Ultimate victory and final battle hype in the Ukraine war: What if Putin „wins“?
An article worth reading by the military historian Sönke Neitzel, who criticizes the fact that after each round of arms deliveries, the West thinks that a “victory” for Ukraine is imminent and that the decisive final battle will come soon, which will then bring clear conditions and negotiations, including peace, and then soon everything will be fine again. But if the West cannot continue to supply weapons on this scale in the medium and long term, and the limited potential of the Ukrainians will be increasingly exhausted – what then? What if the Russian escalation potential and mobilization potential is greater in the medium and long term and Putin sits it out, especially if he is not toppled by morde odearte forces as it sees even likely that more radical forces could topple him. And what if he sits it out and hoes for Rump getting reelected in 2024? Neitzel also does not believe in a rapid success of negotiations under the leadership of the Chinese special representative for Eurasia and the Ukraine war Li Hui, who is conceded by peace-loving westerners to be the downright superpowers in diplomacy. Perhaps Xi gave Putin the green lightforo the Ukraine war because he was hoping for a quick victory that could catalyze and bring the breakthrough to a new “multipolar” Russo-Chinese world order, but after failing for the first time, Xi is now behaving as a world peace dove but perhaps not controlling and putting pressure on Putin in the same way, and Xi would also have no interest in Putin’s military defeat being too disastrous, especially since China has also intensified cooperation with Russia despite declaring it an “aggressor” with one word in a UNO resolution It is therefore possible that Putin can sit it out, even achieve a „victory“ or a relative „victory“, perhaps also a Korean solution like US Chief of Staff Milley proposed, which does not produce full territorial integrity for Ukraine and would then also be a factual admission that that despite the rule-based international UN order, changing borders using the law of the strongest is just as accepted as the separation and independence of Kosovo through the NATO war against Serbia in the 1990s. Neitzel rather believes in a longer war with an uncertain outcome, does not rule out a victory for Putin and points out that the further course depends on many factors which he unfortunately does not specify, including the US elections, which could be a game changer. Ex-General Vad and Domroese junior agree with Neitzel’s analysis, with the latter more “in principle”, since he assesses the mobilization and escalation potential of the West and NATO more positively. Russia expert Dr. Alexander Rahr also said: „At some point this war will also be over. The Russians estimate 2025“. Probably means: after the US elections. Trump believes that if he is re-elected, peace with Russia in the Ukraine war can be achieved within 24 hours. So when he would take office in January 2025. It is also interesting that the German Defense Minister Pistorius said on the ARD talk show Maischberger that he does not exactly know what Trump meant by his statement. Whether he will threaten Putin with a strategic nuclear war, fire and fury like in North Korea and theraten an Ukrainian Cuban Missile Crisis in order to quickly force a peace on Trump’s terms, although it is not known whether he even has a plan or an idea, maybe at best Milley’s Korea solution, maybe also that Putin is neutral towards China or whether Trump would opportunistically quickly agree to a peace on Putin’s terms, in order to then disengage with most forces in Europe and throw all his forces at China. Especially since Trump’s policy is also quite unpredictable and has many unintended effects that he doesn’t seem to consider in his impulsiveness. In any case, Neitzel’s considerations are worth reading given the whole final victory hype about a last and final battle in the Ukraine:
“Military historian critizises debate “After every arms delivery, Germans believe that Ukraine must win now”
May 18th, 2023 | 09:41
Even after almost a year and a half, Russia is waging its brutal war of aggression in Ukraine with sudden severity. Military historian Sönke Neitzel explains the role of a possible counter-offensive by Ukraine – and criticizes the German debate about the outcome of the war. While Kiev’s troops in the Donbass continue to prepare their spring offensive, the Russian military again attacked Ukrainian cities with drones and rockets during the night. Even after almost a year and a half, the war between the aggressor Russia and Ukraine is raging with undiminished severity. Military historian Sönke Neitzel commented on the further development of the conflict in the “Tagesspiegel”. He emphasized that the outcome is still completely open and warned against excessive euphoria about a victory for Ukraine. Although Russia has problems, it has a larger number of soldiers and greater economic potential in the long term, also thanks to the support of China.
Ukrainian counteroffensive needs “a little more time”
Neitzel stated that a possible offensive by Ukraine would not decide the war, as it has done in previous wars. A success like last September with an advance of 30 or 40 kilometers is conceivable, but the question is whether Ukraine can hold these areas. According to Neitzel, the offensive is more aimed at domestic politics and European countries to show that arms deliveries are having an effect. For months Kiev has been planning a counter-offensive in the Donbass region to reclaim land. However, this offensive against the Russian invasion troops will be delayed even further, said Head of State Volodymyr Zelenskyj in Great Britain on Thursday. Ukraine needs „a little more time to prepare,“ Selenskyj told the British broadcaster BBC.
„There can be no more strategic surprises for Ukraine“
Neitzel explained in the „Tagesspiegel“ that a quick end to the war was not to be expected in 2023 either. Neither Ukraine nor Russia would have the military strength to quickly end the war. Russia is deliberately playing for time and has created a strategic position for a counterattack by mobilizing its army. Neitzel literally: „There can be no more strategic surprises for the Ukraine, only a tactical one.“ The historian stressed that Ukraine was not able to achieve great successes that could end the war. Ukrainian forces are weakened and support from allies like Germany remains hesitant. Neitzel criticized the fact that in the German debate after each delivery of arms there was the impression that Ukraine had to win now and that other problems could then be addressed. He stressed that the war was ongoing and that massive European support for Ukraine was needed.
Conflict between NATO and Russia still unlikely
Regarding the military escalation between Russia and NATO, Neitzel stated that the conflict has not become more sensitive so far. Despite a brutal war on the Russian side, both sides kept their distance from each other. A nuclear threat is still not acute and an escalation is unlikely: „Even Chancellor Scholz has to admit that his fear of using nuclear weapons was exaggerated.“ Neitzel named three possible ways of ultimately ending the war: Ukraine could expel Russian troops from its territory, Russia could smash the Ukrainian state, or there would be a ceasefire or the fighting would die down without negotiations. However, he did not expect that talks would lead to success anytime soon. The support of the West is crucial for Ukraine to hold out, but the course of the war depends on many factors, so that no serious forecast is possible.“
As important as Sönkes Neitzel’s contribution is, it remains more limited to the current course of the front of the ground troops and the possible escalation potential, while the current NATO SACEUR adds the important point that one must consider all types of arms and domains from Russia, Ukraine and also the West and there are some domains where the Russians are weak while others are not. He also claims that the Russian ground troops have enormous problems and that their air force has been thinned out, but conversely he does not give any further information on what else Putin could mobilize, let alone what happens if the West should stop its arms deliveries, which are eating away at its own NATO base stocks as it could not keep up deliveries on such scale forever, insofar as several billions cannot be added and armaments production can also be ramped up, just as it does not include the possible game changer of a US election in 2024 in its considerations, i.e. no political-economic factors, but like most military officers Cavolli`s analysis have more a primarily military perspective and not a holistic view.
“Russia’s ‚Eroded‘ Ground Forces Have Run Into ‚Big Problems’—U.S. General
By David Brennan in Tallinn, Estonia On 5/14/23 at 10:23 AM EDT
U.S. Army General Christopher G. Cavoli, commander of U.S. forces in Europe, speaks during the annual Society and Defence Conference in Salen, Sweden on January 9, 2023
General Christopher G. Cavoli, the commander of U.S. forces in Europe, has warned that the Russian military still poses a serious threat to the NATO alliance despite having „run into big problems“ during the disastrous invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking at the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn, Estonia, on Sunday, Cavoli urged Western observers not to jump to conclusions based on the repeated battlefield failures of the Russian land forces in Ukraine.
„The Russian military’s demise in Ukraine is something that has to be studied very closely,“ the general said. „It has not been even. It’s very easy to look and to think that the Russian military has collapsed, or is in dire trouble. But in fact, it’s been uneven.
„The ground forces are greatly eroded, they have run into big problems. And they’ve lost a lot of people, they’ve lost a lot of equipment. On the other hand, they’ve also ingested a lot of people. And you know, the Russian army, the ground force, today is bigger than it was at the beginning of this conflict. So, it still exists.
„The air force has lost less than 100 fighters and bombers. They have about 1,000 remaining. The navy has lost almost nothing, cyber has lost nothing, space lost nothing. So really, when we talk about the Russian military, we have to study it across all domains. And we have to be ready to deal with the Russian military into the future in all domains.“
The extent of Russian personnel losses in Ukraine remains unclear. Kyiv claims it has „liquidated“ almost 200,000 Russian troops since the full-scale invasion began on February 24, 2022. The estimate broadly chimes with an American estimate of nearly 200,000 Russian dead and wounded over the same time period.
As Cavoli spoke, reports were emerging of recent Ukrainian gains around the devastated Donetsk city of Bakhmut, which come ahead of an expected Ukrainian spring counteroffensive. Newsweek has contacted the Russian Defense Ministry to request comment.
European officials have previously told Newsweek that elite Russian units—including those historically deployed along NATO borders as part of the vanguard for a hypothetical invasion—have suffered losses of between 30 and 40 percent.
Some such units are being reconstituted with the help of Russia’s „partial mobilization,“ but the loss of experienced junior officers and professional contract troops will mean these units are likely operating at reduced strength and lower overall capability.
The demands of the war have forced Moscow to redeploy troops from border regions into Ukraine. Cavoli said that it is unclear how long it might take for Russia to return to pre-war strength, but that the relative health of the Kremlin’s air and naval arms means there remains a danger of an expanded war.
„How long will it take to rebuild? The question is: How long will it take to rebuild to do what?“ the general said. „They’re capable of doing things today. I think there’s not going to be a light switch that goes on or off now. We need to know we need to be prepared.
„We’ll need to be prepared across the continuum from here going forward to defend our nations, and in the case of the alliance to defend the territory of the states of the alliance,“ he added.“
Well, here too the question arises: What to do if Putin does „win“ and what does this „victory“ look like and what would then be the consequences and the alleged and apparent post-war order, insofar as this peace and relative victory are not just a breather and pre-war time for another round of wars in the struggle for a new multi-polar world slaughter?
But a number of NATO people, politicians and diplomats are still counting on Putin’s fall and hope for a lasting weakening of Russia, which will then cease to be an ally of China. For example, the former ambassador in Moscow Ernst Jörg von Studnitz, who predicts the fall of Putin, outlines a victory for Ukraine as the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, including Crimea, which will initiate the disintegration of Russia, with the West seeing a post-war European order without, against or vis a vis Russia , that should shape a policy of non-interference, which sounds similar to Foreign Policy’s contribution regarding the collapse of a Russian state and a Iron Curtain against Russia, which is intended to prevent Russian instability from spreading to neighboring states. The West should not take up any more investments and trade with the East nor renew a East policly (Ostpolitik) , since this has failed completely. It is hoped that Russia’s nuclear weapons potential will also lose its importance and that China’s most important ally in its fight for a multipolar world order will disappear with Russia.
„Russia’s Future – What comes after Putin?
BY ERNST-JÖRG VON STUDNITZ on April 7, 2023
Ernst-Jörg von Studnitz, born in 1937, is a former diplomat. From 1995 to 2002 he was German ambassador in Moscow.
Independent how the Ukraine war ends, the thesis that there is no security in Europe without the participation of Russia will have to be replaced in the future by the thesis that Europe must organize its security primarily vis-à-vis Russia.The uncertain outcome of the Ukraine war and the associated hope that Russian aggression will be repelled repeatedly give rise to considerations that a Russia which may have been forced to withdraw and thus suffer defeat should be spared the ignominy of the lost war. A comparison is then made in such statements to the defeat of the German Reich at the end of the First World War and the ominous Treaty of Versailles. It is said that great and proud Russia must be spared that. The question is whether this comparison is really correct and also whether the concern behind it is that a humiliated Russia will only seek revenge. Since it is currently unlikely that Putin will give up the war he is staging of his own accord, it is more likely that the war will only end after Putin’s departure, however executed. Similar to 1917, when Russian troops refused to continue fighting, this could be triggered by a mutiny on the front lines in Ukraine. In view of the poor supply situation of the troops, coupled with the officers‘ reluctance to take responsibility, there are already the first signs of this.
It is also conceivable that the top military leadership in Moscow will stage a coup against Putin, who has sent the army, Russia’s pride, to a catastrophic defeat. Such a step would indeed be revolutionary, because Russia has always boasted that there was no Bonapartism, that is, military putsch, there. Secret services could pose a threat to Putin Finally, a third danger for Putin could emanate from the so-called oligarchs, who owe their wealth and security to Putin alone. They could increasingly doubt whether they can continue to trust it. However, it is questionable which printing options are available to them. They would have to look out for allies in the power apparatus. This is where the intelligence apparatus comes in, Putin’s main backing so far. But that too can change. In her book „Putin’s People“, Catherine Belton has shown how the KGB, in the late phase of the Soviet Union, remembered its own interests and brought large amounts of money to safety in Western countries. So if relevant circles in the FSB secret service come to the conclusion that Putin has failed, there could be a movement of “save yourself if you can”.
With Putin’s demise certain, but not at a specific time, the question of Russia’s fate arises. Will chaos ensue, as it did after the February 1917 revolution, when republican politicians, unable to establish a democratic state, fell victim to the cold-blooded determination of Lenin’s Bolsheviks? The end of tsarist rule meant the splintering of the outskirts conquered by the tsarist empire in the west, the Baltic republics, Finland and the so-called Congress Poland, but also Belarus and the Ukraine. The entire Transcaucasus, where the republics of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan exist today, was also lost. Likewise, the Central Asian conquests, and even the Far East, attempted to break away from the Russian Empire. Soviet power was able to undo some of these secessions, but after the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, these states finally gained their independence.
Putin reiterates appeals to Russian patriotism
In 1991, however, further fault lines became visible, especially in the aspirations of the peoples of the North Caucasus, Chechnya, who lost two bloody wars for their independence. The situation in Dagestan is also highly unstable. What is more, the Yeltsin government only managed with difficulty to prevent the emergence of a Ural republic with a focus on Yekaterinburg and a Siberian republic around Novosibirsk. Yeltsin granted the Tatar Republic with the capital Kazan more privileges than any other member state of the Russian Federation. The riots in Khabarovsk, in the Far East, in 2020 also witnessed resistance to Moscow rule there. The cracks that appeared in the Russian state federation pointed to the history of conquest of the empire and could prove to be possible fault lines today.
Putin is trying to counter such tendencies, which cannot be ruled out, by growing appeals to Russian patriotism, reinforced by the war in Ukraine. However, the fact that such fears exist has become clear from the repeated statements that a development such as that led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia should under no circumstances take place in Russia. This attitude also explains the never really given up support for the regime of Milosevic in Yugoslavia.
Obsolete thesis of the German Ostpolitik
Should there be a transfer of power after Putin’s demise that is similar to the development that took place after Stalin’s death, it would initially not be clear whether a new one-man rule or a collective leadership would be established. The centrifugal tendencies in Russia would presumably emerge nonetheless. In this situation, America and Europe should not make the mistake of foreign intervention, as it did after the collapse of the tsarist regime. This would rather result in the Russian defense forces uniting against such interventions.
So the West would be well advised to leave the process of dissolving the Russian colonial empire to itself. In the current situation of assessing whether Russia’s interest in self-preservation should be taken into account when trying to end the Ukraine war, this means that the collapse of Russian power is of greater interest to the West for the long-term safeguarding of peace in Europe. The outdated thesis of German Ostpolitik that there is no security in Europe without Russia’s participation will have to be replaced in the future by the thesis that Europe must organize its security primarily in relation to Russia. However, the exclusion of Russia from the European security system raises the question of Russia’s nuclear weapons potential, which is particularly critical if the Russian state association dissolves.
By strictly not interfering in the fateful development in Russia, the West should not give any pretext for the use of nuclear weapons, so that they gradually become obsolete if they are not used for a long time. This is to be expected even if the autocratic system in Russia is replaced by a democratic one. process of dissolution is in the interest of a free Europe Because of the elimination of the threat to the security of Europe emanating from there since the establishment of Soviet rule, which was only briefly interrupted by the perestroika and Yeltsin phase, the outlined dissolution process of Russia is in the elementary interest of a free Europe.
Therefore, the answer to the question asked at the beginning, whether consideration should be given to Russia’s sensitivities, is to be answered in the negative. The eventual failure of Russia as a global superpower also leads to a significant shift in the superpower conflict between America and China, which will determine further developments in the 21st century. China is well aware of the value of a strong Russia at its side and its global political performance will certainly be impaired by a failure by Russia.
The conclusion for the Western behavior in the Ukraine war is therefore clearly that Ukraine must be given all possible support so that it can drive the Russian aggressors out of the country and thus win the war. The war will not be won by conquering Russian territory, Crimea not belonging to Russia, but by the complete withdrawal of the Russians. The Soviet Union also lost the Afghan war by withdrawal. Putin, who so often invokes the Soviet example, can do the same in this case.”
As I said: a possibility and an option, but it is just the question what will happen if things turn out differently, Putin behaves more like the rat in the corner often quoted in the countless biographies, if no coup takes place or is successful and the elections in the USA turn out differently than hoped ? As Studnitz says: „Independent how the war ends“ – although he currently prefers a putsch scenario and a complete withdrawal including Crimea.