Peace will be determined on the battlefields of Ukraine this summer
Any potential peace talks aimed at ending the year-long war in Ukraine will have to await the outcome of major battles in the coming weeks.
Russian forces are dug-in along the easter regions and in Crimea to the south, building fortifications for months.
Over the winter, the front line between the two forces has remained largely unchanged despite heavy losses, especially by Russia which had been using “human waves” in grinding offensives reminiscent of the First World War.
This week Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his pledge to push Russian forces from all Ukrainian territory, which would include Crimea taken in 2014 and the Eastern regions captured and occupied by Russia last year.
Supporters of Ukraine feel that if negotiations begin now, they may be forgoing the opportunity for territorial gains on the battlefield. That puts a lot of pressure on Ukraine to make advances in its much anticipated “spring offensive,” which many analysts have been expecting for several weeks now. Many questions remain unanswered:
- Does Ukraine have the ability to punch through Russian defences?
- Has it acquired sufficient Western weapons and ammunition?
- And what cards might Russia be holding that have yet to be played, should it start to sustain losses?
- Would a successful attack on Crimea be a “red line” for Russia to further escalate the war?
Pentagon leaks paint cautious picture
Recent leaks of U.S. military documents, generally viewed as being authentic, paint a cautious picture.
The BBC reports that according to the Washington Post newspaper, one document from early February expresses misgivings about Ukraine’s chances of success in its forthcoming counteroffensive, saying that problems with generating and sustaining sufficient forces could result in “modest territorial gains.”
Ukraine’s difficulties in maintaining its vital air defences are also analyzed, with warnings from late February that Kyiv might run out of critical missiles.
On the other hand, the leaks also suggest chaos and infighting within Russia’s military, and a gutting of its ranks of highly-trained special forces.
The BBC says that casualty figures are also listed in the leaked documents. One slide refers to as many as 223,000 Russian soldiers killed or wounded, and as many as 131,000 Ukrainians.
The next few weeks are sure to be bloody, should Ukraine move forward with a spring offensive. Its battlefield success will likely play a large role in determining the timing of any potential future peace negotiations.
The International Peace Bureau has launched a new website dedicated to its forthcoming International People’s Summit for Peace in Ukraine, to be held in Vienna, Austria, on June 10th-11th 2023. For more information, visit https://www.peacevienna.org/
(Cover: Tchassiv Yar, Ukraine – April 13, 2023 Only the humanitarian aid sent by volunteers allows the inhabitants to survive. People receiving daily humanitarian aid in the city of Tchassiv Yar. Via Shutterstock)