5 factors that determine the future of the Russian campaign in Ukraine

The combat performance of Russian forces or the resistance of Ukraine, as well as the reactions of the parties involved, could determine the future of the conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24 ordered a special military operation in Ukraine to “de-militarize and de-fascistize the Kiev government”. After a week of fighting, Russia’s campaign in Ukraine does not appear to be going according to plan, as its forces face stronger-than-expected resistance from Ukraine and harsh Western sanctions. observers.

Although it is difficult to predict exactly what will happen next, experts say that there are five factors that affect the development of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Combat performance of Russian forces

Western military analysts expressed surprise about the combat performance of Russian forces in the early days of the war in Ukraine. They once argued that a military modernized over the past decade could easily repel Ukrainian resistance.

A Dachne villager stands amid the rubble after shelling in Odessa, Ukraine on March 2. Source: NY Times

But Russia has not conducted a large-scale joint military operation since 1979, making this force seem surprised when operating in a country as large as Ukraine.

“We were all surprised that the Russian military did not seem to have overcome its training, command, and logistics problems. This could indicate that they were poorly planned or that Russia had assessed it. too low for the competition,” said Michael Clarke, former director of the Royal Research Institute for Defense and Security (RUSI) in London, England.

According to Clarke, Russia’s air force, navy, and nuclear force have been partially or fully modernized, but the army appears to have many inherent weaknesses. This causes the military campaign to be prolonged and the costs and losses will increase.

“The Russians will learn a lesson,” said Richard Shirreff, former deputy commander of the British military at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). “They will realize that they have to coordinate all the armed forces in a much more professional way than they have done so far.”

However, observers also do not exclude the possibility that Russia deliberately restrained the campaign from the beginning and may continue that tactic to gradually consume the opponent’s resistance.

Over time, the Russian military could also change tactics, using more firepower to push deeper into Ukraine, besieging cities, or being bombarded with heavy weapons, causing greater casualties, Shirreff warned. newspaper.

Resistance of the Ukrainian army

Ukrainian forces have so far made full use of their equipment to confront a major opponent. Shireff said that the slow progress of the Russian forces showed that they had encountered “the tenacious resistance of the Ukrainian army, as well as the volunteers”. Morale is a huge factor in war, he added, and Ukrainians believe they have mental strength.

The determination of President Volodymyr Zelensky has also contributed to maintaining the fighting ability of the Ukrainian army. His media and social media appearances, along with images of Ukrainian resistance, helped boost morale in the country.

However, most analysts believe that the Ukrainian army will sooner or later be defeated. They are fighting with all their might on all fronts, with no time to rest. Meanwhile, Russia can deploy reserve forces to reinforce the offensive momentum.

This could lead to a scenario where Russia establishes a pro-Moscow government in Kiev, while annexing much of eastern Ukraine. However, if this scenario happens, Russia could face a huge challenge to the protest movements in Ukraine.

NATO reaction

Western governments have ruled out sending troops to intervene directly in Ukraine, as well as rejecting proposals to establish a no-fly zone that would drag their forces into direct conflict with the air force. Russia. Instead, Western countries are transferring weapons to help the Ukrainians defend and increase the number of troops stationed on NATO’s eastern flank.

Analysts say that it is likely that Russia will find a way to close the Ukraine-Poland border to prevent Western arms aid into Ukraine, a move that could increase the risk of conflict involving member countries. NATO members, including Poland.

The biggest pressure weapon deployed by Western countries is a series of sanctions targeting the Russian economy and its leadership. The sanctions have targeted Russia’s central bank, commercial banks, political leaders, and business circles. Russians have lined up outside banks to withdraw money, while inflation could soar. Many Russians will soon face economic difficulties.

These sanctions can increase or decrease depending on Russia’s actions, while the West can also suffer from these sanctions themselves. They could exacerbate inflation and could skyrocket energy prices if Russia retaliates by cutting supply.

James Sherr, an expert at the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, said that these sanctions will not be able to shake the resolve of the Russian president. “Putin and those close to him have never succumbed to sanctions,” Sherr said.

Currently, Western people are giving great support for sanctions against Russia. However, over time, this consensus can erode, as they face economic difficulties.