While winter was expected to be an opportunity for both sides - Russia and Ukraine to review their respective strategies given an expected period of cooling off due to harsh snow conditions that are prevalent in the area of operations these hopes have been belied.
Even before the full fury of the Ukrainian winter sets in there appears to be an intent to sustain operations by Russia and Ukraine.
The form for the winter appears to be standoff missile and drone attacks for disruption military as well as civilian. The attempt by Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi for restraint to Russian President Vladimir Putin seem to has been in vain, but nevertheless is important so let us examine the same first.
Indian Attempts at Mediating Restraint
Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra on December 16th spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on bilateral issues as well as on the war in Ukraine.
As per a press release from the office of the Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi, had a telephone conversation with President Vladimir Putin where, “the two leaders reviewed several aspects of the bilateral relationship, including energy cooperation, trade and investments, defence& security cooperation, and other key areas”.
“In the context of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Prime Minister reiterated his call for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way forward,” revealed the Press release.
Prime Minister of India as Chair of the G 20 also briefed President Putin on India’s key priorities.
On the same day signals from Moscow were ominous as Russia launched a series of missile and drone attacks across Ukrainian cities.
Russian Missile and Rocket Attacks
Russia’s series of missile, rocket and drone attacks reached an apogee of sorts on December 16. As a series of Russian strikes. Ukrainian power generation infrastructure is deficient by 50 percent expected to cause an immense hardship to the people at large.
Russian aim appears to be to underline costs of resistance to the people of Ukraine forcing them to protest the continuance of War, the results so far do not appear to be favourable.
Open media sources indicate that resolve of the people of Ukraine to sustain the campaign is continuing.
In case Russian objective is to convey a punitive message indeed it is having a telling impact on the daily life of people in Ukraine yet this may be going beyond the laws of war even though Moscow is unlikely to declare the intent as such.
Ukraine has also not been idle during this period and reports of attacks by drones and missiles on Russian military bases which have not been acknowledged by Kyiv have raised an alarm in Moscow. The damage caused is said to be limited and thus these strikes may be seen as symbolic so far but provides Russia with a bait for counter attacks.
Winter and Post Winter Portends
Given war objectives and the determination to achieve the same whatever be the economic and human costs to the country at large as well as globally, the war in Ukraine is expected to spill over in 2023 and may continue through the year.
Firstly, Russia is determined to prosecute the objective of toppling the government of Volodymir Zelensky for which seizure of Kyiv is essential.
Support of Belarus for a campaign against Kyiv will be essential as the Kharkiv and Sumy option may be closed. While Belarus may not join the War openly but may provide staging ground for Russian troops in an offensive in February next year when the thaw sets in.
An upcoming meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko may discuss, the support that could be provided for this purpose by Minsk.
Depending on the extent of support another operation for Kyiv in the North cannot be ruled out as the first phase of Russian offensive in February next year.
Russian armed forces will be banking on the newly mobilised forces which were ordered in September this year and may be ready for active operations by February 2024 in reasonably good order.
Russian armed forces are likely to launch an offensive launched on many fronts may lead to dissipation of Ukrainian defensive forces across sectors thus leading to success.
On the other hand, Ukraine is determined to regain lost territories including Crimea. With widespread western support as a tranche of almost $ 20 billion have been provided by the United States alone apart from other NATO partners and the success achieved in Kharkiv and Kherson this year, Ukrainian armed forces may be tempted to increase their offensives.
However given limitations of force and anticipation of a Russian offensive, Ukraine may choose to remain on the defensive at least in the first half of 2023 till the attacks are blunted.
This war fighting is not likely to be easy and regaining lost territories may extend through 2023 and beyond. Much will depend on the support that would be provided by NATO members.
An important question then arises of conflagration to involve a NATO member state, this cannot be ruled out in 2023.
Reaching a State of Exhaustion
Wars end when the military of one side is annihilated, leaders and people lose the will to fight or reach a stage of exhaustion.
Neither of these possibilities are evident as yet in Russia or Ukraine resolve. Thus the portends of more warfighting in 2023 seem grim.