War in Ukraine – phase five

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By CAIO BUGIATO*

The West failed to shake Putin, and the fifth phase of the War in Ukraine brings another element of concern for Zelensky's government, the Israeli massacre in Gaza

The offensive by NATO and Ukraine to retake territories conquered by Russia has failed, despite all Western help. The Russians still control about 1/5 of the country, from the Donbass region in the East to Crimea in the South, and are now inaugurating the fifth phase of the war.

The first was the Russian counteroffensive in the face of the NATO advance and Ukrainian pressure on the separatist provinces Donetsk and Luhansk, in Donbass. During this phase, Russia conquered practically the entire territorial extension that it still maintains under its control today. The second phase was the reaction of NATO and Ukraine, which caused losses and setbacks for the Russians. The third phase was the long battle of Bakhmut, with Russian victory in a strategic region for complete control of Donetsk. The fourth phase was the Ukrainian offensive which failed to penetrate the Russian defense lines.

The fifth phase is a new Russian counteroffensive, whose battles are concentrated on the banks of the Dnipro River, in the south, near the city of Kherson, and in the city of Avdiivka, in the Donestk region. The Russian objective at this stage is to control the integrity of the four provinces, Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, in addition to maintaining Crimea.

Furthermore, with winter approaching, Russia bombed Kiev, which is home to large gas and electricity infrastructures. A second objective would be to damage these facilities as much as possible, in order to force the Ukrainians to negotiate an end to the war under disadvantageous conditions.

The fifth phase of the War in Ukraine brings another element of concern for Volodymyr Zelensky's government, the Israeli massacre in Gaza. The West was already showing signs of discontent with the failure of the Ukrainian offensive, which was indirectly admitted by Ukraine's commander-in-chief, Valery Zaluzhny. In an interview with The Economist,, stated that the war is at an impasse, that is, there is no advance from Kiev, which caused discomfort among the Ukrainian authorities.

Now, with Israel's attacks, American and Western aid tends to migrate to the Middle East. A sign of this are the statements made by the new president of the US Congress, Republican Representative Mike Johnson, who prioritized US support for Israel. For him, even if the US cannot allow Vladimir Putin to win in Ukraine, the US has to support its important ally in the Middle East, which is Israel. Furthermore, surveys show that American society's support for aid to Ukraine has been falling; just as the number of parliamentarians (mostly republicans) who oppose this support has been increasing.

Thus, the current context of the war appears to be as follows. First, for Ukraine, as noted above, Western aid tends to dwindle. Another problem, given the wear and tear generated by casualties, is the difficulty of gathering enough new soldiers for the next operations. Second, Western sanctions, in addition to not working to bring down the Russian economy, encouraged a major industrial and geopolitical reconversion.

The West also failed to undermine Vladimir Putin's popularity, much less incite rebellions. Third, as analysts note, the war's battles made it a war of attrition, in which the stalemate between the forces implies a series of human and material losses for both sides. Whoever can sustain losses for the longest time will win the war.

In this way, time works in favor of the Russians, as their population is three times larger than that of Ukraine, their economy is ten times larger and their military resources are powerful to maintain control of the conquered territories for a long period. The strength and operations of the Russian military apparatus depend solely on the Russians, in Ukraine this is not the case. The tendency then is the longer the war lasts, the greater the probability of Russian victory.

This situation actually forces a negotiation between the parties, as a Ukrainian victory on the battlefield seems unlikely. In this negotiation, Volodymyr Zelensky's government – ​​and the country and people of Ukraine – may pay a high price for getting involved in the project of universal US domination.

* Caio Bugiato Professor of Political Science and International Relations at UFRRJ and at the Graduate Program in International Relations at UFABC.


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