How will the war in Ukraine end?

Russia has been waging war in Ukraine for just over two months. This is not a very long time.

The Korean War lasted three years, World War II – six. The Arab-Israeli wars, on the other hand, took only a few days.

Various factors contribute to the duration of a war. The size of the battlefield is just one of them. The smaller the battlefield, the fewer soldiers can fit on it, and in general the shorter the war. In Ukraine, the battlefield is huge. Only according to this criterion can the war there last for years.

Equally important are the forces that face each other. All three axes of Russia’s initial attack on Odesa, Luhansk, and Kyiv failed due to logistical difficulties. The lines of attack relied mainly on infantry with supporting artillery and airstrikes, but the basic strategic principle remained the same. They continued to try to take over cities, not destroy the Ukrainian army. Thus, about a month after Moscow excluded Kyiv as its main target, it has not yet eliminated resistance in the east and south. This is partly because cities are difficult battlefields. The advantage is the defender, who knows the city well and can form a strategy based on this knowledge.

However, the continuing problem for Russia is that instead of concentrating its efforts on one critical goal to create optimal conditions for victory before moving towards another goal, it is still guided by its main mission and vision, many of which are based on the assumption that the Ukrainian army is insignificant and can be defeated until cities are captured. The idea of ​​capturing cities as an operational task comes from Russia’s goal of conquering all of Ukraine. In pursuit of this goal, it makes sense to defeat the Ukrainian army and occupy cities.

But Moscow miscalculated the original problem. Ukraine is big, and its forces are fighting from scattered and tactical mobile positions – just the kind of defense that Russia is not suited to fight. The Ukrainians could refuse to fight where the Russians decided and attack at a time of their choice. Russia had tons of armor, but the armor was less useful against scattered infantry or in urban combat.

Russia has also warned Ukraine of its intentions and deployed its forces in such a way that Kyiv could prepare its forces for an attack. It seems that the Ukrainians have dispersed in such a way as to deprive Russia of a center of gravity to attack. Ukrainians have adopted limited strategic control over their forces while providing tactical control to local forces. This means that the Russians were deprived of a major advantage: the ability to destroy any military concentration or to impede communications in the area. Ukrainians have not created vulnerable command centers or a communication network that can be silenced. Infantry teams of various sizes were free to deploy and strike based on tactical capability. In other words, the forces familiar with the situation were not under the constant control of central command. The Russians could not occupy Ukraine with one blow, as they expected. Since then, Moscow has been trying to wage a war of attrition. The problem is that this war of attrition costs the Russians as much as it costs the Ukrainians, and in some ways even more.

Ukrainians had a second advantage: the United States. The United States wanted the Russian invasion to fail. If Ukraine fell, then the Russian army would face NATO, from Poland to Romania. Russia’s intentions have always been vague, but if we accept the worst, Russia may follow the successful invasion of Ukraine with a new campaign in the West to regain its pre-1991 position. Then Washington will inevitably be drawn into direct conflict with Russia. And the United States did not want to deploy troops in combat. Circumstances dictated that Ukraine not be defeated and that American troops not be involved in hostilities.

What Ukraine needed was a massive influx of modern weapons. Wars are changing. What was an effective infantry operation that had to be reinforced with anti-tank, anti-aircraft, and modern reconnaissance systems? Now the Russian army is facing the same infantry that fought it to the end, combined with modern weapons and ammunition. They must be commanded by a central command that changes Ukrainian operations but puts Russia at risk in any strategic offensive.

How and when the war will end depends on Moscow. The political process in Russia is a mystery. There is always a political structure because someone has to carry out the dictator’s orders. What I do know is that the United States can continue to do what it does with minimal risk, and the Ukrainians have no choice but to fight. So Russia will either take the first step toward peace or continue to fight – something which does not seem to be good so far. Otherwise, be on the lookout for Russian actions that are so dramatic and irritating as to force the United States and Ukraine to make huge concessions. I doubt that nuclear weapons are a viable option. I doubt that Russia will do something so stunning. So, perhaps the only advice to Russia would be the response of German Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt in Berlin after Day X, when asked what needs to be done: “Make peace, fools.”

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