Is Russia ready to back down? Forecasts of German experts

Barricade against tanks in Odessa PHOTO: Reuters

“It is an illusion to believe that the Ukrainian army will be able to push the Russian troops out of the whole country by military means. This can only be achieved if Russia retreats.” Two experts analyze the course of the war before DW.

More than 100 days have passed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. What is the explanation for the failure of the offensive against Kyiv and how will the course of the war change the supply of Western weapons? We addressed these and other questions to the retired General of the Bundeswehr Rainer Schwalb and the military expert from the Berlin Foundation for Science and Politics Wolfgang Richter. They both point to the determination with which Ukrainians have resisted Russian aggression for more than three months, as well as the leadership qualities of President Volodymyr Zelensky, “who managed to unite the people and the armed forces in this struggle.”

Why did the offensive against Kyiv fail?

Rainer Schwalb is of the opinion that the failures of the Russian military in the first weeks of the invasion are due to two main factors. The first is a “completely wrong political assessment of the situation” – the Kremlin apparently assumed that they would be able to enter Ukraine without resistance, and the Russian army would be greeted with flowers.

“Otherwise, no responsible person would launch an offensive in a swampy area during a period of warming. This is only done if you are sure that you will not have to fight.” The second mistake, according to Schwalb, is that Russia has been influenced by its own propaganda, which states that the country’s armed forces are in excellent condition.

The opinion of military expert Wolfgang Richter is similar: he believes that the actions of the Russian leadership were based on the mistaken belief at the highest level that “Ukraine has no national political identity and the country has no right to exist as an independent state.” . The Kremlin hoped that the situation would develop as in 2014, when the Russian army invaded regions where people were friendly to Russia and did not particularly support Ukraine: in the Crimea and Donbass. As a result, Russia was poorly prepared logistically and had no priority directions for the offensive, Richter said.

A change in Russia’s strategy

The expert also points out that the battles near Severodonetsk and Lisichansk are an example of the use of new tactics. The expert’s forecast states that the next operational goal could be full military control over the entire territory of Donbass.

According to Rainer Schwalb, Moscow’s main goal in Ukraine in the beginning was “what it has always wanted to achieve” – ​​to put an end to further NATO enlargement and, above all, to prevent Ukraine’s membership in the Alliance. .

“As far as preventing NATO enlargement is concerned, this goal has completely failed because now Finns and Swedes want to join NATO. But this is not about Finns and Swedes, but about Ukraine. This goal (to prevent Ukraine to join NATO – ed. note) Russia is still persecuting it, “the expert said, adding:” I don’t think Russia ever intended to conquer Ukraine completely. Maybe Moscow wanted to bring power there depending on The Russian government, but now it has realized that this is impossible. ” According to Schwalb, from now on the real goal of the war will be to achieve the best possible conditions for a ceasefire negotiation, and subsequently probably for peace talks.

What will be the development from now on

How could events unfold from now on? According to Wolfgang Richter, the Russian army is able to continue advancing, but this will be slow, with small tactical steps. “Besides, without universal mobilization, Russia will have serious difficulties in attracting additional active reserves for participation in the war. Therefore, this principle of warfare – strong firepower with sparing use of infantry, will be maintained for some time,” Richter said.

In this regard, the expert reminds that the Ukrainian side has already suffered serious losses – both human and material. “Now they have to defend themselves from Russian firepower, and here the supply of Western weapons comes into play. So it seems that this war is turning into a war of resources. And its end is not in sight, because each side he thinks he can win by military means. “

“There is no war that has ended in the complete destruction of the enemy. Wars end in negotiations and at some point they must begin. President Zelensky knows this, and so does the Ukrainian population,” Rainer Schwalb said. The former Bundeswehr general is sympathetic to the fact that Zelensky does not trust the Russian president: “That is why there must be international mediators in the negotiations, contact groups that are acceptable to both sides,” the expert said. It is an illusion to believe that the Ukrainian army will be able to push Russian troops out of the country by military means, which can only happen if Russia retreats – for domestic political reasons or because third countries are putting too much pressure on it. “Security will not cover Crimea either,” Schwalb said.

“The saddest”

“At the moment, Moscow is clearly betting on continuing hostilities and watching what can be achieved in this way. This complicates the prospect of finding a political solution,” said Wolfgang Richter. According to him, both Russia and Ukraine still have the human and material resources to continue the war. “I do not see the prospect of a complete defeat for either side, which makes peace talks even more necessary. The saddest thing is that at the end of any war, one conclusion is usually reached, which could have been done in the very beginning. beginning: that there are compromise solutions that can be reached without such a large number of victims. “

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