War in Ukraine – after the Battle of Artyomovsk

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By ANDREW KORYBKO*

Analysis of the current state of the theater of war and the significance of the Battle of Artyomovsk for Russians and Ukrainians

The Russia declared victory at the Battle of Artyomovsk on Saturday, May 21, after 224 days of fighting. Volodymyr Zelensky predicted in early March that his opponents could push through the rest of the Donbass if that happened, which is why the Ukrainian leader ordered his forces to fight to the bitter end, despite the US advising him to withdraw. from there already in January. This article assesses the current state of play with the aim of getting a better idea of ​​what might come next.

Artyomovsk is not a strategic city

There is nothing special about Artyomovsk that distinguishes it from other similarly sized cities in the Donbass, although its control, in one way or another, may facilitate access to the rest of the region's most strategic positions.

Rather than pragmatically withdrawing his forces to save lives and reinforce much more easily defensible positions elsewhere, Volodymyr Zelensky decided to turn Artyomovsk into another Mariupol for purely political reasons related to boosting the morale of his troops and fomenting information warfare. anti-russian.

Russia turned the tables

As the Battle of Artyomovsk dragged on, Volodymyr Zelensky tried to justify his decision not to withdraw with the false argument that he wanted to crush his opponent's forces and buy time for Kiev's counteroffensive, but Russia turned the tables, crushing his forces and buying time to prepare his own plans.

Volodymyr Zelensky's plan to bolster his troops' morale throughout this battle completely backfired after Russia's victory showed thousands of Ukrainians literally died for nothing, which could lead to a crisis of confidence with far-reaching implications. to this conflict if he does not quickly repair this damage.

The split between the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Wagner Group

Despite fears that the escalation of rivalry between the Ministry of Defense and the Wagner Group could cause Russia to lose the Battle of Artyomovsk, in the end, it did not prove fatal and appears to have been managed discreetly by President Vladimir Putin, as demonstrated on Sunday by thanks to both for this victory.

NATO-backed Kiev counter-offensive appears to be imminent

Volodymyr Zelensky urgently needs to restore the morale of his troops and show the population of his Western patrons that military aid provided by taxpayers, amounting to 165 billions of dollars, was used for something, maybe even to try invade Russian territory before 2014, which is why the NATO-backed Kiev counter-offensive appears to be imminent.

A proposal of Henry Kissinger for Ukraine to join NATO and the article of Politico predicting a Korean-style frozen conflict suggest that the US, UK and/or Poland will make security pledges to Kiev at the bloc's next summit, similar to the ones the US did to Finland and Sweden last May or to South Korea after the armistice.

Pressure for a ceasefire

A China, Saudi Arabia, some african countries and the Vatican push for a ceasefire, but the prospects for this succeeding (regardless of who plays that role) will largely depend on the outcome of the next Kiev counter-offensive and the next NATO Summit.

Unless NATO-backed Kiev or Russia achieves a military breakthrough by the end of the year, a ceasefire of some sort seems inevitable, thus making their respective perception management efforts critical as they will have to convince their population from which they gained even if they haven't reached their ultimate goals.

Conspiracy theories

Whether it's the "5D chess" conspiracy theory, which claims that "everything is going according to plan", or the "doom and gloom" theory, which tells everyone to "abandon all hope", supporters on both sides will certainly encounter these false narratives more frequently as the proxy war between NATO and Russia enters its next phase.

The observations shared above on the current state of this conflict suggest that it will soon intensify with the start of the NATO-backed Kiev counter-offensive, but that no breakthrough on either side is likely unless command and control and/or logistics collapse. Any of these situations can happen due to the opponent's attacks and/or internal intrigues, but none of them should be considered a consolidated fact. Therefore, a cease-fire along the line of contact could begin to be seriously discussed towards the end of the year.

*Andrew Korybko holds a master's degree in International Relations from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. Book author Hybrid Wars – From Color Revolutions to Coups(popular expression).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

Originally published in the author's newsletter.


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