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09/01/2023

What is happening and what will happen in Ukraine?

What is happening and what will happen in Ukraine?

The events in sight make it clear that Russia, despite the fact that it has not yet fully achieved its originally planned objectives, is imposing its logic on the conflict in Ukraine. And perhaps that is the final result that will be produced, that is, Russia will end up winning the war without achieving all the goals it had set for itself.

For Russia, the threat that once consisted in Ukraine joining NATO has now been replaced by the threat embodied by the Western warlord’s decision to defeat Moscow, bring about regime change, and even disintegrate it.

In this sense, for Russia, this dispute, which forced it to carry out a special military operation to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity, has become an existential conflict. For this reason, based on the initial objectives that led to the incorporation of five provinces with a Russian-speaking majority that belonged to Ukraine: Crimea, Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye, which even without having fully recovered their territory, make up 23 % of the former territory of Ukraine, there has been the possibility that Russia intends to occupy another 4 provinces, also with a Russian-speaking majority: Odessa, Nikolaiev, Dnepropetrovsk and Kharkov, which together with the previous ones would make up a total of 43% of what was Ukraine.

This would transform that country into a dysfunctional state, not only because it would lose its access to the sea, but also because Poland, Hungary and Romania would claim their ancestral territories, inhabited by minorities from those countries.

For the West, it has become clear that the continuity of the NATO expansion that began in 1999, continued in 2004 and intended to continue in 2008 with the entry of Georgia and Ukraine into the organization, is not and will not be free of difficulties.

The West, which in 2010, at the NATO Summit in Lisbon, spoke of a new phase of cooperation with Russia and even of creating a “true strategic partnership”, now sees Moscow as a dangerous enemy that must be contained and weakened. Today, Europe and the United States consider Russia an “existential threat.” Therefore, they bet on “all or nothing”. For Washington, the situation is even worse. Their credibility and ability to protect are at stake. A defeat in Ukraine will have strategic repercussions.

NATO would not only lose the endorsement of being an organization that provides security, but also the Manichean discourse of its leaders would be in question. Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Foreign and Security Policy had said they are waging a confrontation between “garden and jungle”, Joseph Biden, the US President claimed a war between “democracy and autocracy”.

Within this framework, its objective is to defeat Russia, weakening it to the point that it ceases to be a power, dismembering it and disarticulating its capacity to be an important international player and a protagonist in the world of tomorrow.

With this background, Ukraine has ceased to play a leading role. Its function is secondary. At this moment, for Kyiv, the only thing that has value is a military victory, the defeat of Russia and its expulsion from the territories that Moscow has claimed as its own after the referendums held in September 2022. Kyiv sees salvation and of course the future of its existence in joining NATO and the European Union, so that, in fact, it can be a “western country”.

Analyzed in this way, this conflict is at a standstill until the victory of one of the contenders. Today, the confrontation has reached a zero-sum point that indicates an existential “all or nothing”, where the occupation of territories in the old-fashioned way ceased to be relevant, replaced with the quest for the enemy’s wear and tear. It is true that the war is waged on the battlefield, but as never before in history, now it is also necessary to appreciate that the economic capacity of the Russian State is facing off against the economic capacity of the West; the productive potential of arms and ammunition of Russia vs. that of the West and the competence of each party for the mobilization, training and full combat readiness of the troops. We must not forget that “war is the continuation of politics” and that “politics is the concentrated expression of the economy.”

And in this logic, Russia has gotten the better and is winning the war. It has strengthened its defensive lines until they are impenetrable. Ukraine has paid a high cost. The definitive casualties since the beginning of the “counteroffensive” three months ago are estimated at 45,000, a figure to which must be added tens of thousands of wounded and a very high number of weapons and equipment destroyed in the frustrated attempt to violate the system. Defense created by Russia. The so-called Ukrainian “counteroffensive” has been a total failure, now accepted by political leaders and especially the military, the media and Western think tanks.

The overwhelming Russian superiority over Ukraine in terms of firepower (missiles, artillery and aviation) and its preeminence in relation to the ability to mobilize troops, have established a distance that is very difficult to overcome. Not even the billionaire economic, financial, and logistical support from the West has been able to change the equation.

The result of the war will be given by the effects of attrition, the logistical capacities, weapons, equipment, by the potentialities that exist for the replacement of human resources, but also by the possibilities of the economy and the arms industry where the Russian supremacy is very evident.

Wars end with an armistice, a negotiation, or a defeat and surrender by one of the parties. In the current situation, there is no possibility of reaching a peace treaty. The agreements that could have been made after the Minsk Protocols in 2014 or the Russian-Ukrainian negotiations in March last year are no longer possible. In both cases, they were torpedoed by the West and used for purposes that had nothing to do with peace. The objectives of the two sides in conflict are absolute, while each party understands that their existence is at stake.

Today, the territorial issue is irreconcilable, which threatens a long war that will end with the defeat and surrender of one of the parties (most presumably Ukraine, given the state of its economy). All this will have consequences for the contenders, for the region and for the world.

Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein
Sergio Rodríguez Gelfenstein
A Venezuelan international relations expert, Gelfenstein was previously Director of the International Relations of the Presidency of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, his country’s ambassador to Nicaragua and an advisor for international politics for TELESUR. He has written numerous books, among them “China in the XXI Century – the awakening of a giant”, published in several Latin American countries. You can follow him on Twitter: @sergioro0701

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