Two years of devastating war in Ukraine

With the two-year conflict in Ukraine the movements in geography soft field and narrative have intensified. On the one hand Russia has succeeded in occupying the city of Avdiivka on the eve of the presidential elections and on the other hand Ukraine has succeeded in destroying several warships and shooting down several Russian ultra-advanced fighter planes in several naval and air operations that the price of one of the fighters is estimated to be more than three hundred million dollars.
28 February 2024
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Ali Beman Eghbali Zarch

With the two-year conflict in Ukraine, the movements in geography, soft field, and narrative have intensified. On the one hand, Russia has succeeded in occupying the city of Avdiivka on the eve of the presidential elections, and on the other hand, Ukraine has succeeded in destroying several warships and shooting down several Russian ultra-advanced fighter planes in several naval and air operations, that the price of one of the fighters is estimated to be more than three hundred million dollars. Of course, at the same time, the soft war of the parties continues in various media ways and the use of regional and international meetings. Although the fate of the war will ultimately not be on the war front, there are three possibilities for now, and each of these will have a range of potential consequences: The progress of the Russian forces; the success of the Ukrainian forces and some kind of impasse along the current military control lines. Another important issue is that all wars start with double optimism, but with the erosion of conflicts, the parties usually always choose the worst in choosing between bad and worst because, in these stages, the main share of decision-making goes to the military, who basically depicts the end of every war only in their victory. Defeating the Ukrainian army will be a huge challenge now, with almost doubling the number of Russian troops and advancing on shorter fronts with extensive artillery support. However, the Ukrainians have surprised the world so much since the beginning of the Russian invasion that they cannot be easily considered as defeated.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, Vladimir Putin has signed the next three years, which includes the biggest increase in military spending ever recorded. Therefore, defense costs increased by more than 70% in 2024 compared to 2023, which accounts for 40 % of the total budget, which will account for 10 % of GDP. Of course, the defense budget may seem unrealistic, given that revenues are 22.5% higher than this year, which is possible only if oil prices rise. On the other hand, these are just the apparent budget figures. In fact, the Russian budget has a classified segment that is also intended for defense but does not appear anywhere for war reasons. Putin is willing to reduce social costs because he is convinced that the overwhelming majority of Russians want to sacrifice for the country. So it is obvious that if financial and military aid does not reach Ukraine or arrives too late, and the Russians have additional huge sums of money to mobilize new soldiers and equip the army, there is only one possible outcome: Ukraine will be defeated in the war, and Russia will reach NATO borders. As an expert of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) announced, Moscow is preparing to win the Ukrainian war and a constant war with the West.

With the long and erosion of the war, the sending of Western aid is also slow. Although in the new stages, the Euro Atlantic axis is putting the use of new weapons, including F-16 fighters and more range missiles, the US 60 billion aid is approved in the Senate and is waiting for approval in the House of Representatives. The European Union has also approved a $ 50 billion aid in four years, and Japan has made $ 4.7 billion to Kiev. However, some analysts believe the campaign is approaching the critical stages and that both sides still have no chance of winning. Currently, on the other hand, the West believes that the defeat of Russia and the serious weakening of the position of President Putin is not available at the moment, so the West is more focused on the proposal of a ceasefire. Of course, any move for a ceasefire will face strong resistance from the Ukrainian government, some NATO members, including Poland and the Baltic states, and important parts of the Western political establishment and media. Therefore, the result of such a crisis cannot be predicted at the moment, but it will clearly be the threat of intensifying the full war between NATO and Russia. On the other hand, if Russia seizes the entire Donbas region and reinforces its ground bridge to Crimea, it seems that Putin will claim that Russia's key goals have been achieved and Moscow has achieved what it wanted, so ceasefire and ceasefire Peace talks without preconditions can be on the agenda.

No one was covered that only one sustainable ceasefire could end the humanitarian catastrophe with more than 700,000 deaths and injured by the two sides and the destruction of the infrastructure of the two sides with more than $ 900 billion and allowing Kyiv and the partnerships to start the long and costly process of rebuilding the Ukrainian economy and strengthening Kyiv's hopes for joining the European Union, which can also be attractive to some pragmatic Ukrainians because they believe that the ceasefire and economic growth allow Ukraine to strengthen its armed forces. At the same time, Ukrainian and Western opponents of accepting Russia's proposed ceasefire argue that it would allow the Kremlin to rebuild and strengthen its forces for a future new war, although that argument would be weakened if Moscow publicly declared that its war aims had been achieved.

Also, these days, the fear and concern of the flames of clashes in areas with high capacity for conflict, such as Baltic Republics, Kosovo, Moldova, etc., is intensified, and the potential of new wars, not only in Ukraine but also between Russia and other Soviet countries, cannot be ignored.

At the same time, the difficulty of rebuilding Ukraine and progress to the European Union, the impossibility of reviving the minimal cooperation relations between the West and Moscow, and the possibility of stronger cooperation between Russia, China, and Iran are serious and significant. Another important issue is the legal and judicial pursuits in the West to prove war crimes by the Russian army and to get compensation and actually take the blocked money of oligarchs and official Russian deposits to help Ukraine.

However, the basic question is, in what time and geographical position will the Kremlin's possible big attack and full-scale defense of Ukraine take place, and will it be able to cause a fundamental change in the equation of this conflict? More importantly, whether Russia's public threats by Medvedev on the possibility of applying nuclear weapons against European governments and Putin's move to test nuclear bombers in Tatarstan and finally on the front of the air strike on Russia with F-16 fighters will be done or not!?

Ali Beman Eghbali Zarch, a senior expert of Eurasia

 (The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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