Ukraine war: Crimea 2023 Ukrainian or ceasefire due to war fatigue?

Ukraine war: Crimea 2023 Ukrainian or ceasefire due to war fatigue?

There are also voices other than US General ret. D. Ben Hodges on the Ukraine war, who do not see Crimea being recaptured in August 2023, but the situation that after renewed offensives both sides have become so exhausted that they will agree on a ceasefire, which is of course still a long way from a peace treaty . Will the Ukraine war end in early summer 2023? In an interview with the Ostthürigsche Zeitung, ex-NATO General Domröse outlines the path from new offensives to a negotiated solution. He is one of the most sought-after military experts in Germany, he has observed the Ukraine war from the beginning through the eyes of an experienced commander: the former Bundeswehr and NATO general Hans-Lothar Domröse. He was Chief of Staff of the NATO missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan and Commander-in-Chief of the NATO Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum/Netherlands. In the interview, Domröse outlines the probable development in the Ukraine war and explains why there is hope for a ceasefire and a negotiated solution – but not immediately.

OTZ: Mr. Domröse, the Russian war of aggression against the Ukraine will soon be entering its second year. What do you expect for 2023? How does the war continue, is there an end to sight?

Hans-Lothar Domröse: Both sides have not yet achieved their military goal. Everyone will try again. I expect a standstill in early summer, when both sides will say: Now it’s no longer of any use.

OTZ:  Will Russia launch another major offensive?

Domröse: The minimum Russian target would be the four provinces of Cherson and Zaporizhia in the south, and Donetsk and Luhansk in the east. Russia does not yet have complete control over them, although it has already annexed them. The question is whether Vladimir Putin will try to take Kyiv again. He would need large troops to invade again, I think that’s unlikely. I think it’s more of a strategic defensive nature: A continued, massive rocket attack is likely to put pressure on Ukraine. Putin will try to destroy Ukraine’s energy supply. He can withstand the rocket attacks for a long time and thus spread terror. And then he could attack in southern Ukraine to secure the four provinces and the Crimean strip. The cities of Cherson and Bakhmut, in the north of Charkiv – from the Russian point of view, further fighting can be expected there. Interfering fire from behind, gaining space in front: This is how Russia could try to thwart a Ukrainian counterattack..

OTZ: What military options does Ukraine have?

Domröse: Even the Ukraine, with its enormous will to resist, has not yet achieved its goal. However, there are two different announcements about their goal: President Zelensykyj initially wanted to push the Russians back to the line of February 23, i.e. before the Russian war of aggression. But since April/May he has also been demanding back previous Russian occupations, including Crimea. Ukraine’s chief of staff, on the other hand, is now demanding 5,000 heavy weapons from the West to restore the February 23 borders – so he doesn’t share the overarching goal of taking Crimea back. Ukraine, when attacking itself, must try to break deep into the Russian conquests – ideally, at Melitopol or Mariupol, it would cut through the occupied territory, carve out a hundred-kilometer front to the Black Sea, and secure it on both sides, protecting the Russians to break lines. Also interesting: Ukraine war: That’s why Vladimir Putin could give in in 2023

OTZ: If those are the goals, what are the odds for Ukraine and the Russian attackers?

Domröse: Both need some regeneration. There are indications of a second partial mobilization in Russia to bring in fresh forces. Until February 24, the anniversary of the start of the war, both sides will be watching each other with great interest. The entire front is around 1,200 kilometers long – for this huge distance you need good reconnaissance, so that you can concentrate your forces properly. Russia has the advantage of having more tanks and more missiles including Iranian drones. Its own territory is protected. And Putin can follow suit. It is more difficult for Ukraine: Ukraine is ahead of the Russians on points in military training and creativity, their brave fight deserves our great respect – but they cannot attack or defend mobile without tank artillery and armored personnel carriers. They need more western arms support for that. In the south, Ukraine would have to penetrate about 60 kilometers into Russian-held territory in order to fire from there with its artillery as far as the Black Sea and thus break through the Russian lines. If Ukraine fails to penetrate deeper into the Russian-held territories, Russia would have stabilized its conquests. It’s hard for me to imagine Ukraine regaining this area completely – even if the West supplies the heavy weapons that are required, especially tanks and artillery.

OTZ: But there is no way around further arms deliveries for the West?

Domröse: The Ukraine is absolutely dependent on Western arms supplies. If we take our responsibility seriously, we must provide them with the heavy weapons. If Germany and the West decided to deliver Leopard tanks now, it would take 40 days from the government’s decision to delivery on the ground. So it’s early or mid-February then. It is high time that the European countries that have Leopard tanks now form a coalition of the willing and deliver together in a coordinated manner. By February 24 at the latest, there will be more shooting because both sides want to get out of the impasse. It is more far-sighted to deliver now when it is clear that sooner or later deliveries will be delayed anyway. At some point Ukraine will have lost its last tank, then it will need supplies. And at some point there will be a ceasefire, then Ukraine will also need further support and weapons.

OTZ:  So you really expect a ceasefire?

Domröse: Yes. We will have a truce sometime in 2023. There’s no point in continuing to fight if you’re not gaining any more space. Most likely, between February and May, a situation will arise where both sides realize they are stuck. Russia could say „we don’t have to go any further“, Ukraine would have to say „we can’t go any further“. That would be the moment for ceasefire negotiations. But that doesn’t mean peace. Armistice means: we stop shooting. The negotiations are likely to take a long time, and a mediator is needed: perhaps UN Secretary General Guterres, or the Indian President Modi – although no one is really imposing.

OTZ:  What should the mediator achieve?

Domröse: There is only one negotiated solution that is acceptable to both sides – even if Putin actually would like to have all of Ukraine and Zelenskyy would like to liberate all of Ukraine again. Neither will succeed. And Russia as an aggressor certainly cannot be forced to capitulate. It will not simply give up the 1200-kilometer streak of its conquests. One solution could be, for example, that Zelenskyy waives the demand to immediately reintegrate areas like Crimea into Ukraine – a transition could be agreed, just as there is a 50-year transition period when Hong Kong is handed over to China. The Federal Republic has also never renounced German unity, and it was only when we got it that we recognized the Oder-Neisse border as final.

OTZ: But how secure would such a solution be?

Domröse: The Europeans will then have to assume the guarantee of protection for the Ukraine together with the Americans – similar to the guarantee of protection for Israel by the USA. The West wouldn’t have to deploy any troops, but they would have to hold maneuvers from time to time and signal: We’re there. This guarantee must be given. Otherwise Putin would soon invade Ukraine again with fresh forces.

While General A. D Hodges was initially correct in the combat capability and sprit of the Ukrainian army, his forecast of a reconquest of Crimea in 2023, which he sees as decisive for the war and post-war, could be an overestimation of the Ukrainian forces. Because not only many Russian, but also many Ukrainian soldiers have fallen and the question is whether the Ukrainians are really those supermen and heroes and those willing to make sacrifices all when Russia is now destroying the entire infrastructure and bombing entire cities to rubble and ashes. Superman Selensky also always tells how many rockets and drones were shot down by Ukraine, but less how many hit and that entire infrastructures were destroyed with it, including power failure and the associated consequences. Air defense will remain Ukraine’s Achilles‘ heel for some time to come, and the following article does not necessarily make us any more optimistic, since a US Congress report warns against the delivery of Patriot systems and these are not ready for use until 2024, even with the help of non-military foreign training personnel:

“Ukraine Won’t Be Ready for Patriot Missiles Until 2024: Advisory Body Warns U.S. Congress of High Risks From Deliveries


The U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) advisory body has warned that Congress is facing issues “in both its legislative and oversight roles” over the deliver of Patriot surface to air missile systems to Ukraine, after the intention to send these systems as part of a $1.85 billion aid package was announced in December. It highlighted that although Patriot systems had been widely speculated to begin deliveries in the first half of 2023, training local repair crews alone would take approximately 53 weeks. “There is a lot of learning to do before Ukraine will have a functioning Patriot system on the ground,” it emphasised. It was previously speculated that U.S. or other NATO service members could man the Patriots after their delivery, as Western personnel have played a very large and growing role in the war effort on the ground, although the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed that it had been assured that the U.S. Military would not have a presence at Patriot sites. The possibility of American military contractors being deployed to man the systems, however, remains significant, although Russia is expected to have far less qualms about targeting sites should foreign personnel present not be serving members in the U.S. Military. 

Missile Battery From Patriot System

It is expected that only a single Patriot unit will be delivered to Ukraine, raising serious questions regarding how effective it could be in blunting Russian air and missile attacks particularly when considering the system’s questionable combat record in other theatres. CRS stressed that it was still unclear where the Patriot battery would come from, urging lawmakers to examine this issue and warning that the “battery and associated interceptors being sent to Ukraine could be taken from existing army units and stockpiles” in the U.S. Military. “If it is withdrawn from other operational forces, such as U.S. Central Command or U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, transferring the system to Ukraine may create opportunity costs and potential risks in those theatres,” it stated, while supplying a battery from the American mainland “could impede training or modernisation cycles.” The Patriot’s “massive price tag” of were also highlighted in the report, which elaborated that “a newly produced Patriot battery costs about $1.1 billion, including about $400 million for the system and about $690 million for the missiles” with an “estimated to cost about $4 million per missile.” The result of these costs was that certain “restrictions [would] be imposed on what types of hostile systems can be engaged by” Ukrainian-operated Patriots. 

Lower end Russian strike drones playing key roles in its strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and personnel have been fielded with price tags of just a few thousand dollars, while many of its cruise missiles are estimated to cost only around $1 million each. A further issue widely raised regarding Patriot deliveries, although not noted in the CRS report, is that the rapid destruction of a Patriot battery in Ukraine, which Russian President Vladimir Putin personally referred to as an “absolute certainty,” could have serious impacts both on Ukrainian morale and on allies’ confidence in the missile system which is very widely relied on by the U.S. and its allies. The rapid depletion of Ukraine’s air defence network and the very small quantities of Patriots to be delivered means that the system will likely have only limited layers of protection from other air defence systems, which combined with its relatively limited mobility could leave it highly vulnerable. Bolstering Ukraine’s air defences has nevertheless come to be seen as critical as its formerly massive arsenals of Soviet built S-300 and BuK missiles have now grown scarce, with Russian strikes on key infrastructure in particular raising the prospects that Ukraine may need to abandon many of its key cities entirely. This possibility was widely warned of near the end of 2022 in a growing number of Western assessments. Major attacks on infrastructure which began in October are increasingly seen to provide Russia with a quicker means of placing pressure on Kiev and its allies, and thus achieving its objectives more quickly in spite of the significant setbacks it has faced on the battlefield.

Former NATO general Ben Hodges commented:

“I read General a.D. Domroese’s comments yesterday…I have huge respect for my friend, H-L, but disagree with him on this.Ukraine knows they will never be safe nor will they ever be able to rebuild their economy so long as Russia controls any of Crimea and so they will not settle for that…nor should they.The Ukrainians can also smell that they are winning, that they have achieved irreversible momentum, and so they will continue.We, the West, should stop talking negotiations…we should also get our heads around the reality that Russia is losing now and will be defeated.”

Global Review then asked:

“Why is Crimea so important for Ukraine or for the reconstruction of the Ukrainian economy? All we have heard is that that Russia has a naval base for its Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol and that Crimea is a tourist resort for rich Russians, but not economically important. Or do you think of the geopolitical location, but what does it mean? Is Odessa not much more important or the Donbass with its power plants, steel, engineering and raw material industries?

Do the Russians need Sewastopol or can’t they replace it by a military port in Abchasia or next to Georgia? Or is Crimea  more a national symbol?

And do you think that security guarantees should be more Like the Israel or the Japanese model (permanent US military base and cancellation of the NATO-Russia Founding Act) or membership in NATO (which can take a long time)?”

Ben Hodges replied:

“Look at the map…whoever controls Crimea controls access to Sea of Azov, where Crimea had its #2 and #3 ports, Mariupol and Berdyanks.  When Russia built the illegal Kerch Bridge, it severely disrupted shipping to and from those Ukrainian ports.  Now Russia controls all of Azov Sea, a violation of its prewar agreement with Ukraine.

 From Crimea, Russia can also interrupt any shipping in/out of Odesa, #1 port for Ukraine.

And Russia now claims an extended EEZ because of its illegal annexation of Crimea, which affects gas exploration in that part of the Black Sea.”

Maybe US General ret. Hodges is right that all that talk about negotations is undermining the fighting capability and spirit and „irreversible momentum“ of the Ukrainians. But as Domroese jr. pointed out the Crimea issue  is also a source of different opinions between Selensky and the joint staff of the Ukrainian military. However the comparision Domroese jr. claims between Crimea and Hongkong might be pretty much flawed.

However, the former military adviser to Merkel, General Erich Vad, had already made Domröse’s assessment last year, although he was ignored by all mainstream media. General ret. Vad also wrote:

Dear Mr Ostner,

Agree with Domröse – except for the idea of the “miller”, which is impossible given the balance of power. If the Ukrainians try, they’re likely to fare like the Germans did in the Battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943… But: the heavily criticized Vad recognized the military stalemate and the resulting need for negotiations as early as autumn 22, repeatedly publicly stating it – e.g. in the hardly noticed book „Perspectives after the Ukraine War“ and the US Chief of Staff Mark Milley also held this position already on November 9th, 2022 in a CNN interview, which Kornelius only discussed in the SZ at Christmas. All very late and instead only the daily demand for more weapons in the German media. And why not just give the Russians an ultimatum, for example: either a ceasefire or Leopards for Ukraine? Then politics would finally come back into play instead of this – especially in Germany – one-dimensional and unimaginative focus on more and more weapons, which will also not bring about a turnaround in the war…. I was only able to publish what Domröse correctly recognizes today in a Swiss weekly newspaper last November :

“Putin cannot lose, Zelensky cannot win – the war is deadlocked. Why? And what’s next?

 Erich Vad

The media applaud Putin’s weakness and Zelensky’s offensive. Right? I see it differently. We are experiencing a military standoff. A long-lasting war of attrition is looming on a front line almost 1000 kilometers long. The Ukrainians can make punctual gains because they have reconnaissance and targeting data from Western countries at their disposal. But only selectively, not permanently. General Mark Milley, the US Chief of Staff, shares my assessment of the situation. He too is of the opinion that this war cannot be decided militarily. So we have to see how we come out otherwise. With negotiations. Both sides are worn. Both have suffered great losses. According to intelligence information, I assume around 100,000 dead. 12 to 15 million people have fled. US General Milley also says at least 40,000 dead civilians, I think that’s realistic. That may sound like a lot, but compared to previous combat operations by Western states – for example in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and above all in Iraq – it is relatively small.

 The arms deliveries were certainly able to stabilize the brave Ukrainians. But one must remember that Russia is one of the strongest military powers in the world. The strongest nuclear power ever. And a world power with strategic interests in the contested region – like China in the South China Sea or the US in the Caribbean. The imbalance of power in the Ukraine war is obvious. For me, this confirms the fact that you cannot get through militarily against a nuclear power when vital strategic interests are at stake. In addition, the United States refuses to deliver „Gray Drones“ to Ukraine. Zelenskyy has wanted these top drones for months, but the Pentagon has not granted them.

A sign of change? Pretty sure. Because America doesn’t want to deliver modern battle tanks either. A right decision. There are no weapons that, like „silver bullets“ for Ukraine, would bring about a decisive military turnaround at the moment. Now that the combat is mostly turning into trench warfare, other avenues need to be evaluated. The chance for a political-diplomatic solution would be there if the Russians actually withdrew from Cherson, which seems to be the case. Should the Russian withdrawal decision be implemented, a lot of bloodshed and weeks of street and house-to-house fighting would be saved. It would be a wise military-political decision and a win-win situation for Russians and Ukrainians. Ukraine could sell that as a victory. It would be Zelenskyj’s option to start negotiations face-saving. The problem is that Russia can hardly make any further territorial concessions. From Moscow’s point of view, the provinces are Russian territory that Putin cannot possibly give up – if only in view of the Duma decision. It would also be Russia’s end as a world power. And that is well known in Moscow and Washington. In the end, it will have to come down to a compromise: land for peace. The question will be what security guarantees Ukraine can be granted.

Russia will not and cannot capitulate in view of the vital strategic relevance of Crimea and Donbass. Due to the partial mobilization, the army is strong enough to be able to hold the four oblasts, even in the long term. And no matter how shabby the device or how bad the morale of the fighters supposedly is. Pure numerical Russian superiority compensates for the deficits. Only NATO’s entry into the war, which no one wanted, could compensate for this. It is therefore illusory to want to liberate the Donbass and Crimea with a major Ukrainian offensive. On the contrary: Russia still has the military escalation dominance, despite comparatively smaller gains in territory. This means that Putin can add as much personnel, material, weapons, equipment and logistics as he wants. Permanent. Because he has the logistical basis behind him. He also has the joker of nuclear weapons. He plays with this option, but doesn’t need it unless he’s pinned against the wall.

Because neither Russia nor the West wants to give way, there is a tie, an operational stalemate. If this military tour continues, a long war of attrition awaits us. With occasional offensives by the Ukrainians and blockade and containment operations by the Russians – always with the risk of escalation if something goes wrong. It would make more sense to freeze the conflict – with a demarcation line recognized under international law, ceasefire regulations as soon as possible and other conflict resolution mechanisms. I advocate that. I am optimistic that – despite political war rhetoric – secret diplomacy is in progress. The US security adviser was recently in Kyiv. There is also a hot line between Moscow and Washington, and the chiefs of staff are also connected. This shows that there is obviously no willingness to allow the conflict to degenerate into a third world war. Nobody wants that.

Erich Vad is an ex-general, management consultant and publicist. Between 2006 and 2013 he was a group leader in the Berlin Federal Chancellery and military-political advisor to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

And such voices do not even occur in the German media. You have to go to Austria for that…:

 “Indian Foreign Minister defends Ukraine stance

 January 2, 2023, 11:05 p.m

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has defended his country’s stance on the Ukraine war. Jaishankar didn’t want to condemn Russia in last night’s ZIB2 interview either. The way out of the war lies in dialogue and diplomacy. At the same time, he criticized Europe for the impact of the sanctions on countries like India. “I can give you many examples of countries that have violated another country’s sovereignty. If I asked where Europe was in these cases, I would get a long silence in reply,“ said the chief Indian diplomat, who was in Vienna on Sunday and yesterday. Foreign policy judgments are made based on long-term interests and what is good for the world. In any case, the conflict was „in nobody’s interest“. Jaishankar explained that India has quintupled its energy imports from Russia since the beginning of the war, referring to Europe’s actions: „In the same period, Europe imported six times as much as India.“ Europe has managed „to reduce its imports in a way that was convenient for Europe,“ he said, with a per capita income of around $60,000. In India it is 2,000 US dollars per capita. „I also need energy and I’m not in a position where I can pay high prices,“ Jaishankar said. The price of oil has doubled. Because Europe is getting oil from the Middle East, prices are rising. „These actions by Europe are putting pressure on global oil markets and also on my own imports.“ ZIB/Zeit im Bild/red,“

 It’s difficult to judge whether the balance of power is right or wrong, especially since both Vad and Domröse initially assumed that the Russians would win quickly, which then didn’t happen. The million-dollar question is whether Ben Hodges is right, as he was at the beginning, and whether the two representatives of the German coat squadron (Lodengeschwader) are a little too defeatist, once again overestimating the Russian combat capability and underestimating that of the Ukrainians and whether the willingness to negotiate only plays into Putin’s hands and weakens the West, yes Ukrainian position. Since Global Review is not a propaganda channel for one side, we will continue to present and publish the various positions and their arguments without censorship, as well as non-European perceptions and positions on the Ukraine war, be it the Indian one, e.g. in the form of General ret. Asthana.

However, ex-NATO General Klaus Naumann sees both Hodges, Vads and Domoese’s forecasts as very speculative, especially since they may also be based on false assumptions about Putin’s real intentions, which are much more ambitious than just a few gains in Ukraine:

 „On Ukraine: What I miss about the three comrades is the attempt to get into Putin’s head. Can he really negotiate when he only has the annexed territories and nothing remains of his Dec21 ultimatum? I can’t believe it given the huge Russian casualties. Hodge’s thesis is tied to a lot of ifs, so he’s best off. I think it’s too early to talk about an end to the drama, especially when you don’t have the slightest influence.“

The reference to Putin’s pre-war ultimatum, which called for a NATO rollback to the borders before 1997, is very important. It is interesting that in the media and other discussions at the time it was largely ignored and not taken seriously. Similar to Putin’s alleged peace speech to the German Bundestag in 2001, in which he not only called for a Eurasian Economic Zone, but also for a Eurasian military alliance between Europe and Russia. This shows that his goals are or were more ambitious and more far-reaching, but it is not and was not taken seriously and is perceived and assessed as too unrealistic, so that apparently no importance is attached to it. A number of people believe that if an ceasefire and negotiations were to be reached, Putin (or Xi) would then abandon their goal of pushing the USA out of Europe or the Indo-Pacific, goals they want to achieve if necessary also militarily and play for time until other geopolitical constellations as new opportunities arise for both, be it a NATO crisis in Turkey or a conflict with North Korea or Iran, which ties and weakens US forces elsewhere. It is more likely that after the losses, Putin could be satisfied with a minimum solution in Ukraine and that he will no longer be able or willing to expand further.

In 2023, however, there will also be some trouble on the part of Turkey – 100 years of the founding of the Attatürk Republic of Turkey, the Treaty of Lausanne and presidential elections. Largely unnoticed, the Turkish state media fan nationalism on these issues. We may have a big NATO crisis if Erdogan wants to abolish the republic and take back the Greek islands. It will then also be interesting to see how Russia will react to this emerging conflict. And the Sultan still reserves the right to agree to NATO membership for Finland and Sweden as a bargaining chip for this conflict. Former Defense Minister De Maiziere said at the time that Turkey had no claim under international law to the Greek islands and that the treaties at the time did not provide for a time limit and would not expire after 100 years. UN international law and sometimes quite pragmatic and idiosyncratic interpretations of international law by the respective nations must be distinguished. History in Turkey is now being rewritten in a very idiosyncratic neo-Ottoman way, and Muslim seafarers were then also allegedly the first to discover America, as the alleged mosque ruins in Cuba are said to prove. And so it is with the treaties and their duration. While most international law scholars point out that there is no phasing out, Erdogan is now comparing this to China’s Unequal Treaties and Hong Kong – the same version being broadcasted all the time day in and day out in Turkish state media. And 2023 is seen as the coming year of fate and is hyped up. Even Dr. Seidt didn’t notice this when he was in contact with diplomats, but in the meantime, according to our correspondence, he has also changed his assessment of the situation. I also asked Hodges about this in the GR interview and he said it was important that the US should try to defuse this conflict beforehand, but this has not yet happened.

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