elements of realism about the catastrophic results of the activities of the Russian armed forces have already begun seep into the tightly controlled Russian media.
“So far, the results have been terrible, because Russia was not ready at all. It has turned into a protracted war, and Russia does not yet have enough people and equipment to fight it. We must stop the Ukrainian counter-offensive and thwart Western attempts to defeat us by gaining a military advantage,” & ndash; said Sergey Markov, a Russian political analyst with close ties to the Kremlin.
Russian troops have not shown the ability to do so since the first weeks of the invasion, having captured only one small town in the last six months at the cost of huge losses. Ukrainian forces, by contrast, continually surprise allies and analysts with their success in driving out invaders.
Putin's confidence in his army's ability to win, even at the cost of massive casualties and destruction, reflects a misunderstanding of the West's commitment to stop its aggression, some admit. insiders. The United States and its allies are constantly increasing the supply of weapons to Ukraine in categories that were once considered prohibited.
However, the US and European military fear that the war could soon turn into a World War I-style artillery battle with near-continuous fighting on the front lines, which could play to Russia's advantage with its large population and military industry.
Diplomatically, the Russian Federation is trying to win support among “non-Western countries” by calling for ceasefire negotiations. Even those close to the Kremlin admit that it is hopeless now, given Ukraine's demand that Russia withdraw its troops as a condition of any agreement.
The minimum the Kremlin will agree to is a temporary truce that would leave Russian control of the territory now held by its forces in order to buy time to rebuild its forces. While this does not match the borders of the regions of Ukraine that Putin illegally annexed in September, it would still leave Russia with a large strip of land connecting the territories it occupied before the full-scale invasion. Such an idea is not perceived by Kyiv and its allies.
Russian political scientists are already talking about the possibility of a protracted war.
“If nothing changes, we will face a war of attrition like the First World War, which could last a long time, as both parties believe that time is on their side. Putin is confident that either the West or Ukraine will get tired,” said Andrey Kortunov, chairman of the Kremlin-founded Russian International Affairs Council.
He expects that the election defeat in 2024 of US President Joe Biden, who led the coalition in support of Ukraine, could lead to more flexibility on this issue in Washington.
Although a new wave of sanctions pressure, in particular price caps on Russian oil exports have slashed the Kremlin's revenues, it has so far not affected Putin's ability to finance the war. Russia still has access to billions of yuan reserves, which are not affected by Western sanctions and which economists estimate could help cover the budget deficit within 2-3 years.
Fear is also growing among Ukraine's allies that the war will drag on for years.
"This year it will be very, very difficult to expel Russian troops from all Russian-occupied territory of Ukraine by military means. But I think that in the end this war, like many wars in the past, will end at the negotiating table,” said the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley.
Prepared by: Nina Petrovich