The beginning of a new year always brings with it a psychological uplift of hope that the upcoming year will be a better one than the one just past. Most of us tend to see December 31 as a sort of line in the sand, where the trials and tribulations of the previous twelve months will somehow magically fade away and we will be blessed with a fresh start with a renewed sense of optimism and confidence in a better future to come. Sadly, I must admit that I would be hard pressed to look upon this coming year with that frame of mind.
We are carrying over a lot of difficult baggage from 2022 into this new year. The war in Ukraine continues with all the attendant death and destruction in its wake. Despite the obvious reality that Russia has failed miserably in its quest to subjugate Ukraine, there is no sign that Putin is prepared to cut his losses and admit defeat. He has no coherent exit plan and will likely continue to double down and send further waves of cannon fodder in a futile attempt to manufacture some kind of Pyrrhic victory.
These attempts will in all likelihood fail, as the Russian military has already lost most of its best fighting units and has significantly depleted its inventory of modern weapons and munitions. The Russian military command is firmly wedded to outdated strategies and tactics that are based primarily on numerical superiority of fighting troops and massive artillery barrages. These might have worked a hundred years ago during World War I, but are obsolete in today’s modern warfare scenarios.
The Ukrainian forces on the other hand, inspired by advanced western military strategy and trained by NATO and Western experts, have mastered the art of modern warfare based on superior intelligence, satellite and aerial surveillance, decentralized command structures, inter-service co-ordination, modern weaponry and tactical flexibility. The Russians have shown over the course of this war that their larger military is no match for the smaller, though more capable Ukrainian forces.
There are rumours that Russia is about to embark on another mass mobilization of some 500,000 conscripts which they intend to throw into the conflict later this spring or summer in yet another attempt to overwhelm Ukrainian defenses. Even if that proves true, there is little cause to think this will affect the outcome of the fighting in any significant way. The experience of the past year has shown that the Russian military is incapable of properly training, equipping or supporting such a vast number of conscripts in the field.
Further, we should not forget that the Ukrainian military has grown significantly during the time of this conflict into a force of over a million men. These, with assistance from the U.S. and NATO, have been better trained and equipped, and are vested with strong morale, as opposed to the miserable Russian conscripts who have little willingness to fight and die for their mad dictator.
Although most western military experts are confident that the Ukrainian military can withstand any future Russian offensives and win this war, we should keep in mind that Russia possesses one big advantage over the Ukrainians, and that is their ability to cause massive destruction on Ukraine’s cities and civilian infrastructure. Being unable to overcome Ukraine’s military, the Russians have resorted to terror tactics on Ukraine’s civilians, seeking to destroy their morale and force the military to capitulate. As events of the past few months have demonstrated, that too, is not likely to happen. It has made Ukrainians even more united and determined to fight their barbarian invaders. Ukrainians have endured centuries of terrorism and genocide from the Russians and have been steeled to resist and never submit. It is both tragic and incomprehensible that the Russians do not seem to learn anything from history.
My own thoughts on what is likely to happen next in this war in the coming months is that the Russians will try and mount one more major offensive, which I am pretty certain will also fail. That will likely be the last straw for Putin and lead to his permanent exit from the scene and the start of real peace negotiations. What is also possible is that the Ukrainian military may pre-empt such a Russian offensive, by mounting their own major counter-offensive aimed at either cutting off Crimea or making major inroads into Donetsk. This would also likely lead to Putin’s quick downfall and bring an early end to the war.
Whatever the case, we can expect at least a few more months of brutal fighting and destruction before this conflict is over.