Within a few months, the Ukrainian forces were able to stop the progress of their Russian counterparts on several combat fronts, in light of the continued Western support for Kiev, amid expectations that Ukraine could resolve the battle in 2023, which raises talk about the repercussions of this on the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the expected scenarios of escalation between sides in the coming period.
Putin’s regime lives in “lost time,” according to an analysis by “Foreign Affairs” magazine, which indicates that the advance of Ukrainian forces on the battlefield and the enduring unity of the West and its determination to confront aggression against Ukraine could lead to a near Russian defeat that will have internal repercussions in Moscow.
Russian field retreat?
Some 11 months after the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, Russian forces have suffered several major setbacks in recent months.
Since Ukraine launched a daring counterattack in late August last year, the fighting has been concentrated in Donbass, which includes most of the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, which are partly controlled by Russia and which Moscow says it has annexed, according to Reuters.
Fighting has focused in recent weeks around the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, where mercenaries from the Russian private military company Wagner and Ukrainian forces are fighting a battle of attrition.
In November last year, Russian forces abandoned the strategic city of Kherson, in one of Ukraine’s most important gains in the war.
Neither side has announced major movements on the southern front since November, when Russia withdrew from the city of Kherson.
For months, the line of contact between the Ukrainian and Russian armies in southern Ukraine has been stagnant, and no major clashes occurred there, except for the Kherson regions (south) until November and Donetsk (east), the center of the current clashes, according to “AFP”.
And the expert specialized in Russian affairs, Nabil Rashwan, points out, “Russia’s failure to achieve important field gains and the retreat of its forces during the last period.”
In his interview with Al-Hurra website, he says, “The Russian army could not achieve great victories, and all the gains that Moscow recently achieved came at the hands of the Wagner militia.”
For his part, the director of the Moscow-based “Realist” expert center, Amr El-Deeb, denies the recent retreat of Russian forces on the Ukrainian front.
He told Al-Hurra that the Russian withdrawal from some Ukrainian regions and cities, led by Kherson, came “for tactical reasons that occur in all military operations,” as he put it.
Al-Deeb believes that the Russian forces have succeeded in achieving field gains during the last period, citing the control of the Moscow forces over the town of Solidar and the possibility of their control over the nearby city of Bakhmut.
After the fiercest battles since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russian army and the “Wagner” group of mercenaries announced their control of the small city of Solidar in the east of the country.
And Solidar, which was famous for its salt mines, is located 15 km northeast of Bakhmut, which Russian forces have been trying to control for months.
Since last summer, Wagner’s forces and the Russian army have been trying to control the city of Bakhmut, located in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, despite its “modest strategic importance”, but they have not succeeded in that.
2023.. the decisive year?
Western arms supplies are essential to Kiev and have enabled it, in particular, to carry out an effective counterattack that removed Russian forces from the Kharkiv region in the northeast and from the city of Kherson in the south, according to “Agence France Presse”.
And if Western support for Kiev continues, 2023 will be a decisive year for the war in Ukraine, according to “Foreign Affairs”.
Although the Western allies did not reach any agreement to deliver heavy tanks to Ukraine, these countries are accelerating the supply of weapons to Kyiv, expressing their confidence in their chances of victory in the war waged against them by Russia.
Rashwan believes that Ukraine is able to resolve the battle during the year 2023 in the event of continued Western support for Ukraine, and says that “the differences and reservations between the Western allies are merely strategic maneuvers.”
And he points out that “Ukraine will get these weapons in the end,” expecting the Ukrainian forces to achieve “new field gains” early next spring.
On the other hand, El-Deeb points to “the dangers of continuing Western support for Ukraine or supplying it with specific weapons.”
According to al-Deeb, if the delivery of qualitative weapons to Ukraine develops, or if these weapons reach Moscow or large Russian cities, this will have very serious repercussions that “Russia will not tolerate.”
As for the Russian side, there are already mistakes and losses because the Ukrainian forces are well-trained and have great combat experience, and they are continuously supplied with modern weapons, which makes the battle “continuing for a long time,” according to El-Deeb.
Is Russia losing the war?
If the West continues to support Kyiv “militarily and financially,” Ukrainian forces are able to “achieve a quick victory,” according to “Foreign Affairs.”
This is confirmed by Rashwan, speaking of “an expected loss for Russia in the war in the event of continued Western support for Kiev.”--
He says, “The war in Ukraine has become a very big dilemma for the Kremlin, and Russia should not have entered it from the beginning.”-
On the other hand, El-Deeb believes that Russia is able to continue the war for a “very long time,” noting that there are no indications that it is “nearly over.”
El-Deeb says Moscow will not “lose the war” and will never allow it, whatever the cost.
Does Russia use nuclear?
A close Putin ally said on Sunday that supplying offensive weapons to Kyiv that would threaten Russia’s territory would lead to a global catastrophe and make arguments against the use of weapons of mass destruction flimsy.
Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament (the State Duma), warned that US and NATO support for Ukraine would lead the world into a “terrible war”.
Volodin’s comments follow a similar threat made by Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former prime minister and former president, last week.
In Thursday’s remarks, Medvedev said, “The defeat of a nuclear power in a conventional war could spark a nuclear war,” referring to the military campaign launched by his country in Ukraine.
In a post on Telegram commenting on NATO’s support for the Ukrainian army, Medvedev, an ally of current President Vladimir Putin, wrote, “Nuclear powers never lose in major conflicts on which their fate depends.”
Rashwan stresses that the constant Russian threats to use “nuclear weapons” cannot be taken “seriously”.
He says, “These threats reflect the difficult situation in Ukraine, and indicate a crisis in which the Russian forces are experiencing.”
On the other hand, El-Deeb believes that these statements express “personal opinions” rather than a fixed Russian political position.
According to al-Deeb’s statement, the threats are a “reaffirmation” of what is in the Russian military and security doctrine.
“If there is a direct threat to the territorial integrity of Russia or to the entity of the Russian Federation, the response will be very strong by all available means,” he says.
In his speech, he cites Putin’s repeated statements in this regard.
Putin has spoken a lot before about “not allowing” a repeat of the scenario of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 after the war in Afghanistan for a period of 10 years, and therefore he is ready and completely ready to use “everything he has” to not repeat that scenario, according to Al-Deeb’s speech.
The Russian forces invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and the Red Army withdrew after a decade in 1989, after losing about 15 thousand soldiers, according to “Agence France Presse”.
Putin and other senior officials have repeatedly said that Russia’s policy on nuclear weapons is that they can be used if there is a threat to its territorial integrity, according to Reuters.
Russia possesses the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world, with nearly 6,000 warheads.
Russia’s military loss in the war could lead to a “political transformation” within Russia, and the penetration of “Putin’s indomitable aura and revealing that he is the architect of a failed state,” making his regime vulnerable to a challenge from within, and this may lead to the “collapse of the Putin regime” in the near future, according to “Foreign Affairs”.
Rashwan notes that there will be major repercussions inside and outside Russia if Moscow loses the war in Ukraine.
Rashwan cites historical facts that followed Russia’s defeat during World War I with the outbreak of the “Bolshevik Revolution”, the collapse of the Soviet Union after the defeat in Afghanistan, and the overthrow of Nikita Khrushchev after the Cuban missile crisis that occurred in 1962.
He says that “Putin’s luster has dimmed during the last period, and therefore he is trying to delude the Russian people that there is an imminent danger to the country, to convince them of the continuation of the war.”
Losing the war will mean a lot on the domestic level, “and the Russian Federation itself may collapse, which means the fall of Putin’s regime,” according to Rashwan’s speech.
But Al-Deeb excludes that proposition, and believes that there is no evidence of the possibility of overthrowing Putin, speaking of “Russian popular support for the president’s decisions.”
Al-Deeb says, “The Russian administration continues to achieve its goals, and it cannot retreat, nor can it be defeated.”