Ukraine war: Five ways conflict could go in 2023
The conflict in Ukraine is about to enter its second calendar year. We asked several military analysts how they think events on the ground will unfold in 2023.
Could it conclude in the coming year and how – on the battlefield or at the negotiating table? Or might it grind on to 2024?
‘Russia’s spring offensive will be key’
Michael Clarke, associate director of the Strategic Studies Institute, Exeter, UK
Those who seek to invade another country anywhere across the great Eurasian steppes are condemned eventually to winter in it.
Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin all had to keep their armies moving in the face of a steppes winter, and now – his invasion going backwards on the ground – Vladimir Putin is digging his forces in for the winter to await a new Russian offensive in the spring.
Both sides need a pause but the Ukrainians are better equipped and motivated to keep going, and we can expect them to maintain the pressure, at least in the Donbas.
Around Kreminna and Svatove they are very close to a big breakthrough that would throw Russian forces 40 miles back to the next natural defensive line, close to where their invasion effectively began in February.
Kyiv will be reluctant to halt when the immediate prize is so great. Ukrainian offensives might, nevertheless, pause down in the south-west, following the recovery of Kherson.
Crossing over to the east side of the Dnipro river to pressure Russia’s vulnerable road and rail links into Crimea might be too demanding. But the possibility of Kyiv launching a surprise new offensive can never be ruled out.
For 2023, the key determinant will be the fate of Russia’s spring offensive. Putin had admitted that about 50,000 of the newly mobilised troops are already at the front; the other 250,000 of those just mobilised are training for next year.
There is no scope for anything but more war until the fortunes of those new Russian forces are settled on the battlefield.
A short and unstable ceasefire is the only other prospect. Putin has made it clear he will not stop. And Ukraine has made it clear it is still fighting for its life.
‘Ukraine will win back its land’
Andrei Piontkovsky, scientist and analyst based in Washington DC
Ukraine will win by restoring completely its territorial integrity by spring 2023 at the latest. Two factors are shaping this conclusion.
One is the motivation, determination and courage of the Ukrainian military and Ukrainian nation as a whole, which is unprecedented in modern war history.
The other is the fact that, after years of appeasement of a Russian dictator, the West has finally grown up to realise the magnitude of historical challenge it faces. This is best illustrated by a recent statement by Nato General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.
“The price we pay is in money. While the price the Ukrainians pay is in blood. If authoritarian regimes see that force is rewarded we will all pay a much higher price. And the world will become a more dangerous world for all of us.”
The exact timing of the inevitable Ukrainian victory will be determined by the speed at which Nato can deliver a new game-changing package of military assault weapons (tanks, planes, long-ranged missiles).